The Best of 2013

I’m not going to lie, 2013 kicked my proverbial ass in many ways. In other ways it was one of the most eye opening and life defining years of my life. Entering into motherhood three years prior had left me feeling like I’d lost myself. Losing my sister three years ago left me feeling broken.  I continued moving forward because that is what life is about, that is how you get unstuck from the muck and that is how you create the life you want, but in many ways it was just me going through the motions as opposed to me really living life. On the outside it looked like I was getting stuff done, sticking to a plan, on the inside it was like watching a movie and wishing it was over so I could sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I love my husband, I love my life, but sometimes life knocks you down and makes other plans and you can stop and wallow in that shit or you can give it the middle finger and keep on moving even if you are injured (see that old intentional living I have been going on about for months).

2013 gave me a sick baby and doctors and hospitals and people I wish I had never had the need to meet, but am so grateful I did. It had my family discovering that Celiac Disease is actually a positive thing (when I consider the other potential options). It had me falling in love with my husband all over again by being lucky enough to watch him embrace his life as a responsible adult (something I think men struggle with). 2013 had me reach my pre baby weight but not my pre baby body (I still hope to shock and amaze you with before and after photos one day, maybe a 4 pack at 40 kind of thing by June??) but I learned my ability to be a dude is far more important than a flat stomach.  2013 saw my mother move to our property, my oldest learning how to be a good big brother, and my youngest potty training himself. 2013 let me reconnect with old friends, find my soul sister, and create laughter. But 2013 also brought me something else, this blog.

To some of you that may not even be note worthy. To me it has been a journey, and at times, an eye opening experience as I peruse all things in life looking for a better life, a happier life, a good way to live. By writing about my thoughts, by conveying what I have learned and all I have read I have not only learned much about me, I’ve learned so much about that better life. I am now able to turn off my mind when it tries to harm me with thoughts about my past or future, thoughts I cannot change and events I cannot alter. I have learned how to find happiness in this moment, how to let go of pain, how to manage my finances, how to talk to my husband, how to confront constructively, and how to love more completely. I have far more patience than I did when I started this journey and I can actually see the me I used to be before kids, before loss. There she is, looking at me in that mirror. There she is lounging surrounded by pups. There she is playing games with her kids. She didn’t disappear, she just got a little lost.

I spent a lot of time this year feeling defeated, scared, beaten down, broken, just utterly lost. I was frustrated that life wasn’t what I had been sold, that things could go horribly askew without my consent, and that so many people all over the place, every where I looked, were suffering. Then one day I sat down and I Googled happiness. I Googled, happy life. I Googled Zen. And it changed everything. Something so silly and ridiculous changed everything. So while we are better off financially than we were, our son thankfully does NOT have cancer, and our family life is full of laughter and peace, I know, I know in my heart and my head that I got to this place thru the journey of intentional decisions. Of choosing to shape my future so it would not be defined by my past. Of choosing the identity I wanted instead of the one I had fallen into.

While I think there is value in many of the posts from 2013 (I am bias after all), here are the most popular posts and those YOU found value in. May 2014 be a year where we all continue to make our own destinies and give the middle finger to anything that tries to stop us.

Things Dads Do- Apparently you all love videos, especially if it is a video of my husband doing questionable things with his children.

How to get laid more- Apparently you all love having sex too. I’m shocked by this one. :)

I help you all pick a deodorant- or at least I make you feel less alone picking a deodorant.

3 Songs- I got a lot of feedback on this one that it reminded people to remember what they love about their significant other. It went a way I didn’t expect when I wrote it, I’m glad you all took it another way. I was instantly more grateful.

You and Your Finances- This one made you all feel a little less alone. I know it made me feel less alone and it was the first step, a coming out if you will, that allowed us to get on the road to fixing our finances.

How to Kick Ass at the Gym- Speaks for itself.

and my favorite, not just because it is about me, but because writing it and really considering it,  opened my eyes and reminded me of who I am and why I like that person. About Wendy

Top 3 Ways You are Wasting MY Time at the Gym

I recently wrote a post about how you might be wasting your time and effort at the gym by making common mistakes. Today I’d like to touch on how you are wasting my time at the gym; probably not the actual you, since we likely don’t belong to the same gym, but the universal you, because I am certain that you are probably doing some of these things in your gym and pissing off nice people like me who are forced to put up with your poor gym etiquette.

  • Sitting on machines or benches- If you are sitting down doing nothing then move. No seriously. Get up. Unless there are several benches or machines just like the one you are sitting on, then you shouldn’t be sitting on it; especially during peak hours when the gym in full. If you are resting between sets then look outside yourself (novel concept I know) to see if anyone is patiently waiting for you to finish. If so, let them “work in” by politely asking them if they’d like to work in between your sets. This isn’t an old school video game arcade, you cannot hog your spot with a quarter on the screen. Get in, do your business, and get out. Move on.
  • Leaving weights on Barbells and other equipment- I know, you work really hard and you are just hoping some hot chick will see your great efforts, be smart enough to do math in her head so she is rightfully impressed with the number of 45lb plates you have stacked, and you’ll finally get rewarded for all you do. But it isn’t going to happen. Its time you give up the dream and re-rack your weights when you are done lifting. Here is why… there are three kinds of girls using weights in the weight room:

One, the smart girl who likes to lift and isn’t there to meet anyone, who is just annoyed at you being rude and won’t speak to you anyway because she is tired of re-racking your weights.

Two, the stupid girl who likes to lift light weight and doesn’t know how to do math in her head so you will never impress her by leaving your weights on the bar. You’re better off asking if she needs a spotter for that 5 lb dumbbell she is curling if you really want to hit that.

And, three, the girl you brought with you who is standing around looking awkward and doesn’t know why she is there and not getting  her nails done and you will have to re-rack your weight because she can’t lift as heavy as you.

If his one sounds directed at men, I apologize, but I have never actually seen a woman NOT re-rack her weights, ever.

  • Blocking traffic while you look for a “close place to park”- Do I even need to address this one? Seriously, unless you are actually handicapped or have multiple kids (because believe me I know how annoying it is to drag two children and two bags through a parking lot as they both beg to be held or both try to run from you in opposite directions), then you should pick the furthest spot from the door and get your warm up in walking from your car to the door. Seriously, you are about to go inside and get sweating moving your body, but somehow it still matters that you park closely? Just stop it.

So the next time you go to the gym, or anywhere for that matter, try to remember that you are not the only person in the world, that other people have needs just as valid, and sometimes more valid than your own, and that there are rules in place for a reason, and that most of the time the reason is so people will be obliged to be nice to one another since we can’t seem to be bothered otherwise. And you might, just might, finally earn the respect of that hot chick who will then be obliged to come over and thank you for re-racking your weights. It happens.


How You Are Wasting Your Time at the Gym

I go to the gym at least 4 times a week. Before I had children it was more. This week, while I am on vacation, I am trying to go everyday. I love the gym. I admit it freely and without fear of persecution. I know lots of people don’t get this or they think of the gym as a terrible evil place where demons live, but I love it. I will make no apologies or pretend otherwise. If it makes you uncomfortable that is your problem- note to yourself maybe you should look at why you care if I love the gym.

I see lots of regulars at the gym working out hard and just as often as myself, but they never seem to make any progress. They lift the same weights day in and out, their body never changes and they never seem to get that high I love so much. It makes me sad to see so many people who obviously want to reach a goal, who are putting in the time and probably the effort, but who go home everyday exactly as they were the day before. If it bothers me, I can only assume it bothers them even more. I would NEVER go to the gym on a daily basis if I didn’t experience results. Even I’m not that dedicated.

These people are wasting their time. I watch it and it is painful. Here are the top 8 ways people waste their time at the gym; don’t be one of these people.

  1. Changing music or checking their phones. I’ve blasted through whole workouts in the amount of time it took one guy to find the right song on his iPod. Seriously, create a play list for working out and leave your phone in the locker. Unless someone is about to die or your baby is alone with a sitter for the first time you don’t need your phone, whoever is calling can wait.
  2. Standing around talking. Sorry folks, this isn’t social hour or even happy hour. This is a workout, if you can talk you aren’t working out hard enough. If someone you know wants to chat just tell them politely that you really need to finish up with no distractions can they call you later? Smile and put your ear phones back in.
  3. Resting between sets. What the hell are you resting for? You “rest” about 22 hours in the day. Trust me, your body doesn’t need a rest; be it 30 seconds or 2 minutes, you do not need to rest. If you are between sets then do a set for an alternate body part while you “rest” the first muscle. But for god’s sake do not stop and sit. If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to pick something heavy up.
  4. Lifting 5-10 pounds. Seriously, women stop doing this. They should just take 5 pound weights out of the gym. Unless you are old or doing rehab you should never be caught holding a 5 pound dumbbell. Waste of time. Go home, sit on your couch and lift your pocket dog up and down. Same thing and just as useless for getting in shape.
  5. Avoiding cardio or weight training.  To get fit fast and see results you need both. Sorry, but you really do. Nothing can take the place of lifting weights and nothing works your heart or burns calories the way cardio does. So don’t tell me you are trying to bulk up so you can’t run or you are trying to “lean out” so you can’t lift. It just makes you sound ignorant.
  6. Going home and eating ice cream. Or whatever your thing may be. Bottom line is the rest of your day, including what you eat, has more impact on your overall health and ability to lose weight than what you do at the gym. Don’t negate your hard work with over indulgence. Might as well not go to the gym, or you can lift the gallon of ice cream for 10 reps before indulging. I just saved you time and the money for a gym membership. You’re welcome.
  7. Waiting on a machine. You have to be flexible at the gym, especially if it is a peak hour. You don’t have time to wait for a specific machine to clear up. Bottom line, for every body part you want to work there are about 20 ways minimum that you can work it. So if your favorite machine is busy, take this opportunity to break a rut and find something new to do. If you don’t know what other exercises work that particular muscle then ask someone. Everyone was new once. Everyone knows what it was like to feel stupid in the gym.
  8. Leaning on cardio equipment. Get your hands off the cardio machine! Now! Unless you need it to balance yourself, or it is an elliptical machine (though I do these hands free too), your hand should ever touch a piece of cardio equipment again. If you are leaning, clutching, pulling, or vice gripping a machine then you are not working out hard enough. Let go!

Now that you know what not to do, let’s talk about what you should do. Here is a quick outline of what you should be doing with your gym time. This will get you the results you’ve been looking for and it takes about the same amount of time you are probably already spending in the gym. Now that you aren’t doing the 8 deadly sins of the gym you should have plenty of free time to get it right.

  1. Lift weights first. It helps to burn the glucose in your blood and the glycogen in your muscles which forces your body to burn more fat for energy when you get to cardio. Don’t argue, just do it.
  2. Lift as heavy as you can. Seriously. If you don’t know how heavy you can lift just start picking things up. I lift pretty heavy, for an out of shape girl, and I don’t think anyone would ever call me bulky. So if your fear is bulking up, I suggest you avoid the ‘roids and lift something heavy. Lift for at least 8 reps and 3 sets. If you can lift whatever it is for more than 8 times, it isn’t heavy enough.
  3. Learn the major muscle groups and work out at least 2 groups a day with at least a 2 day break before working them again. Try Chest/Triceps one day, Back/Biceps the next day, Legs/shoulders the third day. Then repeat or take a day off. I do abs everyday I go to the gym. Everyday. After 6 weeks or so of this schedule switch the order up or do new exercises to avoid hitting a plateau. Right now I am doing 1 exercise per body part everyday. Everyday it is a different set of exercises than the day before. No day is the same. I am doing this this week because I finally get to go to the gym every day, I finally put down the ice cream spoon, and I am looking to blast through a plateau I’m stuck on. Its going to suck because I’m not doing a lot of down time, but that is why I will only do this for a week.
  4. Do abs between sets. This way you are staying active but letting the muscles have a break. So do 8 squat reps, then do something for abs, then 8 squats reps, abs etc.
  5. Do fast, high intensity cardio for 2-4 minutes between exercises. So when your 3 sets are done, do cardio at a super high intensity for 2-4 minutes. I mean, you can barely breathe, you certainly can’t talk, and you are actually sweating intensity level cardio. Studies show that high intensity interval training burns loads of fat and is actually better for your cardiovascular health than long duration cardio. Plus, by the time you are done lifting you will have done about 30 min of cardio without really trying or getting bored.
  6. Work your way up to at least 3 exercises per body part every day you work them. So for example, if it is chest day, you could do chest press, incline chest press, and flys. This works the muscles from slightly different angles and it ensures that the muscles work to their fullest extent.
  7. Once weight lifting is over, do at least 20 min of cardio. If you did the cardio intervals while lifting, then you already have about 30 min give or take under your belt. So now you just need about 20-40 min more depending on your energy level and time allowance. I hate cardio. I think it is boring and it makes my lungs hurt, but it is a necessary evil. To spice it up avoid sitting on one machine, move around to stay motivated. Do 5 minutes per machine or a different machine each day. Or you can do interval training on 1 machine. I hate to run but I have found that if I do the treadmill and vary my speed between running fast on a low incline and walking fast on a high incline that I get a great calorie burning workout without the burning lungs and vomit.
  8. Don’t forget to stretch and warm up. It prevents injury and helps your body move easier through the exercises and real life. You can never stretch too often or too much.

The bottom line is this, If you are already putting in the time at the gym, but you aren’t seeing the results you wanted, then you are doing something wrong. If you avoid the 8 gym sins listed above and engage in the 8 must do tips then you should start seeing results in a very short period of time. You’re putting in the time, shouldn’t that time count? Good luck and get moving!

This post assumes certain things are true about you, the reader. If these things are not true, please do not follow the suggestions contained within. This post assumes you are relatively healthy with no major medical issues. It further assumes you are capable of moderate level exercise and do not have any pre-existing conditions that would effect your ability to exercise or try new things- laziness and excuses not withstanding. If you have pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness during exercise or you get injured, STOP immediately and seek professional guidance.

In case you question my ability to give advice concerning this topic, please rest assured that I not only have a degree in Biology and have been a certified personal trainer since 2002, but I have owned and operated a body for a significant number of years and can attest to it’s responses to high intensity, frequent exercise. Enjoy!


Here is your Zen and the Art of Friends moment about gyms.