Rebound resolve…

food_prep

Meal prep made easy: I love Trader Joe’s vacuum sealed pre-cooked skinless chicken breasts! I just throw some sweet potatoes in the oven to bake, boil some asparagus and I have healthy meals ready for the next few days!

These past couple of months have been a bit of a rollercoaster for me: Layla died, my water heater died, my garbage disposal died, my brakes went and one of my toilets needed to be replaced. Other than the loss of Layla (and the introduction of Savannah), the biggest change has been the loss of my personal trainer.

Don’t worry! He didn’t die or anything, but after working out with Sean for 3 times a week for over a year, I finally reached the end of my appointments. Given that these past couple of months have been rather expensive (what with the car, all the plumbing, and Layla’s vet bills – when it rains, it pours) I simply could not afford to re-up with him. We are still friends, but I miss seeing him. It was almost like going through a break-up.

It did not derail me though. Instead I joined a small group TRX class at my gym. So far I really like it, and it feels good to be trying something different and doing it (somewhat) on my own. Also, I am still going to kickboxing which I absolutely LOVE.

Despite the fact these last couple of months have been emotionally (and financially) trying, I still stuck to my routine. While there were a few days where I faltered by either overeating or being a useless couch potato (or both) – those instances weren’t prolonged, and I felt better once I got back into the swing of eating healthy and working out. I may not have lost any weight, but the only thing I gained was resolve – so I came out of it ok.

She waits for me on the rainbow bridge…

layla_rip

I made the difficult decision to put down my beloved Layla this past Saturday. (You can read more about her recent ordeal here.) She had stopped grooming herself a couple days prior, and that morning I could tell she was hungry and wanted to eat, but pain was preventing her from doing so. I did not want her to suffer needlessly.

I took her to the vet’s office, and her death was quick and quiet. I was with her when she went, and held her and told her how much I loved her, so it was the best possible death a creature could have. She was loved right up to the very last second.

She is loved still.

I will miss you my little Sweet Pea. May you rest in peace.

Pumped!

Fitocracy Spark Challenge

It has been a while since I blogged about my fitness journey so I thought I’d write a quick update about something that gave me a total “pump” today! A few months back I decided to take part in Fitocracy’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Spark Challenge. Well, 3 months in and I have earned the 3 monthly badges! I faithfully do one of the workout routines come hell or high water – even with my recent knee injury I still managed to keep up my numbers. I have to do at least 15 workouts a month (usually I wind up doing a couple more than that).

So today I did a little “YEA ME!” on Twitter and I got a shout out back

pumpup

How cool is that? It really pumped me up! Now I’m gonna earn all the badges!

Fighter…

layla2

Layla in the back yard this past weekend.

Layla came into my life in October of 2002. I was living in a small apartment in an old Victorian house that had a strict ”no cats allowed” rule. So, when a co-worker approached me and told me about this sorry little stray cat that had wound up in her yard and asked if I would be willing to adopt it of course I said: “No.”

A couple days later I was bringing home that very same sad, mangy, skinny little stray cat. She was severely underweight (only 7 lbs – normally she weighs around 13-14 lbs) and missing huge clumps of fur. (The vet had said she was most likely missing the fur due to stress.) I had never seen such an ugly little thing. I took no photos of her during that time because she was just there temporarily until I could find a permanent home for her anyway. I was only keeping her for a week – TOPS.

A couple weeks into her stay I got her fixed. I brought her back home and she was very woozy and sore from the surgery. That night she could not jump up on my bed to sleep with me and began to cry. I threw some pillows and blankets onto the floor and slept there so she could sleep next to me. She curled up next to my head on the pillow, began to purr, and licked the tip of my nose. It was the first time I heard her purr and it was the first time she ”kissed” me.

A few months after that I began looking for a condo to buy. Yes, I bought a condo basically because I refused to give up my big, beautiful, fat, furry cat. Does that serve as my entry into the Crazy Cat Lady Hall of Fame? I think it is at least worthy of an honorable mention.

Layla has been with me “temporarily” ever since.

layla1

Layla’s legs were shaved for the IVs during her CT scan and scope procedures. It made her paws look like little boxing gloves.

A couple months ago she started developing a cough and swallowing really hard. After numerous vet visits and an incorrect diagnosis, I finally took her to a specialist and he discovered she has a 1/2″ tumor on her larynx (chondrosarcoma). It is an aggressive cancer that spreads throughout the body rather quickly. The good news: the CT scan showed no other tumors, so she has a little more time. (They don’t know how much: “Could be a week. Could be a month. Could be a year.”) There are drugs I guess that can slow progression a bit, but they require additional vet visits (which she hates) and they can’t guarantee me that the progression will be significantly slower.

So I have made the decision to forgo everything and just spoil her for however much longer I have her. I mean, I’m not going to go out and buy her a bigger house or anything, but she will get top notch cuisine and lots of patio time. No more vet visits (until the “final one”) – I don’t want to put her through anything to cause her stress. Everyday will be like Caturday to her.

As of now she is still going strong… she still jumps, dashes around, eats like a little pig, purrs, and continuously sasses me. I will leave the decision on when it is time for her to leave up to her.

Much like all things in life, I realize she is just with me on a temporary basis.

Setbacks. I has dem.

icing my knee

Layla was concerned my swollen knee would interfere with her usual space on my lap. (It did not.)

As I inch ever closer to my first year fitness anniversary, I’ve suffered a minor set-back. I woke up the other morning and while I was laying in bed I could feel a sharp pain in my knee. I knew it had to be bad because I was feeling pain when there was no pressure on it whatsoever. I dreaded getting out of bed and having to put my feet on the floor. When I did though, it made me pick up my phone and text my trainer: “Sorry to wuss out, but my knee is killing me. I won’t be in this morning.” Then I hobbled to the medicine cabinet and took 2 Aleve.

The pain was located on the inside of my left knee. I hadn’t hit or injured it – the only thing I had done was take a kickboxing class the night before. We did a lot of side kicks (where all your weight has to go on 1 leg and you kick to the side causing the the non-kicking leg to twist at sort of an odd angle), so I am thinking that is what was making my knee all screamy and stabby. It was like, “OH! SO YOU WANT TO DO SIDE KICKS!?! WELL KICK THIS!” –stabbing pain–

This was the first time I had ever experienced knee pain, so I wasn’t sure what I should do. Thankfully I work at a place where – to a vast majority of my fellow employees – knee pain is quite common, so everyone there knew exactly the right advice to give me…

  • NSAID pain relievers (or ibuprofen) if you can manage them
  • ICE IT (no heat – ice – it reduces the inflammation)
  • STAY OFF IT and…
  • if you can RAISE IT

Luckily I had already taken the Aleve, I found an ice pack in the break room freezer, and my job requires mainly sitting all day. When I got home I raised it and iced it periodically. Today it feels SO much better! I can still feel where the pain was – almost like a slight weakness, so I will continue to take it easy through tonight and will return to work out with my trainer tomorrow morning. (He can watch my form, and that’s a good thing.)

It actually hurt me more to not be able to go workout – I missed both my morning and evening workouts yesterday and will miss my kickboxing class tonight. With the exception of a vacation I took, that is the most consecutive workouts I have missed in almost a year. Not gonna let this setback derail me though - just going to heal, learn from it, and keep moving forward!

Even if I have to hobble. ;)

For jocks who love to rock…

Jock Rock Jock Jams

None of the songs on my workout play list have been on any Volume of Jock Rock or Jock Jams. Proceed with caution.

Since I began working out regularly my only major complaint (besides the aching muscles) has been the music at the gym. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect beats for their reps and steps, and for me nothing sets that rhythm better than a mix of rock, metal, punk and a dash of fun. I realize I’m in the minority when it comes to my workout musical selections. Thankfully, I always have my iPhone - I can put in my ear buds and have my workout music MY way.

So all hail the workout play list! Here are some of the songs that are on mine…

  • Green Day: American Idiot - This song really gets me going. I especially like this for cardio as the base drum is very prominent and a perfect rhythm to set my pace.
  • Metallica: Fuel - Once my pace is set, this song keeps it going.
  • Mötley Crüe: Kickstart My Heart – See above Metallica comment.
  • Iggy Pop: Lust For Life - I think this is the all-around perfect workout song! Great beat and awesome lyrics – it is all about kickin’ your nasty, old habits.
  • Judas Priest: You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’- The rhythm guitar riffs alone should be reason enough to include this one.
  • Deee-Lite: Groove Is In The Heart – This may seem a little out of character with the rest of my play list, but it adds just the right amount of bouncy fun. He’s not vicious, or malicious, just a-lovely and delicious…
  • Black Strobe: I’m a Man – See above Judas Priest comment.
  • Sex Pistols: Anarchy In The U.K. - Yep, this song is on a middle-aged woman’s workout play list. Somewhere John Lydon just felt a sudden, unexplainable stomach pain.
  • The Clash: Train in Vain - A little mellower, but still a great, steady pace song.
  • The Who: Baba O’Riley – If I have to explain to you why this song is on this list than I don’t want to know you.
  • Social Distortion: Ring Of Fire - While I do love Johnny Cash, I like Social D’s faster remake of this song a little better for a workout.
  • Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch: Good Vibrations – DON’T JUDGE! (#GuiltyPleasure)
  • White Zombie: More Human Than Human – Trying to redeem myself.
  • Nine Inch Nails: March Of The Pigs – Pretty much anything from NIN would be on my workout play list (I also like The Hand That Feeds) but March is a particular favorite to listen to at the end of a workout if I need that last burst of adrenaline.
  • Ministry: Jesus Built My Hotrod – If Nine Inch Nails isn’t strong enough for the last adrenaline burst, a shot of Ministry to the ears will do the trick every time.
  • Commodores: Brick House – For a fun, funky cool down. You just kicked ass, so strut yo stuff on outta that gym!

For those that know me well, you will immediately notice that this list is sorely lacking in Pearl Jam. Yeah, I just don’t like working out to PJ – even the faster tunes. I don’t question why, I just jock-rock out to whatever gets my blood pumping! What’s on your workout play list?

Get yer vote on!

2013 Patriots pocket schedule

I designed the 2013 New England Patriots pocket schedule, and right now you can vote for which player you want on the cover! To vote, please visit the New England Patriots Facebook page and leave either “Brady” or “Wilfork” in the comments section under the photo, or you can @Patriots on Twitter with the hashtag #Brady or #Wilfork. Voting won’t be open for long, so be sure to get yer vote on!

Update – May 16, 2013: Voting is closed! I will post the winner when the schedule is released. (It was really close though!)

Update – June 7, 2013: And the winner is…

Up here in my Tree…

peek-a-boo

A picture I took of Wilson when I was relatively new to Instagram.

When you looked out my patio door, there was Wilson the Tree. He didn’t live in my yard, but in the yard next door. Ever the nosy neighbor, this particular tree seemed to always peek over the fence to check out what was happening on my little patio – a behavior which caused me to name him after a character from the show Home Improvement. His branches stretched out over the patio offering great shade in the summer. I never realized how much I appreciated the daily presence of Wilson until he got cut down.

It took me a day or so to realize what was missing. I looked out my patio door the next morning and knew something wasn’t right. The kitchen was abnormally bright and there was no knotty, peering expression with outstretched arms there to greet me. When I realized the Tree that had stood there was missing, the only reaction I could muster was to stand there and miss it.

That following summer I spent very little time out on the patio. I planted nothing back there and instead moved all my tomato plants out front (and they didn’t do so well). I didn’t set up any of my furniture. Maybe it was the new over abundance of sunlight on my fair, Irish skin or perhaps the heat was just too unbearable, but I think the real reason I shunned the patio was that I missed Wilson.

basil

Well, my period of mourning must be over because this past weekend I started to work out on the patio again. I planted tomatoes, basil, strawberries, snap peas, cucumbers and 2 different kinds of peppers – the most I’ve ever planted. I built up a little wall to place the new containers on, and set up my furniture. The patio will also serve as my place to use my new jump rope.

So, while I still miss you, Wilson…it’s time to move on. At least new plants will grow in your honor, and in the sunlight you left behind.

Wilson was here

The adventures of Draftman

Every year for our Patriots Football Weekly pre-Draft issue, we like to have some sort of design “theme” to it – this year we chose movies. After much discussion as to what to do with the cover, we decided to spoof the movie Superman and do a sort of movie poster look along those lines, but call it “Draftman.” We went and got a grey hoodie, put it on one of the writers, ripped it slightly, and snapped a few pics; one of which was this…

Andy poses for the camera

After much cleaning up, shading, rotating and lighting as well as adding in logos and some type, I got this…

Patriots Football Weekly 2013 Draft cover

Total Photoshop grunt work time: About an hour (not including hoodie ripping and photo snapping). I think Photoshop is such an amazing software! I remember when a cover like this would need a couple months to put together (as it most likely would have to be illustrated) – now it can be put together in a little over an hour.

You can buy the Patriots Football Weekly pre-Draft issue on newsstands now or online via the PFW website.

Breaking records and accepting challenges…

my old record and my NEW record

My trainer designs workouts for me and rotates them so I don’t get bored. As I advance, he adds in new exercises and I always get really excited when he does because I feel like I’m “leveling up” in my fitness. A few weeks ago he introduced a new challenge into my routine – for the last 10 minutes of my workout I would do sets of 10 body weight squats, 10 incline push-ups, and 10 rows (TRX, body weight) as many times as I could within that time frame. My first time I was able to do exactly 10 sets (so 100 reps of each exercise). My second time I was able to do 11 1/3 (120 squats and 110 reps of the other 2 exercises). This morning I was hoping to just be able to do a little better than my previous record, but I wound up crushing it – 14 2/3 (150 squats, 150 push-ups, 140 rows)! That will be a hard record to beat next time, but I will be sure to try!

I’ve been using a (FREE) iPhone app called Fitocracy to track my workouts. They have all sorts of challenges to help keep your workouts varied, but it is also like a fitness social network – you can check out what other people do for exercise and get advice and inspiration from others if you need it. I don’t usually participate in many of their challenges because my trainer has me doing enough, but starting April 1st I’m going to take part in their Arnold Schwarzenegger Spark Challenge.

The Spark Challenge is to encourage people who say they don’t have time to exercise to find 15 minutes in their day to get a little movement in. (That’s a mere 1% of your day!) I will be doing the Spark Challenge on top of all the other workouts I do during the week, so if I can fit it in - so can you. There are 2 routines to choose from, but for now I’ll mainly be doing Routine B because it requires no equipment and very little space. You can do it in your bedroom, your living room, on your lunch break, in your cubicle… pretty much anywhere if you can carve out 15 minutes. Seriously. 15 minutes. Don’t make me say the Nike slogan.

Here’s what Routine B looks like. Fitocracy also put together videos for each routine to make sure you know how do do each exercise properly. I will add a bit to this – extending the plank time and adding dumbbells to the squats, lunges & bridge – but I am using it as my motivation to do a routine when I get out of bed in the morning, and this routine is doable anywhere, anytime. Care to join me?

Fitocracy Arnold Schwarzenegger Spark Challenge Routine B