Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Balance of Challenge and Reward, 13 weeks out

I won't be the first to admit that shopping at Whole Foods really makes me feel good; but I am sure I am not the last either. There is something about carrying a reusable bag, walking through the doors to fresh produce of vibrant colors and varieties, and the smell of lavender an aisle over that makes it my happy place. I do not identify with the labels of; "hipster," "hippy," "vegan or vegetarian," "gluten free," "paleo," or any other movements, but this does not mean I do not believe in some aspects of each. Take "hipsters" for instance; known for their thick framed Ray Ban-like glasses, flannel shirts, cold brewed coffee, green drink, craft beers, and kale. They are known to have prestigious attitudes and too cool for mainstream ideals; think of the show Portlandia if you are familiar with the show which premiered back in 2011. But I too wear flannel shirts, own a pair of very "hipster-like" glasses, love anything served in a Mason jar, or artisanal. It is less about big brand labels and more about homemade things, healthy eating, local manufacturers and farm fresh. But why does it make me feel better mentally when I purchase these such items? Are dietary restrictions just in your mind, or is our generation becoming so sensitive that we can no longer process the foods like wheat, meat, and dairy the way our ancestors did a hundred years ago? I haven't taken my lifestyle to this extreme (and hope never to) but I do believe in buying organic or local meat, eggs, and vegetables when I can. The summertime brings farmers markets and this is another one of my favorite places to spend my time, I feel better as a person to partake in the community; am I getting caught up in the social hype? One of the things I would implement into my lifestyle if I won the lottery would surely be shopping at Whole Foods and local marts for all of my organic and trendy grocery items. And that's just it, not everyone shops at stores like Whole Foods because of the pricing of the items within the store that you can get at SAM's club for a fraction of the cost. It is all about priorities, to me; it is important with some things, when others don't care for the quality of their food and that is fine too. I bring this all up because this Monday I started my week with a nice trip to Whole Foods to pick up some more nut butter. Sure SAM's club carries an almond butter (we own it) but honestly it is not nearly as good as Barney Butter; and I'm not sure anything is. For anyone that knows me, I love peanut butter; and that is an understatement. So not being able to dip a spoon into a jar of Skippy creamy peanut butter and sit and relish in it really had me feeling deprived; until I met the smooth almond butter by Barney Butter. It has the same texture and consistency of peanut butter, and the taste is as satisfying. You cannot however get cashew butter, sun flower seed butter, or Justin's peanut butter at your local Stop & Shop or SAM's Club and this is what brought me to Whole Foods. The variety, being different, and out of the ordinary is what gets me. Not to mention the design on labels that goes into smaller more pretentious brands than the bigger named ones; and let's face it people I am a graphic designer. To the eye, how something looks plays a big roll in purchasing (but not always; I still buy Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, and let's face it that label is hideous!) I ended my shopping trip at the Vitamin Shoppe to pick up two jars of Muscle Butter; one birthday cake flavored and the other glazed donut. Both are cashew coconut based with 10g of Whey Protein Isolate per serving! This however is just for special occasions such as my birthday when I will top my egg white and oatmeal waffle (or pancake) with the birthday cake butter which even comes with sprinkles! After a quick staged photoshoot with my newfound loves, I had team training with Darian. Mondays are for chest and biceps and today was low rep, heavy weight day; getting a great workout as always. Since my change last week of calorie increase and cardio decrease; Carmen wanted to measure my body fat during posing. We have been doing one on one posing for an hour each Tuesday; and when I arrived I shivered as I stripped down to a bikini and heels. Measurements only took a couple minutes, and we were on to my front pose, transitions, and my overall whole routine. This week was the first week I was discouraged at posing; thinking to myself, "can I really pull this off?" I felt like crap mentally, that I am not ready for this, and wonder if I even will be. I couldn't get my body to do what my mind or Carmen was telling it to, I looked awkward and frustrated. Carmen makes everything look so easy which at times is even worse for my already awkwardness. Today she made the comment that I rather play in the mud, and that I have a girly body but an not girly. Which in all fairness is completely true, but it is still harsh to hear when you are struggling with something you want so bad that doesn't come naturally. How do you learn to be more girly and comfortable in your body? I'll let you know if and when I ever find out! I left the gym with a lot on my mind and headed to SAM's club to pick up the usual; lemons, egg whites, chicken, asparagus, green beans, sweet potatoes and salad ingredients. I had to prep some food for the week and I had to do it fast before team training that evening and then work directly after. I came home to get all of my meals prepped for the night at work and couldn't get posing off my mind. I set my phone up in the living room and decided to video myself doing my routine so I can see the areas I need to work on. It took a couple tries, but below is a video linked of my routine; and by the end of filming I was slightly more confident in my journey. I immediately sent the video to Carmen and Seven Lemons; Carmen expressed her excitement on the progress, and Seven Lemons agreed that she too feels like a robot and un-natural which makes two of us. A little after 3:00; I laid down for a nap a to get in a half hour to 45 minutes of rejuvenation before training and bartending. I've come to learn that naps are my best friend, and essential to balancing this interesting new schedule I am on. Tuesdays are for legs and butts and I had to cut my session short since we were running late and it was already 7:00; I had an hour to shower, get ready for work, and eat (did I mention how much I hate being rushed and running around?) I drank my pre-made protein shake in the car on the way home, showered, put my hair up in a bun and tossed on my glasses while in uniform. Tuesday nights have me loving the bar, it is the beginning of my week so I am still with a fresh mindset; X and I work well together, it's never very busy, and I get to actually talk with the regulars, and businessmen in Hartford this week. I ended the night talking with a younger guy here on business from New York City, he was staying at the hotel attached but not affiliated; and we exchanged things about our lives. He asked questions all about the Appalachian Trail, and told me about his wife and two year old son (up until this point I thought he was just flirting with me.) He was a nice guy though, and I didn't mind pouring him beers in-between cleaning the bar and putting up all the bar seats. As he left, he asked; "What was your trail name again?" I replied, "Cheeky Chi." He said, "Have a great night Cheeky Chi." And as I turned to smile and wish him the same, I noticed he had put up the two chairs I had left down on either side of his as he walked out of the bar. This restores my faith in humanity, that there are genuine nice people among the sea of overly stressed, overworked, and unhappy individuals in this society we have built. The following morning had me checking out my dehydrated and fasted body from the night and snapping a few photos of my appearing flexing abs (they won't be visible in an hour, but this goes to show they are there and forming.) Today was cleaning day, and the downstairs was on the agenda; I was filled with optimism and ready to tackle the cleaning (unlike my breakdown last week.) I preformed my morning ritual of lemon water, Metamucil cranberry water, an array of supplements/vitamins, tea making for my water bottles throughout the day, and my egg white oatmeal breakfast before getting started. Two hours after eating, I checked my body fat percentage with an electronic handheld body fat caliper. I set the setting to athlete and received the number, 17.5% body fat and my BMI (body mass index) being 20.5. I planned to calculate it a few more times throughout the week to see if anything fluctuates and what the median number seems to be. I finished downstairs and felt good about the day, I still had a lot planned for after and those were the things I was looking forward to. I had my weekly massage with John from 3:00-5:00 which was less provocative stretching, and more focussed on my right shoulder which has been bothering me at times lifting, as well as even some relaxation which put me to sleep for awhile; always appreciated. Followed by a workout session with Padraic at the Edge Fitness, which lead me to meeting another influential individual now in my life; Mike. Padraic met Mike through the fitness industry since they both practice boxing, workout at the Edge, and are affiliated with Iron Will Fitness in one way or another. The three of us worked back which I find is left out of my team training days so I try to get a decent workout in on Wednesdays for it. We warmed up with pull-ups; which Padraic is the king of and apparently I am the Princess since he lent me a knee to even get up to the climbing holds. I am still working on my assisted pull-ups with the goal of being able to do them by myself one day. For now, I really appreciate the help of Padraic for the moral and physical support behind them. You can see some videos of our workout below, but the guys had somewhere to be; so as they went to the locker room to change, I hopped on a lat pulldown machine to get in a few more assisted machine workouts. The bar is too high for me, being 5'2" and all so I have to stand on the seat to grab the bar and pull down before sitting. Padraic and Mike walked up on my last set and Padraic helped me push through the last two reps. I stood and talked with them for a minute before they departed and I moved on to working my rear delts. Shortly after I jumped on the Stairmaster for 20 minutes and then headed next door to SAM's club once again (we ran out of paper towels when I finished cleaning.) It was a quick trip, and before I knew it I was home, showered, and relaxing for the remaining of "my Sunday night." I made a protein shake and really didn't want to walk downstairs to get a whisk or fork so I decided to stir it with my Gerber hiking knife, typical. The remainder of the evening I texted with Mike about an amazing movement called "IR4" meaning I Run For which is a way to inspire those who cannot physically run or participate in such physical activities. Through I Run For Michael he runs/worksout for a 3 year old boy who has a developmental disorder, which basically means he dedicates all of his races to him and sends his mother photos and medals and basically is just someone there to talk to. This had me even more inspired and wanting to join as well, he said Padraic has been on the waiting list to be matched for some time now, so it's not like I can just decide I want to do it today, and have someone matched up tomorrow. We also talked about the various obstacle races he participates in such as Tough Mudder, Battlefrog, GoRuck, etc. which had me even more excited since I've thought of the idea of participating in the challenge at some point in my life; he basically said we are doing them together this summer! I really am grateful for the diverse inspiring individuals my fitness journey has brought me thus far, and re-kindling old ones! A friend of mine from back in high school reached out to me about my fitness and we planned to workout together on Friday to catch up, it truly is important to surround yourself with people with like-minded goals. Thursday morning had me baking sweet potatoes, and cooking ground chicken and veggies, laundry, and a few other chores before an impromptu hike with Padraic at the Manchester reservoir. It was a nice day, and an even better location (I am always trying to find new places to hike and this one has my approval.) He was wearing his weighted vest, and we just spent the afternoon exploring and talking while enjoying this spring weather we have been having recently in Connecticut. The hike really reminded me how much I love being outdoors, and how much I missed the trail. I went home to take a nap, and then head into team training with Carmen which is an hour earlier on Thursdays. We focussed on shoulders and personally I think this is my biggest weakness right now aesthetically, I need to build as much as I can since I didn't have much of a spread to begin with. Thankfully my shoulder has been feeling better and nothing tonight bothered it. Thursday nights are karaoke at the bar so that is always a good time; it can get quite busy at times which can be overwhelming, but the plus side is good music to sing along to. Tonight it would be X, Matt, and I; overall it was a good night, the song choices weren't as great as the picks last week but all is forgiven. After Matt left, X and I handled the bar until after karaoke came to an end and X transitioned to the other side of the bar to hang out with Sam and Sonya who are regulars. The four of us took shots and they got a kick out of my disgusted face after shooting back a double shot of water. X stayed until the end of the night to show me how to closeout and figure out tip distribution so I wouldn't have to wait on Dorothy every night. It was super simple since we all had the same hours, but either way I think I understood it from here on out. With the hike and working as a bartender, I had 20,000 steps today, that is on average the step goal of two days for the average person! It was a long tiring day, but I felt comfortable with the outcome; that is until I tried to go to sleep. I lay in bed tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, and my best to get to sleep, but I can't stop my mind and it is keeping me awake. I am thinking about the bar, I am thinking about working out and IR4, the obstacle races, and other random things. I decided to put on some nature mediation music on my Pandora to help relax my mind; but after it shutting off due to it being on a 45 minute timer, I next tried country music which is mellow enough to fall asleep to but also I can sing which usually helps me take my mind off things and fall asleep; this too didn't work. It was finally around 5:00am before I was able to drift off to sleep, thankfully I didn't have to clean my whole house tomorrow but only the upstairs; otherwise I definitely would have been crying in the morning. I did however text Ashley (my friend I was supposed to workout with) to reschedule since I knew I wouldn't be able to handle that before work on a few hours of sleep. Thankfully she understood and we planned for next Friday instead. I cleaned the upstairs which took a little over an hour to finish, cooked up a bunch of chicken, and tried to take a nap until I realized it was 3:45; I still had to shower, and get gas before getting to work for 5:00. Seems I would be napping less, and more so laying down with my eyes closed for 15 minutes. Friday night would be the first night I felt comfortable and confident at the bar. X and Natalie were there when I arrived which I thought was weird since normally it was just X and I, but everything went smoothly. X ended up leaving around 10:00 and Natalie shortly after and I was perfectly fine with that. Though Natalie did end up coming back for a drink since her friend bailed on her plans to go out. I closed myself, the tips were the highest they've been since I've worked there, and I had no issues figuring it all out. I did get held up for awhile talking with Mickey and a little with V the owner but that was fine by me. Mickey grilled me up some chicken to take home since I hadn't eaten my last meal yet; I had my cooked spinach and chickpeas ready but needed some protein. Mickey calls it my healthy food; whenever it is ready he tells me or one of the girls, "tell Ashlee her healthy food is up." He always insists he can make me some asparagus or something to go with it too, but I always turn him down just accepting the perfectly grilled chicken. I ate it on my ride home and got in bed around 4:00am, surely I'd be able to sleep tonight right? Wrong. I was up until 7:00am, yes; some people were getting up to go to work in my house before I had officially gone to bed. It was frustrating and pathetic and all I wanted to do was sleep; something had to be done about this. I would end up getting sick, run down, short tempered, and not building muscle like I should be if I don't get an adequate amount of sleep. As frustrating as it was, I accepted it; and eventually sometime around 7:00am fell asleep until waking up around 12:30pm to get up and eat "breakfast," wow my meal schedule is wack! I planned to meet Padraic at the gym for some crossfit training and Mike joined us as well, we did a 9 minute kettlebell warm up routine that for me consisted of 3 kettlebell squats, 6 overhead swings, and 9 burpees; on repeat for 9 minutes! My oatmeal was sitting heavy that's for sure, but I made it through and you can see a short clip of the squats and swings below. We did some other team drills before we spotted Darian who was in by himself to work biceps, talked with him for a couple minutes, and then the guys were off to change and I decided to do a set of tricep pull-downs, this is where I ended my set pulling more than my body weight! I headed home to shower, get ready for work, and before I knew it I was back at the grind; though when I walked in I saw Natalie behind the bar. X always closes Saturdays and I usually stay until 9:00, she told me I wasn't on the schedule that she was closing and X would be in at 6:00. How odd, one I don't even know where the schedule is since I just am replacing Anthony's hours and they know that, and two I just told her we'll see what happens when X gets here. I wouldn't mind getting out early that's for sure; I had plans to go see Mike's friends band play at All Stars after and getting out earlier than 9:00 wouldn't be the worst thing to happen. Needless to say, the bar was pretty slow for the three of us; we all stayed on, X seemed hungover which had him snapping at us to clean and stay busy, and practically all of the servers quit last night. Rapidly this slow me going home Saturday night turned into a shit show; and it only got worse as the night progressed. Thankfully though the servers slowly trickled back in to their jobs, but X ended up leaving around 9:00 before the DJ even got there; you know the time I was supposed to leave. When he told me I could leave after 10:00 I responded that I had somewhere to be; he quickly snapped saying, "you really shouldn't plan things on the nights you are working just incase." (excuse me, but I wasn't on the schedule tonight right? No, didn't think so, and; for the past two weeks I've worked with you until 9:00 and then you close.) I quickly snapped back, "I have a wake to go to, sorry that shit wasn't planned." Mind you he was ducking out early on a night that he was scheduled and that was supposed to be alright? I don't deal well with hypocrites and that is why my harsh response came flowing out of my mouth, but it was valid. A table of over $100 on their tab ended up getting voided out by the owner since one way or another half of their meals came out, and the other half never did; meaning we lost a potential higher tip table. V pulled me aside asking if we could talk later about me taking on more responsibility since some changes may be happening with the employees hired; already being overwhelmed with what I've got going on and four nights at the bar, I thanked him but had to decline letting him know I had a photography business and graphic design (which he seemed intrigued by so maybe he needs some work done!) The bar was starting to fill up as the DJ brought a different kind of crowd in, as the minutes grew closer to 10:00 I pulled V aside letting him know the situation I was in. That I had a wake to go to in the morning and was supposed to leave an hour ago; he didn't seem upset and was understanding. I let him know that I wasn't on the schedule for some reason but always have worked Saturdays until 9:00 so I stayed. He asked that I call X and get him to come back in until 12:00, I knew he wouldn't pick up for my call; but I called anyways resulting in me leaving a voicemail. Kaitlyn one of the servers texted him; and his response was; "I left. I told them I was leaving." So basically he purposely ignored my call, and couldn't give two shits about our current situation. I told her to show V, she did and he said oh that's nice. Basically Kaitlyn had to cover as a second bartender that doesn't know how to bartend the same way she had to last week with me when X walked out. I left and prayed everything would be okay there, arriving at All Stars an hour late, and a band short. I had missed his friend's band play, I apologized and we waited for the main band to come on; an 80's cover band. Mike dragged me to the front row and we danced, jumped around, and got featured on plenty of Facebook videos of the night; it was a good time and I am glad I went. Still bummed I missed his friend's band though. I came home to eat some tuna fish, chickpeas, and a spoonful of almond butter while watching Scandal I had recorded before bed. Tonight I would be taking half of a melatonin pill to ensure I get some sleep; I have never taken it before so that is why I decided to only take half. Whether it was in my head, or it actually worked wasn't the point; the fact that I slept from 2:00-10:30am was amazing. It was forecasted to be a beautiful day; and though originally Chris and I planned to go skiing Sunday to Monday, we cancelled that quickly with the unusual warmer weather we have been having and traded the idea for a hike. I strapped on my Gossamer Gear pack that I bought for the John Muir Trail that was postponed a few months ago; loaded it with about 20 pounds (including my two meals I would have to eat) and even wore my Appalachian Trail shirt my Papa got me, with my famous orange Cheeky Chi bandana. We hiked the New England trail in Farmington and I was perfectly comfortable in a short sleeve T-shit, wow this weather was great. I loved being able to workout outside even if it was a mudslide towards the bottom of the mountain! We sat up on the cliffs for some time just relaxing and taking it all in, even when I am home relaxing I don't feel fully relaxed; up on those cliffs gave me a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. I ended my Sunday night with some self guided yoga to help loosen up my tight hips, and relieve some soreness in my lower back, 20 minutes of meditation, and then blogging. This week I am thankful for the better distribution of time and activity, the growth I've had being a bartender, new friends with the same goals, and the balance of challenge and reward that keeps me coming back every week.

I have a problem...
Great low calorie alternative to nut spreads for your oatmeal!

By far my favorite out of all of them
Saving this to top my birthday waffle or pancake (egg white and oatmeal one) with in March
Great stress reliever; my true passion

Iron Will Fitness
SAM's Club regular

Peanut butter is my one true love

Napping before work; what my life has become
Morning dehydration abs
I'm starting to see them!
Athlete setting body fat percentage February 24th
Padraic giving me a boost at the Edge

Totally me; this is how I mix my protein shakes when I am lazy
Morning ritual getting all of my teas steeped for the day
Will need to buy some more curry powder...
Just trying to get an average; February 25th
Padraic with his weighted vest and I on a hike in Manchester
I love being out in the woods

It is recommended to get 10,000 steps a day people; I am an overachiever
February 26th
Chicken for days
When Mickey grills me chicken at work, so good
Popeye food right here, being ate as I drive home at 3:00am

He's a star, one handed handstand

My triceps can push more than I weigh
Hello definition
Baby bicep
This is how I have to eat my chicken at work, seems legit
Tuna and almond butter...after midnight
This no sleeping thing is horrible, must sleep
Great local trail in Farmington

Cheeky Chi and her bandana is back! (Appalachian Trail blog reference)
So nice to finally relax

February 28th, my numbers seem to be pretty consistent for the week
End of the work week; sore back and tight hips calls for some self guided yoga and meditation

Monday, February 22, 2016

You Can Learn Something From Everyone, 15 weeks out

I will confess that some of the photos are from two weeks ago, but I wanted to save them for this post; going forward the posts will be entirely from the prior week. A lot has happened in a week/two weeks; and I am here to share it all with you. Since I forgot to photograph Metamucil, Fish oil, and the Cranberry juice in the supplement post; I decided to include them here. Also, I have already written about them, feel free to check out the post on supplements with any questions. I have however added a few new things to my meal plan and those will be touched on briefly; Mate tea, caffeine pills, and Calcium. If you remember me talking about my fitness assessment at the Edge Fitness; the only vitamin I was not implementing in my diet that the personal trainer questioned was Calcium. Since I am not eating any dairy in my plan, I decided to pick up some Calcium to supplement with. Not only is Calcium good for your bones, but it is also crucial to muscle growth. Too little calcium and you can't relax your muscles, which leads to less potential energy and muscle contraction. Bad contraction equals no growth, by improving relaxation you avoid cramping, injury and twitching. Some foods that provide Calcium naturally are milk, butter, beans, nuts, fruits, seafood and some vegetables. The reason why I implemented Mate tea and caffeine pills is both one in the same; I got a new job! So a little back story before I get into what went on this week; in my early years of college, I always wanted to be a bartender. I even got certified at the Boston Bartending School in Wethersfield, but did nothing with it until now. I have a bucket list of things to accomplish and do; and this certainly was one of them. My cousin Anthony, started bartending when he lived in Miami, Florida; and when he moved back to Connecticut he started here as well. A new restaurant opened up in East Hartford called Nolita Ristorante, and he became one of their bartenders. The atmosphere was great, the food was amazing, and I loved having my not so little cousin make me drinks when I stopped in with friends. Flash forward about two years, and it will bring you to this past week; I knew I didn't want to pursue a career in graphic design before my competition, but I also could use a little extra income. I clean my mother's house on Fridays which has been nice having some money coming in, but I decided to reach out to my cousin. I texted him randomly one night asking if Nolita was hiring by chance; the reply I got was something unexpected. He would be having knee surgery in a week and was looking for someone to replace him, how perfect (not the surgery or replacing part, but the fact that I was looking for a job and they needed someone to fill in.) He asked if I could come in on Tuesday for some training; wait, I don't need an interview? I had a job before I even knew it, I was now a bartender. It was time to do a little shopping for some black pants and button downs; I went to Kohl's and ended up walking out with more than I wanted to but I was excited for Tuesday night. Training on Tuesday was more of; "you now work here." I got behind the bar with my cousin, and another new bartender named Lisa (seems today was her first day as well) and worked. I shadowed my cousin all night learning the ins and outs of bartending before closing up for the night. This was going to be so fun! The next time I was going to go in was Friday and that would be until 2:00am to close with Anthony. But before we get to that, I have been staying at my grandparent's house while my uncle and his wife are in Florida so I can watch their German Shepherd. It has been nice to have my own house, and I didn't realize how much I missed the alone time. Each night I would sit with the TV playing music, blogging, and relaxing with the heat and trance-like effect the gas fireplace gave off. I even took my two month progress photos since I was so impressed with my flat stomach upon waking up in the morning (overnight dehydration and fasting can do that to you.) It was now Friday morning and I woke up at 7:30am, to gather the rest of my things and make breakfast; last night was my last night watching Boss (the German Shepherd.) I said my goodbyes and drove the extensive 7 minutes to my house where I started cleaning for the day, and when I say "day" I mean it. I don't know how many square feet my mother's house is; but it is an all day event for one person. Eric would be coming over after work at 1:30 and after we were going to workout at the Edge. This is where Mate and caffeine pills come in, I knew I would need something to keep me awake and standing until 2 or 3:00am so I asked Eric if I could have one of his caffeine pills. I cut it in half, and took half before our workout, and planned to take the other half at work. We had a great workout as always, spending about 2-2.5 hours at the gym working triceps and shoulders with a little back at the end for me. I really am thankful for the amount of fitness and health conscious people in my life to constantly show me new things and help me grow. You can learn something from everyone, you just have to listen and be open to it. I brought my protein shake and almond butter to the gym since I knew we would still be there during my 4th meal and I wanted to make sure I got that in. Eric ended up leaving a little before me since he was not doing back, or cardio; I finished up back on my own (with no headphones) and then 15 minutes on the stairmaster. Back at home I showered, and got ready to head in to Nolita; when I walked in, there was a total of 5 of us counting me behind the bar. My cousin and I worked together all night, Lisa was there, Natalie (who had about 2 weeks under her belt), and then Xavier. The night flew by and the caffeine pill certainly helped. Xavier and Natalie clocked out and stuck around for some beers on the other side of the counter, Lisa shortly added to their group as well. I really liked working with my cousin, and it kind of made me sad to think that he would be having surgery soon and no longer be there with me. Sure I like the place, and bartending, but most of all, I liked working with him. I made sure to snap a photo of us behind the bar to remember this bucket list of a time in my life with him. Throughout the night he introduced me to all of his regulars and let them know I would be replacing him while he was recovering. I made new friends quick, and even reconnected with some South Windsor High School Alumni. It was nice to remember the "good 'ol days" and also talk with people I had just met about what I think of my Fitbit and what they think of theirs. The downside of being a bartender in a really good restaurant on prep is I can't try drinks I make, and I can't try the food. My cousin would say "here try this", or "you can have the rest of this," or "they want to take a shot." And my reply every time was, I can't. Though I did try a sip of a raspberry stout we had on tap since it was a limited time thing and it was really good! For anyone that wants me to take a shot, my new response is "ok, but I only do vodka" and then fill it up with water (now you all know my secret.) The rest of the night was tricky with remembering to eat when I needed to; my Fitbit is great with reminding me with the vibrating alarms but making the time to actually eat is another story. It's not like I can just eat whenever I want (I can right now since I am with my cousin and he let's me) but when he is gone I'll be on my own. The other challenge is the fact that I have been up since 7:30 this morning and it is now 2:00am; I had breakfast at 8:00am and my last meal according to my meal plan is 7:30pm this doesn't make sense. I may have to talk to Carmen about this, certainly I am not the only competitor to not work a 9-5 job. I ended up staying until 3am; we finished cleaning early, but then we talked with the owner (Vashaw not sure if that is how you spell it but we all call him "V" so I will just refer to him as such) for awhile. I got a Nolita vest, and button down (guess I wasted my money on all the ones I bought at Kohl's, though they won't go to waste once I start working as a designer again!) While Anthony and he talked about the other new girl and what they thought of her, guess I am getting the inside scoop! Anthony gave me my tips ($70.00 since we had to share between the five of us) and I couldn't get home to my bed fast enough. The following day, Chris and I had plans to check out Launch the indoor trampoline place in Hartford which I counted as my 30 minutes of cardio. It was a lot of fun, but Saturday afternoon was bad planning on our part; so. many. kids. We were easily the oldest by 15 years and I had no shame, it was so much fun! There is an array of videos below to check out, and I sure did work up a sweat. This is the way I enjoy cardio, actually doing something; running endlessly on a treadmill inside just doesn't do it for me. Before I knew it, it was already time for me to be back at the restaurant luckily we wouldn't be closing tonight though. I met the daytime bartender Sue, and she seemed really nice; Xavier (we call him X) would be closing tonight so it would just be me, him, and Anthony. The night was rather slow which was expected on Saturdays apparently, and around 9:00 Anthony and I called it a night and switched to the other side of the bar. He put in an order for some food and poured a beer for himself, and a water with citrus for me and I sat and ate my pre-weighed and prepped meal. We hung out for about a half hour or so talking with X and finishing our dinner before heading out, driving the same route home since he lives a minute down the road. My weekend officially starts now! Weekends mean grocery shopping, prepping food, playing with Hunter, seeing friends, and just relaxing. I came home to two dozen orange roses and a card from my Mom, she always knows how to put a smile on my face; oh right tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Thankfully I am single so I don't have to disappoint anyone with not being able to indulge in fine dining, drinks, and candy which made things easier. I was really starting to get in a groove with my meals and not feeling deprived of anything. When I first started, I remember asking Seven Lemons if she had any recipes that she used and she laughed at the thought of the word "recipes." I didn't understand this then, but I do now. She explained to me that she basically eats the same thing every day for the duration of the 16 weeks and I found myself laughing. I wished I could do that, it would make things so much easier; but I love to cook and be creative so there's got to be some way to make those stuffed peppers and chili I wanted to make competitor friendly. Though I did make stuffed peppers, and chili meal prep friendly; she's right, it is too much work for what it is worth. Right now my food is fuel, I am not eating to indulge and feel an experience while I eat, but more because I know my body needs it. I find myself these days sticking to either boneless skinless chicken strips or ground chicken, asparagus, broccoli, or green beans, black beans or kidney, sweet potato, egg white oatmeal in the morning, and salads and protein shakes. Now I know what she was talking about, it's easier to not have to think about it, and just cook up some food and eat it. Valentine's Day Jillian and I went to the movies to see How To Be Single which seemed fitting and comical. This past week brought a lot of self progress and really noticing the difference in my body; which partially scared me. I started to see the definition of muscles in my arms which is always a confidence boost, likewise with my flat stomach; what I didn't like was the number I saw when I stepped on the scale. When Carmen took my measurements and photos at posing this week I was 111.5 pounds; this wasn't worrisome for me since I started in December at 118 pounds, what worried me was the following day I was 110 pounds, and the one after that 109.5 pounds; I didn't want to lose too much too fast and eat away my muscle. I had pretty much stopped doing cardio all together, and if I did; it was for only about 15 minutes instead of the half hour I was supposed to be doing. I know I am moving around a lot more now that I have a job where I am on my feet and reaching 10,000 steps on my Fitbit by 9:00pm, but still should I be shedding weight this fast with still two months to go? I expressed my concern to Carmen and she said we might increase my calorie intake, but for now stick to 20 minutes of cardio 5 times a week since my skin was smoothing out nicely and she didn't want me to lose that by not doing cardio. She was impressed with all of my measurements decreasing and how I looked overall which was a nice morale boost. We had posing for an hour and still feeling like a robot, at least my body was beginning to look more like a competitor's. I would be closing tonight at work and this would be the last night Anthony would be there working with me since his surgery was scheduled for early Wednesday morning. Closing alone kind of scared me, I knew how to clean the bar and prep it in that sense; but as far as the register and figuring out tips; I still had no idea how to do that. Dorothy said she would help me with it so I didn't have to worry about that; Anthony left around 9 or 10:00pm and I was on my own. It was kind of scary, but at the same sense; it wasn't that bad since we would be closing in a few hours. X stuck around and drank on the other side of the bar occasionally answering any questions I brought to his attention; he was just like having my cousin around and I am grateful for his help and patience. The following day was also considered my day off, and I planned to go to the Edge with Padric (a new trainer we have working at Iron Will.) We didn't really get to know each other too well at the gym, but had been conversing back and fourth on Facebook and decided to get in a workout. He had driven with Carmen, and when I saw her she didn't seem her peppy happy self; but I brushed off the idea and we started our workout. A little about Padric, he just moved here from New Orleans and is new to the area with the exception of his family living here and him years ago. After going the body building route, he is more involved with crossfit, and MMA (mixed martial arts.) It was beneficial to workout with him not only for his diverse background, but also really get to know another great individual that prior to my training I would have never met. Towards the end of our workout (nearly two hours later) we spotted Darian and Dee walking in the gym to meet up with Carmen, it was like a family reunion of my trainers. As we finished up back, and they started; we grabbed a nice group photo before Carmen and Padric left, and I did 20 minutes on the stairmaster before I too had to leave; I had a massage to get to! I packed a protein shake for after my two hour massage and tried to relax through the pain John caused on me. It was a love hate type of pain; I like deep tissue massages because I want my muscles to repair and be free of knots, but I also like to relax and enjoy it. John is a good balance of these two qualities; I am holding my breath while he works on my back and twitching and falling asleep while he works on my lower legs and feet. Another great thing is he stretches out my legs and hips which become very tight from lifting; though at times I feel like I am spread eagle on the table and really hope that sheet is covering all that it needs to! I knew I would need this massage not only for physical muscle reasons but also since tomorrow starts my "Monday" if you will. Thursday I have training from 5-6pm and then I have to rush home to shower and eat, trying to get in to work for 8:00pm. The good news was Thursdays are karaoke at Nolita so that is always entertaining but even better; my Mom and Felix would be coming in for dinner, leaving me with something to look forward to. Behind the bar stood the familiar: X and the not so familiar: Matt, I introduced myself and the three of us worked happy hour. I had to ask Matt a few questions when X was not around; and needless to say, he's not nearly as helpful as X and seems like he cannot be bothered. Never being a bartender before, it is sometimes frustrating not knowing something and not having someone that is willing to help you out to learn. My mom and Felix came in and I introduced them to one of Anthony's regulars who was sitting next to them at the bar. They ordered some drinks, food, and were highly entertained by karaoke hanging out for a good portion of the evening. I introduced them to X, but didn't bother to tell Matt they were my family; I'm sure he didn't care. We were pretty busy but manageable by the three of us, they stayed until after karaoke ended to continue to help me out before they went out for drinks themselves. I was alone at the bar and Dorothy had agreed to help me out again closing out the tips and drawer. As the night dwindled down, the cleaning was done, and Dorothy tipped us all out; I received a phone call from a number I didn't know as I pulled into my driveway at 2:00am, and could only imagine who it could be from. A minute later I had an incoming text which read: "Ashlee it's Dorothy, you have to come back in to the bar we have $300.00 in open checks." Great. Just what I wanted to do after being both physically and mentally exhausted. I drove back the short 10 minute drive to the restaurant and met the unamused Dorothy at the bar. She brought up three checks which I knew nothing about, and hadn't served any of what they ordered all night. She said that she was trying to get ahold of X and Matt but they weren't answering. Eventually X picked up and came back in to the bar; they figured out that one of the bills which was missing was one of the owners friends who is notorious for not paying; not our fault. The other two were tables that Matt was taking care of, X got ahold of Matt and apparently they hadn't settled up with Matt before he left, and I wasn't aware of this so they ended up walking out without paying. X assured me that it was not my fault and that it was he and Matt's for not letting me know before they left which table was under what name and who was all set; in the future I have to check the open tabs and make sure I ask before they leave. Regardless, the money had to come out of our tips; I ended up giving back my money so it would be lowered by about $40-$50.00. X ended up handing me four $10.00 and I told him I wasn't going to take it but he insisted that he and Matt were fine with that and it was the right thing to do. I let him know if Matt had a problem with this to please let me know (I didn't need him hating me more.) By the time everything was settled up, it was around 3:00am that X and I were out talking in the parking lot before heading home, I gave him back some of the money for being so accommodating towards me. I drove home and wasn't able to fall asleep until somewhere around 4:00am which was frustrating since the following day would be the longest day of the week; the day I dreaded. Friday morning I woke up around 10:00am to start cleaning, and I could feel something inside of me about to break. I did not want to be awake, I was still thinking about what happened last night, I certainly did not want to stand on my feet cleaning for the next 5 hours, I needed to cook some chicken since I was all out of protein, and I knew I would be closing the bar tonight which leads to yet another 3:00am shift. Before I knew it I was in tears, I felt like a two year old not wanting to go to bed; but in fact bed was the only thing I wanted to do. I mentally broke down, I went from training at the gym 4-5 days a week, cleaning one day a week, and having plenty of free time and relaxation to chaos in the matter of a week. My world had changed so drastically that I didn't know if I could do it, instead of waking up at 8-8:30am and going to bed at 10:30-11:30 everyday I now woke up anywhere from 10:30am-11:30am didn't get to bed until after 3:00am. I didn't know when to eat my meals, if I should be adding an extra meal, my trainer wasn't getting back to me with my new increased calorie plan, and I felt constantly exhausted and relying on caffeine pills and Mate tea to pull me through the night. As I stood crying in the kitchen, I texted my Mom that I either needed to clean all on Wednesday, break up the downstairs (which takes the most time) on Wednesday and then the upstairs (which only takes about an hour-hour and a half) on Friday, or she may need to find another cleaning lady because I just can't clean all day Friday after closing Thursday and then having to close Friday. I was already burnt out and it was only my second week. She agreed that splitting Wednesday and Friday to clean was fine and I was a little relieved that next week should be better; but I still had to make it through cleaning and work today. Bitterly I cleaned the house, cooked my chicken, and around 3:00pm let my Mom know that I would finish the upstairs tomorrow because I needed a little time to sit and decompress before going into work. I was only able to sit for at most an hour before I had to shower and get ready for work while eating part of my meal while driving. My brown rice pasta was still crunchy from not having enough time to boil beforehand, off to a great start already, but it would only get better. I ended up spilling my salad dressing all over my jacket, meal bag, and seat as I pulled into work, received another incoming text from an unknown number which I now know was Sue the daytime bartender wondering where I was, and the chaos that tonight would bring. Sue was fine with me showing up when I did, she just wanted to make sure that I was in fact coming in. X said last night that he would help me close tonight, so he should be on his way in too I told Sue. He arrived, and the three of us worked great together until Sue came up to tell me that X just walked out that he said he couldn't take the kitchen staff anymore and left. I must have had the most dumbfounded look on my face as I stared at her in disbelief. He was supposed to be closing with me tonight! She assured me that she would stay a little longer and I appreciated it, about 30-45 minutes later X appeared out of nowhere and apparently was back. He said that he couldn't do that to us and I thanked him for not leaving me alone tonight. Sue ended up taking off and X disappeared again, the bar was getting more busy, and I didn't see him anywhere. One of the waitresses, which I now know as Kaitlyn came up to me and told me that X walked out again and she would be helping me tonight. I couldn't believe he did it again, but just like Houdini; he appeared again. As I was coming back from the kitchen, he was walking towards me with a trashcan spitting and apparently looking like he was going to get sick. I walked to the register at the bar and Kaitlyn appeared saying X was throwing up in the back; guess he was a bit hungover from last night it appeared. One more time he walked out and this time it was for good, even when he was there; he was barely there with me. I then got requests for Bloody Mary's, Sangria, Dirty Martinis, and other things I had to look up and that were extensive. Shane, an acquaintance came in and said that a bunch of his friends were coming for a friends birthday party; great. Kaitlyn was a savior that night; and even though her first words to me were, "I don't know how to bartend but I can help you take orders and distribute" I thought to myself well that makes two of us! The large party basically hated us for not being as attentive as they would have liked, but we tried to apologize for the service due to the current situation we were in. The regulars understood when I explained the problem and apologized for the wait. Kaitlyn ended up leaving around 11:30-12:00 which meant as long as it stays manageable for the next two hours I would have made it through the night; and someone somewhere was looking out for me since it died down completely. I was able to clean and prep the bar before closing, sit and actually eat my meal at the bar, talk with V a little while I poured him a beer, and it was nice to catch my breath even if I wasn't making tips. I sat down at 2:00am with everything ready for Dorothy to sort out the tips, when she came out to tell me that she would be back in a half hour to do the tips for me that she had to go pick up her car. Great, so now I get to just sit around for a half hour waiting before even beginning the closeout and tip process. It is times like this when I can't wait until I know exactly what to do so I can do it myself and then leave. I sat at the bar Snapchatting, drinking my protein shake, and waiting for her to return. One of the cooks Mickey came out to talk with me and he told me how he used to play cricket professionally in India and lived in England before coming here 8 months ago, like I said; it's such an amazing thing to learn different people's stories that normally they would have never crossed your path. Dorothy returned, she scared me thinking there was over $200.00 missing in tips; when really it was like $60.00 which is still frustrating. She ended up giving X's tips to Kaitlyn which I think is fair since he was so unreliable and she really stepped up to help me out, and by 3:00am I was about to head home. I had made it through Friday, I had made it through Friday night, and that meant the worst of it was over. Tomorrow I still had to clean for an hour which normally I wouldn't have had to do; but it was worth it to let it overflow a day. When I finished cleaning, Felix and I went to the Edge so he could check the place out. He has always been a member at LA Fitness in South Windsor, and now that a lot of members are moving over to the Edge he wanted to check it out. It was nice to get some alone time with him too since lately we have been butting heads; he wanted to work shoulders but since I had just trained on Thursday and my right one is tweaked a bit I didn't want to irritate it further. I gave him the quick overview showing him where different areas were, and then I decided to work my biceps. The gym was a lot busier than what I was used to coming during the week mid-day, I was one of two females in the free weight section. I put on my headphones and started a small bicep circuit with push-ups in between two different bicep sets. I moved my way around the free weight area occasionally talking with Felix who was still figuring out where everything was located. He loved the huge ventilation fans they have there though, and the overall feel and layout of the place, not to mention the basketball game that was playing on the TV in front of the free weight area. We both did a little pulley work at the TRX cage before grabbing a squat rack while I did squats and he alternated my sets with pull-ups or overhead shoulder presses. It was nice having him see me in the gym atmosphere and making the comment that I squat a lot of weight for my size. I look at all the other girls at training and they are out-squatting me by a lot so it is always nice to hear a little unexpected confidence boost. We left the gym in time for Hunter to get home and for me to get ready for work. My mom made the comment; "you work again tonight!? You work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday?" Yes, plus Tuesday. Thankfully I don't close tonight though, so I will just be going in from like 5-9 or 10:00pm which won't be bad, and it wasn't. X and I worked great together; Saturdays are usually pretty dead so he re-stocked all of the wine and other miscellaneous things while I handled most of the bar. There was a small dinner crowd at the bar for dinner, then a few stragglers, and then a later dinner crew but for the most part it was a nice pace for still learning, and I was out by 9:15pm which seemed unheard of recently. When I arrived home, everyone was in bed; I made my chicken salad for dinner and sat to watch some shows I had recorded. I was exhausted and could have easily went to bed, but I felt like I needed that time to compress before bed and mindlessly watch TV. My mom ended up coming down and watching the two shows with me, and I was in bed by 11:30 which was the best part; happy "Friday" to me now time to relax. From going from seeing multiple friends weekly, to barely having time to see one a week was kind of frustrating. I have a few great friends who I am close with, and I really like to catch up and see what's going on in their lives; recently I haven't had the time or energy to do it. Jillian and I planned to do something outside on Sunday since it was going to be in the 50's, so once I got up and had breakfast at 11:30am; we met up late afternoon for an hour and half walk/hike in Vernon which was exactly what I needed. What I didn't need however was the 25 pound plate I decided to throw in a backpack and on my back. I've done this before, and said I never would again, and yet here I was; uncomfortable. The time outside was needed though, I could feel Spring in the air and it made me long for summer hikes. Plus it was great to catch up with Jillian, and vent about our lives! I got back home just in time to get ready for Sunday family dinner; this time my mom made salad, chili, cornbread, and flan cheesecake. If you remember from Superbowl, I froze a portion of the chili I made then so I would be able to eat "the same thing" as everyone else. It was nice as usual to see everyone; and I even talked with a few family members about my fitness and showed them some photos that shocked them and even one said, "who is that, that's you?!" to the flexing arm photos below in the pink tank! I must apologize again however since I failed to get a group photo of all 17 of us, next time? As a closing thought; training has become second nature, as well as meal prep, it seems my digestive issues have worked themselves out leaving me with no longer having to run for the bathroom, or squeeze my buns as frequently to hold in gas (though funny story; the other night when my mom and I watched the two shows recorded, my stomach was making some crazy noises and when she noticed it she said, "your not about to fart are you?!" Which I replied with, "No and that's why it's making those noises, you are interfering with my let loose and relax plans.") Seems if I can figure out my new meal schedule, and possibly add more meals/calories, while being more comfortable behind the bar; I'll be all set. Here's to this coming week being better and hopefully not breaking down and crying again!

February 6th
Daily regimen 
Must haves for my meal plan
These days I live on Mate and Caffeine
February 10th, feeling strong
Two month progress; two months to go!
Trying on clothes; my back and biceps don't fit in this shirt
Dehydrated morning flat stomach

Working Triceps with Eric at the Edge
When your 4th meal happens while you're at the gym
My cousin and I bartending!
Vodka on the rocks with lemon and lime (actually water)
Eating dinner at the bar (meal prepped at home and plated at work)
Most of my tanks (key word, most)
Told you guys I had a problem! But I love them

Cardio at the trampoline park

Weekly staples
Had to cut in quarters to fit, what is this world coming to
Sometimes I just need a pick-me-up crunch and pickles are great for that
Muscle definition starting to come in nicely
I feel pretty "swole" in these photos
Healthy habits are the best influence
Team training, ab finisher
Measurements, Carmen was happy with all of my numbers
February 16th, 2016
Still working on posing

Left: December 10th, Right: February 16th

Online body fat calculator

The only beverage I drink shaken behind the bar
On Wednesdays we wear pink; but really it's Tuesday
Padric and I at the Edge in Manchester

Not my most flattering photo

Back is looking nice!
Look who we ran into! Darian, Dee, and Carmen; Iron Will Family
Love this group of trainers right here
Much needed massage, and 4th meal ready to go for after
Late nights closing the bar and my 6th meal
Sunday Family Dinner; chili and cornbread