Thanksgiving in Maine {Recap}

My family doesn’t really have a “tradition” for Thanksgiving, but I think that’s what makes it fun- every year we have the “what do you want to do this year for Thanksgiving?” conversation? I’ve spent Thanksgiving in Bath, England (studying abroad), Athens, Greece (visiting my sister when she was studying abroad), Quebec City (family trip) and Burlington, VT, to name a few. This may seem weird to some, but we love it! It makes Thanksgiving an adventure each year and as long as the 4 of us are together, it doesn’t really matter what we do. Our tradition is to not have a tradition.

This past year, we went back and forth, debating on whether to do Thanksgiving at my sister’s apartment in Somerville or to do Thanksgiving in Maine. In the end we decided to do it in Maine, and I couldn’t have been happier. I got home late on Wednesday night (taught a 5:30 class and then met up with friends at a bar not far from my parents’ house), but still, waking up to a snowy, Thanksgiving morning on Thursday was perfect! Not long after waking up, we all got very busy in the kitchen doing all the prep work for our meal. IMG_5892 IMG_5891 I made these Pumpkin Pecan Bars, which have been a hit every time I make them! IMG_5919

And this delicious Pumpkin Pudding:

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Once the prep work was done, I got busy doing this workout. Fitness instructors: do you ever make workouts and then do them, only to hate yourself for making pieces of it so hard? Yeah, the 5 minutes of cardio (3 times) in this was killer. But, it was an effective workout since I did feel quite sore yesterday! Good thing it was my rest day 😉

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The best way to hydrate after a good workout is by drinking bubbly, right?!

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Our meal was absolutely delicious and it was so fun prepping for it together! Here’s the spread of what we had!

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Is it just me, or is it really hard to keep “portion control” when you’re serving your Thanksgiving meal? Granted, I don’t ever eat everything I put on my plate (my eyes are always way bigger than my stomach), but I cannot help but fill my plate to the brim every.single.time

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SO good! Everything was unbelievable, but I am happy to say that I saved plenty of room for dessert (my Thanksgiving could consist of stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie… lots of pie). My dad canned his own pumpkin this year and made pumpkin pie with his own canned pumpkin, which is pretty cool if you ask me. Mom was quite skeptical about the pie, but I had faith in papa bear and he did not disappoint! I was REALLY impressed with how delicious and REAL his pie tasted. Nice work, dad!

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After we digested most of our meal, we headed over to our family friend’s house… for dessert… round 2.  Christine always makes the best desserts, so even though I was full, I had to have some more. On top of dessert, we got lots of Zeke snuggles! I cannot believe he is almost 6 months old and 20 pounds!!!

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Oh my goodness, I cannot even handle his cuteness!

Phew! That about covers our Thanksgiving. Even though it was a low-key day in that we didn’t have a huge family get-together, it was a perfect Thanksgiving. My life in Boston is so go-go-go, that when I come home, I appreciate just being home and with my family. I appreciate the slower-paced lifestyle and the ability to “recharge” my batteries.

I hope all of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Questions for you: How did you spend your Thanksgiving? Do you have family traditions? Do you workout before you indulge in treats and drinks?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi B2B readers! I wanted to pop in quickly to wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I’ve got so much to be thankful for:

  • My wonderful family
  • My amazing friends
  • A “real” job that gives me flexibility, allows me to travel and pays my bills
  • A “fun” job that helps me pursue my passion for fitness and health (and get paid to work out!)
  • My own apartment
  • Burpees to Bubbly and how far it’s come in just 9 short months
  • YOU! All of you who come back on a daily or weekly basis to read about my random stories, recipes, workouts and rants. It’s still crazy to think there are so many of you who like to hear about my life, but I love it and appreciate your continued support more than you know.

I hope you are all spending time with your family, friends and other loved ones. Splurge on extra mashed potatoes, stuffing or piece of pie. I am all about everything in moderation, so a day of “splurges” is totally acceptable. You can get back on track with healthy eats tomorrow 😉

(and, if you’re looking for a new workout to do, check out my “I’m Thankful” Workout… I will be doing that today before eating a delicious meal!)

What are you thankful for? What’s your favorite dish on Thanksgiving?

2013 Fenway Spartan Sprint {Recap}

As I have mentioned before, on November 16th I ran the Fenway Spartan Sprint. For anyone who knows me, you know I am not into sports whatsoever, but for some reason I was REALLY excited to run a race IN Fenway, especially since the Red Sox just won the world series there. But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, too. I was actually really nervous. Even when people would tell me I’d be fine because I’m in good shape and I do this stuff all the time, I shrugged it off and was convinced that since I didn’t do CrossFit, I would have a really hard time. Remember how I voiced my concerns about the race and how I was going to go into it with no goals? Well, I am happy and proud to say that I absolutely crushed every possible goal I could have had!

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I finished the race in 51:06, and could’ve finished in probably 46-48 had I not had to wait at some of the challenge stations and at the last wall climb. To say I was shocked and ecstatic about this would be an understatement!

Let’s back up to the beginning, though. Stacey, a blog reader (and now friend!), contacted me to say her team fell through and asked if she could run with mine. I was more than happy about this because I love meeting new people and was happy to have a girl race with me! We got to Fenway with lots of time before our heat so we grabbed our race stuff, checked our bags and did what bloggers do… take selfies 😉

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Not long after, the rest of our group showed up and before we knew it, we were lining up for the race! I was still so nervous, but as soon as we started going, I felt really good. So good, in fact, I grabbed BOTH water jugs at the first challenge… ok, that’s a joke. I didn’t grab both water jugs because I felt good, I was just dumb and didn’t know that women could grab only one. Whoops!

I was really happy when I realized that there was a lot of running; I may not have terrific upper body strength (or so I thought), but my cardio endurance is pretty good, so I definitely gained some time during the running bursts.

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Photo from the Spartan photo page

I can’t remember all of the obstacles/challenges, but here’s a list of what I remember:

  • Water Jug walk up & down the stairs
  • 40 jump ropes with the big battle ropes
  • Cement block carry and burpees
  • Rope climb
  • Weighted rope pull
  • Monkey bars
  • 20 hand release push ups
  • 500M row in 2 minutes
  • Wall climb
  • Javelin throw
  • Cargo net climb
  • LOTS of walls
  • Stair jumps with rubber band around our ankles
  • Sand bags
  • Box jumps
  • LOTS of walls to jump over

And, the kicker, if you couldn’t do a challenge, you had to do 30 burpees. Lucky for me, I only had to do burpees when I missed the rowing (by 12 meters, mind you… so mad!) and the javelin throw, which is pretty much a guaranteed for most people.

I was most nervous about the rope climb, but I flew right up it (the knots did help). Monkey bars were not fun, but jumping over walls was 🙂 Except for the fact my legs looked like this after:

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Other than that, I got excited at the challenges. I loved pushing myself and seeing what my body was capable of doing (I was actually quite surprised with all that my body can do!).

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In true Monique fashion, I was yipping and yelling my way through the course and cheering people on. I got even more excited when I would run into my team members. Paul, Kyle and I were always right around the same area throughout the race and it was awesome seeing their faces and pumping each other up. I know I may sound crazy for saying this, but I had FUN throughout the whole course. Literally. I think I was even smiling through the burpees! The whole race was just so energetic and people were so supportive and encouraging and I WAS RUNNING A RACE IN FENWAY!!!

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(I know my face doesn’t look like I’m having fun, but I was just focused on the stairs and not tripping up them 😉 )

Before I knew it, I was lining up to jump over the last wall and was ready for the home stretch of the race. I smiled as I ran the last bit and tried to really soak everything in.

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After 20 box jumps, we fought our way to the finish.

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Omg was it fun! The best part? Looking up in the crowd and seeing my sister, Amy and Amy’s mom, Christine (Amy’s aunt ran the race in the 8:30am heat and killed it!) waving and cheering me on in the spectator area.

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My whole team did amazingly well!! Dave crushed his time from last year by 13 minutes, Paul came in not far after Dave, Kyle came in a bit after me and Stacey made her 1 hour goal! Our energy levels at the end were so high!

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After we got our stuff and changed, we headed to Boston Beer Works for beers and food. I was ravenous after the race!

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I think we’ve all already pre-registered for the 2014 race. Just like my friend Tim said, I am totally hooked on these races and can’t wait to do more of them!

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After Boston Beer Works, I headed to Jillian’s for a drink, but I didn’t last long. Between a full day of fitness on Friday and giving the race my all, I was absolutely beat!

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I can’t believe it took me so long to run a race like this, but I can guarantee that I’m just getting started. Running this race made me proud. It was proof that my workouts work and that I am stronger than I think I am… and sometimes it’s nice to get that type of reassurance. And as the Spartan’s say, I finished… Can you?

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Questions for you: Have you ever done an obstacle race like this? What would you be most nervous about?

Wednesday Workout: The “I’m Thankful” Workout

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t post a Thanksgiving workout for you to do, right? I plan on doing this tomorrow morning… hopefully with my sister and maybe my mom! I have to be honest, though, I had such a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do for a workout format for my Thanksgiving workout.

I started off thinking I would do an exercise for each letter in “Thanksgiving”, but I scratched that I idea.

…Next, I drew out a turkey using my hand (remember doing those in elementary school?) and came up with 5 exercises for the fingers (feathers) and cardio moves in the middle, but scratched that.

…Then, I came up with my “I’m thankful” idea and listed out a bunch of moves and gave you options for how you could complete the workout.

…I still wasn’t happy with that so I finally ended up going with the same “I’m thankful” theme, but separated it into different areas: legs, upper body, core and cardio. I think I’m happy with this (I think it will be a good full body workout), but I’m a little bummed I didn’t come up with better/more festive names for the exercises. Had I talked to my friend JP prior to making the workout, I definitely would have used some of his ideas:

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I mean, how awesome are those? The “and finally… a nap” is my favorite part, haha

Anyway! Here is the workout- I hope you like it and I hope it gets you motivated to do it ON Thanksgiving 😉 I’m all about indulging on the delicious foods that come along with Thanksgiving, but I think it’s important to get some physical activity in prior to those indulgences (helps get your metabolism going!).

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I think everything is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have questions, let me know. The idea is to work from one part of the body to the next, while throwing in 5 minutes of cardio to get your heart rate pumping!

It felt good to think about exercises that I’m thankful for. I kept it simple because if it wasn’t for these simple exercises, we wouldn’t be able to come up with some crazy versions of them, right?! I am thankful for everything my body allows me to do on a daily basis. I don’t know about you, but I tend to get wrapped up in always wanting to be better and to perform better and to be stronger and can get frustrated when I have a bad workout. But, the thing is, I am blessed that I am able to get to the gym almost daily and workout in general, regardless of how hard/easy my workout might be on any given day. I try to be more mindful of this, but it’s not always easy.

Questions for you: What workout move are you most thankful for? What type of exercise are you most thankful for (strength training, Zumba, Kickboxing, Boot Camp, Pilates, Yoga…. )?

Avoiding Mindless Snacking After Work

I don’t know about you guys, but by the time 4 or 5 o’clock rolls around, I am hungry! I’ve usually had lunch around 1pm, so it makes sense to be ready for a snack at that time. Since I usually work out after work, it’s actually perfect timing because I have a snack after work (usually consisting of almonds, an apple and some crackers or granola) which fuels me for my workout.

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However, I find that when I don’t workout after work, I come home and I snack on EVERYTHING. I call that “mindless snacking”. I feel like I can’t stop munching on everything in my snack cabinet, and it’s not because I am hungry, it’s because I’m around and the snacks are there!

Last week, during my two consecutive days of rest from the gym, I thought about ways to avoid going right home after work and facing the inevitable “mindless snacking”. It’s not that I wanted to stop myself from snacking (please. I am a professional snacker and believe in fueling myself consistently throughout the day to keep my metabolism going and to avoid binging at the next meal), but I wanted to stop myself from eating an unnecessary amount of snacks. What I love about working out after work is it takes up those “dead hours” (between 4 and 7 for me. I never know what to do during those hours if I’m not at work or the gym) and stops the mindless snacking (I brought this up with my friends and they actually said that the only way to avoid after work mindless snacking is by going to the gym… I guess I’m not the only one who thinks this way!). But when I don’t work out after work and don’t have after work plans with friends, here’s what I do!

Work Late (or later than normal)

If I know I have a wide open afternoon, I’ll usually take a longer lunch and stay late at work catching up on things I usually don’t do because I’m rushing out to get to the gym to workout or teach a class. It’s nice to not be on a time crunch and rushing out of the office sometimes.

Call my family or friends

I usually call everyone in my family and make them talk to me when I have an afternoon with no plans. A lot of times it’s when I am walking home, but I’ve also talked to my mom as I’ve cooked dinner. It’s a good excuse to catch up with everyone and it keeps me occupied so I don’t snack!

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Go shopping!

Ok, if you’re on a spending freeze, this isn’t a good idea, but you can always window shop! Last Tuesday, I headed over to Faneuil Hall and shopped at The Loft, Banana Republic and The Gap. Most of what I did was just browse around the store, but I did end up getting a great pair of blue work pants on sale for $22! I’m usually in a rush when I’m shopping (moreso because I don’t do well with puttering around stores. I like to go in, get what I’m looking for and leave), but since I was trying to waste time to avoid mindless snacking, I puttered and looked at everything!

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Take the long way home (usually I am walking, so this is also getting a little active rest/light exercise in)

I walk a decent amount every day anyway since the T is a .5 mile walk from my apartment and the walk from the Aquarium to my office is about .75 miles, but on rest days, I try to get a little extra in. After sitting for most of the day, it feels good to walk around and loosen up, especially if I am sore!

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Tackle that project you’ve had on your “to-do” list

Not long ago, I finally went through all of the exercises I ripped out from magazines over the years and organized them; I threw out ones I didn’t need and wrote down the ones I wanted so that I could have a consolidated list. It was one of those things I had wanted to do for a while, but never got around to it. I also organized all of my UXF Burn, SHRED and Kickboxing workouts into separate packets so that I could easily refer to past workouts when creating new ones. Other projects I work on with free time are blogging ones and closet organization (I always start with organized closets, but somehow they always get disorganized in no time at all).

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Read a Book

As I was talking about this topic with my friends over the weekend, Jessi said she tries to read a book to avoid snacking. I couldn’t agree more! Especially if it’s a good book and you get wrapped up in it. A few months ago, I went to the park on a Sunday afternoon and read my book for 2 hours (and I napped!), which is something I don’t do often enough.

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Did I miss any? What do you do to avoid “mindless snacking”? When you shop, do you putter or are you usually on a mission and try to get in and out of the store as fast as possible? What’s the best book you’ve read lately?