Finding balance in exercise

Kettlebell and mat

I have been cautious about returning to a workout routine.

After going too far into a particular workout regimen that I neglected so much else in my life, it’s probably natural to be a little reticent to return. It took me an entire year to heal my adrenals after Crossfit and all of the other stuff I was doing. I’m not anxious to head down that road again.

So I’ve moved extremely slowly back into any kind of exercise routine that demands accountability. I do best when I workout with a coach or others, but I don’t want to go down the obsession road again. I want balance.

I’m not sure I’ve found it, but I’m giving some new things a try. Well, maybe not new — but the mix is new.

First off — boxing. I’ve already written about boxing here. It is so fun! I go once a week. It’s enough to be a routine without it becoming all-consuming — a little cardio, a little strength — no going overboard with HIIT. So boxing stays.

Then I decided to try out a different exercise class with a friend of mine who’s a trainer. She leads a number of classes at a small private gym very close to my work. I jumped into a women’s circuit class and I really like it. It’s only once a week, and it’s the right mix of cardio and strength for me. The exercises are always different, too, so I won’t get bored. And my friend is a really laid back trainer — super encouraging and works at your level. Circuit training stays.

I work out at home once or twice a week doing some kind of workout I’ve found on Breaking Muscle. Right now I’m doing a glutes workout. It’s a good one — definitely making my butt tighter.Β I’d like to mix in some lifting as well. I’ve found some good weightlifting schedules on Catalyst Athletics. Home workouts are a good way to bring balance because I can sleep in or adjust the timing or intensity as needed so I don’t wear myself out.

I’m also trying to mix in some running. I hate running by myself — I either go too slow or too fast and it’s SUPER BORING for me. I prefer running with a buddy — someone I can talk to. Plus I’m less likely to skip a run if someone expects me — the whole accountability thing. Right now I’m trying out a new running buddy. Our first run together ended up being 4 miles. It felt good. We’ll see if it works out and we can run together regularly.

I haven’t figured out whether I’ve found the right balance. I just know that I need to be active, and it’s time to get past my fears about exhausting my adrenals and move forward.

Today’s WOD:

A) 4×10 1 Leg Deadlift with Kettlebell
4x 20 Seconds of Plank on Forearms
4×10 KB Swings

B) 4×10 Split Squat with Weight
4×10 Diamond Push Up

C) 3×5 Kettlebell Windmill
3×5 Kettlebell Row *on each side
3x 15 Seconds Side plank *on each side

What?!! You mean it WAS a 35# bar?!!

I feel kind of stupid today. And annoyed.

Over the weekend, I went to Play It Again to pick up some clamps for the barbells at the house. (I figured it was about time after 1 1/2 years to make sure the plates DON’T fall off the ends of the bar.) While I was there, I was eyeing the bumper plates, and got to thinking I would LOVE a 35# bar, since that’s what I use in class. It’s just smaller in my hands and feels better to me.

Andy, being the darling that he is, ran out and picked up a bar and two 15# bumper plates. So cool…

Cindy presses bar against tree background
I love that I'm wearing jeans and slippers in this photo. πŸ˜‰

But then Andy said,” Um, Cindy, I think we should take this bar back.”


“It’s the same weight as the one you already use.”

And he was right. We got out the scale and everything. The bar that I’ve been using all along is 35#. All this time I thought it was 45#, because that’s what they told us when we bought it at Play It Again. I knew it was a little lighter than that, but I didn’t think it was 10 pounds.

So all this time I thought I was using a 45# bar, it was actually 35# — which explains why my numbers were always better at home than in the gym. (“Why does it always feel heavier at the gym?” “It must be that I’m ‘cold’ in the morning — that’s why it’s so hard.”)

Go ahead — laugh. I deserve it. In my defense, the bar is not as thin as the ones at the gym. And its weight wasn’t marked when we bought it. Plus I was pregnant when we bought it, so everything felt heavy.

I’ll laugh about this — one day. Right now I’m feeling a little annoyed. But I’m also feeling a little relieved. The mystery of the discrepancy is solved. Now that I know what weight I’m ACTUALLY using, I’ll push myself more, and I should be able to see some strength gains.

Saturday night I did my first strength session with the bumper plates and the knowledge about the true weight of the bar. This is what I did:

Front squats 3×2, 3×2, 3×2 β†’ 65/80/85
Push Press + Jerk 60% (of jerk) x3+1×2, 65% x3+1×3 β†’ 50/50, 55/55/55
Snatch Balance 3×3 β†’ 35/35/45
Snatch deadlift 3×4 β†’ 85/80/95/100

So, instead of another bar, we decided to get a rack. We found a reasonably priced rack online that we’re going to order next month. Then I’ll be able to squat more than I can clean.

Until then, I’m still annoyed. Grrr….

My backyard is no longer a death trap for children

Andy has had the past week off (lucky guy), and every day I’ve come home, I’ve found our backyard looking better and better. (Forgot to take a picture. Sorry.)

Our backyard, if you recall, is our home “gym”, and over the past 6 months or so, it’s deteriorated to where I haven’t wanted to be out there. A combination of heat and being busy with kids made it hard to do much of any yardwork. But that all changed this week when Andy stayed home and made it his mission to turn it from a death trap for children to a pleasant space.

Awww… it’s so nice. No dog poop, no sticks hidden under a blanket of leaves. Even the “mound” was neatly mowed. Ahhhh….

And in this pleasant new space I did these workouts over the weekend:

A) 2-DB Push Press 3×4 @ 30# (90 sec btwn sets)
B) 1-arm DB snatch 3×4 @ 30# (90 sec btwn sets)
C) 4 sets: 5 1-legged squats / 5 Good Mornings @ 65# BB (45 sec btwn sets)
D) 4 sets: 5 ring rows / 15 push ups (on knees) (45 sec btwn sets)
Finisher: 15×3 35# Russian KB swings

Sledgehammer swings
Jumping jacks

Time: 16:54

We even pulled out the chimenea Sunday night for our family’s annual New Year’s Day special fireside treat. This year it was Brummer S’Mores: roasted marshmallows dipped in a little melted chocolate and chopped nuts. Delish.

And yeah, it was the last day of sweets for me for a long time. Monday starts my tightened nutrition regimen — complete with Zoning my foods. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Retest: “DT”

Cindy holds bar with arms straight overhead
At the top of a push jerk. (Please ignore my pasty, white legs.)

There is a little Post-It in my workout log that has floated through my notebooks for the past year. It shows up every three months. It has this workout written on it:

5 rounds
12 Deadlift (M 155# / W 95#)
9 Hang power cleans
6 Push jerk

I’ve done it a few times in Crossfit class, but this is one I picked out last December and have used as a home benchmark. There is a note written at the bottom of the Post-It:

Goal: 75# in under 12 mins

I think I wrote that goal last spring. I can’t remember. Anyway, I reached that goal Friday.

Time: 10:17 @ 75#

In deadlift position
Deadlift position (Check out Mads in the background πŸ™‚ )

It was the first time I tried 75# with DT. In September, I slammed through the WOD at 9:38 with 65# on the bar. At the time I had forgotten I had done the same WOD at home the week before at 70#. But I was much slower — over 13 minutes.

I’ve definitely grown stronger over the past year. Over the past several days I’ve been assessing my accomplishment, looking at where I want to change and improve. I finally have a pretty exhaustive list of specific fitness, personal and professional goals for 2012. They’re not quite done, but I should have them ready on January 1.

What do you want to accomplish in 2012?


The importance of rest

I’m back! Yay! How was your Christmas? Did you rest or decide to work out through the break?

After a nice long Christmas break, I’m sliding back into my workout routine and setting goals for 2012, which is only a few days away. Yikes!

I had a great Christmas. It wasn’t about gifts this year. It was about family, friends, experiences, food — everything I love. And for a solid week I did not work out.

Mads, Cindy and Luke at the Zilker Holiday Tree
Mads, Luke and I visited the Zilker Holiday Tree on my first night of rest.

My gym always takes two weeks off during the holidays. For the past two years I have ignored the break and worked out on my own or something like that, because I always thought that I needed to stay active. And I learned something from that.

Staying active is fine, but your muscles don’t get stronger unless you let them rest. Yes, it’s true.

So I scheduled in a week of rest. And I needed it. I was tired. I was feeling lethargic about working out. I wasn’t really looking forward to classes or home WODs. I needed a break.

So I rested, and I let myself indulge a few times. I enjoyed food and drink over Christmas that I usually don’t eat (probably a little too much). I slept in (a little). And I played (my kids and husband are toooooo much fun).

By the end of the week, I felt a little heavy (thanks to all that yummy food), and I was ready to get back to working out. On Monday morning, I woke up early and headed out back. The rain made me change my plans a little, but I managed to figure something out without waking everyone up.

Here’s what I’ve done:

Strength: Hip Power Clean 4×4 β†’ 45/55/65/75
Met-con: 4 rounds β†’ 30 situps/20 ring rows/10 DB Hang power cleans (25#), Time: 11:48
Core: 4 sets β†’ 5 wheel rollouts/6 Deadlift twist (each side @ 25#)/15 knee hugs/45 sec plan hold

Front squats w/ 5 sec pause 5×4 β†’ 75/80/85/85
Snatch Power Jerk + OHS 3×2, 2×3 β†’ 45/55, 60/65/70
Snatch Balance 4×3 β†’ 45/45/55

1 mile leisurely run the the dogs

Back squats w/ 5 sec pause 5×4 β†’ 75/75/80/85
Snatch Balance + OHS β†’ 45/45/45/55
Push Press 5×3 β†’ 65/70/75
Skillwork: 5 ring pullup holds-to-negatives

I’ve kind of been taking it easy. But it’s enough activity to get me all ready when classes start up again next week. The time off has been really nice . It’s helped me get fired up for 2012. Gotta work on my goals!

Rainy day? No garage gym? No problem

Sometimes I dream about building my own garage gym.

It would be so cool! We already have a building that would work. It’s an old detached garage — a place to store the bars and weights and everything!

But the building needs a lot of cleanup, and I barely have time to maintain order in the house, let alone set aside a few weekends (not to mention $$$) to set up a garage gym, no matter how much I want it.

Maybe when the kids move out? Haha — hopefully a lot sooner than that.

I am grateful that I have a space at home at all — my back porch and yard. And thanks to the drought, I haven’t had to alter my workout plans at all over the past several months (the one silver lining to this horrible drought?). Until this morning.

We’ve had rain! Glorious, steady rain! Days worth! So when I woke up for my workout Sunday morning and discovered that even the back porch was soaked, I wasn’t really upset. I kicked plan B into action.

I had to modify the workout a bit. It had to be done inside. Anything that involved jumping — and therefore bumping the house and potentially waking people up — was out. So no split snatches, jumping squats or jumping lunges. Also, the pullup bar with the homemade rings is outside, so no ring rows. I also needed to modify the warmup — nothing dynamic, and no running. But I grabbed a staff that I used in Kung Fu, warmed up with presses, squats and good mornings, plus a few rounds of dumbbell swings and goblet squats, and I was good to go! I think the workout turned out well:

Mobility / stretching
Explosive strength:
A) 2-DB push press 3×4 @ 25# (90 sec rest between sets)
B) 1-arm DB snatch @ 25# (90 sec rest between sets)
4 sets:

C) 5 DB bench press @ 25# each arm / 8 explosive pushups (45 sec rest between complex pairs)
D) 5 negative pullups / 10 dips (45 sec rest between complex pairs)

Core: 4 rounds 5 wheel rollouts / 6 side bends (25# each side) / 12 supermans / 10 Russian twists (25#, each side) / 80 chinnies

I finished up with the exercises my new chiropractor has me doing to increase my strength in my butt so I won’t shift heavily to one side anymore during squats. But that’s a-whole-nother can of worms.

So, see! Even when it rains you can get in a workout without getting wet! That’s the nice part about the workouts I program for myself at home. No coach making me run in the rain!

Indulgence is so sweet

Madeline shoving pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream into her mouth
Mmmmm... pumpkin cheesecake.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, because I sure did. I did just what I planned to do — hang out at home and eat a HUGE Thanksgiving meal.

First, a workout. I got it over with early Thanksgiving morning. I did not time it, but I went as fast as I could with minimal rest.

β€œMagic 50”
5 rounds
5 DB snatches each arm @25#
5 DB swings each arm @ 25#
10 burpees

Core training β†’ 4 rounds: 5 wheel rollouts / 10 Russian twists @ 25# / 10 high-tension crunches w/ 5 sec hold / 12 supermans / 80 chinnies

Skillwork: 10 ring pullup hold-to-negatives

roasted turkey sitting on cutting board
Ready to be carved!

Then it was time to cook.

It was just the 4 of us this year, but that didn’t stop Andy and me from making a big meal. We picked up a fresh turkey from our friends at Richardson Farms and brined it overnight, then dried it for a couple of hours in the fridge. We followed a Cooks Illustrated recipe for roasting it, and after a couple of hours it came out perfect.

Also on the menu:

  • Roasted carrots
  • Mushroom-cauliflower-pecan stuffing
    (I changed up the linked recipe a bit. We used pecans instead of hazelnuts, cilantro instead of parsley, green onions instead of leeks, and we microwaved the cauliflower a bit in order to shorten the time in the oven.)
  • Mashed Turban squash
  • Gibblet Gravy
    (A modified Cooks Illustrated recipe, without the flour)
  • Sweet potato salad
    (This is so delicious: Roasted sweet potato wedges with roasted red peppers, scallions, mustard and olive oil)
  • Cranberry relish
    (A recipe from my mom that I modified to ditch the Jello and cut the sugar: Chopped cranberries, orange zest, peeled orange, peeled apple, apple cider & sugar)
  • Pumpkin cheesecake
Luke looks into the stand mixer bowl
Luke helped make our Thanksgiving dessert.

Dinner was a huge hit. We ate and ate and ate. I ate too much, truth be told, and my stomach protested for a while after dinner.

Fortunately, I made room for some cheesecake and homemade whipped cream.

The kids had a fabulous time, and to be honest, we are not inundated with leftovers.

Andy made a stock from the leftover bones after the kids went to bed.

I’ve got plans for the leftover turkey. How about turkey omelets for breakfast and coconut curry with turkey for dinner?

I’m sad my day of indulgence is over. I don’t plan on eating any more of that cheesecake. That’s OK — Andy and the kids are more than happy to oblige in eating up what’s left.

Madeline and Luke sit at table eating
The dessert was a hit.

Be a Powerpuff… (ahem)… Powerful Girl

ButtercupDo you remember The Powerpuff Girls? That show on Cartoon Network about those three adorable little girls that had super powers and were total bad asses?

They were so cool. I loved the whole juxtaposition of them being little girls, who everyone assumed were small and weak, but they actually they had superpowers and were super strong. I think my favorite was Buttercup, because she was brooding and a little darker than the others.

But if I were to be honest with myself, my personality is more like Blossom. Plus, I’ve got reddish hair like her.


I was thinking about the Powerpuff girls this morning during my workout. I loved Kung Fu because I always felt so empowered. I felt like I could hold my own if I needed to. And now, with Crossfit and Olympic Lifting, I feel stronger and more powerful, even though I’m small. Sometimes I think about learning how to box or doing kick-boxing. Maybe part of me really wants to be a fighter? Or maybe I just want to be a Powerpuff powerful girl.

My workout this morning:

A) 1-arm DB clean & press (from floor) 3×4 @ 30# (90 sec rest btwn sets)
B) 1-arm snatch 4×4 @ 30# (90 sec rest btwn sets)
C) 4 sets: 5 one-legged squats / 5 RDL w/ 50# DB (60 sec rest btwn sets)
D) 4 sets: 5 ring rows / 15 pushups (60 sec rest btwn sets)
Finisher: 3 rounds – 15 KB swings @ 35# / 5 ring pullup negatives
Core: 4 rounds – 5 FLag / 6 side bends w/ 30# (each side) / 15 supermans / 16 DB twists @ 30#

It seemed like the noise from traffic was especially loud this morning, but it’s probably just because the leaves are falling from the trees and there’s not as much vegetation to absorb noise from the highways. Sometimes I wish I live on a farm in the middle of the country.

Apparently, I do a lot of daydreaming during my workout rest periods.

People in my workout world: Andy

Andy takes seeds out of a melon
Andy takes seeds out of a melon for Madeline and Luke.

Meet Andy. I’ve been talking about this guy ever since I started this blog more than 2 1/2 years ago. I figured it was about time to introduce him.

Andy and I met… well, a long time ago. Let’s put it this way: in April 2012 we will celebrate the 16th anniversary of our first date. In OctoberΒ  2011, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We’ve known each other a very long time.

Over the years we’ve done lots of active stuff together: camping and hiking, biking, a little inline skating, kung fu….

Andy and Luke sit together at a tableto work on a project
Andy and Luke concentrate on building a solar-powered helicopter.

These days, Andy does Crossfit 3 times a week, and for fun, he’ll walk out back and throw around the barbells or dumbbells. He practices balancing on his hands in the living room. He lifts our children up and holds them upside down and they squeal with delight.

I think of Andy as a pioneer. He’s the guy who reads up on stuff and tries it out on himself — way before I ever do. He’s introduced me to some of my favorite bands, he showed me that it’s actually fun to camp, and he’s the one who started me down the Paleo path.

I was a vegetarian in May 2009 and struggling to Zone my meals when Andy decided he was going to go Paleo. He never looked back. He started making meals for himself and meals for me. I was pretty hungry on the Zone diet, and one night I looked at his bison burger patty and said,” Do you think I could have some of that?”

Yes, bison was my gateway meat. And that moment was the beginning of a long transition from vegetarianism and the conventional American diet to the nutritional lifestyle my family leads today.

Andy also introduced me to Ross Enamait’s workouts (whose name I’m misspelled many times on this blog and I’m really sorry). We used to work out in the front or backyard, doing burpees and squats — way before I had ever heard of Crossfit.

I did a Ross workout this morning:

A) 2-DB split snatch (front variation) 3×5 @ 20# (60 sec rest btwn sets)
B) 2-DB Push Jerk 3×5 @ 25# (60 sec rest btwn sets)
C) 4 sets: 1-arm bench press @ 20# x 5 / Depth Pushups x 8 (60 sec rest btwn sets)
D) 4 sets: 60-sec wall squat / 10 jumping squats (60 sec rest btwn sets)
Finisher: 15 x 3 KB swings (35#)
Skill work: 8 ring pullup holds-to-negatives
Core: 4 rounds – 5 wheel rollouts / 15 v-ups / 1- Russian twists (30# each side) / 12 supermans / 40 chinnies

Andy looks up in the aquarium tunnel
Andy and me in the tunnel at the Georgia Aquarium.

Andy has inspired and influenced me in so many positive ways. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and just an all-round nice guy to hang out with.

He also tweets out some pretty cool links. Follow him at @andybrummer.

Places in my workout world: The Backyard

very dark photo of the neighbors' buzzing lightOne of my neighbors has a very loud buzzing light in their backyard.Β  It comes on every night when the sun goes down and stays on until sunrise.

It used to bug Andy, and sometimes we talk about shooting it out, since it only adds to the light pollution in the neighborhood. But it’s one of the familiar sights and sounds in the backyard when I work out early in the morning before most people are awake.

I stood outside this morning and listened to the buzzing while resting between sets. I gazed up at the sky and made out the constellation Orion. I saw a planet in the southwestern sky and wondered which one it was. Probably Jupiter. Venus would be in the east at that hour.

I hear all sorts of interesting stuff when I’m out in the backyard working out. One time the neighbor behind me was fussing at a raccoon that — I guess — had gotten into her chicken coop. “Bad raccoon! Bad, bad raccoon!” It sounded as if she hit it pretty good, and I heard it scramble up the nearest tree. I shook my head. There’s no such thing as a good or bad animal. An animal just IS.

Most of the time I just hear the normal neighborhood stuff. The next-door-neighbors letting their dogs out. The newspaper delivery guy creeping by in his car. Rats crawling along the back fence. (Yes, I have rats in my neighborhood. It’s a constant battle.)

I realized today that I spend more time outside in the backyard when it’s dark than I do when it’s light. It’s hard to see much beyond my back porch except for outlines and, of course, that buzzing light. I guess that’s why I do a lot more listening than looking when I’m out there. You can hear a lot of interesting things in the backyard if you open your ears.

It was chilly this morning. I managed to get in my entire workout plan before anyone woke up.

A) 2-DB Push press 3×4 @ 30# (90 sec rest between sets)
B) 1-arm DB snatch 3×4 @ 30# (90 sec rest between sets)
C) 4 sets: 10 2-DB lunges @ 25# / 10 jumping lunges (60 sec rest between sets)
D) 4 sets: 5 ring pullups / 15 pushups (60 sec rest between sets)
Finisher: 15×3 KB swings @ 35#
Core: 4 sets β†’ 5 flag / 10 russian twists w/ KB / 10 high-tension crunches / 12 supermans / 80 chinnies