J’s blog: Sometimes I feel like Norm from “Cheers”

Can it be true? Can Spring finally be here, or is it a cruel prank? We’ve waited oh, so long. Ponds and lakes have still been frozen in the Adirondacks, to the despair of avid kayakers, and yet, the days have become warmer in the Capital Region. The sun is coming out to play. People with white legs, and winter poundage to lose (me) are coming out of hibernation with that haunted look of one who has despaired of ever feeling the warmth of the sun again. Now that I’ve spent first three months of 2018 experiencing the delights of The Cold, Throwing my Back Out (by slipping off a step), and finally Strep Throat, plus nursing Dan through The Flu, I’m so ready to play!

The song from the hit comedy “Cheers” came into my head a couple of weeks ago.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name.’

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/cheerslyrics.html(Lyrics: Gary Portnoy, Judy Hart)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when you’ve been away from The Kettlebell Center for a wee while (whatever the reason), isn’t it great to come back? I feel like TKFC is the fitness equivalent of the bar in “Cheers”. You walk in, and everyone yells out “Norm!” or insert your name here, and is glad to see you and it’s like you were never away. That’s what TKFC is like to me (without the beer or Carla with her sarcastic quips).

And while I’ve been away, it turns out the amazing super star Kerry Strnad who is a member of The Kettlebell Fitness Center only went and aced her RKC certification. Not only did she ace the timed snatch test with a 16kg bell, but she finished it WELL within the time frame. Well done Kerry – you rock! Welcome as our newest coach at TKFC!

My garage gym has been getting used more frequently as the temperature has warmed up and so I’ve been dead lifting (lighter weights for more reps as I’ve been recovering from all the health malarkey) and also putting into practice the boxing moves Pria had taught me last year, on the heavy bag. It’s amazing how much frustration one can take out on a heavy bag at the end of a long day at work!

Back at TKFC, I’m so glad to find out that my wee “sabbatical” hasn’t caused a great setback. Greg’s Circuit class and Bev’s Sandbag classes have both been so helpful to me. I’m beginning to have much more appreciation for sandbags and what they can do for you, especially as one ages.

I realised this when I was decluttering the house with the Lord of the Manor. All the bending and twisting whilst keeping my balance as I perched on a step ladder, emptying out cupboards, and passing old water bottles, bags of flour, and storage tins caused me to utter a “Thank you” for how sandbag training has helped me with my balance, flexibility and core strength. It sounds crazy, I know. I was one of THOSE people who enjoyed sandbags for what I assumed them to be – a change from barbells and kettlebells. With deadlifts and kettlebells, my goal has always been to get stronger and lift and swing heavier (with good form) as I progress and, I confess, to possibly boast about the weights I’m managing to shift about. Lifting heavy seems sexier than functional movement doesn’t it? BUT……..

Sandbags are different. You may not be lifting as much weight, but you ARE working with shifting sand, balance, core strength and functional moves. Rotations, lifts, press outs, squats – all with a bag of sand gives you a completely different type of work out. As you age, balance is one of the most important things (alongside strength) that you DO NOT WANT TO LOSE. I do not want to be one of those people in the “Life Alert” commercials. “Help! I’ve fallen and I’ve broken every single blessed bone in my body, and I can’t get up!”  I want to be approaching my mid-fifties, strong, flexible (as I can be) with a good sense of balance and someone who wants to be active. I don’t want to slow down and use age as an excuse. I’m proud of my mum who is in her (sorry mum) seventies, and who was back on a treadmill 5 months after breaking her leg and who continues to play badminton every week, and goes to the gym 3 days a week.

So why not come to Tuesday nights at 6pm with Greg and Thursday night at 6pm with Bev to work on both Sandbags and Kettlebells? Both are certified instructors, great coaches and, as a bonus, play some awesome music. We have a lot of fun. We dance. We sing. We shout and holler. We’re feisty, and we are not going to be pushovers (literally)!

Food wise, I’ve been a bit all over the place. Breakfast and and lunch are fine. I usually eat a mash of organic sausage, sweet potato and eggs, with spinach and dollops of Frank’s Red Hot for breakfast. Lunch is usually tuna and salad, with olives and perhaps avocado. However, dinner time has gone to the dogs as I’ve not had the “Sunday Prep” mojo in a few weeks. Dan’s very easy….diced tomatoes, butter beans, garlic, spinach on top of angel hair pasta or zoodles is his jam. I’ve just ended up mashing avocado on Ezekiel bread toast (which is NOT paleo, I know), or some yoghurt and fruit. This has had the effect that we haven’t really sat down at the dining room table together to eat. This is our “How’s your day been?” time, where we chat and talk about stuff. Instead, we’ve had our separate meals and eaten them in front of the news on TV.

However, I’ve been through my recipe books this weekend and made Merguez Meatballs this afternoon from Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed 2. They are amaaaazing. The taste of fennel, at bit of heat, cumin and a hint of cinnamon combine to tickle and delight your taste buds. You can click on this link to find her amazing and easy meatball recipes. Mel Joulwan Meatball Recipes  Once you’ve made them you can have them with salads, veggies, paleo tortillas/tacos, zoodles, cauliflower rice…you will only limit them by how far your imagination stretches. (By the way, I have to tell you, that Mel Joulwan and I were conversing via email last week – true story!) We have someone we know in common (Jon Michael Varese) who has just had his novel The Spirit Photographer published. I’m half way through the book and am totally engrossed. Click on the link and take a look. Anyway – Mel read one of my TKFC blogs, which is SUPER cool and I’m a bit of a fan-girl, so….anyhoo…just wanted to leave that out there.)

Well my friends. Time for me to stop rambling. I hope that Spring is one of fun and activity galore for you. How do you like to celebrate coming out of hibernation? Let me know!

In the meantime – strong on, and Cheers!  – Norm x

 

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Jeannette’s blog: Of barbells and bok choy

Thank you for your lovely comments about my last blog. I’m so glad it encouraged some of you. I’ve been doing a lot better since the end of last year. My anxiety and stress levels are WAY down, as is my weight and my blood pressure and I finished up a Whole 30 in the month of January feeling great.

My skin cleared up of the red marks and welts that appeared on my face due to stress and eating badly and my brain fog dissipated like a morning mist. Yes, I caught that horrible cold thingy that was going around, and had that bloomin’ cough that lingered well after the cold left (like that party guest who insists on staying way after you’ve put your pj’s on and cleaned the kitchen) resulting in not being able to go to The Kettlebell Fitness Center more than 5 or 6 times this past two months, but instead of stressing out about it, and feeling like a failure, I was very positive and understood the need to 1. Get well and 2. Not give this stupid cold thing to anyone else that might touch a kettlebell after I’ve sneezed/coughed/hockled all over it. You’re welcome!

The other thing I’ve tried not to stress and get down about was the after effect of this cold thing. My deadlifts suffered. Well, I may be exaggerating a tad…the actual thing of it is, that this cold wiped it out of me, as well as the lack of kettlebell activity due to last year’s ending/drama/anxiety thingamajig. I used to warm up at 155lb on my deadlifts and move up from there. These past few weeks have had me struggling to do more than a few at 165 without feeling exhausted. However, I am taking hold of the thought that progress is NOT a straightforward line forever onward and upward, but that it takes detours and sometimes backtracks, and plays games with you. It happens to everyone, because LIFE happens, injuries happen, colds/flu/sickness happens. Consistency is key, but you know what? Sometimes crap gets in the way, and you just have to keep on keeping on, and not look around you and compare your “journey” to the others around you. If you do that, you will give up. And I was encouraged last Saturday to be able to get up to 190lb without feeling like a soggy noodle afterward.

Oh! And an exciting thing! I turned 53 last month. (That’s not the thing) And I have decided to see what happens if I let my hair turn naturally grey! (That’s not the exciting thing either). The exciting thing is, that for my 53rd birthday, my ever-loving husband bought me…a 45lb powerlifting barbell and bumper plates for the garage, so I can practice my deadlifting at home consistently, instead of just once a week at open gym!! How exciting is that? I’d say pretty darned awesomely exciting. And it’s been cool to be able to workout with the hubs…me in my little corner with my bells and my barbell, and him with his multi-gym and elliptical that I also hog at times.

As I had written earlier, quite a few of us did the Whole 30 in January or February, and at the beginning, I missed red wine like CRAZY. My habit of drinking wine every single night was a tough nut to crack the first week. I would be watching TV or reading, and my hand would reach out for my glass of wine, only to flail around in mid air. Seltzer with sliced limes ended up being my go to. After the first week and a half, I was fine, but it got me to thinking about habits. Why is it that it’s easier to fall into habits that aren’t so good for us, but harder to be consistent about habits that will help us lead healthier lives? Why is it easier for me to slob out in front of the TV knowing that I’ll be tired and grumpy and feeling like a slug for the rest of the evening, but harder for me to go for a walk, when I KNOW that my endorphins will be pinging and that I’ll feel bright eyed and bushy tailed and energetic and great about myself afterward? It’s that beast inside my head again  – insidious and sly, whispering untruths to me. But now I’m the grand and fabulous mature age of 53, I will not take any nonsense from Deirdre the beast. (Ha! Watch this space!) Today, I was wiped out from the week (and it was only Tuesday); a couple of horrible things had happened to people I know and I was bummed. I didn’t want to work out; I wanted to sit and watch mindless TV, drink wine and forget things for a bit (and that’s what Dierdre, my inner beast was trying to get me to do). However, Dan was going to work out and I didn’t want to be the wimp. So, I put on workout clothes, shuffled through the snow to the garage, did some single hand swings and spent a little time on the elliptical to get the blood warmed up and then started single leg deadlifts, cleans and push presses. I put boxing gloves on and took my frustrations out on Dan’s heavy bag, then finished with a 15:15 kettlebell snatch finisher for 5 minutes. I’m so glad I did it. It made me feel SO much better.

This round of Whole 30 was not as experimental as others. I think I only made a couple of things that I hadn’t tried before. I wanted to keep it simple so as not to put undue pressure on me. So I kept it to lean pieces of meat, lots of vegetables, and my tried and true recipes of Whole 30s past. Salmon cakes, chicken fajitas (without the tortillas), chilli, spaghetti squash with compliant bolognese sauce, salads, olives, guacamole, baked fish, meatballs, curries etc. With it being so cold, I went for the comfort food options mostly. I have to say, even with this dastardly cold, it’s was one of the easiest Whole 30s I’d done…although the combination of “Tiger blood” and feeling blah from being sick was a tad weird.

However, a couple of easy new recipes had been tried. A red cabbage salad and mustard & garlic roasted brussels sprouts (which kind of became a little addictive!) were both given the seal of approval by the hubs. And my new stupid, easy favourite, which I found on Stupid Easy Paleo. Garlic ginger bok choy. Takes 5 minutes. I have it a couple of times a week. You can add extra veggies (see photo) and protein to it (just make more sauce), or have it as a side to grilled salmon to make a simple dish. The sauce consists of a tablespoon of coconut aminos, a dash of fish sauce and a teaspoon of grated ginger. That’s it. Sautee a couple of minced garlic cloves in a skillet, add a pound of washed baby bok choy that you’ve sliced in half lengthways, add the sauce plus one tablespoon of water. Toss, then cover to steam a little for about 4 minutes. That’s all folks. Seriously.

Well, that’s it for now, my friends. I’m hoping by the next blog, I’ll be consistently lifting 200lb and higher once more. It’s gonna happen.

Until then, stay strong! – J

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Jeanette’s Blog: The only way is up, baby!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018 and all it will bring. The year that so many of us thought of as a “dumpster fire” has gone and new things and adventures await us. Are you excited, or are you just tired? To quote the catchy 1988 pop anthem by Yazz (that I danced to many a time at night clubs), The Only Way is Up  (listen and dance, my friends).

I’m excited and tired, and hopeful. I’m not a New Year’s resolution kinda girl, but after last year, I have resolved that 2018 is going to be a year of self-care without feeling selfish or guilty. I had ended the last year feeling exhausted, stressed and like crapola and learned a few lessons along the way (which is good, right?). This is the face of a combination of stress and bad eating. I hope that by the end of the month, I can post a photo that looks completely different! I am at the stage where I can relate my past couple of months with a sense of humour, and thus, hope to encourage and inspire others who are facing obstacles right now.

Let me explain. In October, there I was, at work, happily going about my business of selling insurance, when I get some texts from the ever-loving hubs who, after seeing his doc, had trotted along to Capital Cardiology for some tests as he’d been having some chest pains, especially after eating. He suspected it was muscle pains due to some meds he’d had to take earlier this year.

The texts went a little like this:

“Blood pressure great!” (yay!)

“All set up for the EKG”

“EKGs perfect!!” (double yay!)

“Blood work good!” (I’m doing a little dance at my desk).

“CAT scan shows main artery to heart completely blocked. I have to go to hospital tomorrow to get a stent put in.” (what? WHAT?!)

Incidentally, he ended up with three stents, and I ended up at New World Bistro with two of his sisters and a couple of Cosmopolitans the evening after his op.

Thankfully, he is feeling so much better and is back to work and I thank the doctors at Albany Family Medicine and Capital Cardiology, both of whom acted on their hunches and ensured that Dan is still alive and kicking! To say it was a bit of a shock AND a wake-up call is like saying that the temperature in the North East is a little nippy right now…a big understatement.

How did I cope with this? Food. And wine. And sugar. You’d think that by now, I would have learned my lesson that self-medicating like this never ends well, but no. I pushed my feelings down and didn’t really want to talk about how I was feeling about it all. After all, this wasn’t about me. I talked about Dan and how he was doing, but didn’t think that talking about how I was feeling was going to be of help to anyone. I cooked healthy food for us both at home, but during the day ate badly and at night, drank a lot of wine.

A couple of weeks after his operation, I found myself feeling on “high alert” all the time. My heart constantly pounded, I was getting chest pains, my blood pressure was through the roof. Everything I had pushed down inside came crashing over me in a huge wave. I burst into tears at the weirdest moments. Eating breakfast…tears. Can’t find the lid to the yogurt…an Indian Ocean of tears. On my computer at work…tears. Having coffee with a friend…a veritable tsunami. Doing housework…tears. Grocery shopping…you get the idea. I went to our doctor…used up a whole box of Kleenex. Bless him, he sent me for tests to reassure me that my heart was fine. I went back to him. Another waterworks fest. I believe my doctor has now bought shares in Kleenex because of me.

So the upshot is, I finished the year on anxiety meds, but the GOOD news is I have stopped crying so much. I’m going to take my doctor’s advice and let my British Stiff Upper Lip relax. (He actually said that to me!) I have come to the realisation that self-care is important. I always knew in my head that it is vital but my inner me deep down felt self-care as being a bit selfish…you know like, “I’m going to a day spa”, “I’m having a mani-pedi”, “I want ME time”. None of those are wrong, but I felt like, as a woman, it’s kind of ingrained in us to be the carers, the nurturers. If I take a day off, I still do housework, or laundry because I feel guilty if I sit around reading and doing nothing or do stuff for ME. If Dan takes a day off to relax, he relaxes and does stuff that he wants to do. Who do you think has the right idea?

Self-care takes many forms. It’s about nourishing your body, mind, spirit in healthy ways. Yes, a pint of Coffee Haagen Dazs may feel good at first, but it’s not what’s going to help you/me in the long run. This is my list of things to do this year: Move, live, breathe (I’m fast becoming a fan of deep, deliberate breathing),pray (if it’s something that helps you), eat well, exercise in ways I enjoy and because I can, read new books, re-read the books I love, laugh with friends, be creative in so many different ways, go to the hair stylist, take a mental health day and meet a friend for coffee. Put things in place that I know will help, not hinder my well-being. I’ve stopped watching the news and reading a certain person’s twitter account. Some may say that’s burying my head in the sand. I say, at the moment it’s self-preservation.

I started back at The Kettlebell Fitness Center on Saturday. I had been staying away, for fear I would burst into tears mid-swing or mid-lunge. It was so good to be back, not just for the exercise, but to see all my strong friends there again. I love Saturday morning open gym. We swing heavy bits of cast iron, we chat, we laugh, we encourage and we get stronger. What a community. And what a mistake in staying away. The rhythm of the swing, and the correct breathing calms me. The ability to do things I couldn’t do before encourages me. The heavier weights ground me and the people around me sustain me. Yes, I’m aware that I may be waxing poetic here, but I’m in my happy place when I’m at the Kettlebell Fitness Center and when I’m feeling strong.

January has also seen a group of us at TKFC and some of our friends start another Whole 30. The hardest thing for me the first week has been giving up the glass or two of red wine I’ve been accustomed to. However, even in the first week, I’ve felt a lot better. After months of eating badly, Day 2 felt a little like a hangover, as eating food that didn’t contain sugar, grains, dairy or legumes and drinking mainly water and lightly flavoured seltzer seemed like an affront to my body used to alcohol, shortbread, M&Ms, Cheetos, bread, chocolate etc.

Dan has gone back to eating mostly plant based diet which has been interesting for me as I’m the one who cooks most nights. I’ve found that it’s been easier than I thought it would be. I make the base ingredients the same, but then add beans or grains to his half, and then whatever meat I want to mine. For example, I made chili on Friday. The base consisted of sauteed peppers, onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and cayenne. I then divided it and added kidney beans and vegetarian soy crumbles to his, and organic grass fed ground beef to mine. Topped with Hannaford’s delicious Taste of Inspirations Medium Pico De Gallo and some guacamole, it’s delicious, comforting and healthy.

So there you have it my friends. Welcome to 2018.  I leave you with the chorus lyrics of the 90’s Chumbawumba opus; “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you’re never gonna keep me down.”

Stay strong, look after yourself, and stay warm!  – J

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Jeannette’s blog: The beast called Deirdre

It’s been a weird old summer in the Sheehy household. The hubs, recovering from shoulder surgery, and with my blessing, has spent most of his summer up in Northville, recuperating, reflecting and chilling out. Most of my neighbours have been on vacation, and I with no vacation time (due to having started a new job last November) have been to work and come home to an empty house.

 

Yes, it’s been a little lonely at times, but I have enjoyed some me-time to try and accomplish all the amazing and creative endeavours I have dreamed of completing; blogging, writing, photographing all manner of things, spending time at The Kettlebell Center, getting fit and healthy, painting and drawing, reading enlightened books and spending time with friends. What a summer packed full of all the good things!

And now, after 8-10 weeks, Dan has gone back to work, and I look back on my summer to realise that I did accomplish quite a few things, and here is the list:

Ate badly

Drank quite a lot of wine and/or beer

Binge-watched 6 seasons of “Project Runway” and 2 seasons of “The Man in the High Castle”

Put on poundage

Sporadically went to Kettlebells

Stayed up ridiculously late (see also “binge-watched 6 seasons of ‘Project Runway’”) and drank much coffee to stay awake at work.

Consumed a lot of Cheetos (see also “ate badly”)

Kind of sounds like my whole summer was sabotaged, right? Well, funny you should say that. How does a summer of full of the possibilities of creativity end up being a summer of inactivity?

Well, all those questions and more were recently answered at a recent seminar given by The Kettlebell Fitness Center, and a more timely seminar could not have been more timely as this timely seminar was….times ten.

I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of it, as to do so would mean reading this blog until midnight, (if you started at midday), and you don’t want that; you have many more exciting and interesting things to do, right?

So, Kelly Coffey of Strong Coffey came to the Center to talk to a whole group of gals about the “3 Essential Strategies to End Self-Sabotage”…hmmm – interesting that. Was my stupid summer a result of self-sabotage or was it completely out of my control? I think we know that answer to that question, dear readers. “But why would you sabotage yourself, Jeannette?” I hear you chorusing. And therein lies the rub.

The excuses I made to NOT blog, to NOT photograph a darned thing, to NOT paint or draw went like this: “My office is a mess and I hate sitting in there at my computer when there’s clutter and rubbish from the last art show all over the place; besides there’s a hair in my camera mirror that I haven’t got time to clean and my camera’s old. PLUS I’m not sure I have any fresh paint, and even if I did, I’d have to set up an easel, and my office is a mess (did I say that already?) AND I sit at a computer all day quoting insurance, so sitting at a computer doing something I enjoy will be the same as sitting at a computer as I do at work.”

See what I did there? I believe I may have talked myself out of making myself happy by doing the things I know make me happy. However, you will be glad to know I girded my loins, set my face like flint (words from an old hymn!) and cleared my office up..it’s a tiny room so any clutter makes it seem full of stuff. Tidying it felt so free-ing!

What about my lack of kettlebell activity? “I’m tired because I stayed up too late last night, because I was binge-watching “Project Runway” because Sandros was having a fit about not being in the top, and walked off the show then came back and I wanted to watch what would happen next. Plus, I’ve put on a lot of weight, because I’ve been sitting around eating Cheetos and watching Project Runway, and I don’t want to turn up at The Kettlebell Fitness Center looking like the Michelin Man when everyone else has been working so hard and consistently and I’m pretty far behind now anyway so what’s another couple of weeks…perhaps I can start eating healthily again and then go back when my stomach has decided to deflate a little…”

And yet you’ve heard/seen me talk about kettlebells and strength training with so much love and enthusiasm in the past, right? What’s going on? Catch 22 sabotage, my friends. The things that make me happy, are also the things that my inner self kind of throw away because it makes me happy and healthy, and why would I want to be happy and healthy, when I could be miserable and unhealthy? Am I not worth it? And again, there’s the rub.

I don’t know about you, but I go through times where, on the outside, I’m chirpy and post positive stuff on social media, and try to help others and make others feel good about themselves; “Hey, that colour really suits you!”…..”You did great this morning!”….”I love you”…”Let me help you with this.”….”You’re really good at……..”. But when it comes to me, I’m my own worst enemy. And I’m sure that some of you are the same. When push comes to shove, we don’t feel like we’re worth the same effort we put into others. Exploring where that comes from seems like it would be painful or too much hard work, so instead we kind of accept that we’re not worth the effort.

I look back at photos of me a year ago – I looked great! Healthy! I was hiking, kayaking, kettlebelling and deadlifting like it was my job. I was in jeans at least 2 sizes smaller and loved how I felt. And yet, even seeing those photos and remembering how I felt seems to point to my failure this summer instead of being motivating.

Yes, I’ll get to the end of this tunnel I’ve created for myself. I know I have to put some strategies into place to get to the end of this. So that’s where I am right now. No resolution right now. Loose ends. As Kelly Coffey said at the seminar: I need to start listening objectively to the negative voice in my head (she calls it “the beast” – deliberately not giving “the beast” capital letters to take away its power.) and to question the negativity it spouts. It’s bloody hard, but I guess that there is no easy way to conquer it, other than to constantly question it, every single flippin’ time it rears its ugly little head, right? What are the benefits if I don’t listen to “the beast”? I may call the beast “Deirdre” just to piss it off and make it slink away, because for some reason that name makes me smile. (No disrespect to all the Deirdres out there…)

I have to remember that health, fitness and a good life is about the journey not just constant successes. Failure will happen – we just need to look at the long term, think about the benefits, adjust our goals if need be. Remember the book “Pilgrim’s Progress”? It was about the journey and lessons being learned along the way. My lesson right now on my health and fitness journey is working out my worth. And if you feel the same, then I’m glad that you read this and know you’re not the only one in that boat/on that road/in that plane/whatever mode you’re using in your own health and fitness journey.

I used to be a Youth Pastor back in the UK; much of my job and calling was to encourage kids to know their worth and to help them fulfill their potential. And yet, at the age of 52, I’m still trying to work out my own worth and potential. Life is funny like that, isn’t it?

Now onto good stuff….like food. Patty Pan Squash (or scallopini) is the best. There is a family farm store in Northville that sells their own produce, and they produce heaps of patty pan squash. I have it with eggs, I have it with salad, I have it in ragout, I have it in stir fries and I make home fries out of them with onions (instead of using potatoes) because Patty Pan squash is da bomb. They’re not only pretty, but they are delicious. The only thing that makes them even more delicious is Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper. So if you find it, buy it…buy all the Patty Pan squash and eat it in so many ways. I may try to grow some myself next year.

Want to thank you for reading and want to encourage you that you’re not alone. I know I’m going to get out of this slump…I always end up managing to and so can you. Small steps in the right direction are still steps. The journey’s a marathon, and an obstacle course, not a short sprint to the finish line. That’s life. And now I’ve kinda let you know what’s going on in my head, I guess it means I have to do something about it. Oh, crap. OK beast, give me your best or shut the heck up, because I’m ready for you.

Until next time, stay strong – in mind, body and spirit!

x

J

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J’s Blog: A joyride of a July!

Well, hello friends! You’re still here? Time has slipped by so quickly and I’ve been away most weekends in Northville, NY, managed to injure myself when I decided to go for a run (which is why kettlebells are better for me!), got ready for an art show and been “nursing/bossing” the husband who is off the next 12 weeks from work after shoulder surgery. However, I’ve also found a new way to clean and moisturize my face…what riches!

So this spring/summer so far has been a little hectic. I had an art show coming up, and as I am the world’s biggest procrastinator, I left it to the last minute and then scrambled to prepare. However, it meant that my fun/exercise routine suffered a little. I tried to go for a brisk walk a few weeks ago as I was too late home from work to make it to Bags ‘n’ Bells with Bev, and it turned into a run, which was swiftly followed by an extremely painful hobble a mile away from home as my calf seized up, and I could barely walk. The hubs had to come and pick me up. That calf gave me grief for well over a week despite icing and stretching. ‘Twas not fun at all.

As well as preparing for the art show, the hubs ended up having shoulder surgery that week on his rotator cuff, labrum tendon and had bone spurs taken out. So that was a fun week also as my inner, compassionate nurse came out and I lovingly tended to his every need (by day 3 I was channeling Nurse Ratchett, believe me!). The upside is that now he’s home all day, I come back from work to find that he’s usually prepared a pretty healthy meal for me. I think I could get used to this.

I did get some kind of workouts in while up in Northville. A couple of dead trees had to come down and the tree guy just cut them up into 16” sections. They were solid wooden wheels that had to be tidied up, so using my deadlifting and tire flipping skills, I pulled, pushed, squatted, hinged and carried for a few hours to tidy up the mess that the tree had made, and constructed an awesome wood pile. Functional fitness at its best!

My consistency in training over the past couple of months has been sorely lacking and we all know that consistency trumps intensity. I realised how much I miss kettlebells. Evenings have changed a little. Striking & Conditioning on Tuesdays, Sandbags on Thursdays and trying to concentrate on my favourite (deadlifting) on Saturdays has meant that consistency in kettlebells has almost gone by the wayside (even though I love the boxing and sandbag classes).I need to re-think and re-set. I have to work out if I need to change my days and times or if I just need to give myself a kick up the jacksie and do kettlebells at home on alternate days just to stop the inconsistency. I’ve also noticed – and you may find this weird – that whenever I slack off on my health/fitness routine, slack on the exercising, and the healthy eating, I end up having weird dreams; mostly to do with reversing in a car that won’t brake. As if I’m going backwards out of control. (Told you I was weird, didn’t I?)

This blog, I don’t have a recipe for you that you eat, but one that you can use. Let me tell you a little secret. The other day, I reached for my packet of face cleansing wipes only to find out that they were all gone. What is a girl to do when she wants to take off her makeup before going to bed? I remembered seeing an article a few weeks ago about natural face cleansing and decided to try it. Ladies and gentlemen, I will never go back.

First, I soaked a face cloth with hot water and wrung it out, wiping it gently over my face. Next, I took some extra virgin coconut oil and rubbed it in my hands until it melted, and then smeared it over my face and eyelids. Then, I soaked and wrung out the facecloth with hot water again, and wiped off the coconut oil and make up and repeated that rinsing process a couple of times..

Finally,  I splashed cold water on my face, dried it, and rubbed a little coconut oil back into my face to moisturize it. The coconut oil is quickly absorbed. It works, my friends…it works. No expensive creams, cleansers, or wipes. I am a convert. Have you ever tried it? What did you think?

That’s it for this blog. I’m hoping by the next blog, I’ll have figured out how to stay consistent with my workouts, my mojo will have re-appeared and I’ll be applying for American Ninja Warrior!

Until then – stay strong!

J x

 

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J’s blog: Teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs

Hello, my friends. In this blog, I wanted to share with you, some musings as I continue my “journey” in healthy (ish) eating and fitness. Wisdom indeed, young grasshoppers, so read and learn and laugh at my attempts to impart things I have learned over the years and you already know and thus, I’m probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. (that’s a real phrase by the way.)

  1. Healthy cooking isn’t actually hard. When I first got married, at the ripe old age of 37, I told my husband that I wasn’t a good cook. I was so used to not cooking properly. I could make a boiled egg, and pasta casserole, and lived on a lot of Findus Crispy Pancakes, bacon sarnies and frozen oven fries and toast…but mostly I didn’t really cook for myself. My last apartment was above a hardware store and next door to a local Chinese/Chippy (fish and chips), so I may not have been a good cook, but I was an EXCELLENT customer of the shop next door. However, when I did get married, I had a year of unemployment and so started cooking, using recipe books and drawing on the creativity and experimentation I had used as a little kid. (Ask my mum about the cupcakes I made with lurid purple coloured and lemon essence icing and grated cheese on the top!) I discovered that I loved to cook, and was pretty good at it. I just hadn’t really tried properly before. American cookbooks are awesome, as they give measurements like “a cup of” and “a teaspoon of” rather than the British ones that are all, “4 grams of” and “6 ml of” – ain’t nobody got time for all that weighing out!

Anyway – to get to the point; Cooking really isn’t hard. Veggies and proteins and good fats are easy to cook. You don’t have to be complicated in cooking healthy food. The more you do it, the easier it is. As I keep saying, “spices and herbs are your friends”. Just having basic herbs and spices, lemons & limes and good fats and oils will help you to transform chicken, fish, beef and veggies into meals fit for a king, and extremely good for your well being. My favourite thing to do is to preheat the oven to 400F, put a piece of salmon in a baking tin, with a little olive oil, garlic and a squeeze of lemon. Lay asparagus in another baking tin, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Chuck both in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. As easy as that.

  1. You’re never too old to try something new. The saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is simply untrue. If it were true, we would never bother with trying anything.

At age 37, I packed all my worldly goods and got on a plane to new adventures: emigrating to the USA and getting married to a man I’d met online two years earlier. Both of us were talking this morning about how we had met, how he had been determined that he would never date, let alone marry an Englishwoman and how I had been vocal as a single 30-something that I would never EVER marry an American and that I would never want to live in the USA. 15 years later, married to our deal-breakers, we’re still going strong and enjoy our own ongoing adventures.

For Dan’s 50th birthday, back in 2008, we got up at an ungodly hour to drive to Queensbury on a freezing late October morning. My gift to him was a sunrise hot air balloon ride. As we ascended with just a wicker basket between us and the rapidly disappearing frost-ridden terra firma, my feelings zigzagged between excitement, wonder and genuine terror. However, the stillness of the morning, the sun rising, the sound of a distant train, the sight of another hot air balloon miles away, and of a herd of deer running through the trees below wiped away the fear. It was so beautiful up there. I was so glad we did it. Our landing was a different matter…the wind had got up, the basket bumped and capsized on the landing and I ended up face down in frosty grass with my husband tumbled on top of me, both of us laughing so much, we could barely get up.

Back in 2012, at age 47, I was fed up with treadmills and exercise machines at the local gym and wanted to try something different; something that didn’t make me feel like I was torturing or boring myself. I’d been to exercise classes and hated them. Doing the same exercises on gym machines was boring. I found Nancy and kettlebells. It was something completely new to me. And I loved it from the start. Who would have thought that I would be able to deadlift 265lb? To flip a 490lb tire? To pull a flippin’ airplane!?? To take part in Strong(wo)man challenges? To swing The Beast? And more importantly, 5 years later, still love doing this without any waning in interest? Nancy and the other trainers are always pushing, challenging, changing things up and keeping things interesting. We’ve learned all kinds of things and gained not only in strength, but in friendships and self esteem.

And now at age 52, I’m trying something else new to me – striking and conditioning classes have started at TKFC. I’m not the most coordinated when it comes to kicking and punching, but I am thoroughly enjoying it! With my heavy bag MMA gloves, I feel like a bad-ass. A slightly slow, and possibly quite ungainly bad-ass but one just the same!

I’ve learned that trying new things can bring up all kinds of emotions: fear, excitement, uncertainty, exhilaration – and it’s so worth it. So many of you reading this have done far more than I have; you know how it is. To those of you who let fear of the unknown, or worries about what people may think – go for it. You don’t want to look back on your life wishing “if only”. Even if it’s a small thing, go and try it. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. If it does work out – woohoo!! And that’s advice I have to continually give to myself.

  1. Don’t worry about what others think: I was an awkward teenager. At high school, I was always worried about what people thought of me. I was very fortunate in that I had friends who were loyal, but I tried hard not to rock the status quo. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to fit in. I lived in dread of being one of the kids who had rumours circulated about them. I don’t know how kids get through school nowadays. I take my hat off to you. Even as a young adult out in the working world, I worried about whether people liked me for me, or if they were just putting up with me and too polite to say otherwise. I had fun with my friends, sure, but cared about what people thought of me. I didn’t want to put a foot wrong, or look stupid in front of others. I still remember going out with a group of friends one night and as I left a pub with them, I heard a guy say to another one, “Who let the fat people out tonight?” with a nod towards me. I was devastated. Now I look back, I realise I actually wasn’t fat, and what that guy’s comments said more about him than me,  but those words followed me around for years. I dressed in a way that didn’t show my body off. I wore loose blouses, long skirts, trousers. Things that didn’t accentuate my curves or everything that was wrong with my body.

Today, most of the time, I don’t give a rat’s furry backside what people think. Of course, you always want to show off your best side and at work be the best professional you can be. But seriously? Life’s too short to let others dictate how you feel about yourself. I have to say, that in my 50’s, I feel like I’ve come into my own as a strong woman (in all senses of that word). I know that I have friends who “get” me and like me for who I am. I know that I can be irritating, and annoying. But, I am also loyal. I love to sing out loud, I dance around the house to music that others would laugh at, I embarrass poor Dan in traffic by pretending to play the sax solo when George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” comes on the radio. (However, he can be just as silly as me.) I enjoy being ridiculous and having fun. I enjoy being strong. Maybe I’ll never be a size 6 but I don’t care as long as I’m healthy and strong. I don’t apologise so much for being me. Please don’t think that this came instantly to me once I hit 50. It’s still a work in progress, but so very freeing. Of course I have days when I feel like crap and don’t like myself much, but those days get fewer and fewer, the older I get. It’s pretty awesome that I actually like myself. I want to encourage you, especially as a woman, to embrace all the good things that make you, you in a world that tries to put you in a box and make you feel less than you are.

So there you go. These have been my thoughts over the past couple of weeks. I’m grateful to know people who aren’t afraid to try new things and who enjoy being themselves. You’ve taught me a whole lot and I’m thankful.
If you see me in traffic, playing a pretend sax solo to the sounds of George Michael, or trying to channel Adele, please join in….. In the meantime, stay strong – J x

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J’s blog: Wrestling with the sugar dragon

Sugar….da nana na na…oh, honey, honey dana nana na na…you know the song by the Archies? Sugar has been on my mind and on my lips the past couple of months. Yes, the sugar dragon of my soul has been awakened and roams the candy aisles of stores looking for its next fix. This has been detrimental to my health, my mind and my waistline. I’ve been wearing what I call my “fat pants” to work every day: different top, same pants, hoping that no one has noticed.

It’s my own fault. I got cocky. I thought I had this beat. Hey, I’ve been losing weight, and getting stronger – a piece of Lindt creamy chocolate’s not going to hurt…. What? How is the whole wrapper empty? I fancy some Hagen Daazs Coffee Icecream. A couple of scoops ain’t gonna derail me. What? How is that pint carton empty already? Twizzlers! I haven’t had Twizzlers in ages. One Twizzler does not ruin my health. Huh? Where did my Twizzlers all go? And we know that answer to those questions don’t we? All that sugar has gone into my body.

Sugar is so addictive, isn’t it? We laugh about it – “Yeah, my name’s Jeannette, and I’m a chocoholic”. But seriously, sugar addiction is easy to fall into and hard to get out of. Have you ever watched the documentary “Fed Up”? It’s a pretty eye opening film about sugar and how so much of it is in our food. Obesity is on the rise and yet, sugar, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup is in most everything. You give a lab rat sugar and cocaine, the rats will choose the sugar over the cocaine. It’s that addicting. Is it any wonder so many of us struggle with health and weight loss? I hold my hand up. I cannot eat sugar in moderation. After doing about four Whole 30s now and feeling great after each one, I am still a slave to sugar. I can go without it and not miss it, but then something happens. And I’m a goner. I kid myself that I have food freedom. That I can eat a creme egg, and enjoy it and not want any more. But that’s a pile of poo. Sugar is one of my demons. I know, I know, this is sounding all so dramatic, but for me it really is a complete struggle. I know the answers. Before reaching for that candy, stop. Think. What is compelling me to reach for it? Am I stressed out? Yes. Will sugar help in the long run? No, but gimme, gimme! And so the cycle continues…until I suddenly dig my heels in and give myself a good talking to.

This past month, I decided that I was going to give up bread and sugar because I wanted to be nice to my work pants. The first week actually went ok. The second week was almost just as good but then Panera Bread happened. I had salad and soup. The girl asked me if I wanted bread or an apple as my side. I said I didn’t want a side. They gave me a side. A huge chunk of their crusty baguette. I threw it away. No I didn’t…I ate the flippin’ thing. All of it. I practically attacked it like a starving dog pouncing on a juicy steak. Our office had donuts given to us by a travel firm. I stayed away from the donut table. No I didn’t…I made a beeline to that table waaaaay at the back of the office and fished out a donut with day-glo pink frosting and little flower things sprinkled all over it.

The stupid thing is, I know what I’m doing, and how it’s going to affect me, but my eyes get as glazed as the donut I’m eating and then afterward, I feel like crap. What can I say? I’m a work in progress. But I dwell on my muffin top, and the fact that my clothes don’t fit and wish I was two sizes smaller. It’s my health that suffers too. Sleepless nights, afternoon sugar crashes, mood swings, lethargy and irritability and a general sense of feeling not quite right. They are the main things I should remember when my sugar dragon rears its ugly, scaly head, not just the calorie thing.

The silly thing is, I love fresh, healthy food – the taste of lime juice, a crisp salad with goat cheese, a small medium-rare steak with grilled asparagus, fresh berries, olives, avocados. Why am I seduced by sugar so easily? It’s not like it even satisfies. Well, that’s where I am at the moment, working hard to stay on track, telling myself, I only have one body to live in and I need to treat it well if it’s going to be able to do what I want it to do.

The GOOD news is that I am feeling the benefits of working on my shoulders more consistently. A lot more rolling and shoulder warm ups have meant that Military presses the other night didn’t have me waking up the next day having problems with my right arm and shoulder. Nancy has commented that my shoulders have become a lot less rounded and more open. I’ve noticed the difference in the way my blouses and t-shirts look. Deadlifts are still on the agenda, working my way up the ladder to more reps of heavier weights. After kettlebells, sandbags and deadlifts in the past week, I came home on Saturday to do some yard work. Hauling out the long pruning shears from the garage, I proceeded to prune seven Rose of Sharon trees in our back yard to within an inch of their lives. Some of the branches were as thick as my wrists (and I have thick wrists), but I felt so bad-ass when my neighbour offered to lend me a saw but with some grit, breathing properly and some Wonder Woman strength, I just lopped those branches off with those big ol’ pruning secateurs. My pecs were certainly feeling it the next day though and my Rose of Sharon trees are looking very ….naked.

Thursday nights at The Kettlebell Fitness Center from 6-7pm continue to be fun as we work through a mix of kettlebell and sandbag disciplines at “Bags and Bells with Bev”. My favorite sandbag movement at the moment is the snatch, and the clean and press has really been helping with my shoulders when strict military presses with the bell have proved more difficult for me. We’ve had a couple of new people join us these evenings, with friendly insults being traded, Bev’s 90s hip-hop station being  blasted out and a lot of sweat flying around. Come down and join in. You’ll love it! (Perhaps not the flying sweat bit, but the rest is awesome!)

Just want to finish off with a recipe I’ve done before, but it’s so easy and amazingly tasty, that you will make it many times. Smoky Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs from Practical Paleo. Basically sprinkle the chicken with a smoky spice rub (which is in the recipe), wrap them in a couple of bacon rashers and chuck them in the oven for around 40 minutes. That’s as simple as it gets. To go with it, I made quick salsa. Chopped up a couple of roma tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, garlic and a few slices bottled jalapenos. Added some lime juice and chopped parsley. Delicious, zingy and extremely easy – combined with the smoky chicken, it was sublime.

Well I’m off to NOT eat sugar. I’ve found that I like cracking pepitas (pumpkin seeds) open with m’teeth. Possibly not very ladylike, but hey, whatever works, right AND a ¼ cup gives you 9g of protein. Not a sugar molecule in sight!

Until next time, stay strong and stay OFF the sugar!

J x

 

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J’s blog: Snow and stress removal courtesy of kettle bells

Remember last blog when I said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? How was that lion’s roar of a snowstorm for you? Our road is still basically one lane. If someone is trying to turn into it but someone else is coming out, you have no chance. Remember the tale of Sisyphus, the mythical guy condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up to the top of the mountain, only to have it roll back down again, ad nauseum? Well, that’s who I felt like the other day. I quite like shovelling snow. I really do. But one afternoon, I got home from work, and had to shovel that hard, frozen, boulder packed snow from the bottom of my driveway. I then parked the car and went inside to put dinner in the oven, feeling all warm inside from the exercise and from knowing that my hard working hubs wouldn’t have to tackle it when he got home from a long day’s work. However, I looked out of the window at my handiwork a few minutes later, only to let out a strangled scream. Albany’s finest plow truck had just gone down our road and left an even huger pile of frozen, dirty, bouldery snow at the end of my driveway. It came up to my hips. I kid you not. Donning my cheap 10 year old Walmart snow boots once more, I spent the next hour slicing and dicing that sucker of a snow pile. How glad I was for The Kettlebell Fitness Center that afternoon. My shoulders, core, glutes and legs got a mighty fine workout and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I made short work of that Sisyphean boulder, and was even able to go on and help my neighbour make short shrift of his own snow boulders!

I guess I should thank the snow for giving me some workouts. I haven’t really been to The Kettlebell Center much the past couple of weeks. A lot of things have been stressing me out a little, and, as much as I say I’m a Drama Queen, I tend to keep my drama outbursts for when I’m on my own and in my head. I internalize a lot of things rather than blurt it all out for everyone and anyone to hear. I don’t like drama. It often makes me shut down and keep away from people. When things are going badly or I’m a little stressed out or am having a bad week, I stuff my feelings down inside, along with bread, chocolate, McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish and fries, Cadbury Creme Eggs, bagels, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting….wait a gosh danged minute….is this stuff I’ve been eating? Oh, yes my friends. Since my last blog, this has been on my menu and on my waistline and hips, resulting in very tight jeans, feeling fed up, sick, a fitness/paleo blogging hypocrite and an unwillingness to don funky leggings and go see my friends at the Kettlebell Fitness Center for fun, community and a bloody good workout. But by Saturday, my body was screaming at me to let it go and exercise please and stop making it a prisoner just because I was feeling like crap.

So I grumpily grabbed some workout leggings, a baggy t-shirt and hauled myself down to the center for open gym, armed with high test coffee and a bad attitude. Hey, Nancy and Beverly- just a little advice: stop greeting me with love and friendliness like you’re happy to see me – it’s hard to keep a grump on when you’re welcoming like that. I can’t wallow if you’re glad that I’ve come by! (Just remember that, folks. People are glad to see you when you walk in the door, so be warned that your attitude might melt, like the Wicked Witch of the West did when splashed with water.) Even after being in this community for the past 4 or 5 years, I’m still amazed at how working out is such an amazing antidote for stress, depression, grumpiness and over indulgence in foods that are not helpful to your health. I walked out an hour and a half later feeling so much better in body, mind and spirit. I’d done 4 sets of different sandbag disciplines, heavy swings and learnt a new kettlebell exercise: Kettlebell rockers. It was kind of like skiing with kettlebells, trying to keep your core and lower body balanced as you swung two kettlebells back and forth alongside your hinged body. I think it’s my new favourite!

Last Monday, we had the monthly Kettlebell Fitness Center’s Good Food Club, and I think everyone agreed, it was some of the yummiest food yet. We started off with a wonderful beet, goat cheese, mushroom and avocado salad with dressing, followed by a beautiful lemon dill soup, we had spicy ground chicken curry topped with baby kale and chopped cashews, lentil and black bean burgers, swedish meatballs, peppers stuffed with ground beef and cauliflower rice in a marinara sauce, and a rich, dark chocolate chia pudding and paleo lemon cupcakes to finish. A couple of glasses of red wine, lots of laughter and good conversation made this Monday night such a pleasure. Geri was kind enough to email me the recipe for the lemon cupcakes (they really were the bee’s knees). So for your gustatory pleasure, I’m passing it on: http://www.pbfingers.com/paleo-lemon-cupcakes/

Last month, I said I would give you a recipe for fajitas that I use a lot. I found this recipe in the September 2009 edition of Hannaford’s free “Fresh” magazine and have used it ever since. I have never bought the packet fajita mix since finding this recipe. I recently made it and adapted it to be more paleo friendly, and found that substituting coconut aminos for both the sugar and the worcestershire sauce was fine, as coconut aminos is pretty sweet anyway. Dan has them with whole wheat soft tortillas, but I just add avocado, or spicy guacamole to mine.

To make the fajita marinade (that you can use for chicken or red meat) you need:

1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil

3 tbspn fresh lime juice

1 tbspn plus 4 tspn coconut aminos

½ tspn cumin powder

Pinch of red pepper flakes (or if you like it a little hotter, add some more to taste or throw some Frank’s Red Hot sauce in)

1 tbspn minced fresh cilantro. (I add a little more and sometimes mix it with minced parsley)

Whisk those ingredients up and then add 3 cups cooked chicken (for time’s sake, I buy a fresh organic rotisserie chicken and shred that up) If you’re going to use steak, sear it on both sides before slicing thinly and putting it in the marinade. The lime juice will help “cook” it further. I marinade it for around 15 minutes, with cling film over the top of the bowl.

Chop up some brightly coloured peppers and a red onion and cook them on high in your beautifully seasoned cast iron skillet. Don’t move them about too much, because you want to get a slightly sizzled scorch on the pepper skins, but stir once the bottom layer is sizzling nicely. Once your veggies are cooked, pour the marinated meat and the marinade into the skillet, mixing it up with the peppers and onion. Done. Badabing. Bob’s your uncle. The fat lady has sung. That’s all she wrote. It’s that easy.

If you want soft tortillas, this will make 4 fajitas. Add your favourite toppings, whether it be sour cream for those who love diary. Or add a dollop of chunky guacamole, or sliced avocado. And don’t forget to clean your skillet with some hot water, and rough sea salt before drying well and wiping down with some oil, ready for your next sensational dish.

Next weekend, the ever-lovin’ and I will be in Maine for 4 days, celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, away from work and by the majestic Atlantic. Maine at the end of winter is glorious. Cold, sunny and lots of beach walks to the sound of pounding waves. Good for blowing away the cobwebs and clearing the mind.

Until next time, stay strong. Stay positive (that’s for me), and keep walking on the path of health and fitness. If you fall off, get back on (that piece of advice is also for me).

  • J x
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J’s Blog: How the Kettlebell Fitness Center taught me to open a door

A couple of weeks ago, my husband bought me a gift for no reason. Bless his Hanes socks. He gets me…after nearly 15 years of marriage, he finally gets me. The gift was a coffee mug, with the logo; “I love you more than coffee…but not before coffee.” I’ve always been this way. Please don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee. But, I’ve come to realise over the past couple of years, it’s not about the actual coffee. It’s about how people start their day. Dan is normally awake at 5am, gets out of bed and is happy. He will chat nineteen to the dozen if someone is about to listen. He will chat, and walk about and be as happy as a cat with paper and a box to play with. However, I need silence in the morning, and my own space. I need an hour to pootle about on my own, not having to talk. I get up, make breakfast and coffee, watch the news and talk to no one. It’s how I am. This is how I wake up. The coffee is an excuse. A delicious, leave me alone excuse. And I thank my husband for such a thoughtful gift. When he starts chattering away to me first thing, I just silently raise my new mug up, as if to toast him and he can read it and leave me the heck alone.

So, two months into 2017 and we’re still going strong, right? You’re hanging in there, working out, enjoying life and building others up? I’ve been working on the last thing over the past few months and talked about it in the last blog. And I’ve noticed something; when I tell someone something I like about them, or compliment them on what they’re wearing, how they’re doing or encouraging them, I forget about myself and what I don’t like about myself. It’s like,  the more generous you are with your heart in uplifting others, the more generous you want to be. And the more generous and true with your heart and compliments and encouragement you want to be, the less you worry about what others think about you. It’s a strange but true phenomenon. Even if others don’t reciprocate, you don’t notice. I like it. I like it a lot.

At the Kettlebell Center, PRs are abounding like never before, whether with military presses, squats, get ups or planks – we are an awesome bunch. A lot of people have been working hard on progressions with their presses, and are rocking their PRs like it’s their daytime job! Due to the ongoing dodgy shoulder, presses are out for me, and so I’ve been working on my deadlift progressions. I’m excited to see how much I will be able to deadlift after working through the different sets!

However, I’ve managed to tweak my lower back a little a couple of times, and have been wondering if it’s because I’ve stopped concentrating on what I’m doing. When I’m deadlifting, all kinds of things are running through my head. “Are my feet planted correctly?… What about my hands?…. Are my lats engaged and ready?… Have I taken that breath and pushed out my diaphragm ready to drive my feet through the floor as I lift?… Does my butt look big in these leggings?… Oh crap! Did I pay the electric bill this week?… Ooh! I LOVE this song!

As you can see, when thoughts (other than the ones that help you concentrate on the task in hand) start crowding in, concentration lapses for a little bit and then when I actually start lifting, that lapse can cause  something to go a little bit wrong.

DiamondPlate™ Anodized Door Sign

When we train at TKFC, we try to incorporate movements such as these: Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Carry. I was thinking about this the other day at work. We don’t “think” about how we open a door (for example), but after going through that same door for the fifth time that day in the same way and feeling that familiar wee tweak in my lower back, I realised again that functional exercise plays a part in everyday things and I was not using that functional exercise properly. I find that when I push a door (one of those pneumatic closing types) open, I always turn sideways and help it along with my hip. Why? I’m capable of opening a door and keeping it open with my hand and arm as I walk through. But in my laziness, I just keep it open with a twist of spine and a bump of my hip. I always do this. So I started “mindfully” opening the doors, pulling it towards me or pushing it away, depending on which way I was going. I’m sure I looked weird, as a couple of times, I repeated it until I was happy with the way I opened that darned door! (yes, this is the kind of stuff that could get me sent away in a strait-jacket!) But you will be pleased to know that I also lifted a heavy laundry basket at home with an intake and exhale of breath that would satisfy the most hardcore of kettlebell swingers!

This past week, my cast iron skillet has been put to a LOT of use. I love my skillet. I even posted a photo of it on my instagram and Facebook account on Sunday because it is truly a thing of beauty. This thing has had nearly 10 years of seasoning. I use it as a roasting tin, as a frying pan, even to make pies. Many of us who cook and eat paleo use our skillets with pride and often.

Sure, I’ve burned my fingers on the handle when I’ve not been thinking, and yes, I went through the early stages of wondering what “seasoning the skillet” meant. (I actually thought it meant that you rub it down with oil and pepper and salt!) Yes. That was me. But now I feel I’m a skillet aficionado.

A lot of people view the skillet with suspicion. They don’t like cooking with it because it’s not “non-stick”, but believe me, with use and love, it will become your go-to pan. Here’s the thing: when I first got my skillet,  I would fill it up with hot water and dish soap after using it,  and leave for a while until the sticky bits would come off. I would get little rust stains on it. However, since following instructions and asking fellow skillet users how they achieved skillet nirvana, I have been rewarded with a pan that loves me back and has become a beautiful object in my kitchen, radiating goodness and love, and deliciously cooked food.

So, let me share the secrets of the skillet squad. We do not like to use a lot of soapy water to clean our skillets. Most of us use a little hot water and coarse sea salt to clean it. You heard correctly – coarse sea salt. The salt acts as a scrubber and helps get off the sticky bits. You will see the salt change colour as it absorbs the left over food and liquids in the bottom of the pan. Once you have scrubbed with the salt, rinse with hot water and wipe dry with a cloth.

After drying, put it on a stove top ring and turn it on to finish drying it off. (This is to avoid any rust stains from appearing due to any water left in the pan) When it’s dry, I add a little oil (coconut, light olive oil or avocado oil) and with a paper towel, oil the skillet, wiping away any excess. I then continue to heat the pan. (This has the trick of hardening some of the oil to the pan – some like to put it in the oven at the highest temperature to do this, but I’m too lazy). After heating again, I put a little more oil on a paper towel and give it a final spare coat, wiping way any excess again. Done. It’s ready for the next time.

If you keep doing this, you will find that your pan responds to this loving care, and in turn, will look after you. It will proudly turn out food that people will want to come back for.  One last tip…be sparing if you cook with balsamic vinegar. The acid in it can strip away the oils you’ve built up over time.

By the way? Those delicious roasted potatoes? I cooked them in duck fat. I started them off on the stovetop in the skillet and just transferred it all to the oven for about 45 minutes at 375 deg. I found the rendered duck fat at ShopRite along with Grass Fed beef tallow Pork Lard. All made by Epic, which is Whole30 and Paleo approved! The potatoes came out all fluffy on the inside and very crispy and deliciously flavoured on the outside. In fact, they tasted (indulge my poor pun here) epic! And the best thing was that when I cleaned my skillet afterward, it was a breeze due to the buildup of fats on it…and now I have a thin layer of duck fat on it!

So that, my friends, brings us to the end of February. March is known to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I wonder what it will have in store for us.

Next month, I will have a recipe for chicken fajitas that I found in a Hannaford magazine but adapted to make it Paleo. You will never buy packet fajita mix again.

Until then, stay strong in all things, practice your door opening skills and dust off your skillets!

  • J
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J’s Blog: What I learned from the Super Bowl

February. Ah, February. The month of the Super Bowl, (and yes, I have used this picture before in a previous blog, but it never fails to amuse me), the month of the strangely immortal 123 year old Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow….again! It’s the month where we wonder if we’re ever going to see Spring and sunshine ever again. It’s the month of Love and it’s the month that I become a year older, wiser, and more fabulous..

In case you didn’t notice, the Super Bowl was on the other Sunday night. It was TOTALLY a game worth watching, even to a Brit who doesn’t understand the rules and only watches the Super Bowl and none of the games leading up to it. How exciting was it? Who was sitting on the edge of their seat with their heart in their mouth? Everyone. Everyone. Except for you over there on the other side of the pond, unless you stayed up to watch…but probably didn’t.

Let’s talk about the halftime show. I like Lady Gaga. I have one of her CDs (I’m so old) with Tony Bennett (yes, I’m old) and appreciate her artistry and talent but I wouldn’t say I’m a lifetime mahoosive fan. However, I thought she did an amazing job at the halftime show. Amazing. I read that she had been working out a whole lot and had a mini gym installed at the stadium so she could continue to work out in order to be able to jump, fly, dance, basically provide a high energy half time show to entertain us all, singing all the way through without losing her breath, without going off tune and without lip syncing. She was spectacular. Who amongst us can run at a good clip for 15 minutes and talk, let alone sing?. Who amongst us can swing a kettlebell for 2 minutes and talk at the same time without losing our wind?

So, it was in complete disbelief, and not without a little anger that later on that week,  I heard a woman I don’t know very well, remark on the halftime show by saying vehemently, “I thought she was terrible, letting her disgusting flab hang out like that!”

What? What flab? What hadn’t I noticed? I didn’t know what she was talking about. I wondered if we had watched the same half time show. I had thought she looked amazing, that she looked strong, healthy and very importantly, completely in her element, doing what she loves and does best. My first immediate thought was, “Why are you so angry about it?”, followed by, “As a woman – as a person,  you would hate someone talking like that about you, so why pick another woman to pieces like that?”

Later on that day, I came across a Facebook Post by Molly Galbraith of Girls Gone Strong that said it perfectly as she responded to some nasty online criticism (from men) of Gaga’s body: “Her body is none of anyone’s damn business but hers!” That hit the nail on the head. Seriously, why do we as women bash other women and particularly their bodies? We’re not in competition with each other and yet so often we put each other down. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another either in thought OR word. It can get to be an insidious habit. And as a habit, it’s a downward spiral. It really says much more about who we are than the person whose body we’re pulling to pieces. And while I’m at it (because I’m so good at this one), why do we pull ourselves to pieces as well? Why have we conditioned ourselves to beat ourselves up? My reason is that I do it before anyone else can get that kick in. What’s your reason?

I don’t have any answers to the questions I’m posing. I don’t pretend to be a great thinker or wise sage. This isn’t a deep blog. I leave that to others. I’m sure that much has been written on the subject. I just wanted to ask the questions, because the angry woman really got to me. I felt gobsmacked, sad and tired and started questioning my own thoughts and words and reactions, which I guess is a good thing?

I feel fortunate that at the Kettlebell Fitness Center, this is not a common problem amongst the men or women who attend classes. We don’t hear it. (I want to give a shout out to the men who train at The Kettlebell Center. They are some of our best encouragers!) We come in, we warm up, we do our stuff, we yell encouragement to each other, we whine when Nancy wants one more round, but we do not pull each other to pieces.  Life is hard enough. We are all at different stages in our lives, job wise, health wise, fitness wise, body wise. And we are all different and wonderful human beings.

In fact, all of us at The Kettlebell Fitness Center are getting more fabulous as time goes on. I was looking back at some old photos of us all, and I can see the difference between then and now in each and every one of us. Sometimes we don’t see the ongoing changes in ourselves as we see our bodies in the mirror every day, many of us picking out what we imagine to be flaws. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes, or the eyes of someone else to notice the subtle but ever growing changes. So I want to throw out a challenge to us all. In the next couple of weeks, encourage someone. Tell them something that you really like, love or admire about them. Build them up. You don’t know how many people are struggling right now just to keep it together, who are discouraged by life, by their health, their fitness level, their job, their eating habits. An encouraging word can make a huge difference. It might be something that they need to hear. Something that will cause them to keep on going.

Be kind to yourself also. Give yourself some slack. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This week I was struggling with get ups again. Nancy showed me some corrections to help me from putting unneeded pressure on my shoulders. My immediate response was, “have I been doing it wrong all this time?” feeling like a failure, instead of “OK, this is helping. Thanks Nancy!!” It’s so easy to be negative about oneself, isn’t it? So I’ll just leave this here: my shoulders and upper arms are looking pretty good at the moment. *grin* See? I can do this. I can encourage myself.

I’m sorry that there are no food photos or recipes this week. I just wanted to get this off my chest. I want to be an encourager of others, especially my fellow women. If it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to you, try it on for size. Let me know how you get on, or if you felt it impacted someone positively, or if you were the recipient of encouragement or compliment, how did it make you feel?

I turn 52, the day after Valentine’s Day, and I’m going to make sure this year counts as the year I build others up, offer support, encouragement and to continue to work on myself to become extra faaaabulous dahlinks!

Go. Go do it. And if you are one of the few who didn’t see Gaga’s halftime show, click on this link. Lady Gaga’s Superbowl Halftime Show You’re welcome. By the way? You’re all awesome and Lady Gaga, you were a flippin’ powerhouse!

  • J
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J’s Blog: January 2017

Happy New Year!! Happy, Happy…. New…so, who felt like they kind of limped over 2016’s finish line in to 2017 for various reasons? I know that I certainly did. The hubs started off the new year with that humdinger of a cold that turned into a sinus infection, complete with incessant coughing and loss of voice. Garlicky chicken and kale soup was our constant companion for a week, and I quickly lost my sympathy and resorted to sleeping in a separate room, as I decided it was the only way our marriage would survive during this pestilent plague. (As you can see, nursing is my real vocation….)

Then, just as I congratulated myself on not succumbing to the dastardly disease, chewing vitamin C like it was my job, I was hit with it. The good news is that mine only lasted a week or so instead of Dan’s 3-4 week stint. And I have to say, he was much more of a sympathetic nurse! It was bad enough that it put paid to working out. I couldn’t summon up the energy to exercise and I certainly didn’t want to cook. I ate what was handy at the time. Lots of cereal and toasted English muffins with poached eggs. By the time we were done with this thing, I looked six months pregnant with bloating and had to start wearing my larger work pants to feel comfortable.

As I blew my nose, and chomped down on throat lozenges, drinking many, many hot toddies to make me well (my excuse for drinking whiskey, with a touch of cloves, lemon, honey and hot water), I scrolled down my Instagram and Facebook feeds, marvelling at all the January Whole 30 denizens, smashing it out of the park with their pretty, fancy schmancy menus. Me? Bitter? Ha! (Beverly Plowucha, you’re doing a fantastic job of your Whole 30!)

However, the cold has finally left me and I’m feeling motivated and ready to take 2017 on. Who’s with me? 2017 is going to be a year of strength, power, bad-assery, health and adventures in so many ways, right?

The Kettlebell Fitness Center has been pretty crowded on Saturday mornings, which lends an atmosphere of motivation and fun. I’ve been working on my deadlifts with a workout that Nancy gave me. 10 reps of a warm up weight, adding 20lb for 8 reps, adding another 20lb for 6, a final 20lb for 4 reps. At the highest weight, do 4 sets of 8-10 reps. After that, put the barbell with the highest weights on a rack or boxes to bring the bar higher, and do 4 sets of 8-10 reps again, interspersed with kettlebell floor presses each side. I love to deadlift…have I told you that? My goal this year is 300lb, whether trap bar or barbell, and I aim to smash it, baby!.

To help get to that goal,  Dan and I moseyed on down to Lowe’s to pick up some interlocking rubber mats for the basement and are in the process of  transferring the barbell and weights we have from the garage, so we can have our own mini-gym down there with the mice and spiders and thousand leggers…which is nice. I am excited to be able to work on my deadlifts (making sure I practice good form of course) outside of class. There is the temptation to try and lift heavier just to make it to the 300 but have learned that form is more important than the weight you lift. Impatient? You bet! Do I want to get injured? Erm…..no.

Last week, I did a huge shop, practically buying out the whole produce section of ShopRite and went home to food prep for the week. Olive Oil Mayo, Artichoke Chimichurri and Zingy Ginger Dressing (my go-to put-that-stuff-on-all-the-things sauces and dressings) were whipped up to the sounds of Louis Prima. A batch of yummy salmon cakes, a roasted chicken, some Greek style kebabs with Grass Fed Ground beef (from Well Fed 2) were next as I warbled along with Amy Winehouse. Red and white cabbage were made into coleslaw, tossed with a mixture of the Mayo and Ginger Dressing with a little Pink Martini music for added ambience. Sauteed Bok Choy and Rainbow Chard with shallots, red pepper flakes and lemon juice was added to the kebabs for dinner that night. Vegetable curry was on the menu for Monday and Tuesday night (with some added chicken for me and wild rice for Dan). It really does make the week easier if you can set aside a couple of hours. I know not everyone can do it, but even just chopping the vegetables for the week ahead, getting garlic pressed or minced, and roasting some veggies in a pan all helps. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and already, I’m feeling the benefits again and have stopped wearing my larger work pants once again. Thrice Huzzah for that!

No resolutions this year, just goals to be awesome where and when I can, just like Kid President (do you follow this kid on Facebook? Check the dude out!)…and to get stronger!

See you in a couple of weeks, my friends! I am going to give you a load of great strength people, websites and Facebook pages to check out, if you’re interested in getting stronger.

Until then, Happy New Year and stay strong and sane!

  • J x
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J’s Blog: Why the Kettlebell Fitness Center is like having Christmas all year long!

As we come to the end of 2016, (some of us perhaps feeling a little bedraggled and worn by the year), I would like to explain to you why being part of The Kettlebell Fitness Center is like experiencing the joys of Christmas all year round. I shall do this very cleverly, and oh, so slightly smugly, in an Acrostic style, sure to please your senses in every way imaginable!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin….

C is for Community: and what an amazing community this place is – full of people who genuinely care about each other, encourage each other, listen to each other and have lots of fun together. C is also for Crawling (bear, leopard, spider, baby), Champions: the TKFC is chock full of champions who aim for goals and work hard toward reaching them. Cheers: for the champions and for personal records, Celebrations (see Cheers), Corpse poses (after a hard workout) and Cooking (especially when we get together for the Good Food Club once a month, bringing lots of delicious food and enjoying each other’s company…which brings us back to Community).

H is for Health, Happiness, (really, health and happiness seem to like walking hand in hand, don’t they? The healthier you feel, the happier you are. Well, I know that’s how it works for me). Hanging: still working on my pull ups, Hinging: (NOT the same as squats! Remember this important difference), Hip snaps: helping kettlebells to float and strengthening your core since time began and Hugging: yes, we respect peoples’ personal space, but we also hug – ‘cos we really like each other!

R is for Rows (renegade and lunge), Round the Worlds, Ropes: (ladies, just remember to wear a sports bra in case Nancy tells you to do Jumping Jacks whilst using the battle ropes), Refreshment (drink it if you’ve got it!), Rolling: always a good thing to do after a hard workout. Rest: not a bad thing. Sometimes you just have to take it down a notch, and we always appreciate the 15 seconds between sets. Records: we love seeing others set themselves new Personal Records. We record it and celebrate it, and hug, and jump, and cheer and dance. Refuge: sometimes this place and community is a refuge to come to after a crappy week, or day when you want to be in a place with friends (where everybody knows your name) and take your stress out on those chunks of cast iron.

I is for Inspiration; we are inspired by our trainers, and by the progress of others. Intensity: especially those 15:15 finishers after an already tough workout! Impressive: seeing people achieve feats of strength that they didn’t think they were capable of. Influence: see Inspiration. Seriously, we are inspired and influenced by our peers and trainers who help us go on to great things! Information: Understanding why we hinge, why we snap, why we engage our core helps us to improve our form and strength. I Go You Go: helps us challenge each other and ourselves. We don’t want to be the first to give up!  Interest: our trainers ALWAYS keep class interesting and different.

S is for Swings, Squats, Suitcase Carries, Sandbags, Sleds, Stones, Snatches, Skull Crushers: (all great moves and disciplines that help us become the fine tuned athletes we are turning in to. Sass: the amount of bad-assery and sass makes for fun and sometimes loud, hilarious classes. Strong(wo)men Challenges: where we amaze each other and the public with what we can do, and how strong we are, raising money for local causes.  Sweat: lots of it. LOTS. Strength: each one of us is getting stronger every day and in every way. And (as Martha Stewart says)…It’s a good thing.

T is for Trainers and Training : all of them are awesome and have their own way of training and helping us become healthy and strong people. Transformation: looking back over the past couple of years, I see how my body has been transformed from a flabby, unhealthy thing to an ongoing process of strength and beauty! I’m learning to appreciate myself. (I have collar bones and muscles and less fat!), TRX: to help our core and balance. These straps can be great tools in building mobility and strength. Trying: and trying and trying again. Tire Flips, Truck Pulling and Trap Bars.

M is for Muscle, Movement, Magnificence, Military Presses, Music and Much Merriment

 

 

 

 

A is for Attitude, Ability, Agility, Airplane pulling,  All Ages, All Sizes, All Shapes

S is for the Super Star who has built this community that is CHRISTMAS for us all year round…

Thank you Nancy for all you do for us, and all you are to us. We hold you very dear in our hearts and love you to pieces.

Here’s to CHRISTMAS all year long in 2017!!

 

 

 

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J’s Blog: Reasons to remember the month of November (in December)

I know, I know. You were waiting with bated breath for November’s blog and I didn’t deliver. But you got to see the recent superstar interview with the amazing Geri Bunn instead, so that is a completely awesome plus, in my book!

It has been a crazy month for most everybody and a “weirdly horrible but hidden blessing” kind of last couple of weeks for me. We’ve had “The Election” of the century, and I was unexpectedly laid off from a place I’ve worked at for nine years. So it’s been a tad stressful. Well, when I say “a tad”, I mean full blown inner meltdown, scrambling to find work, blood pressure rocketing, hyperventilation tad. I have not been unemployed since I started part time work at the age of fifteen at Boots the Chemist (think CVS or Rite Aid with two floors) whilst at high school. Except for waiting for my work permit when I first moved to the USA, I have not been unemployed. It’s a scary place to be.

So, this Thanksgiving, I was very thankful for a supportive husband and family and a wonderful community of friends at the Kettlebell Fitness Center who have been amazing; from lending listening ears, offering sound advice and being willing to pass my resume on for me. To my amazement, I was offered a job within 45 minutes of completing an interview and ended up only being out of work for Thanksgiving week! The group of people I now work with are awesome, and I feel at home there already.

With all of this going on in my life, it’s easy to forget the other good stuff that’s been happening, and there HAS been some great stuff happening. Remember a couple of blogs ago when I told you that I had got a PR of 245lb on my trap bar deadlifts? Let me tell you a story of glory.

On a Saturday where I woke up bleary eyed, desperately needing coffee, I got to The Kettlebell Fitness Center without a clue as to what I wanted to do. I decided to warm up and then made up my mind I was going to do some lighter deadlifts interspersed with heavy swings. Nancy asked me if I was going to try and go heavier than my last PR to which I answered no, I wasn’t feeling it and so was just going to probably take it easier today.

I don’t know if it was that I had lowered expectations or if it was because this particular Saturday, the center was full of chatter, people swinging metal and good music, or whether it was the fact that my coffee was exceedingly strong and tasty, but there was a great vibe in the place that morning, my friends…a great vibe.

Starting off with 175lb for 8 reps, I started adding plates and then after the lifts, swinging a 28kg bell. I didn’t calculate the weights this time, because I knew that I would only probably be able to get up to 235lb max that morning at a push, even if the coffee was that good. I finally got to that place where it was tough to lift and did 2 reps of what I thought must be 240 because it felt so hard. I added the weights up, and realised that in my bleary state, I added them incorrectly. So I got Matt to add them up for me. I felt like he also added them up incorrectly (sorry for doubting you, Matt!), so I asked Beverly to calculate the weight using her phone. Then I asked her to calculate again, as I was sure she, Matt and I were all wrong. But no, gentle reader; I had just lifted…..*drum roll*…..260lb. Yes, you read that correctly. Two hundred and sixty flippin’ pounds!

I would like to tell you that I stopped there…but again, no. My final PR for that morning was a pretty beautiful 265lb. The sound you’re hearing right now is Purcell’s Trumpet Fanfare. I wish there was a photo to prove this all, but there isn’t, so you’ll just have to believe me, or badger Beverly for the truth.

I’m also still working towards hanging from the landing bars of an airborne helicopter too, and believe that if I can hang longer from a pull up bar, it will happen. It will. Honest. Oh, and I have started to do negative hangs on the pull up bar, which I couldn’t do before. I no longer drop like a dead weight after jumping up to start from the top…and that is progress.

As we’ve passed from Fall to Winter, my soup making mojo has been ratcheted up a notch and I would like to tell you how to gussy up your common or garden Butternut Squash soup. Many use cinnamon, nutmeg or even cumin to give it that extra depth. I do too, but a few weeks ago, I let down my hair, whipped off my secretary spectacles and added a new ingredient to the ol’ standby.

I chopped up a butternut squash, a large sweet potato, and a large chunk of fresh ginger root. Putting those three ingredients in a saucepan (some like to roast their squash and sweet potato first, but I think “ain’t nobody got time for that!”…unless I’m in Superstar Chef mode and want to go that extra mile) with some Organic Low Sodium Vegetable stock, I brought it to a boil and then turned down the heat a tad. Once the ingredients are soft, I chuck it all in a blender with a little coconut milk and add salt, pepper and chilli pepper flakes to taste. That’s it. Bob’s your uncle.

If you want to zhuzh it up a bit, wilt some spinach or chard or baby kale in a pan and fry up some good bacon until crispy. Put the wilted greens and bacon crumbles on top of the soup for a little extra texture and taste. It’s really very good, believe me!

So my adventure in fitness and eating well continues. I haven’t packed on the pounds this year since the holidays have started, like most years. I actually didn’t stress eat or stress drink when I lost my job, which is a huge thing for me. My new job lets me get up from my desk and move a lot (and I’m going to be getting a head set for my phone so I can do lunges and squats and bodyweight get ups all over the building whilst still talking to people. Of course I wouldn’t do that – I don’t want to freak my co-workers out this early in the process  – .but I could if I wanted and you’d never know…unless I was making grunting, out of breath noises, of course…) To my new co-workers and boss, if you ever read this…I’m joking. I promise I won’t do get ups.

During this holiday season, remember to make time for yourself and your health. It’s important – and, like a certain shampoo brand, you’re worth it.

Stay strong,     – J

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Meet Geri Bunn!

002Name: Geri Bunn

Age:  59- closing in on 60 pretty soon!

NH: How long have you been training at TKFC?

GB: Nearly 4 years, Steve (my husband) and I joined in February 2013

NH: What prompted you to seek out kettlebell training?

fullsizerenderGB: I retired from my job in 2012 and looked forward to spending time on a fitness routine. I began walking about 4 miles, four or five times a week. I had taken some Zumba classes where the instructor added a few exercises with light kettlebells and I was intrigued. Mind you, in hindsight, the movements were nothing like what we do at TKFC.

I visited the Delmar Chiropractic Office for backache pain where I saw advertisements for TKFC, and was interested to learn more. When my husband retired a year after me I thought we could try something together so we signed up!

NH: What does being a strong woman mean to you?

1081GB: Like so many people my age, I’m not ready to start slowing down yet. It’s important to me to be a good role model for the people I care about; my children, grandchildren,”little sister” (from Big Brothers Big Sisters program) and friends. I want to be able to take care of myself and try new things. I love surprising myself with new accomplishments and I let my family know about them. “Don’t mess with me!”

NH: Were you always physically active?

GB: No, unfortunately while I was working I only made time for my job and family. My job came with quite a few after hour responsibilities and launching kids into adulthood seemed to be all time consuming. I was overall healthy but needed and looked forward to adding physical activity to my new retired life for both my physical and mental health.

NH: What are your favorite lifts and why?

fullsizerender-3fullsizerender-2 GB: I enjoy deadlifts, primarily because I surprised myself at the weight I was able to lift in my early attempts. But also I find relief from my lower backaches when I do deadlifts. (Geri’s current PR is 205lbs for the deadlift!) 

I’m thrilled to have finally learned snatches and typically do them when given the option of a ballistic move. I still need to work out a few kinks but I find them enjoyable because they were so complicated for me to learn.

NH: What do you like about training at TKFC?

12105867_1137021936325672_7842374935602825298_nGB: I appreciate having classes that offer individual feedback for improvement. It is important to me to be sure I am doing moves properly so that I don’t hurt myself and that I am challenged to progress.

I also enjoy the camaraderie with the other members. I love that, at times, there’s a level of competition and that regardless of whether we have any chance of being the “best overall” we are driven to increase our own “best” accomplishment. Everyone genuinely supports each other.

NH: What benefits outside of the gym have you experienced as a result of strength training?

16931GB: I have more confidence in trying new physical endeavors. My husband and I hiked Huyana Picchu, an additional two hour steep hike in Machu Picchu . I felt physically up for it from TKFC training. If I had read more about it in advance, I might not have tried it as those with fear of heights are discouraged by some reviewers.

14712824_1278220052240145_2153240221646715257_oPaddle boarding was a recent accomplishment. I planned to try it someday on a calm summer day in a lake but instead I had my first opportunity in the bay off NJ in October.

I know not many people are aware of kettlebells, it’s even hard to find it on many activity tracking systems. I’d advise anyone to give it a try. It’s an efficient workout because it combines aerobic and weight training. I’m thrilled that my improved strength lessens my back pain. Once you master a few moves, it really grows on you. Nancy is a great instructor who has created a very welcoming environment. She guides you and challenges you at whatever level you’ve achieved.
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Geri and her husband Steve live in Voorheesville, NY.  Geri is consistent class attendee and works hard, has a great laugh, and is always challenging herself.   TKFC wouldn’t be the same without her! 

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Jeannette’s Blog: Hallowe’en and the drama queen

autumn-leavesToday, I write this as the first snow of Winter falls in Albany even while the trees are still showing off their autumnal colours and Hallowe’en is moving in for the kill.

It’s already snowed in the Adirondacks, and I’m secretly hoping that this weekend, I can hibernate and spend some time cooking and binge-watching “Gilmore Girls”. (I am late to the table when it comes to Gilmore Girls and I feel like I have discovered the Koh-I-Noor diamond!). Don’t get me wrong, I love to be outdoors and walking etc, but we’ve been doing stuff for the past few weekends, and I need to do nothing. I need to veg out. I need to have someone wait on me, hand and foot, indulging my every whim and fancy! (I tell myself, I need to conserve energy for the hordes of trick and treaters that pour into our neighbourhood.) Call me a humbug, but I’m not a big “Hallowe’ener”. Once year I went to a Hallowe’en costume party where everyone went all out. I left it to the last minute, and the ever lovin’ hubs and I ended up wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and Christmas elf hat and said we were Santa’s Elves on vacation. True story.

Our hiking adventures continue, and since last writing, we have been a lot more active and spent a lovely couple of hours a few Sundays ago, hiking Vroman’s Nose in Schoharie and spending time at the top, sitting on the rocks, admiring the beautiful fall colours and view of the Schoharie Valley as well as people’s choices of hiking footwear, including flip flops and slippers! One of our TKFC members is doing 20km hikes in Patagonia right now, taking GORGEOUS photographs and looking like she’s having a ball; and so compared to that, my hiking adventures are like a casual saunter in the park. Hope you’re having fun, Kelly!

At the Kettlebell Fitness Center, I’m still working on my right shoulder torque issues, trying to strengthen it so I can do get ups once more. It’s a series of small progressions, which is good, but I’m so impatient! Nancy’s been giving me all kinds of things to try to strengthen and help the issue, and the thanks she gets is my whining. However, when I get into that “I’ll never be able to do get ups again!” drama-queen conversation in my head, it diminishes all the accomplishments I have achieved. Is it weird that I have these private head-space conversations? (I am hoping you have private head-space conversations too, because if not, then I expect to see you all giving me a wide berth next time at class):

Drama Queen Self: “I can’t do it! I’ll never be able to get up again! I’m such a loser! My right shoulder is a jerk! Everyone else can do get ups, but me!

Rational Self: “Calm down. It will get better. Just takes time. Look at all the stuff you CAN do.

Drama Queen Self: “What does that matter? I can’t do get ups. I. CAN’T. DO, GET. UPS!”

Rational Self:Sigh. You can deadlift 245lb, you can snatch 16kg, your static swings are a thing of beauty, you’re looking awesome, you ARE awesome, you are more than a get up…..”

Drama Queen Self: “Stop being reasonable! Get ups! Get ups!

Rational Self:I’m off for a cup of tea, wallow in your self pity then….

Drama Queen Self: “But…but….get ups…..oh, ok. Ooh! Look! We’re deadlifting today! Excellent!” ***runs up to the barbell ready to get it on***  I kind of feel like I should have a Drama Queen costume for these moments (and also so that I don’t have to search for an outfit on Hallowe’en), so that I can flounce and pout with style and flair. Or, of course, I could just suck it up and have a good attitude instead.

kb-oct-2-handMost classes at TKFC end with a ballistic finisher; swings, snatches, high pulls, to get the heart rate up and to end on a high note. One week, we were all comparing hands. Most of us have some kind of callus on our hands or fingers from the swings and snatches. However, cultivating large calluses is not a good thing. It’s not big or clever. Large calluses can rip, causing pain and possible infection. It can put a stop to you swinging or snatching for a while until it heals. I’m sure we’ve all been there at one point or another, right?

At home, I have a pumice stone and a little callus file that is used regularly on my hands and fingers, after showering and before using hand cream to keep my lovely British hands smooth, soft and worth curtseying to and kissing, like royalty. It really does make a difference. For further reading, click on this coloured link for great advice on looking after your hands and how to care for blisters and/or calluses: Dragon Door Hand Care. I can’t guarantee you’ll have people curtseying or kissing them, but I can guarantee many more healthy years of swinging and snatching.

Friday, I took a “mental health” day to do some things for myself. Taking a mental health day every now and then is pretty essential to well-being. It allows you to just do what you want to do in your own time. Sometimes I’ll take the day and just lie on the sofa and read. Other times, I may meet a friend for coffee. I try to do things that will mentally nourish me though, rather than using it to finish housework or something that HAS to get done.   I went to the library and browsed for an hour, rather than a rushed 10 minutes during my 30 minute lunch break. I sipped a large latte with extra shot at Perfect Blend cafe for another hour, while reading one of my borrowed books and then went to do a little grocery shopping so I could enjoy some time in the kitchen baking and cooking that afternoon. Until the past year or so, I didn’t realise that cooking relaxes and nourishes me (excuse the pun). If I have time for it, I love to get out the pots, pans and trays and cook favourites and to try new things. So that afternoon, I made a favourite soup, and a new dessert recipe, listening to Norah Jones Radio on Pandora – because who doesn’t love some Norah Jones?

chicken-and-kale-soupFirst up was a huge pot of chicken and kale soup from scratch. I put a chicken in some water and brought it to a boil, adding the ends of the veggies I had peeled and chopped, and let it boil for 45-60 minutes until I had a stock. Once I strained the stock water into another saucepan, I added a little more low sodium organic Vegetable broth from Trader Joe’s, the chicken (taken off the bones and chopped), kale, chopped garlic, onions, celery and carrots and let simmer. We were eating it all weekend, and it was perfect for that rainy Saturday and cold, windy Sunday.

As the spirit of Julia Child/Betty Crocker entered me, I also summoned up a recipe of Elana Amsterdam’s and went on to make a totally delicious Paleo Apple Tart from Elana’s Pantry website. It really was so very easy. The crust was made of pecans, coconut flour, a little salt and an egg. The filling called for Jonagold apples, but I used Cortlands instead, tossed in lemon juice, arrowroot powder, honey and cinnamon.  – here’s the link for the filling: Paleo Apple Tart and for the tart crust, click on this link: Paleo Pecan Tart Crust  The crust came out beautifully, and held up really well. The apples were sweet without being overwhelmingly so.

To make a whipped cream topping, you’re supposed to put a can of organic unsweetened coconut milk in the fridge for 24 hours, and then 30 minutes before whipping it, place a bowl in the freezer until it’s really cold. Carefully scoop out the coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can and put it into the chilled bowl to whip.

I put the can of coconut milk in the freezer 3 hours previously and forgot about it. Trying to scoop frozen coconut milk out of a can is not easy at all! However, after I managed to get it out, and thawed it a little, I added a small amount of pure Vanilla Extract from Penzey’s Spices to the cream and whipped it up with my wonderful immersion blender. The coconut cream whipped up, and tasted so creamy, it was hard to believe it wasn’t actually cream.

kb-oct-2-pieThe final test was putting a slice of it in front of my Paleo Guinea Pig (the husband) and watching him eat it. He pronounced it “honestly, one of the the best apple tarts I’ve had”, so thank you Elana Amsterdam from the bottom of my heart for a great and healthy alternative apple tart recipe! If you make it, let me know what you think. It’s going to be a favourite in the Sheehy household, for sure!

Winter approaches. The hubs is up for cross country skiing, learning to snowshoe, and other activities. I’m up for the sofa, mulled wine, books and Gilmore Girls. I’m sure we’ll come to an understanding, and I’ll be out in the cold weather most weekends! Let me know what kind of activities you like to do in the winter, so I don’t end up turning into some kind of lazy sloth.

In the meantime, stay strong, stay active, stay warm, eat well, (stay away from the Hallowe’en candy), and enjoy life! – J x

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Jeannette’s blog: Why Julie Andrews was spot-on (or how I rediscovered the joys of hiking)

kb-oct-panther-mtnHello again, my friends. Apart from all the political shenanigans that now seems to have gone on for an eternity, how is your Fall treating you thus far? The colours this year are pretty spectacular up in the Adirondacks right now and I wonder why I have to work in an office when explosions of gorgeousness are taking place out in nature.

By the way, last weekend, I experienced a new first!

kb-oct-cheviots

Let me explain. When I lived in England, I used to hike a little; in the beautiful Lake District, over the Derbyshire Dales and the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and on the South Downs. At the age of 15 or 16, I spent a weekend with school friends hiking the gorgeous Cheviots in the Scotland/England border country. (That’s me on the bench with my long grey socks and charity shop leather hiking boots that I still own 35 years later!) We went armed with back packs, stout walking boots, tins of baked beans, our tents, sleeping bags, a compass and a map and slept out for two nights, before returning home triumphant, tired and very muddy. (Can you imagine parents letting 15 years old teen girls loose on their own for a 3 day hike in the wilds today?)

Since being in the USA, I have barely hiked at all. Well, not proper hiking. Oh, we’ve taken some short walks, easy trails and scenic routes at weekends, but not far. My main form of exercise over the past few years has been the treadmill at a gym, a bit of running, and of course, The Kettlebell Fitness Center.

However, with both of us feeling so much healthier and energized due to our changed kb-oct-view-from-the-topeating habits,  we decided to go on a hike last weekend and ended up at the Panther Mountain trail on Piseco Lake. It’s a hike which ends with one having to scramble up the roots of a huge hemlock tree and over boulders to get to the view at the top. It’s one of the shorter mountain hikes in the Adirondacks, but the view was glorious! To make it even better was to be able to do it together without having to turn back, and without having to worry about Dan’s knees. Here’s to more hikes and more mountains to climb! It’s so “Sound of Music” isn’t it? I want to break out into “Cliiimb Ev’ry Mountaiiiin…..” or “The Hiiiilllls Are Aliiiive with the Sound of Muuuuusic”, but I will spare you my gift of song, and instead leave you a photo of me with slightly dishevelled hair and a proud hubs.

Before I head off into the Swiss Alps a la Julie Andrews, I would also like to tell you I was able to work up to another PR, this time in snatches. I’ve been hovering around the 16kg snatch for a while, and often go to a 14kg as I get tired, but the other day I decided to try an 18kg and was able to do around 5 each side. I then tried a 20kg bell, on the off chance,  and was able to do 3 each side with fairly good form. (Remember that size doesn’t matter…it’s the form that counts!) I will still be mostly using a 16kg until I have the most excellent form but I was pretty excited that my shoulder was able to take it!

kb-oct-carrot-cashewAt the Good Food Club at the beginning of the month, Geri’s contribution (for which she heavily apologized for before even breaking it out) was Nutty Carrot Flatbread with an accompaniment of Cashew Cheese. Geri thought it bland and dull. (It wasn’t.) I thought it was delicious and so pestered her for the recipe later on that week. She was gracious enough to send it to me straight away and so on the holiday Monday, I made it. I added Roasted Garlic Powder from Penzey’s Spices and extra cumin (because I love garlic and cumin) to the Carrot Bread, and extra garlic to the Cashew Cheese. Seriously, friends, this is good stuff, and I love how Geri gets her recipes from all over the place. Click on the coloured links to the Nutty Carrot Flatbread (I only used 2 eggs and 1 extra egg white) and to the Cashew Cheese and enjoy! They’re both very easy to make and go well with salads, as a side to all kinds of dishes and on their own as a snack or in a packed lunch.

Another delicious item our salivating taste buds were proffered at the Good Food Club: kb-oct-acorn-squashNancy’s Acorn Squash with apples, onions and sausage. I had to reproduce it the week after for our dinner and it was pronounced a success. (Not that I wait with baited breath in my June Cleaver frilly apron for the thumbs up or down from the hubs…no, really…I don’t.) Again, very easy. Good tasting food does not have to be a hardship or sweatfest to make. Cut an acorn squash in half lengthways (so that it stands without rolling) and scoop out the seeds. Brush with oil or ghee and season. Place upside down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake at 375F for about 45-50 minutes. Nearer the end of the cooking time, sautee onions, chopped apples and sausage in a pan. (I used chicken sausage, but pork sausage is even more delicious, I think!). I also threw in some cranberries. When the acorn squash is cooked, you can sprinkle a little cinnamon in there if you wish and then load the squash with the sauteed veggies and meat, then bake for another 10-15 minutes.

So far, my plan of eating Paleo 80/20 is still working. My energy levels are constant. No highs and no crashes. I continue to sleep well, and am feeling motivated to keep going. And, like I’ve said before, it’s been easier because the other half is on board as well.

I’m looking forward to more hiking adventures (as long as I don’t see any bobcats or bears!) and continued health.

Until next time, thanks for reading. Enjoy the food, and let me know where you like to hike. If you have any suggestions for us beginners, please comment. I’d love your tips, advice and places to go!

  • J x

 

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Jeannette’s blog: Five reasons for a cheesy grin

smileI want to begin this blog with a cheesy grin because, why not? Some good stuff is happening. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…

 

Reason # 1: Two Saturdays ago I went to Open Gym at the Center and decided to work on pull up progressions and deadlifts. The trap bar was in the corner and Nancy encouraged me to use it instead of the barbell as it stops my “sit at a desk all day” shoulders from rounding. So I quietly started off at 135lb with 5 reps and then moved to the pull up bars. Here’s where it gets exciting!

 

Dear readers, a few months ago, I could barely dangle from a pull up bar for 5 seconds, let alone engage my lats. I would hang there like a limp sloth and then immediately fall to the floor in a graceless heap, bewailing the fact that I would be no good in any action movie that would require me to hang from a helicopter landing bar while it’s flying through the air, bullets whizzing past my body. (Because that scenario could happen, right?)

 

To my delight, on Saturday,  I was able to not only hang for over 10 long seconds, but was able to engage my lats and, just to show off, raise my legs! Well, I say raise my legs…they may have been raised a nano-millimeter, but they were definitely raised! I could actually pull myself upward a teeny-tiny bit too. Must be all the upper body work we’ve been doing. The best thing about working out consistently is seeing improvement isn’t it? Remember that even a small improvement is a huge step towards reaching your goals.

 

240lbReason # 2: A few months ago, I tooted my horn and blew my trumpet about my 225lb dead lift and then went on to tell you that my next goal would be 235lb. I then kind of became a little inconsistent with my training at TKFC. I did a few deadlifts here and there, 155lb, 175lb but nothing major to speak of. However, I feel that doing the last Whole30 and having the hubs on board with healthy eating has given me back some of my mojo and consistency. And to that end, armed with a bottle of water and a cup of strong, dark roast coffee from Speedway (their coffee is ace!), I went to the corner of the room to the trap bar and started deadlifting (with my amazing pull up progressions in between…don’t forget those pull ups!).

 

Now I don’t know about you, but I hate knowing how much is on the bar. It kind of psyches me out if I know how much I’m lifting – because as soon as I get to my last PR, I kind of balk. My brain tells me I can’t lift more. However, for some reason on Saturday, I was feeling some major mojo and started being reckless; I deliberately calculated how much I was lifting. I DARED that bar to defeat me once I got to 225lb. I didn’t go from 225 to 230…no siree! With insolent abandon, I put 10lb on and went straight for a PR of 235. And bless my giddy aunt, if I didn’t pick that thing up immediately! For good measure and to show that bar who was boss, I did 3 reps at my new PR. Then I swaggered to the pull up bar and hung there with a cheesy grin in my heart.

 

I went back to the trap bar and added some more weight…240lb. Yes!! Nailed it! Drank some coffee, drank some water, hung from the pull up bar then did some cobra stretches. Added more weight: 245lb. Bam! Pixie-danced over to Nancy and Beth-Ann and whooped it up. Went back to the trap bar and just for the hell of it, picked it up again. 245lb, people. 245LB!!! (Today, my glutes and lats are giving me grief for what I did to them, but a wee bit o’ foam rolling will shut them up, for sure.) I really want to be able to lift at least 1 ½ times my bodyweight by the end of the year and am hopeful that I will get to that goal. But for right now, I am the swagger queen of my household. And if you want to see the 245lb lift, you can click on THIS LINK  and then contact me for an autograph.

 

Reason # 3: The second week in September, my new and improved husband, and my improving self went to the Adirondacks for a week. (By the way, I recommend the Wild Center at Tupper Lake…it’s the bee’s knees!)

 

curry-on-grillWe surprised ourselves that week. Normally we gain weight on vacation, but we didn’t chow down on junk. If we went out for dinner, we chose delicious but healthy food and only ate half of what was on our plate. (What is it with the mahoosive portions anyway?) We cooked together. One night, I had the unusual experience of cooking wild rice on a propane burner and veggie curry on a charcoal grill, as there was a huge power outage for 7 hours all the way from Mayfield up to Speculator. Cooking outside at night, by flashlight, hoping that bobcats and bears were not attracted to the smell of curry was a little disconcerting. Dan, in the meantime was in hunter/gatherer mode; driving to Gloversville in the hope of finding some hurricane lamps and/or candles. By the end of the week, with the kayaking and walking, we both found that we had lost weight. Our clothes were looser and we had slept well all week. In fact, I can fit back into clothes that I haven’t been able to wear since 2013! I have gone from a size 18/20 to a size 12/14. Another reason to grin.

 

farmers-marketReason # 4: Another upside to us eating so much better is Dan’s willingness to try new foods and the variation we are eating. It’s made cooking, for me, so much easier. Yes, he is eating grains and legumes, but it’s no hardship to add them in for him. Also, we’d worked out between us, that when we bought our junky lunches, we were spending a huge amount every month. Now, we take packed lunches full of greens, veggies, nuts, protein, good fats and fruit. Yes, we spend more at farmers markets and organically, but the health benefits outweigh everything, and we are actually saving money; because when we break down how much our packed lunches are, it’s a pittance to what we were spending every day, buying our lunches at a supermarket or, heaven help me, a gas station.

 

cauliflower-gratinReason # 5: I want to leave you with a delicious recipe that I tried out last night. It’s from the New York Times and I adapted it to be a little healthier for us. Cauliflower Gratin with Goat Cheese. The recipe calls for skimmed milk and breadcrumbs. I substituted almond & coconut milk for the skimmed milk and used almond meal instead of breadcrumbs. Serve it as a side or as its own meal with a green salad. And yes, it has goat cheese, but every now and then, I love me some goat cheese and eating 80/20 Paleo gives me some leeway. This recipe literally gave me a “cheesy grin”!

 

So there you have it. 5 reasons for huge, cheesy grins. What small or big things have caused you to grin outwardly like a maniac or inwardly like a delicious, introverted hug this past month?

 

Until next time, I’m off to call Tom Cruise and see if he needs a body double to hang off a helicopter for “Mission Impossible 7”.

 

Stay strong and healthy!

 

  • J x

 

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Member in the spotlight: Meet Sarah Clark!

Name: Sarah Clark

Age: 39

Occupation(s): Librarian and bass player.

Joined: March, 2013

Sarah has been a regular in our Monday/Wednesday/Friday and sometimes Saturday classes for almost four years, and is a hard-working, funny, kind, genuine, (and all-the-other-superlatives) person.  In addition to working hard in the gym, Sarah is a librarian and  plays bass in three bands.

img_5480NH: Have you always been active?

SC: I grew up playing sports (soccer and track & field), but after college my activity started dwindling. I ran or swam sporadically to prove to myself that I still could.  At some point, being active got harder, and I got a lot slower. At the same time I was eating a lot of take out, feeling stressed out from starting my first real job, and spending a lot of time on the couch. I was less and less motivated to prove anything to myself.

image2NH: Did you experience a “turning point” with regard to your fitness?

SC:  Yes. Around 2011, I decided enough was enough, and  I tried to make exercise a part of my daily routine. That year, my mother-in-law gave us Wii Fit, so why not use it?  I could hear my 17-year-old self making fun of my thirty-something self for this approach, especially after I sprained both ankles running in place on my living room floor (yep, that really happened).

It was time to challenge myself, for real, and I signed up for the Freifhofer’s 5k, and refused to make a fool of myself.  Two months before the race, I couldn’t run more than a mile without stopping, but I kept trying.  Race day came, and I made it through without walking.  My time was pretty slow, but I didn’t stop to walk, and that was my goal.  I continued to run 3-4 days a week, and the next year, I was much faster, and set my sights on the Boilermaker 15k.

12933010_1247866691907862_8360898646441002368_nI downloaded a training plan for a 15K which recommended 1-2 days a week of strength training. I found my pink 3-lb dumbbells, did some curls, and realized I needed help.  A friend at work told me to check out the Kettlebell Fitness Center. I took a couple of private sessions, then started going to one class a week, to fulfill my 15K running plan.

10920957_968853236475877_4156652613022157419_nDuring one of my running workouts that involved a lot of hills, I felt a pain in the back of my heel, and knew right away it was Achilles tendinitis  (a recurring injury I’ve had since college), so I knew running in the Boilermaker was no longer a reality. To my surprise, with this injury, I was still able to attend kettlebell classes, and started going two to three times a week instead of one.  Kettlebell days were outnumbering my running days, and I was getting a great workout, feeling a lot stronger, and not putting myself at risk of injuring myself further. Best of all, I was noticing that heavy things weren’t feeling as heavy.

NH: How has lifting heavy weights made a difference outside of your time in the gym?

SC: As a bass player who insists on using vintage tube amps, loading my equipment in and out of clubs is a feat of strength.  I really don’t like relying on my husband or bandmates to lift my equipment for me.  It’s part of my job!  I’ve heard other musicians say they’ve given up using their preferred equipment because it’s too heavy, compromising their tone and style to save their backs, and I get it! Amps are awkward and heavy, but for three years now I have been conscientiously lifting all my gear with good form.  I can now carry my amp and speaker cabinet up and down our basement stairs, in and out of the car, and on and off the stage, and I wake up feeling great the next day.  

NH: Do you have a favorite move or lift?

img_549211156233_1035563993138134_2704882525340845727_nSC: Among the moves we do at TKFC, I have a different favorite all the time. I go through phases where I like squats, then it’s presses, or snatches.  Above all, I like anything that involves hanging from the pull-up bar, and of course, flipping tires is always fun.

NH: Anything else you’d like to share?

SC: I recommend TKFC all the time, especially when someone is looking to start or return to a healthy lifestyle. The value of the classes is beyond getting fit and strong. I’ve become more confident and more motivated. My posture has greatly improved. My eating habits are better. I’m a happier, nicer person. And best of all, I’ve met some amazing people who’ve become my friends.

12046605_10206845380484994_8465782456374132223_nSarah Clark is a librarian at Albany Public Library and the bass player for local bands Kimono Dragons, Victory Soul Orchestra, and Charmboy.  She lives in Voorheesville with her husband Eric.

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Jeanette’s post: How I subscribed to Netflix and got a new husband

kb-blog-sept-dan-me-weddingCan you believe we’re already into September? Labor Day has come and gone. Kids are no longer bored around the house. The season of Pumpkin Spice is approaching, and ain’t nobody gonna stop THAT train from comin’ down the track.

Now, settle down, gentle reader, lest the thought of pumpkins and spices make you too giddy with delight, and I shall tell you the story of how Netflix gave me a new husband.

Back in the days of AOL dial up (we’re talking the year 2000 here), I met my husband…online. I lived in the UK and he in the USA. We were members of an online chat room and as he was thinking of going to Ireland to trace his roots, asked me if I’d ever been there. To cut to the chase, a year later he came over to the UK to meet me instead. And then, I came to the USA to spend a couple of weeks with him. Long story short, we got married in March 2002 and are in the process of living happily ever after.

kb-blog-sept-free-blueberry-muffin-downloadOne of his many and delightful quirks is that he always adds a year to his age (he is 7 years older than me) and, over the past few years has been feeling it. We have both struggled with our eating habits and weight, never quite being in sync. One of us would be trying to be healthy while the other ate junk. Or the other would decide that today was the day we’d really go for it, and then by day 3, give up. (It’s tough to go out for dinner and order a salad, while the other is chowing down on a huge plate of smothered steak, mashed potatoes and cheese covered anything, isn’t it?) Plus Dan had a weakness…a weakness for sugary and junk food at Stewart’s Shops. He was known as The Muffin Man in one of their fine establishments.

Fast-forwarding now, it’s been hard this past few years to see Dan suffer from sleeplessness, tossing and turning at night, waking up gasping for breath, watching him walk slowly, often limping due to bad knees and joint aches. It’s been tough to see his energy levels so low. (Plus the snoring, sleep apnea and tossing and turning has of course led to sleepless nights for me too!)

At Christmas, (oh, holiday of overeating and excess) we treated ourselves to a Roku and subscribed to Netflix. Our joy knew no bounds. I could binge on excellent British shows, and Dan on Miami Vice and Dragnet (really). However, Netflix also brought us documentaries. I watched “Fed Up” – a documentary film by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric, about how sugar is so destructive to our bodies, and how the American food industry may be more responsible for sickness than previously realized. To me, it was mind blowing and I told Dan he needed to watch it.

But, dearest friends, (if you are still with me) you know that when you tell your other half they should do something, it may not necessarily happen, right?

kb-blog-sept-crazy-danHowever, unbeknownst to me, in the secret of his man-cave, he had started watching documentaries; like “Forks over Knives”, “Hungry for Change” and finally, “Fed Up”. It was a huge turning point for him – actually for both of us. The quote from Hippocrates: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine” seared in his mind. If this epiphany could have had choirs of archangels and trumpets singing and playing over his head, it would have happened.

I had been up and down all year with my eating habits and strength training – never quite achieving a consistency that I saw others achieve. Dan had been feeling sicker and sicker, to the point where he wasn’t sure whether he would make it through another winter at work.

At the beginning of August I decided a re-set was in order and started a Whole30. Dan usually likes the food I make when I’m doing it. However, this time, he was really on board. I mean, REALLY ON BOARD with the food. He had decided that he needed to take charge of his body, to stop with the processed and junk food that he would buy every day for his lunch and to start cutting out sugar. In the past, he had made decisions like this, and it maybe lasted a week, but this time it was for real. Seeing these documentaries on how heart disease, illnesses and obesity could be reversed just by eating good food really got to him.

kb-blog-sept-moorish-meatballs-and-zoodlesI made all kinds of delicious foods, that, due to his cutting down on sugar, he was really able to taste and savor the delicious flavors. I made Moorish Meatballs by Melissa Joulwan from the Well Fed 2 cookbook and put them on top of zoodles, with a little Artichoke Chimichurri (because you know how much I love that stuff!) and topped with crushed pistachios. He loved it. Wanted it again the next day.

kb-blog-sept-chicken-salad-with-almondsI made stuff like a simple chicken salad, with homemade Olive Oil Mayo, lemon juice, apples, celery, red onion, almonds, pecans and chicken on top of baby spinach or crisp Romaine. It’s a staple now.

I kept it simple…and with smaller portions, full of protein, good fats, vitamins and lots of vegetables. I added a little quinoa or rice, or some chickpeas for him, because even though I wasn’t eating them, he loves them and hey, it’s a lot healthier and protein rich than pizza or chocolate chip cookies. A piece of wild caught salmon on a bed of baby spinach, with a little lime/chimichurri aioli quickly made from my homemade mayo and some fresh cut white flesh nectarines was one of his favorites. Best salmon he’d ever had. (And this from a man who would barely eat fish a few years ago!).

kb-blog-sep-dan-saranacI am so happy to report that in the past 5 or 6 weeks since this decision, I feel like I have a brand new husband. He has lost over 20lb, he is sleeping so well (and so am I!), he is not sitting up gasping for breath like he used to, his joints are not aching, his knees are feeling better, his heart is not palpitating like it used to after exertion, he is feeling so much better. His mood has improved. He has more energy and he can walk into Stewart’s without buying a muffin or pizza. (And, believe me, that’s saying something!)

The upside for me is that this month’s Whole30 has been so much easier, because I’ve had a partner in it; because Dan has loved the smaller portions, and the great food I’ve prepared and is feeling satiated with the good fats in each meal. He’s not eating between meals. We’re still both learning together but are determined not to slip back into the old ways and bad habits. Our health as we age is too important for that. He knows that now, and that’s what makes the difference this time.

I love you, Netflix – J x

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Olympics and dessert edition

flat-elements-of-olympic-games_23-2147559911So how has everyone been doing this hot, humid, muggy, thunderstormy, air conditioning over-drive, hair frizzing, make-up sliding, (but hey, we get to stay in and become Olympic experts) month?

I love the Olympics. I love the opening & closing ceremonies and both the snark and admiration that comes up on the Twitter feed during it. I love the swimming, gymnastics, track and field (or athletics, as we call it in the UK). I’ve even acquired a newfound love for watching the women’s beach volleyball. What power houses Walsh-Jennings and Ross are! I’ve been torn between wanting Michael Phelps to win a gold in his last race, and cheering Team GB on at the same time because young Adam Peaty is amazing. I love the sportsmanship between competitors, helping each other at the expense of a possible medal. My husband has been an Olympic widower. He wanted to watch a movie Saturday night, and my response was, “But Michael Phelps is about to swim his last race of his Olympic career!” and again Sunday night, “But it’s track and field night and Usain Bolt is about to run the men’s 100m final!”

FitnessBut the thing I love the most about the Olympics, is the showcase of athletes of all different shapes and sizes, and they are all the best at their own sport. Look at the difference between a pole vaulter, a shot putter (see Michelle Carter), a swimmer, a weight lifter and a gymnast. They’re all at the peak of their fitness and health, completely different body shapes, but all in the best shape of their lives – to compete in the activities they love the most. It really resonated with me. Fitness isn’t a certain shape. It’s the shape that fits you when you do the activity you enjoy. It’s being able to enjoy what you do because your body allows you to do it. I posted something on my Facebook about health and fitness about a week or so ago that sums this up so well,

You know, fitness and health is SO worth fighting for. I work in an upstairs office that has no elevator, just a flight of steep steps. There are many customers who are much younger than me who can barely make it up that one flight of steps to the 2nd floor without flopping down on one of our chairs, panting and having to wait to catch their breath before being able to do what they came to do. We have older customers who will call us from downstairs so we can run down and help them. I don’t want to be like that. Do you? Do we want to be hobbling around, barely able to walk a mile or feeling like stairs are too much for us as we age? I want to be able to run up stairs, to be able to carry my grocery shopping, to move furniture, fold laundry (yeah…my favourite job…not). I want  (as Coach Fury so often says) to “Die Mighty!”

KB Blog Aug 2 mumMy mum turns a young 76 this year. A few years back, she fell down the stairs of her home, just before Christmas and broke her leg in two places. Despite setbacks, she gritted her teeth and was at the gym on a treadmill by the following May. She goes to the gym, has started a kettlebell program, plays badminton every week, and when she visited my sister recently, attended all the Bootcamps my sister coaches, and bootcamped like it was her job! I have seen a photo of her running up and down the concrete stairs at the rugby grounds like a boss. What an inspiration!

The Whole 30 this month has been a blast. I truly mean it. 

KB Blog Aug 2 Arti Chim

It’s not been a hardship (although the first couple of evenings without a glass of wine was a tad tough). During the day, it’s been simple stuff – salads, with dressings that have been prepped the weekend before. The newest toy in my kitchen is an immersion blender. WHY am I so late to the amazingness that is an immersion blender? My Olive Oil Mayo is perfect and took less than a minute! I’m making up reasons to use it!

My go to dressing this week, that I’ve been putting on ALL THE THINGS is Artichoke Chimichurri from Pretend It’s A Donut It is the bee’s knees; it is the chimichurri of chimichurris; make it. Make it now. And you can also add it to your home made Olive Oil Mayo to make a great dipping sauce for veggies. True story.

KB Blog Aug 2 Mahi MahiThe hubs is not a huge eater of fish, but LOVED this. Mahi Mahi, baked in the oven at 375F, seasoned with Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper and avocado oil. Around 6-8 minutes each side. I made an aioli with the mayo (added some EEVO, lime juice and a wee bit of the Artichoke Chimichurri) to put over the fish, and then to decorate, a little chimichurri (did I tell you how much I love that stuff?) and slices of lime. Steamed broccoli was added as a side and a little quinoa for the hubs as he’s not doing a Whole 30.

KB Blog Aug 2 chia pudAnd now for a simple, easy, delicious dessert. Chia pudding. It’s creamy, sweet and there are ALL kinds of variations to be had. Take a can of thick coconut milk and blend it with a bunch of strawberries. Add ¼ cup of chia seeds (good for protein and calcium) and stir them in well. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for an hour, and Bob’s your uncle! A lovely thick, creamy dessert. Decorate as you will, and experiment with all manner of fruit. I’m going to try a banana and cocoa one soon. Here’s a link to 45 different kinds of Paleo and Vegan friendly Chia Puddings. You’re welcome!

Beverly (on her first Whole30 outing) and Kerry “Windmill Queen” Strnad are going strong a week behind me, and being extremely creative with their culinary skills. I have yet to make plantain chip Tacos, but Beverly just churned ‘em out like she was born to do it! I was hoping that she would be too busy with her meal planning to ask us to do Bear Hug squats at “Bags n’ ‘Bells with Bev” on Thursday night, but alas, my hopes were dashed most cruelly and with an evil grin.

So as I write this on Day 22 of the Whole 30, I am feeling positive, energetic and a lot healthier than I did just last month. My clothes are already looser and I am throwing myself into kettlebell training with renewed vigor! Loosely translated, this means I am a hot, sweaty mess because I’m really going for it at class instead of half heartedly and grumpily because I ate a load of pizza and ice cream the night before. With my husband wanting to change his eating habits too, it’s so much easier, and I hope we can continue to encourage each other to good health and a fit old age as we walk hand in hand off into the sunset…..(just wanted to leave you with that Hallmark moment).

It’s been a gold medal of a month!

 

Until next time, stay strong and enjoy your health!

 

  • J x
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