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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Lesson of the Water Hyacinth

Hey! Susan here. I'm so pleased to announce that Zach is going to start helping me keep this blog active by sharing some of his fitness and general life tips/observations. That's good because if you really want to know, he's the brains behind anything fitness that goes on in our household. He is a major researching and experimenting enthusiast, and as an ultra-marathoner (you'll never hear him call himself that, but I will!), he has some really great insight into the human body and mind. Our goal is to help as many people as possible, so I hope you enjoy a new perspective on the blog!


The Lesson of the Water Hyacinth

The water hyacinth is one of the most beautiful and unusual plants on earth. A delicate flower with six petals, it ranges in color from  blue to lavender to pink and floats on the surface of ponds in warm areas around the world.

What makes the water hyacinth really special is that it is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. A single water hyacinth can produce as many as 5,000 seeds and sends out short stems that become new plants. Over time, a single water hyacinth continuously doubles itself - one plant becomes two plants, two plants become four plants, four plants become eight plants, and so on.

One day there was a very beautiful (and very small) water hyacinth growing near the edge of a big pond. Nobody ever noticed it. Nobody noticed the second day either, when it had doubled and there were now two plants. Nobody noticed the water hyacinth on the third day or the fourth day. Even though they kept doubling in numbers, the water hyacinths were so small on the big pond that you’d have to look very hard to see them.

For two weeks the water hyacinths continued to double, but still covered only one square foot of the pond, just a tiny part of its huge surface. On day 20, a person passing by the pond noticed something floating along the shore, but mistook it for a lost towel or a discarded trash bag. But by day 30, it was impossible to ignore the hyacinths, because a blanket of beautiful flowers now covered the pond’s entire surface.

The lesson of the water hyacinth is this: Small actions may not seem like much at first, but over time they have a compounding effect. All that means is that actions add up or intensify over time - you can get big results from small, daily steps. this is perhaps the most important lesson of the slight edge and it applies directly to your life.

Source: Success for Teens, by the editors of the Success Foundation

The water hyacinth in our lives are our choices. We make choices every hour of every day. The impact of these choices will spread throughout our lives like a blanket of water hyacinths covering a pond. We may not see or realize the results of our choices today, tomorrow, or even next year. However, the results of our actions become apparent by the fabric of our life that has been woven over the years.

This concept can be applied to any aspect of your life: losing weight, getting healthy, starting a business, learning to play the guitar, saving for retirement, etc. It sounds so easy. Just make the right choices day after day.

But if it’s so easy, why are we not all successful at the things we pursue? I think it’s because, while it sounds easy to do, it is also easy not to do. It’s easy to think that the burger we order for lunch isn’t going to make a huge impact on our life. But when we order that burger again and again over the weeks and months of our lives, it makes a difference. That doughnut on Sunday mornings? It makes a difference. That workout you chose to do instead of sleeping in? It makes a difference.

We must remember and understand that little steps make a difference. What results do you want? What actions will you choose today?

Zach's Workout of the Day
8-mile run

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Tale of Two Laundry Bags

This is the story of how two laundry bags taught me how people can look at life in two very different ways.

This is our laundry hamper.
It sits in my closet, as it has each day for the past nearly thirteen years of marriage.

A week ago, a spied a dreaded roach scurrying into my closet. In my desperate attempt to squash the life out of it before it took up residence in a shoe, I threw that hamper across the closet. When I determined that the roach was lost (probably to make its next appearance, I imagined, crawling up a sleeve onto my neck), I threw the hamper back in place and went on with life.

A day or so later, I noticed that, inexplicably, my husband had started putting the "whites" in the back hamper, when they had always gone in the front. I chalked it up to a miscue, but when it kept happening, I asked him why he was throwing the universe off kilter by throwing whites in the back and not the front.

"Because whites go in blue, and darks go in black," he replied.

"No," I politely replied. "Whites go in front and darks go in back."

"Front and back has nothing to do with it. It's about the color of the bag."

Mind = Blown.

In 13 years, not once have I noticed that the whites happened to go in the blue bag and the darks in black. I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense...blacks...dark. But I never looked at it that way. I was all about the position of the bag, not the color.

Isn't life like that in so many ways?

"There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - William Shakespeare
I read a really great book this summer that I want to recommend to you. It's not new; in fact, I've been meaning to read it for years.

Chapman proposes that there are five different ways people give and receive love: acts of service, quality time, gifts, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

This book made sense to me on so many levels. If you're running around giving gifts to someone whose primary love language is quality time, you're going to be upset because it seems that they don't appreciate the gift. And your partner is wondering why you're wasting money on gifts because they just want you to quit spending money and start spending time with them.

I learned that I'm a "Words of Affirmation" gal. I run around doing acts of service like cooking great dinners and attempting to keep a clean house because I'm fishing for compliments...I really just want people to tell me I'm a good cook...and also that I'm smart and pretty.

Zach is a quality time kind of guy, and always has been. I remember even back when we were first dating that he was adamant about spending weekends hunting with his Dad because that was precious time that he wouldn't have once his Dad got older and couldn't do that stuff anymore. Looking back, I'm glad he took those weekends.

It works on kids, too. When I asked Kate how she knows I love her, she said it was because I "kiss and hug her." That was an easy one...that "Physical Touch" girl has had to be on someone's lap since she came home from the hospital. Drew's answer to that same question? "Uh...I dunno. When you make me lunch." I guess that's Acts of Service?

Anyway, it was eye-opening, and I highly recommend you find out for yourself the dynamic you have going in your own household.

As for us, you can tell by the picture above that once we cleared the confusion, I went ahead and moved the blue bag to the front so that we can both be "right" when it comes to the whites.


Workout of the Day
Beachbody on Demand Challenge Du Jour - Insanity Round 18

I'm loving these daily workouts on the On Demand channel! Our television in the garage blew up, so our entire library of DVDs is basically useless. We've been streaming our workouts on the phone or computer and it's opened up a whole new group of workouts I've never done before! Love it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

My Mom and the Fix

When I became a Team Beachbody Coach nearly five years ago, I had grand plans to help hundreds of people kick butt and take names by doing P90X. And also become a Beachbody millionaire, pay off our mortgage, and take the family to Hawaii for Christmas.

Yeah, so...most of that stuff hasn't happened. We did take a fabulous and memorable vacation to Disney World, but the rest of my Team Beachbody success has been marginal at best, not because of the company or its products by any means, but because of my own effort (or lack thereof) when it came to working the business side of things.

One thing that has remained constant in five years though (aside from drinking Shakeology), is that we use these workout programs on a daily basis. And when a new one comes out, we try it so that we can recommend (or not recommend) it to people.

In Spring of 2014 I finally got my hands on the 21 Day Fix (after a long wait due to back order), and Zach and I dove in. We figured out the containers, made spreadsheets, and followed the program to a "T."

I was blown away. It is the real deal, and to this day it is the only program that I recommend without any hesitation because if you follow the program exactly, you will SUCCEED. The reason is because The 21 Day Fix is the whole package: it's solid workouts paired with a solid eating plan. If you follow the plan, you cannot screw up. You are going to see results.

It was fresh off completing the Fix that I told my Mom she ought to try the Fix. My Mom is someone who has struggled with food and weight for most of her life. She got trapped in "cut calories to lose weight" mindset, and although she successfully lost weight at several points in her life, it inevitably came back once she started eating regular portions again. This wreaked havoc on her metabolism, as that's what happens when you don't eat enough: your body freaks out and starts holding on to weight because it thinks it's starving.

When her Fix package came in the mail, she looked through the materials, and then put the whole thing away. Then she looked at it again, and put it away. After letting the system marinate in her mind for a few weeks, she decided to start in May 2014.

My Mom is someone who loves lists and organization. She loves to plan, and prepare, and think, and measure, obsess for a bit, and then think about it some more. Little did she know that the Fix fits PERFECTLY with someone of that mindset.

The weeks went by, and she started getting used to this new way of eating...and I mean EATING! She said she'd never eaten so much in her life when she was on a "diet," and was also getting used to eating more protein and less carbs than usual.

The pounds starting falling off. And off. And off some more.

I remember her delight, shock, and elated text messages after morning weigh ins: "I lost three more pounds!" "I fit in some pants I haven't worn in years!" "I just bought 'skinny jeans!"

She couldn't believe that this plan...this plan where you eat five times a day, where you measure out your portions in containers, where you manage your food intake but can eat REAL FOOD on a regular basis, where she was NOT HUNGRY, was actually WORKING!

It was an easy, workable plan that allowed her to go out to eat and still make sensible choices. She could enjoy life and eat a slice of pizza occasionally without going off the rails. Her metabolism picked up, and plateau after plateau was busted. Just when she thought she'd leveled off, a few more pounds would be incinerated.

After more than a year, she has lost 30 pounds! And more than that, her doctor has told her that she can stop taking blood pressure medication that she has been on for 30 YEARS. And even more than that, she has so much pride in her accomplishment and feels so good. It's easier to garden, it's easier to walk several miles a day. She has energy. She is radiant!

If you ask her, she will say that she takes comfort in the plan. She still writes down what she eats every day, and if she goes on vacation and is forced to stray from the plan, she is eager to get back to it. And her body has responded in kind, maintaining the weight loss and keeping her metabolism humming.

Maybe my expectations for financial success in Team Beachbody have fallen short, but as for helping people? If I never help another person, becoming a Team Beachbody Coach will have been worth it because of helping just this one person. Seeing my Mom find success through The 21 Day Fix has been the most gratifying "help" I have ever given. All I did was hand her the tool, but she built the house. She decided to do it, committed to the plan, and succeeded. I am so proud of her!

Workout of the Day
Body Beast: Build Legs
The Beast wants to kill your legs! Done and done.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Camper Chronicles, parts 2 and 3

Oh man, where is the summer going? It seems that I look up and it's Saturday again...and again...and again. My home school planning (yes, I thought I'd try planning this year, as opposed to my strategy from last year which was: SURVIVE. And read books) is ramping up, and I'm getting excited for fall. But I hope it doesn't come too fast, because we have a camper that we need to reassemble in time for fall camping trips!

So, when we left off, the camper had no floor and the walls were precariously perched on a redneck car lift (read: cinder blocks and railroad ties). If OSHA were to have come by, there would have been, um, violations. And if they saw what it took to get that floor back under the camper, there probably would  have been jail time. Kidding! At least the children weren't involved.

Here's what we were dealing with. We purchased, painted, and installed new wood onto the trailer to serve as the sub-floor. Relatively easy process, which was taken care of one weeknight evening. But to get the walls put back on, you had to slide the trailer back under the camper, and then feed a thin piece of sheet metal through the space between the floor and the trailer frame. Does that make sense? Here's a picture of the metal that needed to go between the floor and frame:

In the picture below, Zach is preparing to lower the walls.

It was ugly. We just started pulling out the railroad ties and letting the jack down on the back, and then lowered the front. The tricky part was making sure the walls and floor lined up relatively well.

Shortly after the picture above, it was done. That was (I think) the hardest bit of this whole project (well, unless you count "sewing curtains," which may prove to be my personal Mount Everest. I use quotation marks in "sewing" because, well, you haven't seen my "sewing"). There was some wiggling and an attempt to move the entire camper about 1/4 inch backward, but in the end we figured close enough is close enough.

Then Zach removed all the curtains and hardware and painted the ceiling. 

Some guy on Craigslist had free countertop he wanted to get rid of, and we were headed down past his house on the way to some friends' house for dinner, so we picked it up. I was not anticipating that it would have a bunch of paint and stuff on it, but I think I'll be able to clean it up fairly easily. 

Last weekend we installed some vinyl flooring. I know, vinyl flooring is cheap and yucky, but let's keep in mind that this is a 20-year-old trailer where devil rodents routinely invade and poop on the floor. We're not going for high dollar. Besides, I think it turned out pretty nice.

We have purchased paneling, and that's the next step in the process. Zach will panel the walls, frame out the cabinets, and build some cabinet doors. Actually, now that I think about it, I bet the electrical and plumbing will come next, as holes will need to be drilled for those.

Now that the floor is back on, we're all breathing much easier. Now it's the fun part of reassembling, decorating, and focusing on making a tiny space as functional as possible. Where should we go for our first trip out in the refurbished camper?


Workout of the Day

Tony Horton One on One, Vol. 1 - Just Arms

A classic! Biceps, forearms, triceps. 

For some odd reason both Zach and I are having trouble with our left shoulders. His started as a knot from driving home 13 hours straight from New Mexico, and has just not gotten better. I noticed a tweak in mine after doing Game Day from Asylum right before New Mexico, and it has gotten worse, not better. I'm icing and trying to rest it, but it's hard to rest a shoulder when you're a boot camp instructor and also when you like to show your kids how to do cartwheels. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Camper Chronicles

Four years ago, there was a lot of road construction in our town. The detours forced us to take some Farm to Market roads that we wouldn't ordinarily travel, and one day, along one of those roads, there was a triangle camper set up in someone's yard. I mentioned it when I got home one day.

"Hey, did you see that triangle camper over on Helms Trail?"
"Yeah! I've never seen a camper like that...we should go check it out," Zach said.

We had owned a used, rapidly-deteriorating pop-up camper ever since our first year of marriage. The canvases were wearing thin and you never knew what might break next. I always told the kids to make themselves scarce during pop-up set-up, because it was always a tense time with high likelihood of cursing the pop-up and its creators.

So that afternoon we went and checked out that triangle camper, which we learned was called an "A-Liner." This, too, was an aging pop-up camper, but it was SO COOL! No canvas, super compact, very light. We talked to the owner. We went back home.

"What if we sold our pop-up? Would you be interested in getting that camper if he'd work us a deal?" Zach asked.


Craigslist had our camper sold within two days, and we went to pick up our new camper. I remember people asking us, "Oh, so you got rid of the pop-up...Did you upgrade?"

"Well...sort of?"

The fact of the matter was that we "upgraded" to a 1996 model A-Liner with half the size, no heat, and only one bed for the kids. But we LOVED it! This thing was so easy to tow, easy to put up, and it still had all the amenities we need for camping. I mean, the idea when camping is to get out, not stay inside, right?

We have enjoyed our triangle camper for four years, taking it to Palo Duro Canyon several times, camping our way across the country on our way to Wisconsin, and this summer, on our way to New Mexico. Zach has made modifications to the camper, adding bunk beds, shelving, hanging racks, and a bike rack. It works perfectly for us.

Here's a picture of her in all her glory at Guadalupe Mountain National Park in far West Texas:

But somewhere in the middle of New Mexico, we had a small disaster; a tire blow out caused the tread of the tire to whip around and destroy the wheel well, blowing a hole in the floor, a cabinet, and ripping the wiring out of the air conditioner and a socket.

When I hopped out of the truck to see what we knew was a flat tire, I saw wires wound around the tire and some contents of the camper hanging out of a hole.

"Oh. NO!"

A bit more than an hour on the side of the road and Zach had us on the road again.

(Aside: This trip had several disasters that stemmed from this blowout, including an unidentified devil rodent that used the hole in the camper to terrorize us throughout the week. The first time he weasled in and ate a pound of trail mix and tore through a tupperware container of peanut butter. After the food was safely stored in the truck, he continued to visit us daily to leave poop in the camper and tear open packets of coffee. It was truly disgusting. All that to say that I pointed out to our children that in case of a disaster, there is no other person I'd want around than my husband, who is as handy and clear-headed a person as I've ever met.)

After securing a spare tire in Santa Fe, our lame camper was able to make it safely back home to Austin. Which brings us to our latest home-away-from-home improvement, replacing the floor on our camper. And while we are at it, we decided to go ahead and give the whole thing a face lift, including new flooring, cabinets, siding, and curtains.

This project has quickly morphed from, "Hey, yeah...let's just pull up the floor and replace that bit that's bad," to "Hmm, maybe we need to look at replacing the whole floor," to "OH MY GOSH WHY IS THE TOP OF THE CAMPER SEPARATED FROM THE BOTTOM AND SITTING ON BLOCKS IN MY YARD?" It's been spectacular.

I'll chronicle our adventures here, 'cause I'm guessing this is going to go from bad, to worse, to better, to awesome...and I don't want to miss or forget a thing!

Here's a photo tour of last weekend's work:

Beginning of tear out. This is where our bed and converted table usually are.

Here's how the camper looks when it's all together in one piece:

Busted cabinet and door removed from camper:

So, apparently, all you have to do to disassemble a camper is detach the floor, jack up the walls, and pull the trailer forward. That's what has happened here. The camper walls and ceiling are quite light; they are made of Styrofoam with aluminum on either side.

Kids surfing on the trailer. You can see that in addition to the hole we found some rot, which is another reason to pursue a brand new floor.

Removing the floor from the trailer:

And removing the paneling...a nasty, splintering job. This isn't going to be a fun part. The paneling on the back side cannot be removed, though, and so we will have to just panel over it.

And that's where we are now! The kids are instructed not to go near our little redneck palace on blocks while it's not attached to its trailer. Last night we went and picked up the new floor, and I emailed a guy on Craigslist about some free counter top that he is trying to get rid of. We also need to decide what to put on the floor. The goal is to have the floor put back on this weekend so we can lower the walls back down ASAP. Excited to see how we pull this thing together! (And by "we," I mostly mean Zach...I'll help where I can, but I'm not afraid to admit he's the brains of this operation.)

Workout of the Day

Isn't this a fitness blog? Oh yes, it is. And we're still fitnessing! I'm doing a hybrid of about a million programs right now. Today I did T25 Speed 1.0, and yesterday we did P90X Plus Upper, and the day before that it was Beast Bulk Legs. Enjoying some variety!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Educate Yourself

Subtitled: Don't be a savvy marketer's silly victim

So there is this thing called Cookie Butter. Have you heard of it?

It is awesome the devil. It's crushed up spiced shortbread cookies mixed with oils to create a ridiculously good topping for bread, pretzels, apples, ice cream, your spoon, your finger...pretty much whatever you have nearby. It's sooooo good. But totally, totally unhealthy. It's cookies, sugar, and oil. The End.

The only saving grace of Cookie Butter is that it was safely tucked away on the shelves at Trader Joe's, a store I frequent maybe on a quarterly basis. I'd get a couple jars a year, the kids were happy, all was right with the world.

But then.


The other day the kids and I were at my local grocery store, and this has happened:

HEB Cookie Butter. Same company makes it. Same deliciousness. How do I know? Ummm...I guess I had to check it out, you know? To see if it tasted the same? To make sure they hadn't gotten anything wrong during the transition over to the new store?

So of course all of central Texas is abuzz with the news about Cookie Butter's debut at HEB. And that is when the following conversation took place.

Location and identities withheld to protect the innocent.

"Hey, check it out! HEB has cookie butter now! It used to just be at Trader Joe's!"
"Wow, that's cool...and delicious too! Is it healthy?"
"No, it's not healthy...it's crushed up cookies."
"Oh. Well maybe you should go get the Trader Joe's version, 'cause it will be healthier!"

AND, curtain falls.

Oh, people. People. Do you not realize that not everything in Trader Joe's is healthy? And I'd venture to say that more than 50% of the items in Trader Joe's are not healthy? It's basically healthier versions of processed food that you would get in any other grocery store. It's still frozen dinners, it's still sugared cereal, it's still crushed up shortbread cookies with oil and sugar.

But fancy marketing and the store layout makes us think that Trader Joe's has a gold seal of healthy approval.

You've got to go to the source...the label! Find out what the labels mean. What does 4 grams of sugar equate to? (SPOILER ALERT: 1 teaspoon.) What are all these different oils in the cookie butter jar? Can I pronounce these ingredients? (If not, put it down.)

Become a food detective and take some ownership in what you're putting in your body. If you're okay with eating cookie butter (and in sparing amounts, I AM), then cool! But don't assume that a store and its image is going to take care of making sure you eat healthy food.


Workout of the Day

21 Day Fix Extreme Plyo

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beachbody On Demand

This August will mark seven years (seven years!) since Zach and I started our first round of P90X. Not long after we started amassing a huge library of DVD workouts, and not long after that...we started wondering when in the world Beachbody would come up with a streaming service so we didn't need all these DVDs anymore.

It's finally here!

Beachbody on Demand (BOD) is like Netflix for fitness. There are hundreds of workouts on there, including all three P90X programs, INSANITY, Asylum, Brazil Butt Lift, ChaLEAN Extreme...the list goes on and on. It is pretty stinking cool.

BOD allows you to stream workouts to your computer, phone, tablet, or mobile device. If you travel a lot, or are someone who likes Beachbody programs but also likes the gym scene, this is FOR YOU! It's also for people who like variety in their fitness without shilling out a whole bunch of cash for a bunch of different workouts.

Plus, it's not just the workouts out there online; it's everything. Nutrition guides, fitness tests, calendar, program guide...the whole shebang.

After seven years, I still think the workouts that Beachbody produces are the best out there. They are comprehensive and demanding, and I like the fact that you don't have to think about it. Follow the schedule, pop in the DVD, work your tail off. The end! And now you can take that with you wherever you go.

Here's how to do it.

First, go to SmellsLikeFitness.com.

Click on "Join the Club." To access BOD you must be a Team Beachbody Club member.

If you've already got a Beachbody login ID, then simply sign in. If not, create an account.

Then fill out the payment info. The Club costs $38.87 per quarter. That's less than $3 per week. It's billed four times a year.

Y'all, this is super cool stuff. Right now you can try it for free for 30 days!

If you have any questions at all, just holler.


Workout of the Day

21 Day Fix Extreme: Lower Fix

Oh my goodness, this program is Kicking. Our. Tail. I am so sore and my legs are so tired! It is an awesome, intense program and Autumn Calabrese is NOT MESSING AROUND. These 30 minutes are jam packed with butt kicking moves. I love it!