Deep Breath

Hey Readers,

It’s been a week-no!? I saw this cartoon on my facebook this afternoon and it is certainly ringing true. This weekend was not productive at least in terms of all the writing I need to do because I work in the science community. A community that the administration attempted to silence earlier this week, a community where co-workers are scared about their visa status and what might happen if they leave the United States for a conference or to visit loved ones outside of the country.

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I am however encouraged by the thousands of Americans who continue to show up and use the power of speech to express disapproval. I am encouraged and well in tears, over the acceptance speeches delivered by Mahershala Ali and Taraji P Henson who spoke of unity and coming together as a human race.

That all said, we will get through these 4 years and in the meanwhile our mental health must stay intact.  In a continual effort to find a work-life and now media consumption balance, I tried out two new classes this week thanks to classpass – a boxing class and an aerial class.

When signing up for the two classes I was terrified of the concept of boxing; the movies always make boxing gyms seem to ratty and a boys club. In the end I think it might easily become my favorite form of exercise. I’m sure it helped that the instructor and the next student to arrive were both women. During the 30 minute interval training style workout I moved between various punching and kicking bags with a few plyometric workouts mixed in between for an overall sweaty routine. I go back on Wednesday and cannot wait!

The aerial class on the other hand…well, I was so out of my comfort zone. After a quick warm-up and stretch we immediately went into headstands…which I could not do. We then proceeded to bar activities, and again I couldn’t pull myself up in order to flip my legs over the bar. In the end the instructor ended up assisting me. I know we all start from somewhere, but it was extremely frustrating. I left feeling not only deflated but like I needed to go for a run. I don’t think I’ve felt that way since a swim class when I was 5…actually I usually feel this way after bouldering. I guess sports that involve upper body strength are not my cup of tea. I mean really  they have never been even as a child I avoid monkey bars like the plague. I was not able to successful able to cross until high school or maybe even college.  I also need to sweat in a workout to feel like my workout was productive. I know that’s not true for everyone but it’s what I need, and really it does not take much to make me sweat – I even sweat in pilates. I know I should go back, continue to work on my strength and gain some confidence, but my time is so limited. Would it not be better to just focus on activities that give me the needed adrenaline? I don’t know, so conflicted…I’ll let you know if I end up going back.

Take care,

Nicole

Review of Crunch Live

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As noted a couple of post back it took me some time after moving to Portland to find my fitness flow. Upon further thought the first month or so the days were long, the sky was clear, and the temperatures were warm…warm without humidity- a novel thing for this east coast girl. As a result, after work I just wanted to be outside walking, running, playing with the pup, hiking on the weekends, getting the house in order, or attempting to get a late summer garden started. The last was a fail, but provided a nice introduction into moss, slugs, nutrient poor soil, and roots. Now I have about 3 months to research into these hurdles for more success in the spring.

Once a large grant was in and the rains began in October I was in search for better indoor programs. At the time I looked into Crunch Live, and just like with my ClassPass experience, if you go to a website and then leave without completing your account setup (i.e., payment) you’ll likely be given some kind of discount in an effort to lock you in!

Crunch offered a month free for unlimited access to their catalog of online workouts. When I went to leave after this month I was given another 30 days free. At first I was pretty excited. Many of my New York crunch instructors had available videos and at first glance there were a lot of videos. However, once I started exploring and using the workouts it was clear that I was only interested in the chisel classified workouts. Crunch classes are classified as chisel (strength based, usually with HIIT mixed in), dance rhythms (I think the name speaks for itself), and mind and body (yoga, barre, and pilates-although the last two were also considered chisel). Most of the available online classes were only 30 minutes in length, with a few 45-60 minute classes, and 10-15 minute classes for quick workouts. I used the 10-15 min classes for stretching after working out on my own. The 30-minute programs were too short and given their structure if I combined two back-to-back videos I still wanted more – most workouts are organized such that 5 minutes are warm-up, 10 minutes of intense workout, 10 minutes of ab work, and a 5 minute cool down. Combining two videos would result in 20 minutes of ab work. That might be okay once in a while, but I don’t need that much everyday. To be honest I rarely intentionally workout my abs, your abs should be engaged throughout the day and in just about every exercise so they are already getting stronger. As a result without doing a single crunch I have no problem holding a 5-minute plank.

Additionally, the site boast about new routines added regularly. After 2 months nothing new had been added to the site and I was bored with the available options-so I deactivated my account.

I do think the catalog could be a useful resource for beginners, just about every workout has a modifier, unfortunately the instructor did not always remember to explain the modifications.

Overall, I give Crunch Live a thumb down (but not two 😉 ). There are many better resources for at home workouts include the Beach Body series and the thousands of videos online-granted they take some time to weed through to find the best. I would reconsider trying the site again if they included more 45-60 min workouts and committed to adding a new workout once/week.

What’s your favorite at home resource?

Nicole

Christmas things 2016

Hey-

This post has been sitting in drafts for the last 5 days because I’m still trying to figure out sharing photos via my old means! I found a temporary solution….

How is the year of 2016 nearly over! It’s been a whirlwind of a year with some good (move to Portland, buying our first home) but lots of bad (death of my uncle, death of middle school friend, election of Trump).

Additionally, up until this week it has not felt like Christmas. In New York it seemed like nonstop parties from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. I enjoyed having a party month because I had the opportunity to decorate the house, event plan, see friends, dress up, and bake-all my favorite things. Having events throughout an entire month also meant that I approached the season as a marathon and not a sprint and learned to pace myself -mostly eat items I wouldn’t make myself or seasonal treats. With fewer events this year I’ve overdone it at my couple of Christmas events and I am already okay with saying goodbye to sweets and hello salad.

Hopeful my workout plan will help to make me feel slightly less guilty about the chocolate gifts I keep receiving, the 2 holiday parties I have this week, and the Christmas day eating I have left:

Sunday-30 min lower body, lower impact Hiit

Monday-off

Tuesday-upper body and spin

Wednesday-OFF because I was stuck in traffic and missed my class! By the time I got home I was ready to pass out and sleep, sigh.

Thursday-60 min cardio and back/shoulders

Friday-60 min cardio and legs

Saturday-pilates and cardio

Portland is quite festive this time of year and we were able to find time last weekend to attend both Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo and Peacock Lane – a small area in the city where all the neighbors decorate their house and open themselve up for the masses who drive or walk through their neighborhood to have a look.

Pioneer square tree in downtown Portland.

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How are you enjoying the holiday season?

Using different a muscle

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Hey all-

It’s not suppose to snow in Portland, but today it snowed…for oh maybe about an hour. From then its been a mixture of rain and freezing rain – enough to shut the city down. I worked from home. Ryan, because he’s able to walk to work went in to his office, but officially his office was also closed. I’m not gonna lie, I very much like living in a city that doesn’t know how to handle snow. Work from home and enjoy the flakes from the warmth of my house-just how I like snow!

I think this is the first December in several yeas that makes me think Christmas. If I recall it was in the 70s last year for Christmas in Philadelphia.

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In the evening I opened up an old sketch book from high school, it was nice trip through memory lane and a reminder that at one time I devoted a fair amount of time to art. At this point I seem to only pull from my creative side at Christmas or maybe to development of a figure for a grant. Sparked by my past work, I ended up pulling out some colored pencils to sketch and cut a few pictures from magazines to do a little artisitc journaling. After about 30 minutes my hands were achy, I suppose I haven’t used those muscles in quite some time. Today its all typing or texting with my thumbs.

Besides exercising my hands, drawing on a more regular schedule can help with brain plasticity – artist are known to be better observers and have better memory. So, as with blogging I hope to continue with artistic endeavors on a semi-regular schedule, whether that be journaling, painting, photography, or baking.

I’ll leave you with workouts for the week.  We had a research participant in the lab and 2 class pass classes were cancelled, one due to the weather, so it was a light week with mostly at home exercises.

Sunday-Pilates interval training

Monday-Long day at work but I was able to squeeze in a 30 min pop sugar video

Tuesday-rest

Wednesday-30 min leg Hiit workout with Ryan, 20 min pilates stretch

Thursday-20 min arm, 35 min low impact cardio

Friday-legs, cardio, stretch

Saturday-Pilates interval training>>classpass class

Later,

Nicole

 

BBC’s Sound of 2017

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Hey all-

First, the Childish Gambino album was just as funky and awesome as promised with the first two singles. I will add that in addition to Prince and OutKast, it has an Earth Wind and Fire vibe.

Now on to BBC’s Sound of 2017, which is probably my favorite long list since I’ve started following the showcase for rising singers. I will also say I feel like they were a little late on Anderson Paak, he’s been on my radar for most of 2016 year. Perhaps he just missed last year’s cut off but he’s worth highlighting all the same. I also don’t think I’ve seen a list with so many “urban” British artist.

On a sidenote that is mostly related, at least in my head-this weekend while decorating the tree and starting on some present wrapping we watched “Chewing Gum.” A British comedy set in the estates, government housing-first season available on Netflix. The show pushes lots of boundaries in a British humorous way-I cannot imagine it being green lit for American television. However, taking about sex, especially in the context of a joke is acceptable television in Britain. The show stars a 24 year shop assistant who lives at home with her conservatively christian mother and sister, the mother is an immigrant from an African country but they don’t specify (or I missed that part). While the main character and her family are black the estate includes Brits from all backgrounds including two white sisters, one with a baby and one with a baby on the way-no mention of the fathers. Despite the range of characters, race is not the forefront of the show but subtlety mentioned. For example, the main character is kicked out of her house and moves in with her mixed best friend. The main character’s boyfriend ask why she didn’t move in with him, and says something along the lines of having to live with a mixed person first, she can’t just make the jump to living with a white person-it’s a black thing (said the character, not me). I’m probably doing a horrible job explaining, but it’s interesting to observe how other cultures handle race relations or at least how they portray them on television. I’m feeling rather nostalgic and would love another opportunity to live abroad.

I’m getting off topic here, but the inclusion of so many black Brits who are unapologetically themselves in their lyrics, dress, style of video is refreshing.

On to the music-my favorites in reverse order, and hopeful prediction of the winner!

5. I’m enjoying the sounds of this youthful British indie artist, reminds of the days when I first fell in love with the Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks back in 2006…I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I lived in London!!

4. I’m not usually a fan of British rappers, but Dave, another young Brit, is a brilliant lyricist mixed with a range of melodic tempos.

The final three are going to be on rotation for the rest of the year, love, love, them all!

3. Jorja Smith-again only 19 made waves and got attention with this political song.

2. Ray BLK-BLK stands for “Building Living Knowing”

1. I was conflicted between Ray BLK and Rag’n’Bone Man as my number one. Ryan’s vote goes to Ray BLK but this song is just so powerful from Rag’n’Bone. I wonder if he’s too similar to last year’s Jack Garratt to keep him from being the overall winner…

Will keep you posted when they make the final list!

Nicole

Music in my ear 12/1/16

Hey all-

It’s December, when did that happen? Minus the approaching cold I love love love December! Usually because most are in such a joyful state with bright colored lights, scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pine. There are many ways to get in my Christmas cheer here in Portland, now just to make time for them in between work…agh. At the very least I want to get a tree tomorrow, we will play the rest by ear. Oh! And non Christmas related December is a great time for whale watching in Oregon, I’m so excited!!

However, we are here for the music. 2016 has been a whacky year to say the least, and one where we lost many musical greats. However, many talented artist also turned up the notch with their 2016 projects including Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, and this may be a day too soon to say but Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! is genius.

Coloring Book is like a contemporary gospel track that speaks to the growth of the artist. It’s also truly a project – the album should, at least initially, be played from start to finish, but you’ll keep it on replay (if you haven’t already listened).

As for Gambino, the first two released singles are like something out of the playbook of Prince and Outkast, beautiful and so far from the style of his last project, Because of the Internet.

Notable mentions The XX who haven’t released an album since 2012!

And the Hamilton Mixtape. Few songs are as good as the originals, in my opinion, but a fun listen all the same. The mixtape does bring together quite the group of artist. I am excited to see what #Ham4Ham looks like today in honor of the release, which will be lived streamed at 1pm EST (I believe).

I was planning on talking about the British sound of 2017 long list, but I’ll save that for my next post.

Cheers,

Nicole

Christmas Wishlist 2016

Kitchen items:

  1. French press travel mug

2. Crockpot, specifically this one (see link), Ryan did the homework on that so I guess it’s the best ;)?

3. Griddle or this one

For me:

4. Silver Bangle-could always use a new piece of jewlery 😉

5. Head wraps-something like this one

6. New tennis raquet

7. Cookbooks-I know we have google, but there is something nice about sitting and flipping through a cookbook with beautiful photos. It’s also safer than having a device open in the kitchen…

Molly on the Range

Dorie’s cookies

Grandbaby cakes-this is the top of my list

For the car

8. Floor mats

9. AAA membership

For Ryan

10. A partly leather overnight bag

11. Exploding kittens

12. Edited to add: A classpass membership

Readers, what are your must have items this year?

Nicole

Classpass Review

Heya!

Quick question before we get into today’s post, are you seeing pictures in every blog entry? Ryan doesn’t see them in the last post, but when I logout of wordpress I still see them. Please let me know!

Now for today’s post!

Just like any transitional period in my life (e.g., moving across the country!), it always takes me a small window of adjustment to get into a workout routine. When I went to NYU the girls on my floor helped with this transition with a group trip to the gym. The first visit is always the hardest for me. After graduation I quickly jumped into Crunch thanks to some free class passes that I had gather while at NYU. I again attended a couple of classes with friends. By the time grad school came around I was confident that I would make good use of a membership and jumped on board. I was glued to my routine until 2 years ago when wedding planning, working on top of getting another degree, etc. got in the way. That’s also about the time I fell off of regular blog post. During this transition online videos became my go to! And that’s okay, they kept me fit and there are now so many videos online! I think back in 2010/2011 videos started popping up, but they were never longer than 10-15 minutes. I think Bodyrock.tv (back when Zuzka was involved, she’s now Zuzkalight.com), had the best videos but they were tutorials, which was fine at the time, but it’s great to now have so many realtime videos.

Some of my current favorites:

Fitness blender

Lumowell-minus the big boobs

Christine Salus

FitForceFX

Ryan recently asked why I still use videos when I could clearly come up with my own routine. Well, he’s correct, I could, and sometimes I do, especially when internet is not available. However, it’s nice to switch things up and be pushed with some form of an instructor. For me, experience means knowing when to change a video instructor’s low impact exercise into a high impact exercise or vice versa.

Similarly, group classes are great because both the instructor and classmates push your efforts. And that’s where classpass comes in! I first became aware of classpass a couple of years ago in New York when they were offering a limited number of passes. However, I never took advantage of the deal because I had Crunch and their wide range of classes. After about 6 weeks of living in Portland and only making use of online videos with a couple of outdoor runs thrown in, I knew that I needed more motivation to stay mentally and physically fit. I started looking at the cost of local gym memberships and what classes were available. I was disappointed to see even fitness 24 was way expensive for a yearly fee and monthly dues  and a limited availability of classes on top of the cost. Many classes seemed to be timed for stay at home moms or maybe people who work 7-3, but they wouldn’t work for me. I then somehow remembered classpass. I believe the prices vary from area to area, but I thought it was a pretty good deal for the Portland region. Thankfully I was hesitant and clicked off the order page because I ended up getting a really awesome 3 month deal. I was convinced and signed up!

So, what is classpass? Classpass is a monthly subscription to gyms and fitness studios in your area. You can sign up for a 5 class/month package that allows you to visit up to 2 studios in a month or an unlimited class offer with up to 3 visits/month to any one studio.  A great deal, if you’re not already a member to any one particular gym. In addition to a wide selection of fitness classes you can also use a pass for participating gyms to workout as you please.

Pros:

  1. I’ve been able to try lots of new gym classes over the last month (i.e., urban row-cardio/strength class based on the row machine) and incorporate some of my favorite (i.e., barre method and pilates reformer).
  2. I’ve signed up for the 5 class/month which is perfect for my schedule right now. I’m able to fit in 1-2 hard group workouts in per week and supplement with at home workouts. After my 3 month deal I’ll probably bump up to unlimited.
  3. With 5 classes/month I’m motivated to get to a studio and make use of my $$. For some reason a gym membership alone doesn’t do that for me…
  4. As I join a new fitness studio I’m usually able to sign up for their new student deals. I’ve only taken advantage of this once at a spin studio, but it’s a great way to supplement the 5 classes/month on classpass before going to unlimited.

Cons:

  1. You’re limited to the number of times you can visit a studio. I love the flexibility of mixing in barre classes with cardio/strength classes, but I would love to visit some of my favorite classes more frequently. The only real solution would be to join multiple studios, and that’s not happening.
  2. You might have to travel far and wide to make class options work for you-city dependent. I don’t mind so it’s not a personal complaint.

And that’s it! If I don’t pop over to the blog before Thursday have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

 

Nicole

How did I get here and what next?

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I think there is something about the hustle and bustle of New York that just keeps you moving from point A to point B. It’s refreshing at first. I remember one of my first solo trips on the subway. I traveled from NYU’s campus in Greenwich Village to the Museum of Natural History. The subway ride didn’t leave a lasting impression, but I can still remember exiting the subway into central park. It was a cool January day, the trees were bare, and across the street I could see the beautiful neo-Romanesque building. Similarly the first time skating at Rockefeller Center underneath the huge tree or even skating in Prospect Park in Brooklyn was like something out of a movie. However, the day to day navigation through traffic with the incessant honking can leave one mentally and physically exhausted.

I’m not sure if it’s the west coast, or the decisive point in my career, or the fact that my head is currently spinning (do I need more coffee or have I had too much), or the loss of loved ones this year, but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot more self reflection over the last couple of months. It could also be that the whole turning 30 thing hit me about 6 months late…but that’s for another post.

Last week while scanning over facebook, looking for inspirational post-after the immediate upset of the election many friends posted plans for action and messages of love; I came across a post from an old friend’s sister. She was posting details about this old friend’s memorial service. I was confused. What did she mean memorial service? Scanning down her page I realized I missed the original post from a couple weeks prior announcing her death in a plane crash. I was shocked! I then spent the next couple of hours looking at this old friend’s facebook page and came across her blog and found out that she had been suffering from mental illness which led her to  a suicide attempt. Again, shock! This was a close friend from elementary and middle school. We grew apart in high school, in part due to her family moving away, but would continue to message from time to time. In college we completely lost touch. In the last few years we reconnected and caught up over email. The last time I heard from her was right before my wedding. We were going to try and connect the day of the rehearsal dinner but at the last minute she wasn’t able to come. Not sure, why we didn’t speak again after that missed meeting…minus me feeling too wrapped up in my own world.  It’s definitely a reminder that we don’t know how much time we are given on this world and to A) make the most of it; and B) don’t forget to call or just reach out to a friend and remind them that they are loved for being their incredible selves.

I need to run and get in a quick workout before heading into work for the afternoon. I’ll leave you with my workout schedule from this week, my one constant as it definitely helps with my mental health. This week many workouts were short due to time commitments but I still made sure to sweat 5 out of 7 days.

Sunday-25 min Hiit

Monday-20 min Hiit, 20 min zumba

Tuesday-Off

Wednesday-20 min pilates, 35 minute whole body strength

Thursday-Urban row class (mixture of row machine and weights)

Friday-walked, nothing intentional but skipped a bus and walked to the max (rail system here in Portland)

Saturday-45 min Hiit and strent

 

Portland, Oregon

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Why hello, you’re still checking in on this page? Well, I’m glad you are because I do still think about this blog. I stopped by today because my mind is spinning and this blog has always been a good space for me to get out random thoughts…although in the last couple of years it has been more of a photo dump. Today my thoughts are not clear and I’m not sure I have a singular message to share. Actually I have lots of news to share, but I don’t know where to begin. I think first and foremost I showed up today because I wanted to write.

How are you? It’s been quite the week no? Wow!, actually I can’t believe it was a week ago that this country selected an internet troll to be our 45th president. Sigh. Well I have taken the advice of John Oliver and subscribed to a reputable newspaper (New York Times)- time I go beyond my allotted 10 articles/month and support honest journalism. Second, I have applied to be a public official. Nothing big, a member of a council board which is an appointed not elected position, but it is a start. Once the paperwork goes through (bureaucracy ;)) I can say that I am playing a larger role in our government.

Now the big news. I moved to Portland, Oregon! Yes, the city that is going all crazy with protest. Let me tell ya, it’s not that bad. A neighbor spoke directly with her Portland police friends and they are well aware of the anarchist group that is responsible for the riots. 99% of protesters are peaceful and want to keep this country moving towards an all inclusive, equitable land.

The west coast has been amazing. One hour to the west I’m at the coast and 2 hours to the east I’m at Mt Hood or Mt St Helen. I’ve seen 2 bald eagles, one flying above downtown Portland the other sitting on a stump by a lake (I think?) near Mt St Helen. The latter was like something out of a National Geographic magazine. I just needed to see a bear grabbing salmon out of the water. Last night, while on a drive, we saw coyotes!  Ryan was like, are those baby wolves. Lol, no, but coyotes are just as interesting!

We’ve gone on a few hikes and explored volcanic tubes. I need to work on my leg strength so we can tackle Mt St Helen.

Be back soon.

Hugs,

Nicole