Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Clay?

I'm often asked "Why Clay?".  If you've read past posts you can probably decipher that much of has to do with Hyam herself. I doubt she even realizes the ways she inspires me sometimes with the things she says and does.  It comes naturally to her - that's a pretty unique quality.

There are, of course, many other aspects of Clay that I love. I've found it hard, however, to put it into words.  Therefore I've decided to do a series of posts that feature photographss of exactly we do at Clay and why I keep coming back for more.  

I need to be clear that this is NOT an advertisement for Clay. Hyam had nothing to do with this.  It's much more self-centered than that.  This is my way of bragging about all the kick-ass things I do there so you know I'm not just talking smack (even if I am sometimes).  And, if you happen to realize how awesome Clay is along the way... that's a bonus.

To help me tell my story I've enlisted the help of local photographer extraordinaire Beth Daane of Daane Studios.  Beth will assist in chronicling my journey by attending my classes and personal training sessions and snapping live action shots of what I'm up to.  

I'm going to warn you.  I am NOT pretty when I exercise.  I make crazy, ugly faces (a common one has even been termed the "beaver face" by Hyam - see photos below from Clay a few years ago). My skin turns a very unnatural combination of red and purple that even Crayola couldn't create.  Seriously. I'm not fishing for compliments here - it's not pretty.  However, I feel it's necessary to truly show what we do and why I love it.  Yes, I'm taking one for the blog here.  You'll thank me later.  Or maybe not.

If you look closely here you will see the "Beaver Face".
(Photo courtesy of JMK Photography)

Some people are truly beautiful while working out.
I'm not one of them.
(Photo courtney of JMK Photography)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I'm not Irish, but I definitely consider myself lucky.  

As I sit here in my office writing, reading and pinning things on Pinterest researching, my parents - who are nearly 70 years old - are hard at work packing boxes, patching holes and making some semblance of order out of the disaster our home has become over the past few weeks.  Next week they will help unpack these boxes, tear down wallpaper and paint at the new house.  And yes, they actually volunteered to do this.


According to one definition of lucky is "occuring by chance".  That definition works for me because truly I didn't do anything to deserve this.  Sure, I was a pretty good kid growing up - got good grades, used my manners most of the time, occasionally cleaned my room when asked...but those are things I actually learned from my parents.  Add that to list of things I need to thank them for. 


Looking back I didn't understand or appreciate all that my parents did (and obviously continue to do) for me.  I'm a parent now myself and some of that is coming back to bite me (who knew puberty would be so hard?) but mostly it's teaching me how fortunate I am to have a family that not only loves me, but go out of their way to help me regardless of the task at hand. 


As my daughters grow into young adults this is the kind of stuff I want to instill in them.  Give to others more than to yourself.  Be there when people need you.  Love one another.  When you do this it all seems to come back to you in amounts much greater than what you gave.  Or at least that is what my mom - who is currently cleaning out my garage - tells me. an understatement

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So Smooth

I've written before about how Tracey of EAT! with Tracey instilled a love for smoothies in me last summer.  They've become a mainstay in our household since then for several reasons - the most important for me being that the kids will actually eat - and enjoy - them!  I can throw all kinds of healthiness into them and as long as they don't look or smell disgusting they drink them down like they're the best thing ever.  And really, they are.  I load them up with vitamin-packed blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, bananas and spinach - throw in some greek yogurt for smoothness - toss in a wheatgrass cube, flax seed or omega-3 oil (the girls don't even notice the flavored) and they're off to school powered by pure nutrition!

They haven't yet, however, embraced the more green smoothies that I make for myself.  So that we don't waste anything I add in the extra green-ness after I pour theirs.  Here's a favorite, sweet version I make quite often that the girls will drink, too.  

The basic ingredients are frozen wheatgrass cubes, greek yogurt (I used vanilla this time because it's what we had but usually use plain and add coconut water to sweeten instead), kale, frozen strawberries, banana, and spinach. 

I like buying spinach in this form because it usually lasts longer and the amount is perfect for a couple of smoothies and a few spinach salads.  Kale, on the other hand, I prefer to buy loose leaf because I never seem to use the container size fast enough. Hard as I've tried, I don't really like kale for anything other than smoothies and kale chips.  

 I use frozen berries during the fall, winter and beginning of spring because they're cheaper. I don't measure - just add in a handful or so. The banana definitely adds a little sweetness and cut the bitterness of the kale.

These are expensive but a really easy way to add nutrition. 

The final product.  
It's so simple to just throw everything in the blender with a little water to help liquefy and let it go.  Because I use frozen berries I usually don't even add ice. I drink this for breakfast or lunch and sometimes even for dinner. When I know I have a big workout at Clay that day I add protein powder and/or omega 3.  Another really easy thing to add in for nutrition is flax seed.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I woke up this morning feeling fabulous. 

I tell you this because it was quite surprising, as I had consumed more champagne than I had intended the prior evening at a birthday celebration my girlfriends' had held for Chrissy.  She would've been 43.  Would've been. It still doesn't seem real. (I don't have the emotional strength to go through the story so read here if you aren't familiar).

I was feeling so good that I decided to take Scout on a jog before my Outdoor Athletic Training class. Bad idea.  Apparently all those Kir Royales were masking the pain from Wednesday's class because less than a mile in to our route I could barely walk.  I limped home with tears in my eyes and collapsed on the couch in despair.  

An hour later I awoke to realize I had missed class entirely.  As I drudged toward the shower I realized this may have been a good omen, as I was still in extreme pain. I was also pretty pissed off. Had I really worked the past 4 months only to wind up back where I started - or even behind where I started?  I was feeling so motivated psychologically - why the hell was my body fighting me?

Ironically as I asked myself this question my phone pinged with a text from Sandy. Though I am sure she was disappointed, she didn't condemn me for missing class. She, instead, helped me through the shin splint exercises she'd e-mailed me earlier in the week and added a suggestion for a natural anti-inflammatory. This is the kind of thing that makes Clay so special - personal attention that is truly from the heart. These people really love me as much as I love them. Wow.

A few hours later I'd come down from my anger and decided to take Scout for a walk - one where it wasn't about pace or time or distance - but merely to make my little buddy happy.  During this walk I let him pee on whatever he wanted as many times as he wanted and attempted not to complain when he sniffed every damn little thing. Knowing how much I love my dog you'd think I'd do this more often, but as a working mom with busy kids and a husband who is rarely home my exercise time is pretty precious.  I'm pointed about my workouts - heart rate above 75% of max., calories burned over 400 and a marked increase in speed. No time for lollygagging around the neighborhood pond.

I resigned myself this afternoon, however, to dedicating the walk solely to what Scout needed (and what my body was truly capable) and something pretty magical happened.  I saw something - some things, rather, that I'd been missing in my race to improve.  I saw beauty.  Right here in Redfields - on the paths I run on a daily basis -  there was beauty blooming everywhere.  Flowers, grasses, was incredible.  

If I've learned nothing else this year it's that every day we have is a blessing.  
Take time to enjoy the beauty of it. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Get Out There

The way my classes at Clay worked out this session (due to work, life, and all that other crap) I am on my own Saturday - Tuesday and then slammed with athletic training greatness at the end of the week.  

Since I'm still struggling with my shins Scout & I are (much to my dismay) temporarily eliminating any running. We're keeping our cardio up, however, by walking at what we consider a fairly fast pace.  Yep, I'm the crazy lady you keep seeing pumping her arms like a freak down the Rivanna Trail (the one you all make fun of...). I've been using the MapMyRun app on my iPhone to keep track of our mileage as well as my pace.  I love it because it tracks all of our outings and enables me to see our progress (or lack thereof).  The one thing I have unintentionally learned via this app is that while Scout is a great motivator for me because he gets me out the door by sitting by it and "patiently" whining waiting, he also slows my pace down significantly with his incessant need to pee on every third tree or bush that we pass (seriously, how much urine could that little bladder hold???).  We average a 14 minute mile together and 12.5 when I leave him at home. He doesn't actually know that do this so let's keep that between us, okay?  (It's totally crazy, but that dog is my best friend and it's important for me to keep him happy). 

On Wednesday mornings I head to Clay for an in-studio Athletic Training class with Hyam. It's no secret I think this woman is the shit and she totally kicks my ass every time I work out with her. So while it's definitely difficult, I love every painstaking minute of it.  Friday's this spring, however, I'm doing something new - an outdoor athletic training class with Sandy Archer.  Sandy is fairly new to Clay but definitely not new to the fitness scene in Charlottesville.  If her name sounds familiar it could be from her days of leaving people in the dust on the UVA track, or from the infamous Arch's restaurant she and her husband Rob own (of which there are now three delicious shops in town) or for the "standing room only" classes she has taught at ACAC for years.  Yep, she's that freaking awesome - and I'm totally pumped to be doing this new class with her this spring.  

The premise of this class is that we meet at a different park in Charlottesville to do cardio and strength training in a new and fun way outside.  We started our first week at Belmont Park, which is just a few blocks from Clay. During the class we did everything from running laps around the park, to Killers on the sidewalk, to pull-ups on the bars. to lunges up hills, to crazy tandem exercises where we pull each other across the basketball court with bike tires wrapped around our waists (not as crazy as it sounds, but definitely as difficult!). While the workout is intense the time flew by - and I can't wait to see what Sandy has in store for us this week!

I'm often asked what I love so much about Clay.  This is just one example of what keeps me going there week after week, month after month.  I NEVER get bored - and neither do my muscles.  There's always something different that challenges both my body and my mind in a new way.   I've learned that though the BOSU is a really cool training tool that can be used in a million different tortuous ways, I don't have to have one to get a good workout in.  There are plenty of things I could do right in my own back yard (if I wasn't afraid that my neighbors would report me to social services on the premise of insanity).  

So my challenge to you this weekend is to get outdoors.  Find a trail and go for a hike - run a few laps around your neighborhood - check out a new park in our area - whatever makes you happy - just get out there, do something new and have some fun! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Can Cook!

Whether the government is using The Basic Seven, the Old Food Pyramid, the New MyPyramid, or the even newer Choose My Plate in my mind it comes down to this: limit crappy stuff and eat more good stuff.  

With this profound knowledge in hand I spend endless hours perusing magazines like Clean Eating and Eating Well tearing out incredible looking recipes filled with nutrient-filled ingredients that I can't wait to make for my family (while wearing my beautiful apron and high heels, doing my best June Cleaver, of course).  Somehow, however, the 6 o'clock hour sneaks up on me and I find myself unprepared to cook anything other than what the girls call "The Mom Meals" (spaghetti and meatballs, "breakfast for dinner", grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, of course, my favorite - take out). But that's all changing.

Next week we move in to our new house.  As luck would have it the house we fell in love with happened to fall in the tip top of our price range.  So those glorious meals I "make" from Beer Run, Horse and Hound and BBQ Exchange while the Spicy Chicken is out of town are now completely off-limits. We are in full budget mode.  Oh, and in case you forgot -  I'm supposed to be trying to lose weight. Eating out tends to make that a little difficult (especially when they have all those great beers on tap...).

So while those who know me are skeptical (I can't imagine why!) I've embarked on something new.  It's called COOKING and guess what? I'm not that bad at it after all. While you shouldn't expect an invitation to dinner any time soon, I have been able to create a few nutritious and - dare I say yummy? - creations that everyone in the family enjoyed.

At KK's request tonight's selection was turkey burgers.  Not a difficult request, but I was feeling confident after knocking out a whole chicken with roasted vegetables that didn't suck last week so I decided to take it up a notch by making a GREEK version (crazy, I know!). I Googled "greek turkey burgers" (who needs cookbooks anymore?) and I came across this really good (read: easy) recipe from a great blog called The Novice Chef.

I adapted her recipe a little by using ground chicken because we had it in the freezer (I  stocked up when it was on sale a few weeks ago).  I also upped the sun dried tomatoes because we, for some reason, had 3 jars in the pantry (maybe they were on sale, too?). The result was  scrumptious! The Spicy Chicken even claimed  the tzatziki was better than his (which we know isn't true but at least he tried to make me feel good about it). Here's the recipe:

Greek Turkey Burgers and Tzatziki Sauce 
(adapted from The Novice Chef)

1 lb ground chicken 1/2 C. crumbled reduced fat feta cheese 1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped 1/2 C. fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped 1 teaspoon oregano 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder Wheat hamburger buns Tzatziki (recipe below) 

6 oz greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Pepper, to taste

Place ground chicken, feta, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and seasonings into a mixing bowl. Mix until combined. Form patties and place onto a cookie sheet.  Grill for about 3 minutes per side or until an internal thermometer has reached 165 degrees. Garnish with Tzatziki, spinach, red peppers, etc., as you like. 

For Tzatziki:
Slice cucumber in half, length wise. Using a spoon, scrape out seeds. Finely shred cucumber and place in paper towels and squeeze out extra moisture. Combine greek yogurt, lemon juice, shredded cucumber, garlic and pepper. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

The Novice Chef is also a much better photographer than I am 
so you really should check out her post.
I'm going to try her Lettuce Wraps next week so stay tuned!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It

I'm so far behind on posting lately but I figured that I needed to let you all know that I did, indeed, complete the Charlottesville Ten Miler!!  It took me quite awhile - I crossed the Finish Line just before the race timer hit 2 hours! - but I did it and lived to tell about it so I accomplished my goal!

It was actually a really great experience.  After I crossed the Finish Line I told the Spicy Chicken that I thought I might like to do another one.  I now chalk that statement up to the delirium of just having run 10 miles and feeling pretty damn proud of myself at the moment, of course, but all in all it was a great morning. 

It didn't start out that way, though. 

Yep, that's my bib number - 666.  I'm not really a superstitious kind of girl but, 666? Really? You'd think race directors would skip over this number - like they do with 13th floors and things like that. Nope. Not this race at least.  And lucky me, I just happened to be the 666th person to register.  Guess that's one more lesson learned about not procrastinating.

I decided to do the Ten-Miler because I know I'm the type of person who functions better when I have a goal.  Going from a slow 5K runner to a 10-miler in a few months was probably an overly ambitious goal, but I needed something to re-energize my commitment and some added accountability. Once I registered and told all of you I was going to do it I couldn't turn back.

And I didn't. But I'd be lying if I said the thought didn't cross my mind a few (or maybe more than a few) times. Like the night before the race when The Spicy Chicken work up at 2am with abdominal pains and I caught myself saying (aloud) "Please let it be appendicitis!".  

Or...early the next morning as we sat in the parking lot of JPJ Arena and I said "We could just go out to breakfast..." mile 5 when I passed the people sitting on the patio at The Nook drinking bloody mary's and seriously contemplated joining them...

But I didn't do anything of these things.  I kept on going - no matter how slowly - and I finished. I did it, I really, really did it!