Stroke.

On Sunday night, my paternal grandmother passed away.

Today, I’m struggling to navigate a confusing tangle of emotions. I’m caught in a state of emotional déjà vu. Because, in truth, I lost her once before – 20 years ago.

That’s when she had the stroke.

I was in middle school when a massive stroke stole my grandmother’s voice, and with it her ability to share her stories, her lessons, her self. She was paralyzed on her right side, and could no longer speak more than a handful of repetitive phrases.

She could not articulate her wishes, but her eyes would plead with you to guess what she was thinking. If you were on the right track, she would say ‘So good, honey.’ If she wanted you to keep trying to figure it out, she would say ‘You can say it?’

It was heartbreaking. And it went on for twenty years.

Her experience motivated and fueled my quest for fitness. I fight against that future with every workout and every drop of sweat.

Today I can think of no better way to honor the grandmother I lost than to encourage you to educate yourself about stroke risk. Learn the signs. Consciously engage in prevention.

“The American Heart Association reports 800,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the US and the fourth leading cause of death. Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, because for the most part, strokes are the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Recent research published in the journal Stroke1 found that, if you’re inactive, you have a 20 percent higher risk for having a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) than people who exercise enough to break a sweat at least four times a week.”
-Mercola.com

Stroke Prevention Infographic

I even made you an infographic! (Play along – pretend I’m good at this kind of thing)

“[R]egular exercise affects your veins and arteries… physical activity keeps your larger arteries flexible, meaning that they will be elastic enough to stretch and allow more blood to flow when it’s needed, a little like a fire hose. As a result, your blood pressure is more likely to be sitting at normal levels during times of stress on the body instead of at dangerously elevated levels, easing the pressure on your heart and respiratory system.” – Livestrong

Take care of yourself. Use your healthy days to prevent untold suffering.

Sweat yourself healthy. Push your blood around. Make your heart beat strong. Work those elastic veins and arteries.

Absolutely NO excuses.

This morning, I was tired. I was sad. I wanted to curl up in bed and cry. But I didn’t. Instead, I laced up my running shoes and focused on my grandmother as I dripped with sweat.

This one’s for you, Grammy. Fly high.

Blood pumping.

Blood pumping.

A Hard Core Workout Just For You

Every weekend, the resident personal trainer (and combat veteran) leads a boot camp. When he showed me the program of pain he hit his clients with today, I begged him to let me share it here.

Luckily for us, he’s a generous man.

So – if you’re in the mood for a hard core sweat, here you go! A little present from us to you. Pin it for those days when you can’t make it to the gym – you can do it all in the comfort of your own home!

Enjoy!

(insert evil laugh *here*)

BOOT CAMP

February Challenge Demos

I asked very nicely, and the resident trainer (AKA He-Man) agreed to demonstrate how to do the workouts for the February Challenge. Here they are! Hope they help!

We’re happy to answer any questions, so post here or on the Facebook page and we’ll be there to help you reach your goals.

Work it out!

February Fitness Challenge

res·o·lu·tion
ˌrezəˈlo͞oSHən/
noun
: a definite and serious decision to do something

Roll call! Who is still committed to those Healthy & Strong resolutions they made this year?

By now all of that vim and vigor might be starting to wane. I mean… we’re in the middle of a Polar Vortex, here! How can we be expected to pull off anything beyond basic survival?

I hear ya.

But you know what? I’m not going to let you forget your Resolution! Not this time! THIS IS YOUR YEAR! If I can lose 100 lbs in a year, you can accomplish any resolution.

To help you stay on track, the resident trainer and I put together a February Challenge. You can follow along on the calendar below, or join us over at the Happy Exhaustion Facebook page where I will be posting daily workouts and providing support and encouragement to anyone who wants to participate.

This is your chance to recommit! Grab that resolution with both hands and do not give up. You can move mountains – but only if you do the work. Earn your strength. Make yourself proud. You deserve it.
Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

Step Away From The Take-Out Menu And Nobody Gets Hurt.

It has been brought to my attention that I should write about food more often.

After all – how can the girl who preaches “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” neglect to discuss what she eats?

*Cue blogger breaking out in hives*

As I said in The Food Part – I suffer from a profound deficit in confidence when it comes to food. Food is my bugaboo. Food kills me. If I was an alcoholic, food would be my vodka tonic.

When my grip on fitness starts slipping, it’s never because I couldn’t bear to work out anymore. It’s always because of a plate of brownies, or an open bar, or a mountain of cheese fries… *drool…*

But when I’m on the right track, I have strict food rules, and I should tell you what they are.

Today’s lesson is this: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS – MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD.

Imma give it to you straight.

No sudden moves… Back away from the processed foods, nice and easy…

It’s so important to start with raw ingredients and go from there. When we eat things we can’t pronounce, we sacrifice our knowledge of what’s fueling our systems. How can we manage our nutrition when we don’t have our arms all the way around our understanding of what we’re consuming? Achieving and maintaining fitness is hard enough without any extra elements of mystery.

Controlling my fitness generated a fixation on foods made from scratch. When I make an exception, it’s because there’s a special occasion involved. Never more than once a week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no raw-foods-vegan or anything. I have tons of variety in my diet, I just don’t generally eat anything that comes out of a box. I take pride in preparing all of my family’s meals from whole foods. I can name every ingredient, and tell you why I used it.

It hasn’t always been this way.

For 20 years, I was technically a vegetarian, but it would have been more accurate to call me a junk-food-itarian. I lived primarily on processed carbs. I was very… fluffy in those days.

When I got married, I couldn’t cook my way out of a paper bag. While getting my MA in Budapest, my BFF and I often ate something we called ‘veggie mush’ – mashed canned veggies in a pot. It was a hot mess.

Committing to nutrition inspired me learn how to cook.

If you don’t know how to cook yet, you can use your fitness goals as your excuse to learn! It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to prepare whatever you might be in the mood for.

The trick is to add a step between your mood and your consumption.

When a craving creeps into my brain and my kitchen is stocked with easy-access processed foods, it’s WAY too easy to snack. When these options are not available, I have the chance to assess whether or not I’m really hungry.

Whenever I think I might want to nibble on something, I know I can either eat something whole (say, carrot sticks – not exactly crave-worthy) or I have to take the time to prepare something. If I’m not really hungry, I won’t have the motivation to go through the motions of prep. If I’m motivated enough to prep, then I’m hungry enough to eat.

Making your food slows you down. It makes you think about what you’re eating and why you’re choosing to eat it. When I was heavy, I ate without much thought. Now that I cook, food is no longer about instant gratification.

Your food doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. But it really should be actual food.

Holiday Cheats

The House That Sugar Built

The House That Sugar Built

Over the holidays I was a bad, bad girl.

I betrayed my true love with my hot little fling. I committed the crime of infidelity.

That’s right - I cheated on my diet.

I made out with Christmas cookies. I sipped mint chocolate martinis in dark corners. I nibbled the ear of a gingerbread man. It was downright scandalous.

I gained 6 lbs. SIX! Oh my… that’s one hell of a lot of sugar.

As I crawled back to the produce department with my tail between my legs, I thought of the confession I had to make to my readers at Happy Exhaustion. How could I betray your trust by relapsing into my sugar addiction? I mean – I fell off of the wagon HARD. I kept up with my workouts, but my food journal sat around collecting dust.

I imagined myself as the little girl peeking out from behind her mother’s skirt, whispering “I’m sorry… I was bad.”

But, as I stood on my cardio machine, dripping with sweat, it occurred to me – Don’t be ‘ashamed to admit’ – be real! It’s all about sharing humanity.

I might be The Girl Who Blogs About Fitness, but I’m also The Girl Who Nibbles On Licorice While Her Daughter Decorates Cookies – because dammit, that licorice was all that stood between me and a head-first swan dive into the giant bowl of frosting.

I spent a bit of time allowing myself to be indulgent, and that’s ok. I’m not about to turn my back on Healthy & Strong. But I confess that even as I pass my health-iversary, I still have demons in my head whispering maybe that single cookie could be the tipping point when I lose it all.

I need to chill the eff out.

Who wants to be the skinny beeyotch who can’t relate to the occasional binge, anyway? Not me. Ew. That chick is not my friend. I don’t think she’s anyone’s friend. She’s plastic. She’s no fun at parties.

*Deep breath*

Getting my party on is tons of fun, but every time I over-indulged, my whole body felt like crap. In gaining 6 lbs, my body has felt like crap a lot lately. My system is so much happier when fueled by plants and lean proteins than it is when it’s fueled by gumdrops and peppermint schnapps. Have you ever had a peppermint schnapps hangover? I do NOT recommend it.

I’m in no danger of forgetting that sweat is the key to strength, confidence, and the release of anxiety.

Back into the saddle I go.

Heads up, newly-jiggly bits – I’m comin’ for ya.

A New Fitness Adventure to Start the Year Strong!

I think it’s time for a new challenge.

Starting tomorrow (January 2, 2014)  and ending on January 31st, I’ll be doing these three plans simultaneously.

The Plank Challenge.
If I can actually hold 5 minutes by the end, I will be declaring myself Master of the Universe.

The Abs & Squats Challenge. I'm loving the variety - should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Abs & Squats Challenge.
I’m loving the variety – should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Jump Rope Challenge. I'm doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. I'm all about super-cheap cardio aids!

The Jump Rope Challenge.
I’m doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. Ain’t nothing wrong with some super-cheap cardio aids!

Anyone want to join me in doing one, two, or all three? Come on, misery loves company!

Leave a comment or send me a message if you’re in and we can cheer each other on/moan and groan out loud in unison as we go.

#StrongerByFebruary

Edit To Add: I’ve created a Happy Exhaustion page on Facebook where you can share this challenge with me. Come by and join us! www.Facebook.com/HappyExhaustion

Resolution Time!

Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Any super-exciting visions of 2014 dancing in your head this New Year’s Eve?

Are your resolutions biblically grand?

Will this be the year you make your fortune? Cure cancer? Prove to Ryan Gosling that the two of you really are long-lost soul mates?

Or maybe your resolutions are slightly more modest? ‘Dammit, I will have an organized pantry!’

At the moment, my own resolutions are a bit amorphous – something to do with prioritizing my kids’ daily physical activity. But, since I know that most of our resolutions involve health, weight, and fitness, I figured it might be a good idea for The Girl Who Lost 100 Lbs to chime in.

I have this theory that the majority of resolutions fail because we set our bars ridiculously, impossibly high. “I’m going to quit smoking and drinking while losing 50 lbs and training for my first marathon!”

Then reality sets in and you realize that you cannot possibly simultaneously sacrifice nicotine, alcohol, and calories without committing homicide, and training for a marathon is just way harder than you imagined.

Maybe reality is also your significant other sitting on the couch, smoking, sipping your favorite cocktail, eating ice cream and saying ‘come back to me, darling. It’s so nice and smooshy over here.’ So, you snuggle in and remember why you fell in love with all of those vices in the first place.

After all… slippers are a LOT more comfy than running shoes…

DANGER! Your resolution is in mortal peril!

The day your inner monologue begins to say “Eff this mess, it’s just not in me” is the day your resolution begins to erode. So, I humbly submit that you should consider setting a bar so low that you can stride right over it (thus giving your ego a little victory dance) every day.

New Years Day of 2012 found me at my peak weight. New Years Day of 2013 I was a whole new woman. But if you think that I started 2012 thinking “I’m going to lose 100 lbs this year” then you may have begun your New Years Eve partying a bit early.

When I started on my road to wellness, I only knew I had to get healthier. I knew the way I was living was going to kill me some day, and I was frightened. So, I started going on walks. I slowly backed away from carbs. I slowly eliminated processed foods. Little, manageable bit by little, manageable bit, I got stronger and healthier every day.

I’m pretty sure that if my resolution had been to transition from morbid obesity to fitness blogging in a year, I might not have made it.

Big goals are hard and most can’t be tackled all at once. But they CAN be tackled one bite and one step at a time.

So, my advice is to you as you contemplate the year to come is this: Dedicate 2014 to doing one small thing every day that makes you healthier. It can be anything. Have a salad instead of a burger and call your day a success. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, smoke 19 tomorrow. Take the stairs.

Just a bunch of one-at-a-time decisions, all strung together.

Just a bunch of one-at-a-time decisions, all strung together.

A fit lifestyle requires daily tending, so condition your brain first. Get used to thinking about your health every day, and do one little thing to help it along. And, when you have accomplished your one healthy choice, put a check mark on your calendar. Yes – I mean a physical check mark. Trust me – it’ll give you a rush to check off days of making yourself proud.

You might be surprised by what you’re capable of when you string 365 healthy little choices together.

Happy New Year, friends! May the year to come bring you every success.

Resolve to choose salad!

Resolve to choose salad!

Happy Pinning!

Guess what?

I started a Happy Exhaustion Pinterest account! I know. It’s a lot of excitement to process all at once. I’ll wait while you catch your breath.

I’ll be sharing everything from delicious, healthy recipes, to workouts worth trying, to my gym playlist and more. With my husband (the personal trainer) as my technical consultant, I will sift through what’s worthwhile vs. what is some straight up BS in the wilds of fitness on the interwebs.

Click here to follow me! The adventure continues!

All sorts of goodness.

All sorts of goodness.