WLC Journal #5 – Exercise

Exercise on the WLC is not that tricky. Move for 10 minutes and count it as done. When I’m in a non-running mode as I have been the past several weeks (calf strain), I’m forced to get creative. Cindy has introduced to me the power of the exercise video. At first I might have poked some fun at the exerciser-by-video type. Yet I’m hear to publicly confess that I’m now that type. Would I prefer to be running outdoors over watching and following a tape indoors?  Absolutely. 

As a convert, I’m here to say the exercise video space is a good alternative.  Warning, it is also a space filled with many, many alternatives. I fear we may own most of the alternatives. So why do I share this?  Partially to set the truth free. But partially as an opportunity to…to…BUILD A ‘BEST OF’ LIST!!  In order of almost great to great:

  • Piyo – there’s a lady with a name I can’t spell or pronounce and she’s stretch-goodbody flexible. The video will make you work and parts will make you sore. It would be higher on the list if you believed her co-stars of exercise really liked each other. Unfortunately, there’s this creepy feeling that they don’t. 
  • T25 with Sean T –These are good but there are maybe too many videos. You’ll get sore but also wonder how good of a workout it really was. 
  • P90X – old school video that will kick your arse. Truthfully I can only do about 25% of the stuff in these videos but I feel good about nearly master the ‘Ab Ripper X’ video. If this list were based on the best quotes on the videos this on would have easily won. “You love it, but you hate it.”  Plus one of his exercise compadres is named Jason which makes it sound like he’s yelling at me. Personalized torture. 
  • Insanity – if you get through the 60 days, you can be proud of the distance you will have come. I saw the most difference from any of the videos with this one. Unfortunately the high impact nature of these workouts have me thinking they are geared for a generation or two south of mine. And the winner of greatest exercise video we own is (drumroll please!)…
  • T30 Max – another Sean T special. This one hits the sweet spot for time, will make you sore, has a strong mix of cardio plus a few folks scattered about the video taking a break here and there (this always makes me feel better). The goal is to increase your max over the 60 day video program.  

There you have it. My personal ranking complete with my offer for any local readers to borrow all except the last mentioned video.   The last is spoken for at least for the next 40 days. 

WLC Journal #4 – Protein

Four days into the WLC and my biggest challenge in the challenge continues to be eating. Specifically eating enough protein. Cindy is convincing me that this is behind my spate of calf injuries over the past 2-4 years. I think she’s right. 
Here’s the math:  6 foot man of average weight/build needs somewhere between 80-100 grams of protein per day or so the Internet tells me. I get 25-28 from my morning shake but on some days that can be my peak for the day. Yesterday I had a shoddy lunch (read: I missed a full lunch) and ate nuts at a couple of different windows in the afternoon. Then the bean surprise and an apple with real peanut butter for dessert and I may have ended up with 50-60 grams of protein total for the day. Not. Even. Close. 

So, the presenter theory from Cindy is to make a simple dietary adjustment:  eat meat. While a sure fix then that puts me back in the mode of not feeling efficient and as good as I do without the meat. Plus the return to regular stomach issues isn’t something I want to return to anytime soon. 

This leaves me at an interesting point and with the same general conclusion:  I love to run. I REALLY LOVE to run. I like not eating meat. Therefore I need to find protein in more places than I currently am. Simple, right?  Maybe not as much as I thought. 

More fish?  More beans?  More shakes?  Any more ideas?  I’d love to hear them. 

WLC Journal #3 – C is for Challenge (Not Cookie)

I have said it before, the WLC is no lay-up but it does get easier over time. The Challenge is real and comes in many forms. For me, the most challenging of the challenges is eating. It isn’t hard to eat compliant but it can be hard to eat compliant and do so with flavor (note: if I were talking to you from the Food Network I would have said ‘flavor profile’ instead. You’re welcome.). Creams, milks, cheeses and breads really do have a hold of me when it comes to my favorite foods. Not to mention my nemesis, that evil dude sugar. Then there’s the part about not eating meat and the choice/taste curve heads to the bottom right quadrant fast. 

So what does one do to help bring taste back in the WLC?  Plan. That’s what. Here are a few tips and then the best tip of all at the end. 

  • Pesto – pine nuts (pecans or almonds can also work), garlic, salt and olive oil in a food processor
  • Mrs (or is she single?) Dash – there’s a chipotle version of this that’s quite fine
  • Butter – beans and greens are always better sautéed in butter with a pinch of seasoning
  • Texas Pete – goes on almost everything
  • Cinnamon – chopped apples, pecans, butter, dried fruit (no sugar added) and cinnamon sautéed is something special.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes – these make everything better
  • Fresh olives – chop finely with olive oil, salt to make a nice a tapenade 
  • Dates – chop these finely and use where sugar was needed; insane fiber here too. DON’T DISCOUNT THE DATE!
  • Cocoa – add to chopped dates, pecans, vanilla then ball up and roll in coconut; high energy snack and/or dessert
  • Sweet potatoes – purée for pancakes (with coconut flour), add to smoothies or bake and eat with butter and cinnamon

The best tip of all (and no, I’m not too skeert to admit it)?  Pinterest. Search on ‘Whole Life Challenge’ or ‘Whole 30’ to get a good sample of the possibilities. Or you can take a peek at our board here. That’s right, I like Pinterest. Loud and proud baby!

What’s your favorite WLC recipes or kitchen hacks?

WLC Journal #2 – Why WLC?

This is round of three of the Whole Life Challenge (WLC)  for me and by far the most frequent question I get asked is: “Why do you do it?”  Contrary to Cindy’s belief that I truly enjoy removing things from my world regardless of the pain created, the simplest answer is I like how I feel when I’m in the Challenge.  It holds me accountable to do the things I aspire to do on most days anyways.  Exercise, stretch, drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier.  I’m confident when I don’t do one or more of these things I feel notably worse than if I had done them.

My reasons for participating in the WLC have shifted since my first round.  Initially my reason was to dump my ridiculous sugar habit.  Once and for all.  A habit that I know I came into through only the best intended genetics.  Generations of chocolate pies, scratch-made chocolate chip cookies, coconut cakes and even Publix-baked sweets left me a mere hapless victim.  Unleash me into the freedoms of college and where found I could buy and consume frosting by the tubs as reward for a completed paper or exam.  Then see me through marriage and early child-raising where homemade cookies and sweets were reward for running mileage goals met and less sleep than I ever thought imaginable.  While still a side-benefit, detoxing from sugar is no longer my sole focus.  I found after about 2-3 weeks into the first round that I felt really good.  Alert during the slow part of the day.  More rested when I woke up.  More efficient when I worked out.  I can tell whether I had a good day of food or a bad day of food when I wake up each morning.  The difference is stark.

Why do I WLC?  For the feeling.  Sure the challenge is what I like too and truth-be-told, I do like the simplicity that a life with less offerings.  It is probably a big part of the reason why I stopped eating meat.  Being a veggie vastly simplifies eating out in the days of multi-page menus.  The challenge of the WLC is worth exploring a bit more in a different journal entry.  For now, just trust me.  If you work to eat better, drink more water, exercise a little and sleep with higher quality the benefits on how you feel are right around the corner, just past the sugar detox shakes and sweats.

Words That Inspire Me to Act

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Just Do It.  Challenge.  Top that.  Help me.  All words that make me want to do something, better, more.  Two 56-day challenges ago a good friend of mine inspired me to act.  He may not know it but his introduction to me of the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) hit two words near and dear to my action sensors:  Challenge and Accountability.  Both words inspire me want to do something but for differing reasons.

One word hits my inner ego.  The part of my mind that says “don’t lose.”  The part of my mind that says you can’t do anything unless you try it.  This is the part of my mind that competes wildly with self doubt and doesn’t always win.  Such a loss means I stay dormant on the thought, inactive.  Almost hiding from the very thing that inspires me to act.

The other word hits the part of me that gets me moving.  Not exactly peer pressure but maybe a cousin of it.  When I think of always striving to do good I find I sometimes do good.  When I SAY I want to always do good I find it is harder to veer from that goal.  That’s the power of another set of eyes.  I find nothing inspires action in me more.  I’ll admit, there’s probably some first-childism surfacing here that only a therapist could explain.

As I embark on another 56-day journey I find myself more excited about this challenge than the previous two.  Maybe a part of the excitement is a lack of fear.  This time, I know I can do it.  Maybe not the challenge it once was but still a long ways from being a lay-up.  Some of the excitement is in the accountability.  It is the difference between eating 1/2 pound of M&Ms in the nights before the WLC started and eating raisins and cashews for “dessert” the night after the WLC started.  But primarily my excitement stems from the camaraderie with the other folks on the team.  It is fun to see the struggles, surprises and frankly learn more about people you thought you already knew everything (or at least a lot) from simple daily statements shared across the team.  From the challenge I know Alex has an odd affection for the cracker product.  My brother has a wit in writing I never knew existed.  Cindy fears meditating.  Tracy finds sneaky good meals that are compliant.  I look forward to learning what I’ll learn about others this round.

Lastly, a few parting thoughts for those on their first round of the WLC.  The first week is the hardest.  Getting food right takes time, effort and discovery.  Pinterest is your friend (yep, said it publicly).  If you need ideas on compliant meals, snacks, etc. let those who have done this help.  If you find things you like to eat, share it as most of us are still looking for the elusive joy in eating known as variety.  It is alright to fall off the wagon.  In fact, it is inevitable.  Wagons by nature move slow.  Just get back up and jump back on it.

Attachedness

   
 (Written on January 12, posted on January 16)

Today I drove my last mile in my 2001 Saab 9-3 SE. I hardly even thought about the fact that I won’t be in that car again. Just popped out of it at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, dropped the key in the floorboard, took my bag and coat and walked away. I didn’t even look back. No “thank you.” No final picture. It’s new owner will pick it up later today and will start making memories of her own in it. 
Now before you set in to remind me that this is an inanimate object or how there are things in life that matter and then there are cars, know that I get that. But also know a few facts that may be driving such nostalgic sentiment. 

  • This is a car that has been in our family longer than any of my kids
  • This car was our first car purchased as a married couple 
  • This was the car I drive my firstborn home in at about 10 MPH under the speed limit
  • I left it just shy of 175,000 miles. I drove it roughly the last 125,000 miles of them 
  • It left me stranded three times – all three in epically high profile, high traffic locations – I am stronger for the mild embarrassment brought about by hearing your reference on a radio traffic report
  • I spent 5 Charlotte summers in it without A/C – A/C is SOOO first world. I’m considering adding this to my resume. 

I feel oddly defeated. I envisioned the Saab at a car shop and the mechanic telling me with head down, “I’m sorry, we’ve tried everything we can. I’m afraid there is nothing more we can do.  I’ll leave you to have a few minutes alone with the Saaber Dobber.”  I even gave serious consideration to dismantling the car and selling the valuable parts as a project for me and Will to do together. That is until we discovered there aren’t that many valuable parts in an old Saab. I envisioned it becoming Will’s car in three years. The perfect car because what friend of his would want to jump in his car when the choice of an air conditioned one awaited?  

I feel nervous. I think about how easy that car made my life. No car washing. Very limited maintenance. No worries about door dings or distracted drivers hitting it.  Leave the keys in it. The kids could not harm it. Basically just gas and the occasional oil change. Maybe a semi-annual vacuuming. Simple.

I’ll miss it. There, I said it. I’ll miss the simplicity of the numberless “clock.” Only the ‘AM’ or ‘PM’ showed on the display. The kids would ask for the time and would chime back with me “clearly it is morning” or “about PM”. I’ll miss the driver side “seater heater” that for no reason would randomly heat to a near pant-melting temperature for 20-30 seconds. I’ll miss seeing the check engine light daily and then when it wasn’t on one day wondering if it was the gas fill-up that did it. I’ll miss packing it full for camping trips and always being able to find a spot for one more thing – that car has some serious storage capacity. I’ll miss the quirky ignition in the center console. 

Attachedness (yes, made that up) is interesting to me. I am not a hoarder so it doesn’t seem to be the idea of getting rid of something that makes me want to hold onto a car. It also wasn’t that this was ever a dream car – I took it over when Cindy needed kid transport space. I think it is the familiar mixed with the significantly reduced anxiety a car provides to me over time. While most worry about the maintenance and breakage factor, I like to focus more on the gifts an old car gives with time. Less cosmetic care. More utility. Even boldness in low-speed lane changes. At times fewer passengers. These “features” created more headspace for me. Can you really put a price on that? In short, attachedness brings me inner peace. 

The Saab was a good car. Check that. It was a great car (regardless of what you may have heard on the contrary from my family). I’m not sure I’ll ever have another car for 15-16 years or 175k miles. Who am I kidding? Of course I will. This is just the time to start another streak! But let’s not share this new goal with my family. Definitely too soon.  

You know what is better? Seeing this car will help a family more than it could have ever helped ours. Hoping this car is the exact thing to help get this family through a rough spot. Knowing this family will now have a great reason to pay it forward down the road. 

Thanks Saaber Dobber. We had a good ride, didn’t we?

Au Revoir Paris

Au Revoir Paris

After 15 days away from our home sweet home we are finally back. Only 4,000 miles, 2 flights , 8 passport checks, 10 movies watched collectively and several questions about why we have to board by zones (read:  there seems to be a passive displeasure amongst the kids that we don’t seem to have very good luck with zones) we are finally settled back home in Fort Mill.  This home seems to reside in a much, much warmer and more humid climate, seems to be devoid of much edible food and might or might not have received a letter about unruly lawn upkeep.  No matter, as it was deeply missed and has more than one bathroom. It is good to be back. 

I feel a strong need to sum the trip up but have found it profoundly difficult to do so.  I’m going to keep it simple and focused on the positives. We walked. A lot. We rode metros daily. Will is awesome at navigating subway lines.  We saw thousands of pigeons and counted most of them. Charlie was enamored by them. We saw all of the sights in Paris we wanted to see, even if we bagged the 11pm tickets for going up in the Eiffel Tower. The kids understand the feelings that cities can evoke.  While they liked Paris, they LOVED Belgium. I love them for seeing the distinction. Stewart loved dining at the cafes, shopping at H&M (please don’t tell her it didn’t originate in Paris) and seeking out gelato. She has a spirit for travel that I hope never goes away. Charlie has the legs and “I’m not tired” attitude to thru-hike any trail. I hope he will take me with him. And Cindy…her patience with our daily itinerary and my march about Paris in the rain to see the Tour de France whiz by a few quick times is almost what I love about her most.  Truth is, it is her ability to make experiences for our kids happen and her day-in, day-out friendship and that smile that says “relax, this is all what makes a good life” are the things I love about her the most.  

This trip was one my family will never forget. I will always be grateful for the opportunity we were given here and the shared experience that I so deeply value with my family.  Best case, this is one of many great travel opportunities to come for us as a family.  Worst case, we have hopefully provided our kids with a set of great memories and given them a spark to go out and explore this great and fascinating world.

Some last observations from our day of travel:

  • A Paris cab will charge you for wait time, even if he arrives for pick-up earlier than the scheduled time. 
  • Tip: apparently if you give your boarding passes to a 6 year old to hand to the boarding agent you can board with any zone you please. Nice work Charlie. 
  • Dear Philadelphia Airport TSA Team:  please go visit the Heathrow Airport Team to understand how to secure an airport AND help travelers make connections. Novel concept.  On the bright side, we made it in spite of your efforts.  Pointing those fans on the customers in line also wouldn’t hurt. 
  • Dear American Airlines:  ice cream for all on the flight back is a really nice touch that seemed to excite more than just me and my three kids. 
  • Dear Charles de Gaule Airport: maybe a touch less emphasis on super high-end shopping and a touch more emphasis on drinking fountains and general hydration.
  • Stewart and Will, although at times a bit like an elderly married couple, travel EXTREMELY well together. 
  • We are already experiencing baguette withdrawal.  The kids don’t understand why their hot dogs are served on these weird soft buns. 
  • And last, my boy takes his in-flight movie watching comfort VERY seriously.