Change is the only constant

changeistheonlyconstantWhen I started this blog in March 2013, I was in a totally different space. I was feeling inspired by parameters, I was feeling good about helping friends, and I was energized by exercise. I was learning more about myself – what fueled my body and my spirit. I was going strong and feeling strong and helping others feel the same way!  And to top it off, one day my scale showed me a number that I hadn’t seen since high school. Rock on. I was swimming! Then I floundered. Then I flopped. I had all of the excuses, but they’re the excuses. I won’t even grant them the mindspace to list them individually. But my excuses were logical, and forgiving, and enabling, and completely blind. I decided to put my energy into other categories, and that’s okay in the grand scheme of things.  It is valid to choose different priorities. However, if my goal is fitness and health, I won’t ever reach that goal if I don’t prioritize it. I’ll just float around with a goal in the distance but no momentum. So now I’m back. From outer space. There is no need for guilt or regrets.  Indulging in negative feelings now can’t change actions in the past. Besides, that’s where emotional eating starts, right? Don’t eat because you’re sad, and don’t be sad because you eat! Perhaps it’s Spring bringing feelings of renewal – a growing excitement for warmer weather and the activities that accompany it! But now changes – they are a-coming. The domain may be unavailable in a couple days for a couple days. Then there may be some transition pains. But after that, here’s looking forward to a new look, more recipes and dinner plans, more resources, new thoughts and fitness challenges! Until next time…

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FitBit Step-it-up Challenge!

I, along with many of my friends and family, have acquired FitBits, which is really more than just a glorified pedometer!  I have a FitBit One, which has an activity (and sleep) tracker, but all of them include access to a free smart phone app and web interface, which is where the data magic happens.  The data geek in me enjoys  the activity graphs, the achievement geek in me likes that it gives you goals (10,000 steps a day isn’t easy for a girl with a deskjob), and the social geek in me likes that you can add people you know and have friendly competitions!

FitBit Step-it-up Challenge | Hold the Lemon

The FitBit Step-it-up Challenge

So I’ve been realizing that I’ve been slacking off. And other people have mentioned about how they have been slacking off. So I propose a new challenge, one where other people aren’t your competition, but the numbers are!

Starting July 1st, the goal is to be in the winning group of the week to *maintain* (at least!) the weekly average of steps number for that week, increasing every week by 1,000 steps. The goal is to make it to 10,000 steps, after which we can work on a 10k maintain challenge.

Week 1 – Jul 01 28,000 steps (avg. 4000/day)
Week 2 – Jul 08 35,000 steps (avg. 5000/day)
Week 3 – Jul 15 42,000 steps (avg. 6000/day)
Week 4 – Jul 22 49,000 steps (avg. 7000/day)
Week 5 – Jul 29 56,000 steps (avg. 8000/day)
Week 6 – Aug 05 63,000 steps (avg. 9000/day)
Week 7 – Aug 12 70,000 steps (avg. 10000/day)

Who’s in?

Strategies to get more steps

  • Take the long way into work. Try the far door, take the stairs, walk the whole floor before sitting down.
  • Walk during work. This could be during your lunch break, taking the long way to a meeting.
  • Go to a fitness class!  I can get a good 5000+ steps just from a single zumba class.
  • Make your “average daily steps” your step goal for the day. If you always meet or exceed it, then your goal will keep increasing as will your steps.
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Getting fit is a hike, not a sprint

Getting Fit isn't a Spring. It's a hike.  | Hold the Lemon

They say that getting fit is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’d like to propose that it’s more like a hike up a mountain.

When you first start, it seems insurmountable.  The task looms above you, and you can’t really know what’s on the other side. But you put one foot in front of the other and you go.  You move. You won’t do it in a day, but any movement more than your normal brings you further away from the bottom and up towards your goal.  Sometimes you may stumble downhill again. Sometime you may camp out for a little while to catch your breath.  But before you know it, it becomes just what you do. You wake up, and you move forward.

There are many paths up, and the one you take may not be the same one that others have taken. It may not be the same one you started out on or where you thought you’d go. You may even make your own path. You  may even get lost.  Don’t worry; that’s all part of the adventure.  You often can’t see what’s around the bend, but just look up, and you know where your goal is.

Also, this is your mountain.  It can be as high as you like, or it can have several peaks of power. Challenge yourself.

Just so this post is also a useful reference tool:  if you’re anything like me, when I first come to a new place, I need a guide.  I know that I’m not the first person to climb this mountain. I need a map to give me confidence that I’m going in the right direction and landmarks to confirm it. Below are some places to start.

Don’t forget to stop occasionally to check out the view behind you, too, and be proud for how far you’ve come!

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I am the Warrior! Training the Untrained.

The Warrior Dash is a 5k with obstacles.  Climbing, crawling, running, challenging, muddy obstacles. I have never done an obstacle course before, or a 5k for that matter. So, of course when I saw a Groupon for it, I signed up. And recruited friends to sign up with  me. Life is nothing if not a challenge!

I am both excited and intimidated. I am also training.

Training for the Warrior Dash | Hold the Lemon

When to Train

RunMudRun has put out a training guide specific to the Warrior Dash, which includes a training program for:

  • the Virgin Warrior (exercises infrequently and  just wants to finish the WD),
  • the Casual Warrior (exercises occasionally and wants to do decently in the WD),
  • and the Ultimate Warrior (exercises frequently and wants to make good time in the WD).

The programs each run about 6-7 weeks and incorporates 2-3 days of 30-45 minutes of cardio (run/jog/walk) and a progression of 60/120/150 seconds of 3-5 exercises with breaks in between.

Training Routine

To find out what exercises to train with (depending on your training type), Warrior Dash has a document of suggestions for the Virgin Warrior.  I came across this through Internet sleuthing, and I have not been able to find a corresponding document for Casual or Ultimate Warriors yet (please comment with the links if you find it)!  The idea is to alternate between the different types of exercises so that you are doing a full body training.  Warrior Dash’s document differs from RunMudRun’s in that it suggests 20/35/40 second bursts with rests.

As an exercise beginner, I had no clue what some of these exercises were, so below is a resource to walk you through how to do Warrior Dash training at home (I support the idea of getting fit without needing to get a gym membership). I also like videos. If you’re going to do it, might as well do it right.

Videos explaining Warrior Dash-recommended exercises:

I hope this helps!

My Routine

My Virgin Warrior routine includes sit-ups, push-ups, and chair dips. I’m choosing to keep with these three for the 7 weeks so I can track my progression. But since I do want to train several areas, I am also bringing in dumbbell exercises (e.g., bicep curls, tricep extensions, Arnold presses, and bent-over dumbbell rows), other body weight exercises (e.g.; squats, lunges, jumping jacks, planks, short bridges) and other activities (benchpress, assisted pull-ups, hooping) to round it all out.

Of course, I’m not doing all of these every day.

Warrior Dash Connecticut is on September 15th, which means I have time to try out all three WD training programs in succession! Virgin Warrior Week 1 is done. Stay tuned in 6 weeks or so for the start of Casual Warrior Week 1!

Also, don’t forget to run!

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iPhone Apps for Health and Fitness

iPhone Apps for Health and Fitness | Hold the Lemon
Yes, this is a screenshot of my iPhone icons

If I lost my smartphone, I would be lost. I know I’m not alone.  I remember a time where I thought they were superfluous, but now it’s my main way of communicating and gathering information when I am not sitting at a computer (and these days I’d much rather not be sitting in front of a computer). Being able to track my health and fitness data on-the-go has been invaluable for my initial weight loss, my weight maintenance, and as motivation to keep on going with both health and fitness.

Studies have shown that those who log their food are able to maintain their weight loss longer than those who don’t. I am also a big supporter of being accountable to something – whether it is to a log or a community!

The following reviews are for apps are ones that I use frequently and recommend.  Although many apps do multiple things, I’ve categorized them into its main functionality.

Calorie Tracking

Lose It | Hold the LemonLoseIt!

Starting in 2010, I lost 60 pounds in a little over a year, simply by using the LoseIt web and iPhone app.  I’ve always found the web interface sufficient but nothing special, but I love that it has kept a graph of my weight loss since 2010. It’s great to keep me on track! Also, I love graphs. Put in your data, including how much you want to lose, and it will calculate your calorie goal. It lets you scan barcodes, has restaurant data, input recipes, add exercise,  actually still use this app to monitor my weight loss graph because of it’s historical data, but I’ve since moved on to MFP.

My Fitness Pal | Hold the LemonMyFitnessPal

In 2012, I shifted from LoseIt to MyFitnessPal (or commonly MFP for short), mainly because of its food database seemed to have more restaurants in my area (New England) and really because more of my friends were on it. There is a community aspect on LoseIt, but I never used it as extensively as MFP. MFP’s web interface isn’t as pretty compared to LoseIt, but their app is pretty slick and the community aspect is strong. It does all you would expect an app like this to do: It lets you scan barcodes, has restaurant data, input recipes, add exercise, and even water intake.  Put in your data, including how much you want to lose, and it will calculate your calorie goal. But a big thing for me is that MFP links to FitBit, accounting your day’s activity level and adjusting your calorie goal accordingly.

Vitabot | Hold the Lemon

(Free app, Paid program)

I learned about Vitabot from my fitness studio/gym.  It’s a calorie-tracking app on steroids.  Not only does it track calories/fat/fiber/protein, it tracks a slew of vitamins and micro-nutrients  Then it grades you on how well you’re keeping up to the recommended daily allowances.  The app is a necessary convenience in this world of LoseIt’s and MFP’s, but it is pretty limited. Although the app is free, it requires you to hook up to a web front (usually a paid or complimentary offered by someplace like your gym or nutritionist). The web app is much more robust, offering suggestions to fulfill your nutrients, but that’s for another post.


Fitocracy | Hold the LemonFitocracy

Yet another community-based health tool, Fitocracy has a unique spin of assigning point values to your fitness activities (cardio, weights, and sports). Those points help you “level up” to show your progress. Again, the web app is where you want to be, but the iPhone app has proven valuable while I’m doing my exercises (usually not near a computer) and want to log my activity immediately instead of trying to remember it all.

Map My Fitness | Hold the LemonMapMyFitness

Although the web app for MapMyFitness has a super cool calendar view of activity, I must say that the iPhone app has proven to be more useful. I turn on MapMyFitness when I’m going for a walk or a run, it uses GPS tracking to track how fast I’m going, where I’m going, how many calories I burn, the changes in elevation, and if I’ve saved the route before it’ll show me if I’ve passed my time. Oh, did I mention that FitBit links up to it too? So the steps that you take with your FitBit are automatically logged in MapMyFitness. The MapMyFitness app has other features too, but honestly, I don’t use them because there are other apps, such as in this list, which do the job better. A downside to MapMyFitness is that they are kind of insistent about inserting ads. But you gotta support a free app somehow!

Fitbit | Hold the LemonFitBit 
(Free app, Paid device)

I love my FitBit, which is basically a really fancy pedometer++ (that I wear everyday) with a community aspect.  The app for it is essential for me. Not only does it work as a wireless sync station for my steps, stairs, calorie expenditure, activity, and sleep data, it allows me access to track calorie and water intake, and it shows me where I rank with my friends. I have several friends with FitBits, and we use the app to keep tabs on who’s taking the most steps for that week!  The FitBit app is pretty cool, but the web interface is super slick (but that’s a post for a different day). Oh, and did I mention that it connects to MyFitnessPal so that my calorie goal for the day fluctuates based on my actual activity? I’ve found that to be key for the FitBit app because I find the calorie tracking features to be inaccurate.  So I use the MFP app to track my calories, which syncs to my Fitbit app, so I can dynamically see how much activity I should aim for to be within my calorie goal. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

RunKeeper | Hold the LemonRunKeeper

RunKeeper is very similar to MapMyFitness, but it is one of the few outside apps that links to Fitocracy. I have to be honest, I am only mentioning it here now because it is a commonly used app, but I haven’t used it extensively since the weather here in New England hasn’t been inviting enough for me to go outside and run.

Run5K | Hold the LemonRun5K

The Run5K app is basically the Couch to 5K app, which helps you go from not being a runner at all to being able to run a 5k using interval training. I actually did pay for this app, and I think it’s worth the couple bucks. You can set it to where in the program you want to start, and it talks you through warmups then the jog/walk intervals for the full duration, either with voice or tones. You can also add a playlist to go along with your training, and there are controls right in the app. I’ve spent many afternoons on the track or around the neighborhood jogging and just waiting for the voice to tell me to “Walk now.” I kept falling off the wagon and having to restart the program a couple times, but I’m glad I have it. Sometimes it makes it easier if there’s “someone” telling you what to do.


Fitter Manager | Hold the LemonFitter Manager

This app is a fitness calculator and weight manager, which I’ve used primarily for tracking non-weight/bmi measurements that other apps seem to favor. With Fitter, I can track my BMI, BMR, Body-Fat Ratio, and Waist-to-Hip ratio.  Oh and it graphs them (and it should be apparent by now that I do like my graphs)!  To be honest, that waist-to-hip ratio is kind of a neat thing to know both as a whole-body health indicator but also for the beauty theory. When your weight seems to have plateaued, but you have been working out, sometimes the best way to track your progress is in inches and not pounds.

Convertbot | Hold the LemonConvertbot

I have no clue how many teaspoons are in a millileter, but with ConvertBot, I know that there are 4.9. Maybe that measurement isn’t the most common, but often when I’m trying to convert a recipe or an item that isn’t in LoseIt or MyFitnessPal the item is listed in cups in the recipe but in tablespoons in the app.  Or grams to ounces.  Convertbot has been so valuable to make those quick conversions. It can convert measurements for mass, speed,  temperature, time, volume, area, currancy, data size, and length.

Seconds Pro | Hold the LemonSeconds (Free) and
SecondsPro (Paid)

I enjoyed the free app Seconds that I had to get SecondsPro. These apps are interval timers that are perfect for working out. With the pro version, I have several timer sets for different types of workouts, such as doing activities in intervals of 5 minutes for a half an hour, or every one minute for 10 minutes, or a set with a 5 minute warmup, then a 30 minute activity, then a 5 minute cooldown, whatever you need.  You can also set the music and colors to change with each interval change. This is perfect for HIIT. And for me, it’s perfect for fitness hooping where it’s not always feasible to hold a phone or stopwatch while you’re moving around. The timers can be beeps or speech. You can also import timers that the makers have created. I bet you could also use this app for non-fitness activities too!

A Request

What is your favorite health/fitness app for your smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc.)?  We only know what we know! Learn a bit and share a bit!

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April Challenge & Setting Fitness Goals

When my friend Becky posed the challenge to our Goals group for doing 10 push-ups and 50 sit-ups every day during April, I quickly exclaimed, “I’m in!” As our other friends started to chime in, it quickly became apparent that we were all coming from different backgrounds, from regular exerciser to infrequent exerciser to not being able to do a single push-up.

We’re all doing the same challenge, but with different goals and for different reasons. And that’s okay.

I strain to move barbells that my husband Jesse picks up with one hand. My friend Josh can bench press me (well, my body weight). But I’m still excited when I added just 5 more pounds to do my 40lb bench press, or when I finally did a full 3×12 bicep curl with my new 10lb dumbbells. I may not be the strongest person, but I’m evolving. So I own it!

Set your own goals, and set them for you.


Setting fitness goals

by exercise type

When my friend said she couldn’t do 10 push-ups, I said – “Sure you can!”  You may need to start with knee push-ups or wall push-ups, but it seems that every type of movement is based on some simpler movement. Start there.

For me, I cannot do a pull-up. So right now in addition to doing some arm work, I have been getting my muscles used to the movement of pulling vertically. I’m doing chair-assisted pull-ups on two legs, and eventually I’ll graduate to one-leg. Then I’ll try to get some momentum to do a pull-up before I can actually start doing a pull-up without any assistance.  The theory is once you get the basic movements down, you can build from there. If you already can do a pull-up, try more advanced movements like wide-grip pull-ups, uneven pull-ups, plyometric pull-ups, and the super-impressive muscle up.  But first, chair-assisted. Crawl before you 5k.

by frequency/commitment

I already know how to do bodyweight squats. In fact, I really enjoy doing squats. My lower-half is stronger than my upper-half, so it feels good to succeed at something and feel its effects.  Do I squat often? Not at all.  This is an area where I can set a goal.  Perhaps for me, it would make sense to do squats every other day. I could set a number goal, or I won’t; the goal here is to make it part of my routine.  Another similar goal is to walk every day during lunch. Some days are busier than others and perhaps instead of walking for a full hour, you only have time to walk around the building a couple times. It still counts, because you’re keeping to your schedule.

by exertion

This category could mean “Are you sweating?” or “You can push it for two more reps/sets!”  I may be walking around the block after work, but I could set a goal to jog it instead, or alternate intervals of walking and sprinting. Last week I was bench-pressing 30-35 pounds, but recently I added 5 more. It felt so good that I added just one more set of five reps just so I can prove to myself that I can do it! Find a way to put more effort into the activity that makes sense for you and your workout.

by adding something different!

For this challenge, I know that I can do 50 crunches and 10 pushups (albeit in 2 sets), and initially I’ll be working towards making it all in one set. But I’m thinking that I want to add more to the challenge. the 50/10 is a baseline, but that I

Incremental Sit-ups/Push-ups

Can’t do a push-up? Try doing a wall push up. Got that down? Try a knee push-up.   After that, you could do an incline push up or go straight to good old-fashioned push-ups!

You can do a push-up, but you want to do more? There’s a way you can do that incrementally too. You can also do incremental improvements for sit-ups.

The 100 push-ups program and the 200 sit-ups program are both six-week training programs to get you to where you are to your goal. You begin with an initial test to see where to start the program, then it walks you through a chart of activity and rest to slowly train your body.

Challenge to You

Join me and my friends as we attempt 10 push-ups and 50 sit-ups every day in April (in whatever way makes sense for where we are fitness-wise)!

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