Friday, April 27, 2012

Whose Idea Was This, Anyway?

I'm not a runner, not by any stretch of the imagination. Interval style cardio is much better in terms of muscle gain, long term calorie burn (post workout) and enjoyment. Running is straight cardio with the side effects of sore joints, muscle loss and (for me), extreme mental boredom.

Despite all of this and the concern from my personal trainer, I am training to run 10 miles on July 28, 2012.

Run for the Fallen CT is an annual event honoring fallen soldiers from Connecticut. In prior years, each mile of the run was dedicated to a soldier lost in the Middle East conflict. Last year, the lead ultra runner Clifford Paquette ran a total of 59 miles. He was accompanied by teams who each ran 10 mile intervals. This year, the runners will complete a 61 kilometer run on July 28, 2012. (That translates to an amazing 40 mile run.)

This is Cliff making his final lap at the Glastonbury High School track where the Run ends.

While the ultra runners are on their journey, people gather at the track - families of fallen soldiers, friends and local citizens - to walk or run laps to fundraise.

This year, the Run for the Fallen CT 2012 organizers made a change, allowing lappers to select which military-based charitable organization receives their funds instead of designating the organizations themselves.

I am a member of the Rotary Club of Glastonbury which supports this event by working the concession stand (a fitting assignment since members of the club built the stand itself). I volunteered to work in the stand at the 2011 event, but also spent time taking photos, talking to lappers and learning the stories behind why they did laps and for whom. The stories were very moving.

Once the ultra runners arrive, the last lap around the track is completed.

On the field, each fallen service person is represented by a plant with their photo. In a formal ceremony, each soldier is honored and saluted. Both an American flag and an Honor and Remember flag are placed in each plant.

Once I had a chance to process the experience, it occurred to me that no one from my Rotary walked or ran laps. I decided that in 2012, I would complete laps.

In 2012, the Rotary Club of Glastonbury joined forces with Purple Heart Homes of North Carolina, a 501(c)3 organization co-founded by two Purple Heart recipients, John Gallina and Dale Beatty. PHH is a group dedicated to providing accessible housing solutions for wounded service members. To that end, our club took on the task of coordinating the building of a home for wounded Marine CPL Manny Jimenez on Addison Road in Glastonbury. We call the project Manny's Place.

This is a photo of Manny, posing next to plans for his home. This photo was taken by Vicki Thomas, Media Relations with Purple Heart Homes.

Here's Manny approximately 23 days into construction on his home as framing is about to begin. He's nail gunning prep boards alongside a member of the H.E.A.R.T. 9-11 crew.

And that's when it happened. I decided that on behalf of the Rotary Club of Glastonbury, I would complete a 10 mile run at the 2012 Run for the Fallen CT event. All donations received are dedicated to Purple Heart Homes to help John and Dale continue their mission of providing accessible housing solutions to wounded veterans around the country.

Here's the problem: I don't run. 

I dislike running. It bores me and it's often painful.

When I do run, I am a heel striker - flat-footed with a tendency to pronate and peroneal tendonitis issues in my left leg.

Have I mentioned I have a plate and some screws in my left ankle?

To say this is a Herculean task for me is an understatement.

I created a training schedule with distance goals to reach over time. My first day running at the gym was better than I thought it would be. The second session was less so as I started to feel shin pain, nerve-related skin numbness (related to scar tissue in my ankle) and pain in my heel which was the tendonitis rearing its head for the first time since 2010. 

Me being me, I immediately thought, "I need new shoes". 

I headed over to Fleet Feet in West Hartford to acquire a more supportive running shoe. A super nice guy named Keith helped me out. After making me walk barefoot, observing my gait and measuring my feet, he disappeared into the back room, reappearing with 6 shoe boxes. He handed me a pair of merino wool ankle socks and proceeded to explain to me why he chose each selection, not getting too deep into the technical aspects of the shoe, but giving me enough information that I could follow where he was going.

There were a few pairs which made an immediate impression. I chose those three pairs as the ones in which I would make test runs outside. Each time I took off down the sidewalk, I made mental comparisons.

One pair stood out as perfect for me. All my issues seemed to disappear and I was running on a cloud down Farmington Avenue.

In addition to recommending the perfect running shoe for me, Keith (as an experienced runner), gave me a lot of advice. He meted it out in little bits that I could process and take with me. I left there feeling very supported and I know the team from Fleet Feet is a great resource for running newbies such as myself.

Here are my new Saucony brand running shoes with a pair of socks recommended by Keith.

Now that I have a supportive shoe, the run is a mental game for me. I've created playlists on my iPod to keep my mind engaged and my feet moving.

I absolutely hate running, but I know that I have the ability to meet all of my goals. I will complete 10 miles on July 28th (and then immediately return to the joys of non-impact, muscle building interval cardio).

The Purple Heart Homes crew sent me an athlete's shirt to wear on my run. I'm incredibly proud to support this group and look forward to wearing the shirt at the Run for the Fallen CT.

I'm truly proud to live the Rotarian motto of "service above self".

And, when I need a little inspiration to run when scheduled, I think of Manny Jimenez. He just completed the Boston Marathon. He didn't complain about the difficulties created by his injuries nor did he complain about the extreme heat experienced as temperatures soared above 90 degrees. Instead, Manny talked about how wonderful it was to see fabulous views of Boston along his run.

I'm inspired by him to do more and to help others whenever possible.

Whose idea was this anyway? It was my idea, I guess. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I chose 10 miles because it would be hard for me. I could have chosen to run 3 miles or even 1 mile. My supporters wouldn't be less supportive because of it.

I chose the 10  mile distance precisely because I need to work for it.

That will make it mean something to me.

Thank you, Manny for being my inspiration. You never take the easy route.

Thank you to my Rotary family for teaching me the Four Way test and providing avenues to live "service above self".

Thank you to John Gallina, Dale Beatty and the amazing staff of Purple Heart Homes. 

I'm proud to support you.

(If anyone would like to donate to my run, here is a link to my donation site on Crowdrise. Monies are sent directly to Purple Heart Homes. You do not need an account to donate. Credit card info is not stored and it takes about 30-60 seconds of clicking and typing to get it done. Crowdrise charges a nominal fee for each donation. No donation amount is too small. It all adds up to make a difference in the life of another human being.)

By the way, Manny's Place is coming along. Remember to stop over to the Facebook page and peruse the photo albums which document the construction progress from groundbreaking to the present.

The photos are also a way to thank all the local contractors, tradespeople, Rotarians, and general volunteers who are making this happen with reduced bills, donations of supplies and donations of time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Triple Chocolate Nutella Brownie Caper of 2012

From early 2010 through 2011, my body morphed from a size 20 W trouser to a 2 misses. (The scintillating details may be found in this link - "Do These Nachos Make My Hiney Look Fat?"). In January, I started working with Caryn Acevedo at Accelerated Fitness Solutions (Cromwell location) to reduce my body fat (while maintaining or adding to muscle) using their 12 week FirstLine Therapy nutrition program.

A few weeks into this, my friend Emily Woodward opened Get Baked at 25 Central Street in Windsor, CT. My premise is do not give up what you want most for what you want right now. My dear friend understood that I would not eat a nibble of her confections until my 12 weeks were completed. You can read about that decision in my blog, "I WANT IT NOW".

When it comes to nutrition, the keys to success are planning and preparation. Emily and I planned my deviation into the world of desserts for April 12 which fell in the week I chose to relax my nutrition in order to enjoy a glass of wine and a little dessert before getting right back to setting new goals and cutting my body fat again.

I even chose my dessert ahead of time.

Emily posts photos of desserts, breads, and treats on Facebook. I love to peruse the pictures of cupcakes and admire her work. The colors and flavors practically jump off the screen. I'm so proud of my friend!

One day she posted:

My immediate response? Gimme.

Then I thought, no, that won't take me where I want to go. It needs to wait.

The date was planned, calendared and Emily agreed to make sure that I would have my chosen confection on the appointed day. I created the visit to Get Baked as an event on Facebook. On April 12th, Rosalie, Diane and Margie joined me in Windsor. (Thanks to those who could not take a day off or lived too far away to attend, but sent enthusiastic support. Yes, I will plan another visit, this time on a Saturday, in about 12 more weeks.)

If you've never been to Get Baked, it's very welcoming. I could write about it endlessly, but a few photos will tell you what you want to know.

What would Get Baked be without owner and head baker, Emily Woodward in the kitchen?

Cozy seating, leave a book, take a book and wifi

Checkers, anyone?

Yum. Yep, that covers it.

Look in these cases.



More yum.

Now you have an idea of how wonderful it is to visit Get Baked.

(If only I could make these pictures a scratch and sniff version.)

Margie arrived first. She not only got a TCNB for herself but she selected some yummies to bring home to her husband, Don.

This box is for Don.
Or at least that's what she claimed.

Margie with her TCNB and coffee.

This will give you an idea of how good it was.

Title this "A Very Happy Margie".

Rosalie and Diane arrived next. They opted to share a selection which included a frittata, scone and coffee cake.

Now we get to me, since I started this whole thing.

Emily picked out a Triple Chocolate Nutella Brownie just for me (and very nicely pulled a Vanna White to display it).

I opted to enjoy it with a cup of their coffee from Bean & Leaf.

Here's the thing - I knew it would taste good. But, in the back of my mind I thought, how good can a brownie be? You eat one brownie, it's like every other brownie unless someone really makes a bad mistake.

I was expecting to enjoy the brownie.

I took my first bite.

Nothing should ever taste this good. 

This didn't just meet my expectations, it made me utter "mmmmm" and "yummmm" and "oh my goodness" among other things.

Unreal deliciousness. 
That is what that brownie was in its very first bite.

In case you think I'm kidding, here's the next picture.

And then, I finally popped the last bite in my mouth. 

I wanted to go all Dickens-like and request just a bit more.

I believe that Emily is probably accustomed to what happened next. I'm not sure if I was inspired by the sugar, the chocolate, the Nutella or the butter, but I dropped to one knee and proposed.

Emily took it in stride. Kevin, her significant other of 13 years, didn't even look up from his work in the kitchen.

Thank goodness, the magical brownie spell wore off. Just be prepared for it when you stop in for your little bit of deliciousness.

Of course, I needed a "to-go" box for a co-worker named Cathy. Her selections included an oreo cookie cupcake, mini whoopie pie, baklava, chocolate chip cookies, a chocolate drizzled coconut macaroon and a triple chocolate nutella brownie.

Upon receipt of the gift box, Cathy repeatedly said things like, "oh no, this is too much", "how could you", "I can't eat this",  and "I should bring this to my son".

She said these things while taking bites and never released what seemed to be a very firm grip on the box.

By the end of the day that box was practically empty. I "believe" she saved the cupcake for her son.

(Sorry, Cathy, I just had to rat you out!)

So now you have the story of the Triple Chocolate Nutella Brownie Caper. If you'd like a similarly delightful afternoon, stop and see Emily at Get Baked in Windsor. If you have special requests, call them in a day or so ahead. You never know what magical things she will create on any given day.

In the meantime, I enjoyed my deviation from my regular plan very much but am back to it with new goals and dreams.

But, I'll return to see Emily soon.

Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, I'll be facing my trainer, the amazing Kevin Carlson of Accelerated Fitness Solutions in Cromwell. We have some work to do.

This is apparently the face he makes when he's deciding how many pushups I need to do.

Doesn't he look happy? I rather think it might be a lot!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bottom Line

In January, I decided to make some nutrition changes to lean up my frame. I signed up for 12 Weeks of FirstLine Therapy Nutrition at Accelerated Fitness Solutions in Cromwell. To be clear, this is not a diet. My existing nutrition plan was fairly healthy, but my body was accustomed to what I was doing. I needed to change "something" in order to make my body change again. I opted to work with Accelerated Fitness Solutions because I trust their guidance in matters of health and fitness. Caryn Acevedo helped me expand my food repertoire and learn to be more flexible in my eating patterns. She also provided education on how foods impact the body. Beyond the structure and recipes of a healthy eating plan, she taught the underlying thought processes.   

(For anyone who missed the details of my saga from a size 20W trouser to a 2 misses, please take a look at my December blog, "Do These Nachos Make My Hiney Look Fat?".)

I completed my 12 weeks on April 5th. I met with Caryn on April 6th for my final BIA (a method of measuring body fat in relation to lean body mass) and guidance for how to shift into a maintenance phase when ready.

Here's what changed in 12 weeks:

I dropped 11 pounds of fat. Muscle mass not affected.
My body fat percentage dropped 5% to 25.7%.
I learned how to deal with food a little better. Ok, a lot better.
My clothes fit differently. My body is visibly leaner in appearance.

Most importantly, working with Caryn Acevedo at Accelerated Fitness provided insight and education into how the body uses food. She reinforced the idea that it is not about what you weigh, it is about how you look, feel and perform. A scale does not measure muscle or fat, but your jeans tell you the truth every time. I replaced all my extra small workout capris with a slim cut, tight leg version in extra small because the others were falling down.

When in my life did I ever think I would have that problem?

Emily Woodward of Images by Emily popped back into the training studio one morning while I was working with my trainer of almost 2 years, Kevin Carlson. Kevin is the managing partner of the Cromwell facility. He's the person I most trust to guide me along this journey and the one who works to keep me injury free along the way.

I go where Kevin points. It's that simple. He gets results.

This is Kevin, demonstrating how he wants me to hold the bar for a different type of squat movement than I normally perform. He does this so I may emulate his use proper form.

This is me attempting the squat with the bar resting on the front of my shoulders. The weight is very light because I need to learn to deal with the posture which I found interesting

(That's my way of saying I prefer to squat bigger weight with the bar behind my head as I am accustomed to that, but I do what I am told because I trust Kevin and he designed this plan with my long-term goals in mind. Besides, who can argue with the results.)

That's Kevin right behind me - keeping a watchful eye.

Pushups with a weighted row.

This one should be titled, "You're doing it wrong".

While Emily was snapping the first picture, Kevin called me on my form. I am forever dropping my hips and dipping my head. With these photos, I have a much better sense of how to correct my alignment when he says something. I appreciate his help so much because his guidance stops me from injuring myself. I watch others in the weight area of my regular gym and see many instances where bad form could result in muscle strain, back or knee injury or simply where someone is cheating themselves out of a good result by using improper form.


Incline bench press, 35 pounds in each hand.

Kevin stays close by to make sure I manage the weight safely as I tire after multiple sets.

At this point, I am about to raise the weights and turn them to begin the set.

Pull downs, kneeling on one knee

Squat and pull

Here is the exercise that really gets my heart racing and takes everything I have.

Kevin calls these "Up and Overs".

I call them "Are We Done Yets?"

(I should point out Kevin fails to see the humor in this.)
Standing on one side of the box, step up and step off the other side, repeat in reverse. One foot or the other is on the box at all times. Continue this motion for a set period of time.

There are multiple sets of this with timed rests in between.

As I tire, Kevin encourages me to keep moving.

This blog is an insight into my progress and a glimpse into some of the exercises in one my latest workout programs. As I move forward in the programs, the weights increase. The programs change after so many weeks. It keeps me challenged and interested, never bored. I also get results.

In the long run, it's not about a number, it's about how I feel. I'm strong, confident, happy and secure in the knowledge that I have both the tools and the support systems for continued success.

My new goal is to drop my body fat to 21 or 22%. I will play it by ear, to see how I look and feel as I approach those numbers. It's about both the definition I want to see and the level of conditioning I experience.

In the meantime, I have a planned deviation on April 12th to which I am looking forward. Emily Woodward, my favorite shutterbug, is also the owner and head baker at Get Baked in Windsor. I have waited all this time to taste exactly one Triple Chocolate Nutella Brownie. You might remember I talked about this in my blog, "I Want It Now".

I promise to report back. It may just be a photo blog of me with big smiles and chocolate smears on my face. Stay tuned.