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.

snapchat-16988555351508809130.jpg

 

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!

img_20180113_190929_3972048408049.jpg

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.

20180117_094707783778446.jpg

Ruby and Pepper in Louisiana snow

 

 

 

img_20180117_125611_9041123392740.jpg

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.

Why Walk? Part 2

This weekend I posted about the importance of walking your dogs.  Most of us don’t live in the woods or on large parcels of land where our dogs have the ability to roam around all day.  Most of our dogs, like their owners, live fairly sedentary lifestyles in comparison to their ancestors.  Consequently, I believe that walking your dog is the single most important thing you can do for their health.  You can read my thoughts on the matter here.

However, today I want to talk about why walking your dog is good for you, not just your best four-legged friend.

Part 2:  The Human Benefits of Walking

1. Physical exercise:  This should be the most obvious reason that walking your dog is good for you.  The CDC, American Heart Association, and Mayo Clinic all recommend that an average adult between the ages of 18 and 64 performs 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (walking) each week.  150 minutes might sound like a lot, but when it is broken up over 7 days, it is a little over 20 minutes a day.  The CDC even specifically states that:

“10 minutes at a time is fine. We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Not only is it best to spread your activity out during the week, but you can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. As long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.”

Perfect!   That means if you take your dog out for 10 minutes before work, and 10 minutes when you get home you have met your daily quota.  If you want to get really fancy, the CDC recommends 500 minutes of exercise a week for greater health benefits, but that might be a nice goal to build up to if you’re just starting off.  To read more about recommended exercise levels, click on the hyperlinks above to visit the pages of different organizations.

The real questions is why is exercise important?   Here are just a few benefits of regular exercise:

  • Strengthening your cardiovascular system:  Moderate aerobic exercise helps to strengthen heart muscle.  This causes an increased stroke volume (more blood pumped per beat) which means your heart doesn’t work as hard to pump the same amount of blood.  Walking also helps to lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
  • Increasing muscle mass and tone:  You will be amazed at how much muscle mass and tone you can gain just from walking.  Your muscles support your joints and bones and helps to prevent injury.  Your muscles also store glycogen (energy), and the more muscle you have, the more glycogen that can be stored which means less muscle fatigue.  Also, your muscles are where energy is broken down in your body, so when you increase the amount of muscle in your body, you are also increasing your metabolism.
  • Strengthening bones and joints:  Walking is a great exercise for your bones because it is fairly low-impact, but still allows for some wear and tear on your bones and joints.  This normal wear and tear actually causes microscopic breaks in your bones that special cells called osteoblasts are constantly repairing.  Luckily for us, osteoblasts are really good at their jobs, and they actually repair our bones to be stronger than they were originally.  Women, especially, require regular weight-bearing exercise to keep their bones strong and help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Increased endurance: The combination of increased muscle mass, bone density, and cardiovascular output increases your overall endurance.  You will have more energy and won’t become tired as easily when performing daily tasks.  You might even find yourself wanting to get more things accomplished because you have the energy and ability to.

There are hundreds of other reasons that exercise is important for our bodies.  It helps to regular blood sugar, moderates lipid (fat) levels, and strengthens the respiratory system.  The bottom line is that physical exercise benefits every system in your body one way or another.  It’s basically a wonder drug!

2. Mental stimulation:  Whenever I think about the mental benefits of exercise, I think of the movie Legally Blonde.  Elle, the “ditsy” blonde protagonist, is trying to prove in court that a famous exercise instructor didn’t kill her husband.  Although Elle’s argument may have been overly simplistic (and she ends up proving her case based on the chemistry of perming hair….), she does have one solid quote that I love.  Elle states, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” (video clip)

Elle is correct that exercise does release chemicals known as endorphins in your brain which cause an increased feeling of happiness.  These chemicals are responsible for the “runner’s high” phenomenon and have also been show to reduce symptoms of depression.  Some other mental benefits to walking are:

  • Stress release:  Not only does going for a walk give you that feeling of ‘clearing your head’, it also has a physiological response to stress.  When you exercise your body releases a chemical called norepinephrine, which helps the brain regulate the response to stress.  Although we may opt for a glass of wine and a bath after a particularly frustrating day, a 20 minute walk will actually do you more good.
  • Regulate sleep patterns: Not only will you be more physically tired, but exercising a few hours before bed also helps to shut your brain off at night.  This can help eliminate tossing and turning, and result in a more worthwhile night’s sleep.
  • Stimulate thought and creativity: I personally get all of my best thinking done while I’m out walking with the dogs.  When I’m not trying to stop them from climbing a tree or jumping in the river, I have a chunk of distraction-free time to think about strategies for accomplishing different tasks ahead of me, or coming up with new ideas of things to try (such as “I should start a blog…”).  It is rare nowadays that we are ever really distraction free without computers, phones, or television to do some solid thinking.  Walking provides us that time.

3.  Vitamin D:  The sun has been getting a bit of a bad wrap recently, and as a redhead I know why- it burns!  The studies detailing the dangers of sunburns are plentiful, and why allowing ourselves to get sunburned is a very bad idea, getting low amounts of sun exposure each day is a very good idea.  When our skin is in the presence of UV light, it produces Vitamin D, which is essential for many physiological process.  Vitamin D allows our bodies to absorb calcium, which is needed for bone growth, muscle function, and numerous other tasks.   You can read in detail about Vitamin D here at the National Institute of Health website, but my non-medical opinion is that 20 minutes a day of morning or evening sun exposure will do much more good than harm.  Plus, it gives you the excuse to buy a cute sun hat.

4. Sweat:  Sweat also tends to get a bad wrap in society, but I have to say I love sweat!  The skin is one of the major detoxifying organs in your body and sweat is the vessel of detoxification.  Your sweat is made up of mostly water, but also contains minerals and metabolic waste, such as urea and lactic acid, that your body produces during day to day functions.  Sweat is the quickest and easiest way to clear this metabolic junk out of your body.  Sweat is also great for your pores if you are prone to acne, as it helps to wash away the bacteria and other substances that causes inflammation of your sebaceous glands.  And yes, you may be a tad stinky after a good, long sweat, but it’s nothing a quick shower cant’ fix!

5. Confidence:  Once you and your dog get into the walking routine you will find that your confidence grows.  Not only will you have learned which routes to take to avoid a confrontation with that pesky neighborhood cat, but you may begin to see some of the same people out and about.  After a while they will give you those looks of, “Wow, what a great dog owner they must be!” or, “I wish I looked that cool when I walked my dog.”  There is also my personal favorite of being told, “Wow, what a gorgeous/handsome/cool looking dog you have!” to which I always answer, “Oh, thanks so much,” and Oswald is sure to carry his head and tail a little higher.

6.  Family bonding:  I’m a big fan of family dog walks in our house.  I have to admit that no one else seems to be as excited about them as I am, but I drag them out with me on a weekend morning anyway.  Although I am met with many grumblings as I shove my lovelies out of the house, we always have a nice time once we are out walking.  It allows us to all chat together, laugh at the dogs, and get some fresh air.

7.  You dog will love you:  This is the best reason, in my opinion.  Your dog will be eternally grateful because they love their walks so much.  It gives them time to hang out with you and do something they love, which is really all any dog wants.  So do your dog a favor and give them 20 minutes a day of your time.  Trust me, after two weeks you’ll be craving your walks!

Look for Part 3 coming tomorrow about helpful supplies that make walking with your dogs much easier.  I will also discuss my quest to bring back the “bum bag”, which my boyfriend is less than enthused about!

Happy Trails!

This post is Oswald approved.

This post is Oswald approved.