Friday, April 29, 2011

The Cheese Head, the Time Traveler, and the Piñata: Adventures in Rock Climbing

I've always felt that nothing could quite brighten up your day like a good costume. Halloween, theme parties, Wednesdays... there is no bad time for a costume (except maybe for a wedding, job interview, court appearance, etc.). Even health nuts and fitness gurus recognize the amazing benefits of what the British call "fancy dress." In fact, one of my favorite bloggers, Charlotte over at the Great Fitness Experiment, is constantly talking about her plethora of gym-friendly tutus (of which I am extraordinarily jealous).

What I have particularly noticed lately is how many fitness events involve costumes. I mentioned before that one of my best friends, Kirsten, participated in the Warrior Dash. What I neglected to tell you was that she went dressed as Mario (unfortunately, her Luigi and Wario counterparts were unable to attend/dress up). That day we saw quite a few costumed warriors, my personal favorite being Henchman #21 from Venture Brothers. In addition, there will be a costume contest at the Firefly Run 5k next month (which I hope to participate in, more on that later!), as well as many other upcoming runs. Races and challenges all seem to be incorporating some whimsy in with physical duress, which I find to be absolutely fantastic!

Even the indoor rock wall I frequent is now hosting a monthly costume contest, which just so happened to take place this past Wednesday. Hannah, Kirsten, and I put on our "fancy dress" and competed with the best to win a highly  coveted one month free membership (which I thought was perfect timing, considering that my current membership is up this week). There was only one rule: contestants had to be able to ascend the wall in their costume... which is not as easy as it would seem.

Though it was pretty cumbersome, Kirsten was able to manage climbing in her giant cheese head for at least a few routes.

Hannah at least chose a costume that allowed for free movement (time traveler from the 80's), although the leg warmers did make for pretty warm climbing (hence the name, I suppose).

My costume, however, was not able to survive the experience. I went as a piñata, and by the end of the night, my ensemble had been ripped to pieces (to the left is the "before" shot, I couldn't bear to take an "after shot). It kind of works out, though, considering that that is kind of what happens to piñatas, but on a smaller scale (yes, I am extremely grateful that no one pummelled me with bats to the point that I literally broke in half). People did attack me in hopes of receiving candy, as can be seen on the right [Kirsten and Teddy Westside - who was regrettably bereft of costume - were lying in wait with brooms as I rapelled down the wall), but I was prepared with an entire chalk bag full of snickers (yum! chalk residue and chocolately goodness!)

After some steep competition (you can see all costumed climbers below), I was victorious and won a free month of climbing!

However, I cannot say the same for my race with Kirsten and Hannah, during which I was clearly in rock-bottom, belly-draggin', dead last place.

All in all, it was a successful night. Now what should my costume be next month?

Have you ever participated in a costumed athletic challenge? Should we have informed that apparently hungry competitor in red that Kirsten's hat was not actually made of cheese? Can't Hannah totally pull off time traveling? Have you seen the movie Piñata Survival Island?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back into the swing of things...

Yes, you are correct, I just made an extremely lame pun about going swing dancing... and it was totally called for.

Last night, my friends and I donned our finest poodle skirts and cardigans, pinned up our hair, and lindy hopped the night away at a local weekly swing dance venue. (Note: we didn't actually wear poodle skirts and cardigans, nor did we pin up our hair, but we did dance.)
I was decidedly nervous about going. I hadn't danced in the better part of a year (unless you count trivia night at the bar this past Tuesday, when Kirsten and I decided to showcase our skills with an impromptu performance... which I will assume all the bystanders appreciated), and I hadn't been to this particular venue (or for that matter, danced in this city) for nearly two years. I hadn't done Lindy Hop, Charleston, Balboa, or the Shim Sham in months! I was afraid that I would hate it, that it would be too crowded, that no one would ask me to dance (except for the usual creepers), and that I would realize just how much I'd forgotten since my last dance session. I was afraid that this outing was going to raise my hopes and dash them, quite expertly.
To my utter relief, none of that happened (well, I did dance with a couple creepers, but that is really unavoidable, and it was just a couple)! It was a fantastic night! In fact, I don't think I have ever enjoyed dancing at this venue as much as last night. Of course, I would usually only dance there during summer break, when it is extremely packed with kids home from school, so that might explain it. I even tried (and succeeded) dancing in my new dancing shoes (I say "new," but I bought them last summer... I just hadn't worn them yet). 
Best of all, I was able to follow. I was able to follow some unfamiliar moves, and other moves that I've never been good at executing properly. I won't venture to say that it was one of my finer nights of dancing, but I had been genuinely afraid that I would have lost everything in my time away, and that simply wasn't the case. I felt confident when I left last night, and I wholeheartedly look forward to next time.

*The photo is of my friend Stephen and I dancing at Austin Blues Party 2009

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Staying motivated is one of the most difficult obstacles for most people trying to get in shape. Sure, we can picture where we want to be, and we can plan for how we are going to accomplish our goals, but follow through? That's a completely different story. I know in my case, I can have the best game plan (I use the term "best" very liberally), but sooner or later (usually sooner) I will see something shiny and get distracted, forcing me to yet again start from square one. This could potentially stem from the fact that I love the mere planning of it. In fact, during the Great Fitness Competition of 2010 (so dubbed just now, by me), I took a week long break from both the Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and my running program (the first time I attempted it) so that I could create a planner and corresponding spreadsheet that would track my progress. To be fair, it is a fantastic planner that is the subject of much admiration, but still. I don't know how many times in the past year I have embarked on the same running program, always starting from the beginning, but never reaching the end (actually, I do know, it has been 3 times). How many times in the past year have I started the South Beach Diet never to finish (also 3)? If I could just stay motivated, think about how much I could accomplish!

Which brings me to my next point: how to stay motivated. According to fitness magazines, blogs, and common sense, people use a number of different motivators in order to stay on track. Some people put pictures of when they were fit on their fridge. Others hang a dress/jeans/bathing suit they wish they could fit into on their door as a visible reminder of their goals. Sometimes, after people make progress, they keep around some of their larger clothing as a reminder of where they don't want to be again (I, on the other hand, relished throwing away my big jeans and never want to see them again).

Personally, there are only two things that really keep my focused: competition and camaraderie.


When I moved to San Antonio, I did not have much camaraderie. I didn't know anyone in town, and as a result, had a hard time making myself be active. I am pretty shy, and was nervous about joining classes, going swing dancing, or even using the gym at my apartment! It probably didn't help that it was the middle of June in Texas, and all I wanted to do was sit comfortably in the air conditioning while eating ice cream (which is strange considering that I don't particularly like ice cream all that much). Knowing that something had to change, my friend back home and I started the Great Fitness Competition of 2010. Because I am extremely competitive, I was actually able to find the beans to get up and do something! Of course, it didn't hurt that we had some pretty high stakes on the line (if I lost, I had to read Tek Wars by William Shatner and tell everyone how much I loved it; if she lost, she had to read the Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and tell everyone "wow, I thought the movie with Miley Cyrus was great, but the book is a million times better"). I started the South Beach Diet, did Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred at least 4 days a week, and went running regularly. My competitive side took over, and since I didn't have much in San Antonio to distract me, I was able to keep my focus.

In October, the 90 day contest ended, and so did my progress. I was still doing the occassional workout, and not eating nearly as many chicken nugget meals as before, but I was pretty much at a motivational standstill.


In February, my company transferred me back to my hometown. Now, I am surrounded by family and friends galore! The best part is that when I moved back, my friends were all itching to get active again. I was worried that we would end up spending our free time watching movies and eating junk food (much like when a few of us lived together in college). Instead, we started up the running program again and we've started rock climbing nearly every other day. Maddie taught us how to slack-line, Kirsten just participated in the Warrior Dash, and Hannah is teaching me how to boulder! We've made plans to go kayaking, yoga-ing, and swing dancing. This also means that I now have partners that will hold me accountable when I want to do a challenge. Kirsten has motivated me to sign up for the Warrior Dash next year. Maddie and I will be participating in the Official Stair Climb next February. We're even doing our first 5k in the coming weeks! I know that without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and accountability of each other, none of us would be nearly as active as we are today.

The only way this could be better, would be if we could somehow combine the comraderie and competition... What do you say?

What do you do to stay motivated? How likely is it that my kayak will flip over, considering my lack of experience? Have you read Tek Wars by William Shatner, or any of his other post-Star Trek, pre-comedy books?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Somewhat Justice League

Sophomore year of college, Hannah and I were very into theme parties. In fact, we've always been very into theme parties, we just took it to a new level that year. We decided to have a superhero adventure for a bunch of our friends. Basically, everyone would provide their name and their power (it had to be a lame/odd power, because otherwise that would be too easy), and we would take it from there. We invented back stories, villians, gadgets, and evil plots. Our dynamic duos and terrific trios would go from site to site trying to foil their villian, eventually besting them using no less than three puns.

I mention this now, because I recently came across our old superhero profile pages on Hannah's mom's blog, Happy Catholic (not always happy, but always happy to be Catholic). Shortly after the hunt, she started posting hero profiles one day at a time. I haven't read these in years, and they made me happy. As a result, I am sharing them with you!

If you want to read our superhero profiles, go here.

Perhaps we'll be hosting another one in the near future...

Any suggestions for our next theme party?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 6 7 8...

Throughout high school, I was a member of the drill team. In addition to the extremely stylish boots, flashy hats, leotards with fringe, and sequined overlays, drill team also involved some dancing. We would practice 10 out of 12 months a year, only taking breaks only over the  Christmas holiday and in the middle of July. We had practice up to 5 days a week for hours at a time. We marched, we leapt, we spun, we ran, and we kicked. I especially remember the kicking.

We had our try-out kick routine, our boot camp kick routine, our football season kick routine, and one final kick routine that we ended our spring show with. If we were late, we kicked. If we wore the wrong uniform, we kicked. For every demerit, we would do high kicks up and down the length of our gym. Considering my penchant for being fashionably late and my tendency to forget everything, all the time, I got to kick a lot.

Then, I graduated. I kept dancing, but not in an organized, performance sort of way. I switched to social dancing: swing, blues, ballroom, etc. East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop replaced turns and leaps, and the Charleston edged out high kicks. I don't think I've really kicked since April of 2006, right before the three seniors took our final bow and exited the stage for the last time.

One thing I miss about drill team is the sheer muscle training of it. Social dancing can work up a sweat and be a great cardio, but nothing tones your legs quite like hours of kicking. In an effort to reclaim the gams I donned in high school, I decided to pull on my old white boots (not literally) and try my hand at an old routine. Given that it has been nearly 5 years since the last time I'd done this particular routine, I'm actually surprised at how well I remembered it (I have an extremely selective memory; I cant remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but dance routines from 5 years ago? No problem.) What did not surprise me was just how bad I have become at high kicks. I guess a 5 year break will do that. I was panting after only a few 8-counts. I kept at it, though. And do you know what? Four days later, my legs were still punishing me. Perhaps I should have stretched first.

Were you ever on any sort of performance team? Have you ever tried picking up an old hobby after a long break? Did else's older sister break her nose once from some too-high high kicks?

Photograph of a Kilgore Rangerette

Monday, April 11, 2011

What a pleasant Saturday

Saturday, something pretty big happened. I naturally woke up before 6:30am. Sure, I woke up due to a bad dream (a bunch of snakes had captured me and were forcing me to do their bidding!), but then I stayed awake! Considering how little sleep I get usually, I am in bed until somewhere between 10 and noon most Saturdays. I stayed in bed watching television for a bit (oh how I love Fraggle Rock), then I decided to do something completely out of character; I put on my running gear, and went running at 8 in the morning. Do you know what I found out that morning? Running on a Saturday morning is extremely pleasant. It's not yet hot outside, there aren't many people on the roads to contend with, and you get to see the first tee off of the day (I live by a golf-course)!

To top it off, I had kicked it up a notch, bam! This was my first Week 3 run of my running program (yes, it has taken us over a month to get to week 3... deal with it), and surprisingly, it went really well!

One of the best parts was that when I got back, my dad had breakfast burritos practically waiting for me. It was the best possible reward for a successful outing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jerry's Cinnamon Rolls

"What's Brunch?"
"You'd love it, it's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end."

I love brunch. I live for brunch. I've spent years wearing down my family into celebrating every holiday or occassion with brunch (incidentally, this is my biggest complaint about Thanksgiving). Unfortunately, brunch is not extremely healthy. Of course, I tend to not worry about when I'm scarfing down pigs n' blankets, amish cassarole, and cinnamon rolls, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to make breakfast healthier without sacrificing taste.

For instance, I make a mean scrambled egg white with turkey in it, and my whole wheat pancakes are one of my specialities. Once in a while, however, it is fun to mix things up. That is why I was so excited when I came across a recipe for Jerry's Cinnamon Rolls in the December issue of Shape Magazine. I really like cinnamon rolls, and they are one of my boyfriend's favorite breakfast dishes, so I thought I would give them a try! I was a little turned off by the pureed vegetables in them, but apparently that is how Jerry Seinfeld and his wife Jessica trick their kids into eating vegetables. I figured, if kids can eat it without gagging, so can I!

Yields: 16 servings

1 1/2 cups - lukewarm nonfat milk
1/4 cup - orange juice
2 - 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast
1/4 cupe - granulated sugar

2 cups - all-purpose flour
2 cups - whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup - nonfat milk powder
3/4 tsp - salt
1/2 cup - carrot puree
1 - large egg
3 tbsp - trans fat-free margarine
cooking spray
1/2 cup - packed light or dark brown suger
2 tbsp - ground cinnamon

1/4 cup - cauliflower puree
3 tbsp - confectioner's sugar
1 tsp - pure vanilla extract
1 tsp - orange juice

TO MAKE THE SPONGE, place the milk in a small glass bowl and microwave, on high for 40 to 50 seconds or until lukewarm. Stir in the orange juice, yeast, and sugar. Set aside in a warm place for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly frothy.

TO MAKE THE DOUGH, in the bowl of a standing mixer using a dough hook, combine both types of flour, the milk powder, and salt, and mix on low until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the sponge mixture, carrot puree, and egg. Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes.

Add the margarine and run the mixer for 1 minute more until the dough becomes sticky. With floured fingers, remove the dough and place it in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. After the dough has risen, place it on a cutting board with floured hands. Cut the dough in half.

Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and place half the dough on it. Flatten the dough out with your fingers, patting the edges to make them even. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with half of the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon.

Roll the longest edge of the dough away from you to form a log. With a serrated knife, slice the dough into 1-inch rounds and flip them swirl-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Preheat the oven to 350[degrees]F while the rolls rise for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, start MAKING THE GLAZE. Whisk all the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl and set aside.

Bake the buns for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are cooked through but still soft to the touch. Remove and cool before drizzling with the glaze.

Hannah and I decided to try our hand at these cinnamon rolls last Friday after we went running, and let me tell you, they were disgusting. We were baking these until roughly 2am, and they were definitely not worth it.

To be fair, I am pretty sure a lot of the problems were due to user error. First, we didn't quite know how to steam the vegetables in order to make the purees. Then, my blender wouldn't puree them as fine as we would have liked, so the carrots and the cauliflower were pretty chunky. Next, I'm pretty sure we let the yeast sit in the sponge too long before combining it with the dough, partially because we were having trouble pureeing in a timely manner, so the dough barely rose. It was still sticky and not dough-like, so we couldn't even spread it out to make the rolls. Instead, we had to resort to just making loaves of cinnamon rolls (notice the clearly visible chunks of carrots). The real clencher, however, was the glaze. Let's forget for a moment that it involved visible and sizable chunks of cauliflower, but even just the sugar and vanilla mixed together made me want to barf, not from nausea, but out of spite for this disgusting glaze. To make it worse, the overpowering stench of the pureed cauliflower, that had now been sitting out for a while, was making me a little nauseous. I definitely had no appetite for these rolls by the time they were finished.

Now, once we threw out the glaze (seriously, what was up with that?), and stopped thinking of these loaves as "cinnamon rolls," they tasted a lot better. Eating them as "breakfast cinnamon carrot bread" made it much more acceptable, and actually, my parents like them!

But as far as cinnamon rolls are concerned, I will probably be sticking with Pillsbury from now on.

What extremely dissappointing healthy cooking experiences have you had? Have you been able to incorporate pureed vegetables without it being pretty gross? Can you place where the quote at the top is from (extra points if you can!)?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Not just a clothes rack...

As you probably know (considering that I haven't been able to shut up about it), my Dual Cardio Trainer arrived last Friday! My mom had already lugged it into the house before I got home that afternoon, and in dragging it back to my room, I realized something: exercise bikes are heavy. Weird, right?

I opened up the box, removed the parts and pieces, and began what would prove to be a 2.5 hour task of assembling my prize. I might have been even more excited about this part than the bike itself. I love building and assembling things, which might explain why I chose a career in the construction industry...

After hours of tightening bolts, assembling pieces, and some mild cursing, it was finished. I even made Hannah take some pictures of me using it before we went running (forgive the poor quality, all photos were taken on my phone).

Saturday, I actually used it for its purpose! I did some elliptical training while watching re-runs of The Office (Threat Level Midnight - possibly one of my favorite episodes). I think this cardio trainer will be perfect for when I'm watching TV. I follow a number of shows, but hate to just sit there like a couch potato (usually while chowing down on some cookies or potato chips) when watching them. I've also been thinking about getting up in the morning and getting half an hour or so in before I get ready for work. It could get me really revved up for the day, as long as I'm actually able to drag myself out of bed, so we shall see.

Unfortunately, I haven't used it much since then, as I've been out and about running and rock-climbing. Regardless, I am proud to say that in the 4 days I have owned it, I have not used it as a clothes rack yet. I did hang some jeans on it once, but only for a moment! (Famous last words?)

Do you have any at-home exercise equipment? Did it actually get used often, or where is it now? Do you foresee this actually getting used regularly or becoming more garage sale fodder?

Friday, April 1, 2011


I am so excited. My Dual Cardio Trainer should be waiting for me on my doorstep when I get home today! Tonight I get to put it together, go running with Hannah, then eat copious amounts of popcorn as we watch bad movies at the dollar movie theatre. The best part, is that I'll get to use my Dual Cardio Trainer to work off the copious amounts of popcorn.

Could this get any better?