How I Got Tricked into Joining a Crossfit Gym

When people ask me if I miss living in San Diego, I usually stare at them with a dumbfounded look on my face as I wonder who would even ask that question. If you’ve ever been to San Diego, even on vacation, you understand. It’s an amazing place. Of course I miss the beaches and the weather, that’s a given. But, one of the things I miss the most is the countless exercise options. Yes, there are tons of opportunities to move your body outdoors (especially with the lovely weather), but I’m mainly referring to group exercise classes.

You see, I’m a group exercise junky. I fell in love with group exercise when I first attended a Step Aerobics class with my mom when I was 16. I was easily the youngest and most confused in the class, but I absolutely loved every aspect of it. I love the community aspect the classes create. I love when everyone groans and moans together about the instructor throwing them a curveball, like another set of burpies even though you’ve already done like 1,000. Instead of giving up, you come together as a class to complete the challenge and congratulate each other after. I enjoyed group exercise classes so much that I eventually found myself on the other side, as the instructor, getting the eye daggers as I threw curveballs the the poor, sweaty souls in my classes.

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One of my favorite group fitness experiences, teaching at So Cal Fitbody Bootcamp!

When we decided to move back to Davis, one of the first things I looked for (besides trying to find us a place to live of course) was a gym with classes. Needless to say, Davis’ gym game is nowhere close to San Diego’s. There is a huge gym on campus, so I decided that I would just workout on my own. Although it was extremely convenient, my motivation and excitement towards exercise dwindled.

I decided to start looking into other options and while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one day, an advertisement for Get Fit Strength and Conditioning popped up on my feed. It’s like the Facebook gods were giving me a gift (also sorta creepy).  I signed up for a trial month and was extremely excited to get started with something new. I walked through the front door and checked out the whiteboard for the days’ workout and immediately realized I had just signed up for a Crossfit membership.

I tried Crossfit for the first time in 2011. Crossfit wasn’t nearly as popular then, so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that there was a new class available in Davis, so I had to try it.  The coach had me do a 10-minute workout then spent the next hour talking to me about the Paleo diet. It really irks me when people talk to me about food and diets while I’m exercising. I truly enjoy exercise and love the way it makes my body feel. I like to focus on that when I exercise, not what food I should or should not be eating. Instead, please tell me how I can change my form to lift heavier weights and become stronger. Unfortunately, this initial experience with Crossfit really set me off from trying it again.

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Being upside down terrifies me, but I’m quieting the voice in my head and learning to get used to it one day at a time.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked when I found myself at another Crossfit style gym. I was already there though and needed to exercise for my mental health, so I gave it a go and guess what? I absolutely loved it! I loved it so much, in fact, that I signed up for a membership and consider this gym my community now. These workouts challenge me in a whole new way. I am using muscles I didn’t know I had and am getting stronger every week. Every day we focus on how to improve our movements to get better at what we are doing, not how we can burn more calories to change the way our bodies look. The coaches truly care about each individual and their progress. Also, the coaches seem like real human beings, not some superhero fitness people that live crazy, unrealistic lifestyles. On my first day, someone turned to me and asked my name. That rarely happened in a class in San Diego. Everyone supports each other and doesn’t talk about how they feel guilty for their latest “cheat day”. Instead, we motivate each other to push our limits and support each other when we listen to our bodies. Now that’s what I would call motivating.

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Literally supporting each other
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Some of the kids of parents in class joined us for a round of lunges!

The biggest challenge in trying these new workouts is learning to quiet the doubtful voice in my head. I believe I am very good at self motivation and believing in myself, but I do still doubt my abilities from time to time. Do I think I can really lift this bar with weights above my head? Can I really deadlift more than I weigh? It’s incredibly easy to let these voices get the best of you and I have before, but it’s most rewarding when you learn to prove them wrong.

The lessons I am learning in the gym are transferring into other aspects of my life. I’m finding that I am more confident in my ability to accomplish tasks at work and am more willing to tackle challenges I was hesitant to confront before. For example, I officially turned in my parking permit and am a full-time active commuter (woohoo!). Will it be hard to do it on a daily basis? Yes. Do I think I can do it? Yes. Do I think it will benefit my body in the long term? Yes.

 

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When I first walked in and saw this I dreaded the day we would have to climb it. Now, I look forward to it as long as I have long pants on. The feeling of being at the top is incredibly exhilarating.

 

 

2017 Intentions Reflection: Active Commuting

Disclaimer: If you have a terrible commute, this post might make you hate me. Read with caution.

Let’s start this post with some upfront honesty. I live less than 2 miles from my work aaaaaand I pay for a parking pass. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Now before you begin to judge, let me explain. I went to college where I am currently working and biked 90% of the time (the other 10% of the time I begged my roommates with parking permits for a ride). I remember getting to class just drenched in water from biking in the rain. I have scars on my legs from the lovely combination of a city policy to pile your yard waste in the street and my refusal to spend money on a bike light. Safety clearly wasn’t very high on my priority list during my college years.

Basically, when I began working and knew that I could afford a parking pass (one of the many perks of adulting), I said screw biking in the rain and the hot as hell summers- give me that parking pass! Speaking of those insanely hot summers, it’s really hard and uncomfortable to dress “business casual” when it’s over 100 degrees out. My go-to summer work outfit includes a dress or a skirt. Guess what’s difficult to bike in? Dresses and skirts.  Are you starting to understand my reasoning yet?

You’ll be happy to know that my inner physical-activity-loving self felt guilty about having a parking pass ever since Day 1. Do I feel guilty when I happily arrive at work not soaking wet during the winter months? Not one bit. I feel content being warm and dry. But most days, I feel pretty lame about driving. I should let you know though, that I don’t always drive. I frequently walk or bike during the fall and spring when the weather is ideal. Thinking about that just frustrates me though, because I realize that I’m paying for a parking permit and not using it to its capacity. Therefore, I’ve decided that I need to cut the cord and just give up the parking permit altogether.

During the last few months, I’ve been working on a literature review at work to determine how my work will be focused for the next 3 years. I am looking up research and best practices within the last five years related to my content areas: physical activity, nutrition and bike helmets. While searching for ways to increase physical activity levels, the concept of active commuting came up multiple times. I’ve always known that walking or biking to get places was better than driving, but who knew people referred to it by a cool term like “active commuting”?

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White Lightening and I are going to be spending a lot of time together.

Research and science is my jam. I love it. As I was reading more and more about active commuting my guilt for having a parking permit grew immensely. In a recent study from the United Kingdom, researchers assessed data from 18,000 commuters, collected over a 10 year period. Not surprisingly, they found a positive relationship between time spent walking to work and well-being. They even found that individuals’ happiness levels increased significantly when their walk to work increased by 10 minutes. As you may expect, the same cannot be said for drivers. Another study highlighted the fact that commute lengths are linked to a sense of time pressure. People driving feel more stressed when their commute is increased, but active commuters don’t experience the same stress.

When I actively commute to work, I feel like I’ve done some positive for my health and this motivates me to tackle the day. When I’m irritated that I have to sit in yet another meeting, I look forward to spending 30 minutes walking home and giving my body the movement it deserves. Therefore, I’m going to take the plunge to bike in the rain and the 100 heat, possibly even the wind storms (yuck). Instead of making excuses about why I shouldn’t give up my parking pass, I’m going to create opportunities and change my attitude. I’m going to put a fender on my bike, purchase a tire compressor, download some audio books and happily hit the road. My goal is to officially cut the cord on Friday, February 24th and allocate the money I’ll save from not paying for a dang parking permit to my retirement account (more adulting). I’ll keep you updated on how this goes. Hopefully I don’t add more scars to my legs…

Cauliflower Mash…that’s Actually Good

Please don’t let the title of this post fool you. I am head over heels in love with cauliflower. Who knew this boring, white, wart like looking veggie could be so versatile? Cauliflower has really blown up in the last couple years. Purple cauliflower? Might as well be the new kale. Have you seen how gorgeous that stuff is baked with some curry powder and turmeric? Simply irresistible.

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cauliflower to potato ratio
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veggies covered in broth and water

With all that being said, I do believe cauliflower has some limitations. I am not convinced that it can be an adequate replacement for pizza crust. Rice? Yes. Pizza crust? Get outta’ here.  I was on the fence about this whole cauliflower mash idea too, because I made a really crappy version once. Imagine little, tasteless cauliflower lumps. Gross. I recently had a revelation and the cauliflower gods spoke to me as I prepared what I humbly consider, the best cauliflower mash ever.

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food processor magic

I went to visit my mom and brother after work last week and my mom told me she had a cauliflower mash recipe from Cooking Light that she wanted to try. I was weary based on my prior experience with cauliflower mash, but I decided I’d keep an open mind. As I read the recipe, I immediately noticed it said to peel the potatoes. At that moment, I decided to go rogue. I love mashed potatoes with the peel, because I enjoy the texture and the peel has nutritional benefits. Plus, Kevin wasn’t there (peel hater), so the peel was staying on and I was creating my own recipe.

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it looks like real mashed potatoes right?

Things that make this cauliflower mash delicious:

  • It uses 3 golden creamer potatoes. I’m sorry to offend you cauliflower purists, but I think this little addition does wonders for the consistency. If you haven’t made mashed potatoes with only golden creamer potatoes, do so now (or maybe after you try this recipe first). The creaminess is life changing.
  • Cook the cauliflower and potatoes in broth and water mixture. This adds great flavor to a rather bland vegetable.
  • Reserve some of the cooking liquid to add back into the mash. This is one of the best tricks I ever learned for mashed potatoes and also works great here. The starch in the liquid helps bind everything together and adds flavor.
  • Puree in a food processor or high powered blender. No exceptions. I would never do this with pure mashed potatoes, because it makes them gummy. Luckily, it creates a smooth, velvety texture with cauliflower.
  • Add some fat. We are taking away most of the carbs in this recipe, so we need some fat to make this palatable. I went with a trusted trio: whipped cream cheese, parmesan cheese and butter.

Now, remember when I posted a few weeks ago about my lack of patience for food photography and inability to measure food when I cook? I genuinely tried here, because I care that much about this recipe. However, I don’t think my “I’m only doing one take “photos really do this justice. Also, please know that all of these measurements are estimates. I tried to use a tablespoon and got frustrated, so I used my finger to get the cream cheese out. Clearly, I’m all about that food safety. Germs make us stronger right?

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Dinner! Cauli mash, meatballs and salad.

Really Good Cauliflower Mash Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped (use the ends and everything, no food waste here!)
  • 3 small, golden creamer potatoes
  • About 2-3 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 3-ish tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 3-ish tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pat of butter
  • Loads of garlic- about 4-5 cloves (We like it strong, so definitely decrease it if you don’t enjoy the garlic in your nose feeling.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried or fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup of cooking liquid, reserved

Instructions

  1. Put the cauliflower and potatoes in a pot. Add the broth then add water until it covers the veggies. Toss in some salt for extra flavor.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Cook until cauliflower and potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking liquid then drain the veggies.
  4. Add the veggies to the food processor with the garlic, whipped cream cheese, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and reserved cooking liquid. I added this little by little to make sure it didn’t get too liquidy. Puree until velvety smooth.
  5. Add mixture back to the pot on low heat and add in the pat of butter. Let cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust the seasonings, pat yourself on the back and enjoy!

I almost forgot, go Pats!

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My 2017 Intentions

You should know something about me. I’m a self-help junkie. It started back in my high school years when Copperfield’s Bookstore was right around the corner from my high school.  Going to Copperfield’s and reading what I wanted to read instead of some classical literature that was deemed “required” sounded so much more appealing to me. Luckily, it was pretty easy to ditch class (go Crushers!). I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was a truant student, but I did find it incredibly fulfilling to head to Copperfield’s and Trader Joe’s (also in the same shopping center) instead of going to class on occasion. While I enjoyed the cookbook and fiction sections, I usually gravitated towards the self-help section. Some of the books I found were quite ridiculous (Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days!), but most fascinated me. I would grab a book, then plop on an overstuffed chair and hope they didn’t notice that I was only planning on reading a few chapters and didn’t have any intention to actually buy the book.

Looking back on it, I should have known then that my future self would want to pursue a career that focuses on motivating people to change their behaviors. That would have been too easy though. Instead, I spent four years getting a degree in Human Development and to this day have no idea how, when and why children development. As long as they are walking and talking, they are cool by me. I think I eventually figured out what I wanted to do though, because I was constantly checking in with myself. Basically, I feel like I treat myself like my own science experiment. I tried turning my husband into my science experiment, but he was resistant to my powers.

I frequently ask myself, “What would happen if I did this?” Then, I proceed to determine if it would be worth it to try whatever crazy idea came to my mind. I usually just keep my findings and experience to myself (because I assume people get sick of me talking about this stuff), but I decided it would be beneficial to share my newest experiments, aka my 2017 intentions, with you. I like the term intentions more than resolutions. These are things I intend to do in 2017 and hopefully forever if I feel like they add value to my life. Sure sometimes my actions might not match my intentions, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. Scientists don’t give up on their research; they tweak something and try it again.

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I plan to share my journey through these intentions with you sporadically throughout the year. You may be asking yourself if I intentionally planned to publish this post at a time when most people have sadly given up on New Year’s resolutions. Nope, it just took me this long to post it. My promise to you is to honestly share how my intentions are going and not fluff anything up. For example, I’m currently failing at relying less on technology, because I just got a new phone and am now finding it difficult to disconnect. Knowing that I set this intention for the year is always in the back of my mind though, so my little self-help voice reminds me to just disconnect and walk instead of check my email at the same time.

Do you have any intentions for the year? I’d love to hear about them below!

Why Lowering the Bar Blog Dropped Off the Face of the Earth

You may have noticed that Lowering the Bar Blog dropped off the face of the earth after getting my feet wet in the blogging world in 2016. Why? The simple answer is that life happened and I didn’t enjoy being on my computer after work. Summer is generally slower time at work (less meetings, more planning), so I am stuck inside on my computer for most of the day. I didn’t love the idea of hopping back on my computer after work. Instead, I went on walks where I continuously told myself that walking in 98 degree weather isn’t that bad or on an adventure with my husband to the batting cages or driving range. I just wanted to be outside.

However, I really enjoyed writing for this blog, so I spent some time trying to dig deeper and understand why I lost total motivation to post. Eventually, the light bulb went off and I realized that I was trying to make this blog into something that I don’t necessarily enjoy. I read a lot of blogs (editors note: seriously a lot of blogs) that post recipes and photos of food. I love reading these blogs and drool over the beautiful photos, but I really, really don’t enjoy taking my own photos of food nor writing recipes. I appreciate food photography and the time and effort that go into it, but I have zero patience or passion for it. After creating something in the kitchen, I want to eat it, not stare at it through my phone screen. I also don’t own a legit camera, which disqualifies me from the food photography club.

Creating recipes also isn’t my favorite thing to do. It takes the joy out of cooking for me. I rarely follow a recipe as written unless it is for baking or an international food that I am not very familiar with cooking. I am a fairly creative person and cooking allows me to express that quality. I like to choose spices based on how I’m feeling, add my own twist and basically just do whatever the hell I want. Sure, there are cooking rules like letting your meat come to room temperature before cooking and letting it rest after cooking that should always be followed, but I like just trying things to see what happens. When I am in this zone, I rarely remember exactly what I did (not wine related). The thought of actually having to slowly add salt with a measuring spoon until I reach the perfect recipe worthy amount, then writing this down on a piece of paper sounds terrible. Rather, I grab a pinch or (more often) a bunch of salt out of our salt jar, throw it in the food, and hope it was the right amount. Sometimes this method doesn’t work very well with red chili pepper flakes…

So, what does all of this mean? I promise there is a purpose to this rant. I am going to make this blog something I enjoy rather than try to fit into a mold of what my mind thinks it should be. I won’t feel sorry for the terrible photos of food that I post. I won’t feel guilty for posting a recipe without exact measurements, but I will write about what truly inspires me and gets me all worked up. Some weeks I may post our weekly meal plans and other weeks I may post about things that drive me crazy, like food marketing to kids. Basically, I’m going to let loose at Lowering the Bar Blog. There may be no rhyme or reason to the posts and some may even be posted week’s apart (gasp!). I just want to write and share my thoughts about health, wellness and life with you. I invite you to come along for the journey, but you have to promise you won’t hold me to any blog standards; because I’m Lowering the Bar for my blog standards.

The Weekly Grub + a HIIT Workout

Hello! How was your weekend (Note: I meant to post this yesterday, just roll with it for me ok? Thanks)? I went to bed on Sunday feeling very rejuvenated, grateful and hot (it’s 104 here!). We stayed local and enjoyed all the activities around us, which was nice for a change. Saturday was spent on the lake, speeding around on a jet ski. It felt so nice to be back on the water- where I grew up. I will always be a lake girl at heart. I ventured over to Napa on Sunday to bike through the rolling hills with a friend. My legs appreciated the inclines and my eyes enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It’s amazing how much more you notice your surroundings when on foot or bike. Sunday ended with a delicious dinner, an ice cream run and the Game of Thrones season finale.

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Evening walks
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Jet skiing adventures!

We have both been traveling so much, together and apart, that our weekly meal plan has been neglected. When Kevin leaves, I revert back to eating a veggie mush or eggs every night for dinner as a way to make sure we use everything in the fridge. As much as he tolerates and mostly enjoys the vegetables I make for us, the fridge’s leftover vegetable scraps aren’t necessarily his jam. Since we have a break from traveling, I was able to meal plan and even do some prep for this week! It felt wonderful to get back into the swing of things. 

This Week’s Grub

  • Sunday: Grilled zucchini taco boats (recipe coming soon!)
  • Monday: Red snapper fish tacos with a mango salsa + corn
  • Tuesday: Grilled sausage + corn, cucumber and cauliflower salad
  • Wednesday: Picnic in the Park (Farmer’s market, live music & food vendors=Night off from cooking!)
  • Thursday: Chinese chicken salad
  • Friday: Pizza night! It’s our current weekly themed meal and has been quite fun!
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Taco stuffed zucchini boats
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Cauliflower, cucumber and tomato salad
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Fish Tacos

I’ve been doing more HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts recently, because they are more time efficient. Research shows that if you really push and perform this method correctly (you should be going all out) you get the same positive health benefits in a fraction of the time as moderate-intensity (ex: steady state cardio) exercise. I also like that you are constantly switching exercises and get more variety in your workout. However, if you haven’t been regularly physically active, I don’t recommend jumping right into this type of exercise at 100% effort. Take things slower and listen to your body, then slowly increase the intensity.

HIIT Bodyweight Workout

30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest between exercises, 1 minute rest between rounds X 3-4 rounds. There are links for some of the exercises!

Tip: To ensure that I am truly pushing myself, I like to set a goal before each exercise. If I meet that goal, I keep going and set my goal higher for the next round. If I don’t meet it, I just try harder the next round.

  1. Push-Ups (get that chest to the floor!)
  2. Floor touch jump squats– focus on sitting your hips back and landing softly
  3. Crossover mountain climbers
  4. Push-Up to side plank
  5. Switch lunges
  6. Hollow rocks
  7. Shoulder taps
  8. Skaters
  9. Plank jacks
  10. Jumping jack toe touches

Try it and let me know what you think!!

Get Movin’ Pal

It’s safe to say things got a little crazy around here the last few weeks. There was lots of traveling for work and play, birthdays, wedding events, work events, family BBQ’s and not enough blogging. During the first week of the craziness, I was trying to find time to set aside to write a post. I would look at my schedule and convince myself I could squeeze in some time here and there. Then I asked myself, why am I doing this? As much as I enjoy writing, having some “me” time and just walking or reading to keep my sanity sounded much better. So I said, let’s lower the bar and take a break. But guess what? I’m back!!

Luckily, I have a pretty awesome job where I get to constantly learn about health and wellness. During this recent crazy time in my life, I attended the annual American College Health Association conference in San Francisco. Basically, I spent 5 days nerding out about new health and wellness research and best practices in college health promotion. I soaked up tons of new information and ideas, but the main thing that stuck with me was the negative impact sedentary behavior has on our bodies and how we can motivate individuals to decrease sedentary behavior.

The majority of public health campaigns have focused on increasing physical activity. That’s great! But it’s not enough. We need to reduce sedentary behavior. Sit less, move more. This really hit home for me. Sure, having a sweaty, heart pumping workout for 60 minutes is awesome, but you know what’s not so awesome? Sitting for the rest of your day. I’m not saying that your exercise doesn’t matter, but research is showing that it does matter less if you are sedentary for the rest of the day.

But Shantille, I have to sit at work for 8 hours a day. Yes, many jobs (including mine) require that we sit for most of our work day. Unfortunately, we can’t really get around that. However, even small increments of movement such as standing up during a phone call or meeting can add up and reduce the deleterious effects of sedentary behavior has on our health. The conference schedule had 30 minute breaks between sessions. My first thought when seeing this was, “Can’t we have shorter breaks and just get done earlier in the day?” By the end of the week, I realized that I really actually enjoyed those longer breaks, because it gave me time to move. Rather than sitting and perusing social media or email, I told myself to go walk. I ended up logging about 16,000 steps a day…at a conference! I was shocked.

We need to stop saying we can’t. Instead, we need to capitalize on opportunities or find opportunities to move. Prioritize your health. Since coming back from the conference and adjusting to being at a desk most of the day, I have some tips that I started using to reduce my sedentary behavior:

  • Schedule an alarm on your computer to go off every hour to tell yourself to get up and move for 5 minutes. You can go on a short walk around the building, go refill your water glass, do some stretches, go say hi to a coworker, head up and down some stairs. Just move for 5 minutes.
  • Request walking meetings with your coworkers. I take notes on my phone when I do this and email them to myself.
  • Instead of calling a coworker in the same building, walk to their office.
  • Subscribe to UCLA’s Move Mail! You get emails sent to you at 10am and 2pm daily with office friendly exercises: http://www.recreation.ucla.edu/fitwell#168711080-movemail
  • Are you in charge of planning a long meeting or training? Schedule stretching/walking breaks into the agenda.
  • Lead by example. Ya sure, people might think you are weird when you are the only one standing in a meeting. Eventually though, you will start to influence others. You will be that annoying “healthy” person. Embrace it.
  • Invite others to take 15 minute walking breaks with you. I am terrible about taking my 15 minute breaks. I get caught up in something and completely forget. If I schedule a walk during my break with a coworker then I’m held accountable and take my break to move.

Do you have any tips that you use to be less sedentary during your work day? I would love to hear about them below!