Year of the Shark- February Recap

Ok, so before we get any further into March, I thought I had better hurry up and write my recap for February. This month flew by, as not only is it the shortest month of the year, but also one of the busiest in South Louisiana. While the rest of the country is tucked into their warm houses or busy shoveling snow from their driveways, we are wearing wigs, sequins, feathers, and glitter and taking to the streets to have a city wide party- it’s Mardi Gras, y’all.

So here is what the ginger hounds and I got up to while we were busy Sharking in February:

  1. Ruby went to her first parade. Two weekends before Mardi Gras there is a HUGE dog parade through the French Quarter. The parade is put on by the Mystic Krewe of Barkus, and even has a doggy King and Queen each year. This parade always draws huge crowds of dog lovers, and although we didn’t march in the parade this year, I thought it might be a good time to try Ruby out in the French Quarter (Pepper has been to the Quarter tons of times). Long story short, Ruby loved it. My former country-hound took to the big city life like a pig to mud, strutting down Canal Street like it was named after her, and singing “the song of her people” to an entire ferry-load of people on the way across the river. Pepper was also well-behaved- a good time was had by all!

2. Mardi Gras Day is always one of my favorite days of the year. This year the Mardi Gras gods shined down on the city and gave us great weather for Tuesday this year, as the days building up to Fat Tuesday itself were rainy and cold. My costume didn’t come together as I hoped this year, so it ended up being a last minute hodge-podge of other costume items that I threw together. My friend Katie and I were unicorns, and I ended up being the ‘dark’ unicorn to her light and cheery version. But don’t worry, there was still a ton of glitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Introducing Bruce! Yes, I bought a new car, it was time. So, Bruce is now the official Shark Mobile for the girls and I (hence the name). He’s a 2018 Volkswagon Tiguen and we love him already. Can’t wait for him to take us on some good adventures!

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4. We celebrated the one year anniversary of bringing Ruby home. She’s come a long way from the starving, forgotten hound dog she was a year ago.

 

 

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5. I got into Nurse Practioner School! No big deal… Actually it’s a huge deal, and I’m very excited about it. I definitely feel like all of my hard work in January paid off. I start courses in April, so I suppose I better sneak in a vacation or two before then!  I probably should have put this at the beginning of the post, but hey- I saved the best for last.  Here’s looking forward to March!

 

Year of the Shark- January Recap

A full month has passed since I declared 2018 The Year of the Shark time flies when you’re busy sharkin’. Looking back, I feel like I’ve actually accomplished a lot over the past month. Here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to.

I took the GRE. While working on grad school applications, I just decided to take the plunge and take the GRE so I would have scores if I need them. I signed up and gave myself a whopping six days of prep time to re-learn all of the high school algebra and SAT vocab that I haven’t used in 15 years. But I took it, I did well, and I was very happy with my results.

I passed my CEN. Apparently January was the month of test taking for me, because once I took the GRE, I started studying for my Emergency Nursing Certification.  Again, I didn’t give myself nearly enough prep time for the test, but I wanted to take it by the end of the month to hopefully include the certification on NP apps due at the beginning of February.  I studied feverishly for about a week, took the test, and passed- barely, but I passed! Phew! I’m off booze at the moment, so I indulged in a celebratory pizza in lieu of a cocktail, with my Mom.

Mom came to visit! It’s always a highlight of any month when Hazel is in town. Unfortunately, this time I was hunkered down studying for the CEN, but she kept me supplied with cups of tea while I trudged through page after page of the intricacies of emergency nursing. She also did some serious organizing, painting, yard clean up, and of course, spoiled the Ginger Hounds.

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I went to a last minute Mardi Gras Ball, which is always a fun time. A bunch of my friends were going and a last-minute ticket was offered to me, so I snagged it. My friend Diane even had an extra dress that just happened to fit me- it was meant to be!

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Terry, myself, and Jenn

 

 

Louisiana froze. Like, really froze. This is a big deal for us southern residents. We had freezing rain that left a solid inch of ice over everything, and then a pretty sprinkling of snow on top of that. Our temps stayed below freezing for about 48 hours, which has to be some kind of record for us, as usually if we get any kind of wintery precipitation, it is gone within the hour. Needless to say, this northern girl was loving it. Alas, although I fared well, it was not all fun and games for many, as freezing temps were accompanied by freezing (and busting!) pipes, school closures, road closures, and a citywide boil-water advisory for 3 days. The Ginger Hounds loved the cold weather and the crisp smells of winter, something they don’t get to experience too often.

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Ruby and Pepper in Louisiana snow

 

 

 

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Icicles!!!

 

 

 

Now looking forward to February, there is lots coming up. Mardi Gras is coming which means GLITTER, GLITTER, GLITTER! (Have you ever googled how to glitter your dog? Because I have…). NP applications will be submitted, hopefully I will figure out my triathlon schedule for the upcoming months, and I’m sure there will be some adventures with the Hounds.

Until then, keep sharking, my friends!

Year of the Shark

When I was a kid, I used to love going to the local Chinese restaurant and reading the back of the paper placemat that showed a diagram of the Chinese Zodiac. Beside each zodiac sign was a list of attributes assigned to each zodiac sign. Ox: dependable, hardworking, stubborn, intelligent, loving. Rabbit: stubborn, loving, hardworking, intelligent, dependable. Snake: intelligent, hardworking, loving, stubborn, dependable. You get the idea. Then they would list your best love matches- Pig + Goat (boring), Monkey + Rabbit (sounds like a magic show act), and Tiger + Dragon (now that is a bad-ass power couple!). Each zodiac sign comes around every 12 years making each new year The Year of the _______. This year I’m so excited that it’s finally the Year of the Shark!!

Yes, I know, there isn’t actually a shark in the Chinese Zodiac, and it is actually the Year of the Dog (which I love), but to me, it’s the Year of the Shark, I have declared it so. Why the Year of the Shark, you ask? Well I got my inspiration from one of the silly internet memes I saw on Facebook (Mr. Big posted) a month or so ago.

For some reason, I just loved it. January 1, 2018 was a Monday this year, which I felt made the meme all the more applicable as my inspiration for this new year. I pondered on what the attributes of the Shark zodiac sign might be if there really was one. Shark: strong, vulnerable, motivated, intense, spirited, and complex. I thought that seemed accurate.

As I continue to make some changes in my life and lifestyle this new year, I decided to forego resolutions (because, let’s be real, they are mostly bullshit) and just aim for a better outlook and presence in my life. For me, that means stop making excuses, stop settling for mediocrity, let go of apathy, set attainable goals, explore new expressions of myself, become comfortably uncomfortable as I stretch out of my safe zone, and allow my well-bring to be my main focus. Basically, be more sharky.

So that’s it. 2018 is going to be my Year of the Shark. Even though sharkin’ ain’t easy, it has to be done, and I’m ready to get to it.

Adventures in Exercise Class- Megaformer

Wow, this has been a busy week! Thanks to Class Pass I have been trying out different exercise classes around town which has been fun, but also surprisingly challenging (read my review of Barre Class here). This week, my friend Natalie suggested that we try a Megaformer class at a swanky fitness studio in the posh part of town. Admittedly, I should have done a little more research into what I was getting into with this one. I knew it was a strength/ toning class, but I thought it was a floor class, with lots of squats and push-ups and stuff. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

The Megaformer class basically a reformer pilates class on steroids. Not knowing what a reformer class was, I was at a disadvantage from the start. For anyone else who doesn’t know, the reformer pilates is the pilates that is done on a machine, with parts of it that slide back and forth and resistance that can be adjusted depending on the exercise being performed. It is the kind of machine I imagine Gwyneth Paltrow using, while she sips green juice and thinks about topics for her next GOOP article, not something I ever imagined I would be using.

I arrived at the studio the recommended 15 minutes prior to the start of class and met up with Natalie. A very trendy-looking man checked me in and told me my class was on the second floor. “Your classroom is the one with the black machines,” he explained, “there is a class still in there now, but you are welcome to head in once they finish up.” The mention of machines didn’t really register to me as he was giving instructions, so without any further questions I thanked him and trotted off to find the restroom before class began. I realized as I entered the restroom that I was certainly not in my usually mid-level gym anymore, as this restroom was fancier than pretty much any spa I’d ever been to. Monogrammed towels, bowls of breath mints, free samples of body products that I definitely couldn’t afford normally, complimentary hair ties, etc. I immediately felt slightly self conscious in my Wal-mart off-brand leggings and my “No Pain, No Champagne” tank top. I should have at least thrown on some Lululemon to blend in.

Natalie and I made our way upstairs to wait for our class. We chit-chatted with a couple other ladies outside the room, explaining we were new, and making small talk. Soon enough, it was time to start, and I eagerly entered the room, excited to take on this new, fun class. When I walked into the room, however, I was taken aback when I saw rows of black, flat machines that looking eerily like the medieval torture machines used to stretch people. It basically consisted of a large flat surface, with four posts at each end with a little bench between each pair of posts (not dissimilar to a bed frame). Then there were pulleys with handles, which I assumed would be used for arm movements and knobs that were used to control various aspects of resistance.

I warily put my water bottle down at the machine next to Natalie’s and listened to the instructor giving directions. It seemed we were supposed to begin of all fours (ok, I can do that), get a good grip onto the handles (ok, done), and then do some cat-cow movements as a warm up (ok, easy enough, here I go- HOLY SHIT IT’S MOVING!). I would very rapidly come to discover that the “moving” carriage aspect of this table-like surface was what every exercise was based around, and, in summary, it sucked!

Within two minutes I determined that this contraption was indeed a descendant from the medieval torture devices it resembled, and I was cursing its very existence. I persevered, however. I dug deep, I gritted my teeth, and even though my legs were shaking and my thighs were on fire, I kept going. I glanced at my watch, thinking surely this class must be almost over, but alas, I was only 7 minutes in; 43 long, painful minutes left.

I can’t really tell you what happened for the rest of class, as I’m fairly sure I blacked out (ok, not really, but it was so horrible I don’t want to remember). I know at one point I couldn’t hold a move any longer and just starting sliding backwards on the moveable carriage, to the point where Natalie had to grab my arm to stop me rolling all the way wrong end of the machine. There were a few occasions where my legs just stopped moving and I’d be stuck in some twisty position I couldn’t get out of, and there were multiple times when the carriage got away from me and I ended up splayed out, hands and feet in four different directions like those cartoons of newborn giraffes.

By the end of class I was beaten. As we departed the torture chamber classroom one of the ladies said to us, “Wasn’t it great!? The first time is always really hard, but then you get addicted to it.” False, I thought to myself as I filled my water bottle with complimentary lemon-mint-infused-alkaline-Antarctic dessert-oasis water from the dispenser, I’ll never be back! Well… maybe next week. But only because this free water is so damn tasty!

To Recap:

Good: One hell of a workout! Hits so many muscles that I don’t hit in my normal routines, and I felt it for days afterwards. A very well-balanced workout, easy to perform (once you get the hang of it), and able to be modified if need be.

Bad: I was sore for days!! This would be an expensive class to do regularly, but a good one to add in to a class pass rotation.

Bottom Line: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would go back. The workout was too good to not try it at least one more time. I probably would skip it during the height of triathlon training, though.

Adventures in Exercise Class- Barre Class

I’ve recently decided to start trying different exercise classes in an attempt to diversify my workout routine. I signed up for Class Pass which is allowing me to try all kinds of interesting classes, some that I’ve never even heard of, without breaking the bank. I first dabbled in some yoga, and am now venturing further into the world of exercise classes. As an added bonus, I’ve realized that exercise classes make for good friend dates, which means I have a chance to visit with my friends and they provide me some moral support while I suffer through explore new exercise routines.

My friend Natalie suggested that we try a Barre class. She had tried a pilates class that she liked at a studio that also offered barre classes. and as the studio was on our Class Pass list, we decided to try it out. I had heard of barre classes, but never really paid much attention to them, so I was fairly unfamiliar with what they were about. I knew that they were often based on a lot of small, specific muscle movements to help with toning and muscle strength. Honestly, it didn’t sound that hard, especially because my legs are super strong from triathlon training, right? Spoiler alert: I was wrong. Very wrong.

The class was in a really cute studio with lots of natural light and mirrors and a ballet bar that ran all the way around the studio. It is a shoe-less class, but requires the use of “grippy socks”. I briefly debated on bringing a pair of yellow hospital socks with rubber treads on the bottom (the kind we use to indicate that a patient is considered a fall risk), but I decided to make a good impression so I bought a pair of $20 socks from the studio instead. (They are comfy, but seriously, not $20 comfy).

Natalie and I found our spots along the bar and waited for the instructor to arrive. Upon arrival, the instructor plugged in her iPod and fired up a fun, fast-tempo playlist- I was digging it. As we lined up in the middle of the studio to start our warm-up, I was pumped and ready to go.

“First position,” directed the instructor, as she took her place in front of us. Huh? I thought. I was unfamiliar with whatever this “position” was she was referring to. I glanced at Natalie, who positioned herself with her heels together and toes pointing slightly outwards. Ah-ha, I thought, This must be some kind of ballet reference. I can do this. We squatted up and down a few times like this, we added in some arm movements, so far so good. “And right foot, second position, and first, and second, and first,” chanted the instructor. Whoa, whoa, whoa, WHAT? I’d barely mastered first position and now we were just jumping into second position without warning? I fumbled my way back and forth through the side-squat situation know as “second position”, but I definitely felt like my arms were not doing the open-close move the way everyone else’s was. No big deal, though, I was still hanging in there.

“Alright ladies, and now right foot curtsy” sang the instructor. What the hell is this? Seriously? Curtsy? I glanced around the room trying to figured out what I was supposed to be doing while still trying to bop up and down in time. It’s a lunge! I deduced. It’s literally a mother-f’ing lunge! Why can’t they just call it that?! So I lunged away, mostly keeping in time with the beat, but by this time my arms had gone completely rogue and I assumed I looked a bit like those inflatable used-car lot blow up dancing guys. Whatever, at least I was doing it.

Half way through class we moved to our spots along the bar. It was explained that the bar was really only meant for slight stabilization, and one was supposed to only lightly place their hand onto said bar for a bit of balance. Bullshit. Two minutes in to the bar portion of the class I was white-knuckling that bar like it was nobody’s business. We were in some hellish curtsy move where we only stood on our tiptoes and the instructor kept telling us to “pulse”. My legs were burning and shaking and I was fairly sure the bar was the only thing keeping my upright at that moment in time.

The rest of the class pretty much continued in this manner. I muddled my way through like a three-legged baby rhino in a ballet class. It was brutal. But, did I get a good workout? Oh yeah! Was a sore for the next three days? Definitely! Would I do it again? Let’s not get crazy.

After class Natalie and I went for coffee. We were both sore and felt like we deserved a half-fat-double-shot-foamy-frappe-latte-caffeinated creation. When we sat down for our post-class debrief Natalie casually asked if I’d ever taken a ballet class before (like most people apparently do in their childhood). When I told her I hadn’t she chuckled and nodded. Apparently I didn’t blend is as well as I thought, even with the fancy studio socks…

To recap:

Good: Great strength training, especially for legs and abs. Lots of balance and very specific movements to really fire up the muscles.

Bad: Helps if you have some basic coordination…. or know ballet… or both.

Bottom line: Good workout. I’m not sure I would do it again because I think there are similar workouts that would suit me better, but I would recommend it to others for sure. Would also try a pilates class at the same studio.

Adventures in Exercise Class- Hot Yoga

There are some big changes happening over here in my world which we are pretty excited about.  There are a number of good things going on, but for now I want to tell you about some new exercise classes I’ve been trying   I still love my triathlons, but I felt like I needed to shake things up a bit in the off-season and try some of these interesting exercise fads I keep reading about.

One of the doctors at work introduced me to the app Class Pass, which has been key in facilitating my exercise class adventures.  Basically, Class Pass allows you to try a wide variety of exercise classes at participating facilities in your area.  Classes range from yoga to boot camps to spinning to dance to aerial pilates- there is something for everyone.  There is a fee to join Class Pass, but the cost per class ends up being much cheaper than paying the drop in fee at different gyms and studios.   My package worked out to $7 a class, which is definitely worth it.

For my first class, I decided to try a hot yoga class.  I’ve never taken a real yoga class before (I’ve only tried following online videos once or twice), but I’ve been wanting to try one for a while now.  The idea of hot yoga has always intrigued me.  Why so hot?  Will it make me extra stretchy?  Will I feel relaxed afterwards?  Will I pass out?  After some googling of different studio options, I decided to take the yoga plunge and signed up for a mid-morning hot yoga class.  I couldn’t wait.

When I arrived, the instructor checked me in and was very helpful.  I explained that not only was I new to hot yoga, but new to yoga in general, and she assured me she’d help me out as we went along.  She showed me where to put me things and pointed in the direction of the yoga room.  I trotted off down the hallway, barefoot, ready to get my yoga on.

When I entered the room it was indeed hot.  Like, 105 F.  I took cues from the other people already in the room, unrolled my mat in a spot at the back of the class, and laid down on my back.  Very relaxing.  The instructor came in a few minutes later and we progressed through 90 minutes of very hot, very sweaty moves.

I didn’t find the class overly difficult, but the heat did get to me a couple of times, especially when going from bending to standing (in the medical world we call that orthostatic hypotension).  I felt like I got a really good stretch, I loved the full body sweat, and my muscles felt really limber and relaxed afterwards.  It kind of left me with that post-massage feeling.  However, I wasn’t completely sold.  I felt like it was lacking a little bit of pizzazz for me and I needed something more, although I wasn’t really sure what exactly that was.  I liked it enough to keep exploring different yoga options as I definitely think that yoga is going to be very helpful for my balance, strength, and flexibility.

To Recap:

Good: Loved the heat and the sweat, great stretch.  I felt relaxed afterwards.

Bad: It felt a little “meh”.  I needed a but more excitement

Bottomline:  I enjoyed it and would do it again on occasion, but I wouldn’t make it part of my regular exercise routine.

(Since this yoga class, I have actually been frequenting a power yoga studio for a month trial and I am loving it.  I think I found the extra pizzazz I needed!  More on that later….)

Impending Doom?

I am currently 20 days away from my second Ironman 70.3 and that familiar pre-race feeling of impending doom is started to set in.

There’s no way I can swim that far, especially if the race isn’t wetsuit legal.  I’m definitely going to get eaten by a shark.  I will be forever lost at sea.  I don’t even know if the mermaids will save me.

If I somehow survive swimming the high seas, then the bike portion will definitely do me in.  Our ride takes us out towards Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, which is Cajun for Bayou Savage- Training Center for Animals that Want to Kill Triathletes.   There are alligators and snakes and bears and bobcats.  And bears that throw snakes like spears while riding alligators.   And bandana-clad bobcats that leap out from behind bushes, mug you, and steal your bike.   It’s basically Jumangi- Triathlon Edition.

If I emerge from the wilds of the Louisiana Swamp alive, I then have tackle a 13.1 mile run through Suburbia.  This will likely be the most challenging portion of the race by far, as the route is littered with spectators, creatures of judgment and distraction.  Oh, you think you’re so cute don’t you Miss Middle-Class Housewife with your perfectly put together outfit and matching 2.5 children.  Sorry that I look like a half-drowned moose lumbering down you street, but I just fought a snake-wielding bear!  And what’s that to my left?  A PUPPY!?!  No, Heather, no, don’t look directly into its soft brown eyes, that’s how they suck you in.  And just when I think I’m safe, the finish line is a mere two miles away, I round the final bend and there they are- shirtless college boys handing out beer!  Oh the humanity!

Basically, there is no way for me to survive this race.  I should probably give up now, and spend my Sunday on the couch watching football like sensible people.  But, alas, I have already paid the money, so I might as well give it a go.  Plus, I’ve never seen a snake-spear in real life before!