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

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