How unglamorous was your weekend?

As much of a cliché spring cleaning can be, there’s nothing more satisfying (and often unglamorous) than a freshly cleaned house, with everything put in its place and smell of Windex—yes Windex.

I vividly remember reading a chapter in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, where she The Happiness Projectdescribed the decluttering process and how integral it was to have at least one empty shelf, closet or cabinet in your home. This empty space will become a shrine to all things organized and serve as goal to keep clutter at bay. Gretchen’s conversational and narrative style made for a quick and enjoyable read—and if, after hours of spring cleaning, you want to decompress—check out her book here on Amazon: The Happiness Project

As part of my own seasonal decluttering, this weekend was dedicated to the cleaning gods; every surface received the royal treatment, from the windows to the couches and even those high maintenance fabric lamp shades.  Glamorous right?

As a self-proclaimed clean freak, who some have accused of being slightly OCD, I am always on the hunt for a few tips in the art of cleaning—and was frankly shocked/intrigued by some of the guidance I stumbled upon from Real Simple magazine:

Couches –
Step 1: Review the tags—often found under the cushions on the base of the couch—ensure the tag reads “W”, which essentially means you can “wash”/treat the couch yourself. Any special wash instructions should be followed closely in order to avoid a costly sofa snafu
Step 2: Dilute 1 cap full of Woolite into a bucket of cool water. Using a wrung-out sponge dipped in the solution, wipe down each cushion/arm/etc.
Step 3: Let all cushions and couch pieces dry completely before reassembling—be sure to warn those around you that the sofa will be out of commission for a few hours—although it is slightly amusing when someone sits down only to realize their backside is now wet—but I digress

Kitchen/Bathroom cabinets—
Step 1: Empty contents of cabinets and dust off individually – for those kitchen contents, why not utilize the dishwasher and save yourself some elbow grease?
Step 2: Using a microfiber or electrostatic cloth, wipe down the cabinet surfaces, making sure to get into the far reaches of the cabinet corners
Step 3: Using dish soap and water or even some Windex—soak a cloth and wipe down the cabinet surfaces, including the walls, tops and bottomsWindex
Step 4: Want to prevent scouring every small item inside your cabinets until next spring? Why not try storing those items in large Ziploc bags, because let’s face it, who can actually see the tippetty top shelf in your kitchen cabinets?

Coffee Maker—
Step 1: Fill the carafe with 3 cups of water and the same amount of white vinegar and pour into the water chamber –turn switch on to brew
Step 2: Part way through the brew cycle switch off and let the solution sit for about an hour –turn the coffee maker back on and finish the remainder of the solution
Step 3: Refill the carafe and run at least one cycle of clean water through the coffee maker to ensure your coffee doesn’t have a certain tang the next morning

Ready to geek out with some additional cleaning tips? Check out many of Real Simple’s tips via this link: Real Simple Link

DuncanNow not everyone found Real Simple’s tips helpful—our dog Duncan refused to remove himself from the sofa after the cleaning commenced; however, with a little bribery, via cookies or even dog treats, you could be living in hygienic bliss on your freshly cleaned surfaces.

Start the Spring with Swiss Chard

We are now enjoying the second day of Spring—however—with the temperatures hovering around a balmy 31 degrees and with a little over a foot of snow left on the frozen ground, there’s little hope for green grass, flowers, and chirping birds.

I guess this transitional season is what prompts the inevitable spring cleaning—indoors where it is a comfortable 70 degrees. After a morning full of cleaning, organizing and pining over the summer clothes that would have to remain in storage for a few more long months—it was time for a warm filing meal.

A nice one-pot wonder was the immediate go-to for this afternoon’s lunch (and I was also Ingredientslooking for a way to use the Swiss chard from this week’s organic produce delivery)—Chicken and Rice with Swiss Chard (as loosely adapted from Full Fork Ahead):

• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 4 chicken breasts
• Kosher salt and pepper
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems cut into ½-inch pieces, leaves torn into 2-3-inch pieces
• 1 small (or ½ medium) sweet onion, diced
• 1 ½ cups butternut squash, cubed into 1-inch pieces
• Zest from 1 lemon
• ¼ cup dry white wine
• 1 ½ cups basmati rice, uncooked
• 2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

Pat chicken breasts dry with towel—season with salt and pepper. Heat large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with olive oil and butter. When oil and butter are heated, add 2 chicken breasts—working in batches, allowing them to cook for about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken breasts to plate.

Chicken and rice with swiss chardReduce heat to medium and add garlic, Swiss chard stems, sweet onion and butternut squash. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become translucent (approximately 3-4 minutes). Add Swiss chard leaves, lemon zest, rice and white wine—cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to quick simmer. Reduce heat to a simmer and season with additional salt and pepper. Arrange chicken on top of rice and vegetable mixture. Cover and cook until water is fully absorbed by rice—depending on the brand of basmati rice, this could take between 25-45 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

This warm bowl of goodness was just enough to do the trick after a long morning—and even spurred some additional prep work for the week—a refrigerator full of mason jar salads, not-your-momma’s oatmeal and left over chicken and rice with Swiss chard.Refrigerator Stocking

Onboarding Graduate – why haven’t you put yourself out there yet?

A debrief on the last 2 weeks…

• 6 onboarding classes
• 80 wall balls
• 300 jump ropes
• 60 box jumps
• Too many squats to count…

…But in the end, this newbie finally graduated from the first step in the crossfit journey. And what do I have to show for it? Well at the moment, my victory consists of tired legs, but the overall payoff, even in only 6 classes, looks a little something like this:

• Increased energy and focus at work
• Fostering new friendships
• Noticeable improvement in flexibility and mobility
• Consistently left work at or before 5:00pm 3 nights a week
• Improved work-life balance

Personal-Achievement-PrinciplesNow I will be the first to admit that these improvements are not something specific to crossfit, but they can be achieved with any extracurricular activity that sparks your inner passion. Maybe that passion is cooking, maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s pottery and heck during some weeks, maybe your passion is just plain old silence. The moral of the story—if you were like me—chained to your desk/iPhone/laptop—it’s time to do some sampling and get yourself out there—this should be the year you take back fun and try something new.

What’s the harm in trying something new? And why worry about what others may think or say? What I have noticed over the last week is that my choice in extracurricular activities has sparked a number of comments, jokes and inquiries over, but in the end many of my friends and coworkers have been more than supportive.

Reward Yourself
After putting myself out there, I thought, what about a few small rewards—so why not finda few new items to keep that spark alive?

1. Crazy about capris
After swinging by the outlets last weekend—these Reebok capris made their way into my bag Caprisand who doesn’t enjoy a little wimsy in their workout attire? Even if crossfit isn’t your shtick, you still may want check out your local Reebok outlet, as these capris were only $17 (with the help of the AAA card, which I never used before and never saw any use in until recently)

Can’t get to an outlet? Why not cruise the following sites for your own flair:

2. Tank top for warmer weather runs

Tank top 2Thanks to the help of Pinterest, I found the tank top below—I have always gravitated to and enjoyed running; however, being a fair-weather fan, it’s a hobby I enjoy when the outside temperature registers at a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Reasons to take a look: in addition to the handy iPod pocket, it also boasts a no chafe, no rid-up design

Disclaimer: This company is still quite new and only recently secured a manufacturer for their popular tank top with pocket and sports bar with pocket—but having worn it for a few runs (on the treadmill because it’s only about 25 degrees here this week)—I will say it is a piece worth waiting for.

Where to find it:

The Proof is in the PVC

So you have started a journey down the crossfit road—and you get the hang of box jumps, wall-balls, and even double unders—but then your trainer breaks out the barbell and your knees begin to shake.  (Note: for demos and links, locate the orange text throughout the post)

But who would have thought the trick to mastering some of the toughest crossfit moves is PVCPVC Pipes piping or even a broomstick? I would venture to guess that these household objects probably don’t immediately come to mind when many think about a typical crossfit routine.

Over the past week, I have completed 4 classes as part of my initial crossfit onboarding—my trainer has broken down, demonstrated and critiqued several routines involving the infamous barbell. At the heart of each exercise is a 2 minute practice with a 6 foot PVC pipe—not-so glamourous and slightly humbling, but extremely helpful to master the movement before using the real deal. And for the gentlemen out there—this technique was something each trainer required both men and women in the onboarding group to do before moving up to the bar.

This PVC was even used to stretch before some of the tougher workouts and helped to build my confidence with the actual barbell, because at the end of the day, the goal is to learn the move without dropping the bar and weights on your head. Don’t have a 6 foot PVC pipe lying around the house? Why not try a broomstick or mop, so long as they’re clean?

Interested in giving it a try and not entirely sure where to start? Why not try these videos from Reebok and other crossfit trainers?
1. Reebok Sumo Deadlift
2. Reebok Overhead Squat
3. PVC Stretches

After 4 days of onboarding I also learned that when it comes to shoes, the type of sneaker does actually matter—at least for lifting.

Newbies generally don’t have to worry about outfitting yourself head to toe in crossfit gear—so if you’re a runner who’s looking to branch out with crossfit, your Asics or Nikes will work perfectly fine for most of the crossfit workouts. However, I did see a difference when it came to lifting.

When you have the barbell with weights above your head, the one thing you want is a stable base—something you may not necessarily feel with running shoes, due to the cushioning in the sole. Instead, there are weight-lifting shoes that will help to stabilize you and surprisingly, you don’t have to spend all that much on them.

Crossfit ShoesI happened to stumbled upon a 2 for the price of 1 sale at the Reebok outlet outside of Boston and ended up with the 2 pairs of crossfit shoes shown to the left—the orange ones for lifting and the electric blue ones for all other exercises (i.e. wall balls, double unders, etc.).

Here are some other options to try if you are in the market:
1. For the Amazon Prime members out there
2. Some great sales and deals on East Bay’s site

As I drove home from crossfit last night—after a long week at work—I realized I actually had much more energy than the week before and while the temperatures are warming up and the snow is melting, I have to think one of the major contributors to this new found energy has to be crossfit.

And after reflecting on this last week, I am slowly starting to understand why this fitness method has taken off and why there are some strong believers out there—

It’s easy to make the time – only 50-55 minutes, warm-up to finish

The trainers and members are beyond supportive – everyone encourages each other and I can’t remember getting more high-fives in my entire life

You can do the moves – with proper onboarding, even the most novice of folks can muscle through 14 straight minutes of rotations consisting of 50 double unders, 10 box jumps and 10 burpees (note—this was the onboarding WOD as part of yesterday’s workout and trust me it’s as tough as you want to make it for yourself)

It’s my excuse to leave work at a decent hour – I have consistently left at 5pm on crossfit days, which has been liberating and helped to foster a more balanced feeling at the end of a hectic work day for this workaholic

Here’s to week 2—only one more week until I can enter the regular classes!

To crossfit or not to crossfit

Life is about taking chances and putting yourself out there—I know I’m a little late to the game, but the question I’ll be asking myself over the next few weeks—to crossfit or not to crossfit?

crossfitWe are all abundantly aware of some the cultural stereotypes around this latest fitness craze, everything from the “cultish” following to the strange names for workouts (i.e. Hero, Murph, and Fran)—but you may be surprised to hear:

1. Crossfit is actually more popular amongst women—approximately 60% of the crossfitters out there are women
2. Crossfit will not bulk you up like a body builder—well for the ladies out there, it’s near impossible unless you start supplementing with testosterone
3. Crossfit is not as pricey as you think—prices range based on your location and box (the term for the gym)—the reality is that it allows for near-one-on-one training (generally a 8-10 to 1 ratio, students to trainers) and it is much cheaper than person training, which can run upwards of $350 per month

I currently live in a divided household—divided in our respective calorie-burning methodologies. The difference—I’m a yoga, treadmill, former collegiate athlete kind of gal, as opposed to my significant other who is a weight lifting, adult-league soccer and gym rat kind of guy—until he started down the crossfit path a little over 3 months ago.

After seeing 3 months of significant progress in my boyfriend’s physical appearance and reading all sorts of articles – I decided to take the leap and see what the fuss was all about. Now we are not talking the full blown $150 per month experience, but I’ve started the 2-week crossfit introductory course—which not only introduces you to the crossfit routine, but ensures that each participant is safely performing each workout in order to prevent the stereotypical crossfit injuries.

Keep in mind that any credible crossfit establishment will take the time to instruct, observe and critique your form to ensure you do not cause serious harm to yourself. They won’t be able to help you with the soreness you feel the morning after—everything below my hair hurt after the first workout—but they will provide valuable advice on surviving and perfecting each workout of the day (known as a WOD).

What I have found in only a short period of time—the folks at crossfit are some of the most positive and supportive individuals I have ever worked out with. I felt welcomed in the first few minutes and supported throughout the entire 55 minute workout.

I can see how this outlet may be misconstrued as cultish, however, after being on the yoga bandwagon for the last 7 years, I can easily say that all the yogis out there could be accused of fostering a similar environment—but let’s face it—there’s nothing cultish about individuals who are there to better their bodies and build meaningful friendships with one another.

My goal over the next 2 weeks is immerse myself in the WODs every other day, learning everything from burpees to filthy fifties to snatches—all terms that still carry a scary connotation, but I’ve been assured that these military-like terms are all moves achiecrossfit 2vable by even the most novice of crossfit newbies.

So here goes nothing! I’m eager to see what the next few weeks bring in terms of progress, aches, meeting new people and trying to push myself harder than any workout before—well I’m not sure it’ll necessarily compare to some of the lacrosse workouts in college but we’ll see!

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