On Hiatus: Surgery

Unfortunately, recent health issues will require me to have surgery tomorrow morning (Monday June 1st). As such, I most likely won’t be posting on the blog for some time; thank you all so very much for all your thoughts, prayers, and wishes.

Love you all!

xoxox,

Muddy Melissa

The Ultimate Guide to Mud on the Mountain

Nestled in Pennsylvania’s picturesque Laurel Highlands territory sits Seven Springs. Seven Springs, which boasts a slew of year-round activities from skiing and tubing to ziplining and biking, is also the proud home of the local obstacle course race known as Mud on the Mountain that has, over the past few years, been quickly gaining momentum (no pun intended!)

Seven Springs’ Mud on the Mountain is a 7.77 mile (cleverly referencing the resort’s 777 Waterwheel Drive address) mud run; this year’s event consisted of a slew of over thirty obstacles, some seriously lofty elevations, a heaping dose of good fun, and— of course— plenty of MUD! Keep in mind that only the first “elite” wave at 8:00 AM is performed competitively with timing chips for runners. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep track of your own time according to the finish line clock!

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Muddy Melissa in all her intense OCR glory!

The Course

Mud on the Mountain is trail running at its finest: steep elevations, downward corkscrews, laps around ponds, and rough terrain that will require some of your fanciest running footwork. Be warned: keep your eyesight firmly planted on the upcoming 2-3 yards in front of you; barreling ahead at full speed can actually be a disadvantage if you’re not being vigilant.

Miles 1-7 are almost all uphill. There are very few downgrades, but experienced runners will take advantage of them by gaining speed. The inital first mile of the course will quickly thin the herd: prepared runners will be able to adeptly scale the elevations, but novice runners may need to slow down to a walk. Newbie or expert, the important part is to JUST KEEP GOING!

Somewhere around mile 3 or 4 of the course, mudders are introduced to the make-you-or-break-you elevation that will have your quads, glutes, and calves screaming in agony. Smart mudders will alternate between climbing the hill forwards and walking up it backwards; doing so provides a much-needed break for those aching leg muscles, while still allowing you to keep moving through the course! Training tip: include hill and/or stair runs in your training program, along with plenty of squats and lunges, to prepare you for this bad boy.

After mile 7, it’s all downhill from there… literally! Shortly after mile 7, the course corkscrews into a winding and weaving downward slope. After 7 miles of steep elevation, imagine the condensed 1 mile descent! Going too hard or too fast can wreck your knees, and the sharp turns require some quick footwork. You’ve been forewarned!

Image downloaded from Seven Springs' Mud on the Mountain website

Image downloaded from Seven Springs’ Mud on the Mountain website

The Obstacles

With 31 obstacles in Mud on the Mountain’s 2015 course, there’s no way I could detail every single one, but I’ll give you the run-down of a few of the most memorable obstacles:

Sno Way: If you slacked off on your winter run training, you’ll be regretting it during this obstacle. Sno way is a slippery ice “run”— quotation marks because it’ll require more of a penguin-like slide than a full-on run!

Prepare for it: This obstacle requires less strength and more balance. Including some balance training in the form of yoga will help exponentially. At the very least, performing exercises that increase proprioception (which aid in balance) will help. Try this: while standing on one foot, lift your heel off the ground, maintaining balance for as long as possible. Repeat with both feet. For an advanced move, perform this exercise while standing on a pillow, which will require increased proprioception.

Cat Tales and North Face Plant: Both of these obstacles involve steep elevation, and, as such, they require some serious leg strength. Don’t wuss out on these climbs! Whatever you do, keep climbing upward!

Prepare for it: Stair and/or hill runs will help strengthen your leg muscles, so be sure to include them in your run training. You can also substitute with a stair machine if desired. Additionally, weighted squats, lunges, and calf raises should be go-to exercises in your training plan.

Trout Line: Shimmy across a mid-40 degree pond (which, amidst all the running, is actually going to feel quite refreshing!) suspended between two ropes.

Shorties take note: at 5′ tall, this obstacle was very unkind to us vertically challenged folks, and it felt like I was being stretched apart on a medieval torture device, à la William Wallace in Braveheart. That said, IT CAN BE DONE! Shorties will need to take their time on this one (this one cost me at least 10 minutes), and occasionally flexing your back muscles in a pull-up style motion can help relieve the shoulder discomfort.

Can you pinpoint the precise location where my shoulders are about to dislocate?

Can you pinpoint the precise location where my shoulders are about to dislocate?

A lifeguard was stationed at this obstacle, along with a helmet-endowed kayaker (what’s he gonna do, fish me out with that paddle?), so even swimming-challenged folks can attempt this obstacle.

Prepare for it: Perform pull up hangs by simply hanging from a pull up bar, starting with 30 seconds and gradually increasing by another 30 seconds each week of training.

Hangover: Like almost all mudders, Mud on the Mountain boasts a monkey bar style obstacle requiring some upper body strength. Fortunately, while many mudders expect you to tango with the monkey bars despite mud-covered mitts, Mud on the Mountain provides some neato colored chalk to ease the process. The first half of the bars ascend upwards, while the second half of the bars descend downward. Scaling the ascent will require some upper body strength, and bicycling your legs to propel you forward helps tremendously! You’ll feel like a kid tackling this one!

Prepare for it: Pull ups will be your best friend in prepping for this obstacle; perform pull ups on a regular basis as part of your training program. If you’re unable to perform a pull up, begin with either machine assisted pull ups, resistance band pull ups, or negative pull up reps (beginning from the top of the pull up and lowering yourself down slowly).

Dunk Dunk Goose: Billed as “the toughest mental challenge on the course,” this obstacle actually wasn’t too difficult. In short, you’ll need to swim underneath three rows of barrels to traverse across a 4 feet deep lake. At 5′ tall, it was easier for me to swim across rather than to wade through, but many people can simply walk across the lake. You’ll only find this obstacle difficult if you’re squeamish about water and/or being submerged underwater. Again, a lifeguard was on duty at this obstacle.

Prepare for it: Just be at ease with water! Swimming proficiency is not essential.

Foggy Without the Goggle: Oh man, I had a blonde moment on this obstacle! There were two cave entrances, one labeled “hero” and one labeled “zero.” Of course, me being me, I immediately opted for the “hero” route. Apparently my blonde sense of direction kicked in however, and I concocted my own path… and ended up barreling right through to the “zero” side. So while I entered a hero, I emerged a zero! I added another 10 minutes to my course time due to my blunder on this obstacle, and while the staff assured me I wasn’t the first person to do this… I think they were just trying to spare my feelings!

Prepare for it: Bear crawls will help you prep for this obstacle. Also, not being a total direction dunce helps!

Falling Waters, Clint’s Hurdle, and 3 Stooges: Like many mudders, Mud on the Mountain has its fair share of wall-scaling obstacles. These walls, however, seemed to be short-people friendly, and almost all of the walls had a small hole for shorties to grasp onto. Of course, pulling yourself up the wall will still require upper body strength, so be sure to plan your training accordingly.

Prepare for it: Again, pull ups, pull ups, and more pull ups! Did I mention pull ups?

Detail Stuff

Talking about packet pick up, gear check in, and the like don’t have the same sexy allure as talking about all the “fun stuff” of mud running, but even with the best course, obstacles, and atmosphere… an OCR experience can easily be turned into a disaster if the kinks aren’t worked out in these details. And Seven Springs? Man, they’re on top of their game!

Parking: Plenty of parking is available; Seven Springs’ website states “we have parking for thousands of cars on the mountain.” Yup, they do. And bonus? They don’t try to rip you off by making you pay a ton to park like most mud runs do!

Packet pick up: Packet pick up was a total breeze. I was advised to arrive 2 hours prior to my 8:00 AM start time, but— being the sleepy head that I am— I arrived about 1 hour before the big start. There was zero line whatsoever, and the staff was super helpful. You’re supposed to bring your photo ID and signed waiver, but they’ve got plenty of waivers for you to sign in case you forgot. I snuck a peak into packet pick up later in the day, and even for the later start times, packet pick up was moving along quite smoothly.

Gear check in: Again, no wait time whatsoever. As always, friendly staff with smiles on their faces. Post race, I had my gear returned to me within 30 seconds of entering the gear check in area. Sweet!

Aid stations: The course had a total of 5 aid stations. Each aid station had plenty of water and plenty of Gatorade, along with 2 cheery workers providing words of encouragement. Thumbs up!

Photography: This year’s course had photographers (that I noticed— there may have been more) stationed at the start, sno way, trout line, nail biter, valley mud pit, cheese grater, and the finish. (I’d like to personally thank the photographer at the valley mud pit for helping me to remove a bug from my eyeball! Sticking mud covered fingers in your eye to remove a bug seems like a surefire bad idea!) Pictures were available in less than 24 hours for a purchase price of $15 each for an instant digital download.

Swag: Forget fugly orange headbands! Completing this mud monster of an OCR will score you a snazzy medal, cool shirt, and a free beer (I don’t drink, but in case you do… or the course drives you to want to start drinking!). Oh, and don’t forget the bragging rights of being a total bad ass!

Another medal to add to the wall o' race bling!

Another medal to add to the wall o’ race bling!

Staff: Hands down, Mud on the Mountain has the friendliest staff of any mudder I’ve ever been to. I was offered words of encouragement at every aid station, along with updates about what time it was, what mile I was at, etc. Bottom line: you can’t ask for better people than the people working at Seven Springs Mud on the Mountain. They truly make the entire experience 100x more awesome!

My Only Complaint: Unfortunately, while most mudders embody a tough-as-nails, finish-at-all-costs, help-your-fellow-runner attitude, there were some cheaters on the course. Several participants did not even attempt the obstacles on the course, and simply barreled past each obstacle… clearly favoring time over obstacle completion. Mud on the Mountain really should enforce some sort of rule to prohibit this, and anyone not even attempting the obstacles should be disqualified from the timed wave, as it really takes away from the overall experience for everyone. The whole point is to push yourself to the limit, do what you thought impossible, and to have fun in the process! Cheaters on the course ruin the spirit of obstacle course racing. Bottom line: if these people want a simple trail run, they should sign up for one… NOT sign up for an OCR like Mud on the Mountain!

The Nitty Gritty

While OCRs such as Spartan, Tough Mudder (although not technically a “race” per se), and whatnot have gained in popularity, Mud on the Mountain isn’t a mudder to miss. The challenging course, obstacle variety, organized process, and friendly staff make this one of the best mudders out there!

Conclusion: Muddy Melissa approved! ✔

Age group results (last names and participant locations obscured for privacy). I'm obviously Melissa!

2015 age group results (last names and participant locations obscured for privacy). I’m obviously Melissa!

The Clean Eats Brunch Recipe Every Pumpkin Fanatic Needs: Pumpkin Buckwheat Waffles

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, brunch is on many people’s minds lately! For those of you who want a tasty brunch without all the unhealthy ingredients, look no further than this clean eats recipe: pumpkin buckwheat waffles. Buckwheat, although it contains the word “wheat” is actually a gluten free whole grain that doesn’t contain wheat whatsoever. Buckwheat has a rich, earthy, and robust flavor that is the perfect compliment to some naturally sweet pumpkin. On top of it, studies have shown that a diet high in buckwheat is linked to lower cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, fewer blood sugar spikes, and a reduced risk of diabetes. Ummm… score! It makes you wonder why buckwheat isn’t at the top of the everyone’s list of “superfoods” nowadays!

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Pumpkin Buckwheat Waffles (Serves 1)

3 tablespoons buckwheat pancake mix (such as Hodgson’s Mill)

3 tablespoons egg whites (2 egg whites, depending on the size)

3 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 packets truvia/stevia

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice

vegan option: replace egg whites with chia eggs (soak 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in 3 tablespoons of water for roughly 5 minutes before adding to the recipe)

Preheat a lightly oiled waffle iron. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Once the waffle iron is sufficiently hot, pour the pumpkin buckwheat waffle mix onto the waffle iron. Cook according to your waffle iron’s directions. This recipe will make 1 large 6 inch round waffle. Serve with maple syrup, agave syrup, raw honey, or a yogurt drizzle if desired!

Nutrition info per waffle: 135 calories, 25 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat

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For Mother’s Day, I created a couple of cute gift baskets for the much-deserving-mothers in my life, including pumpkin spice tea, French white tea handmade soaps, ingredients for pumpkin buckwheat waffles, along with a card filled with recipe instructions. It was the perfect simple (yet thoughtful) gift for the upcoming holiday. Hope you enjoy this recipe guys!

Fashion Forward Friday: 80s Time Warp!

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Oh, 80s fashion: big hair, bright colors, and— well— questionable choices. And nothing about the 80s screamed questionable choices more than 80s fitness fashion. Fashionable fitness attire in the 80s was full of neon bright colors, bold color blocking, headbands for everyone (even the dudes too!)… and, erm, thong leotards (why? just… why?). While the over-the-top fitness fashion trends of the 80s may be passé now, toned-down details from those 80s trends are still very much the rage today. So how can you rock these oh-so-trendy looks without getting mistaken for Suzanne Somers circa thigh master era? Keep reading!


The Trend: Color Blocking

 Rock it With: UnderArmour Women’s HeatGear Alpha Novelty Capris in Black/Iris/Ref from DicksSportingGoods.com

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The rule of thumb when it comes to color blocking? You can have neon bright colors or big color blocks— but not both at the same time. These cute capris opt for small color blocking details in bright colors to add a pop of vibrancy… without looking like a bad acid trip!

 Rock it With: Colorblock Chi Tank in Petal Pink/Silver Shimmer from Athleta.com

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This adorable top follows the inverse of the color blocking rule of thumb. The muted tones of soft pink and cool grey allow anyone to rock the color blocking trend without being over-the-top. You’ll be one bodacious dudette!


The Trend: Leg Warmers

 Rock it With: Compression Stirrup Legging in Black/Heather Black Mini Stripe from Vimmia.com

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These leggings create a faux leg warmer look— one that won’t have you endlessly pulling up your leg warmers (come on, that was supposed to be the real workout, wasn’t it?). On top of it, the understated monochromatic color scheme allows you to rock this look with confidence!

 Rock it With: VT1211 Compression Socks in Fuschia from Vitalsox.com

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The current knee high sock trend has its roots in those leg warmer days of the 80s; only the knee high socks seen nowadays aren’t just fashionable… they’re also functional too! These bold knee high socks boast a graduated compression technology system that has been proven to decrease the severity of sore post-running muscle…. And they’re cute to boot! Gnarly, dude!


The Trend: Headbands

 Rock it With: Flow into Crow Headband in Earl Grey/Mint Grey from Lululemon.com

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Instead of the neon oversized monstrosities of the 80s, opt for something smaller and simpler (because, come on, those bright huge 80s headbands were liable to either blind someone looking at you OR blind you when it slipped down onto your face!). This slim yet grippy headband will keep your hair in place without distracting from your natural beauty.

 Rock it With: Calia by Carrie Underwood Double Braided Twist Headband in Off White from CaliaStudio.com

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Part of Carrie Underwood’s newly-debuted fitness line, this headband includes unique braided detailing for a feminine yet functional touch. Since it sports two headbands, it allows for more protection from flyaway hair, without being overtly large enough to distract from your overall look.


And thong leotards?

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No… just no. I repeat: no.

How to be Perfect: The Impossible How-to Guide

I know this gal: she’s a pint-sized bundle o’ bursting happiness— with a passion for fashion (hey, that rhymes!). I’ve known her since my middle school days, back when I sported an unfortunate haircut and rocked some snazzy braces. But it’s astonishing how you can know someone… yet never really know what they’re going through. Even though she’s known for her smiles, it wasn’t until she opened up on her blog recently (check it out— Life on a Dot) about her struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that I got a glimpse of what was going on behind that smile.


That struggle behind the smile? I can relate. To say that I’ve had a rough life… would be an epic understatement.

My grandmother was the glue that kept my family held firmly together; she was the matriarch for us all— caretaker, confidant, counselor, our everything. Though she struggled with illness for most of her life, she never, ever, not even once complained; she inspired us all with her strength of spirit by living every day with the heartfelt belief that “there is always someone out there worse off than you.” She was never anything but thankful for the life, no matter how difficult, she was given. Yes, I’m tearing up while writing this. I miss her to this day— but I can feel her with me.

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My beautiful grandmother

When she passed away, my entire family was upturned. A world without her… felt less. I know that isn’t grammatically correct per se, but it’s the only way there is to convey it. The world was just less than it should be without her in it. The hummingbirds she loved to watch from her porch were less bright. The polka music she gently hummed throughout the day had less joy. The hollow she spied from her kitchen window was less green. And the family she cherished so deeply… well, we were just so much less, so very much less, without her with us. 

But I didn’t just lose my grandmother— I lost my mother too. After my beloved grandmother’s passing, my mother quickly retreated into herself. She’d spent most of her life caring for my grandmother, and when she was gone… my mother looked around and suddenly realized that a huge part of her was gone too. And what little was left? Seemed to be evading her entirely— like the white tuft of a dandelion seed floating mercilessly at the wind’s whim. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. How could I understand?

Life was a house of cards, about to fall apart

My older sister left for college. My stepfather sought solace in a bottle. My mother battled with mental illness, eventually being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And me? I was alone. I learned to take care of myself… because no one else would. I was ultimately put into foster care through Children and Youth Services, and my mother’s parental rights were terminated shortly thereafter. Yup, a rough life… isn’t even scratching the surface of the horrors my life has held.

And somewhere lost amidst the torrential current of all the murky waters churning around me, I kept fighting to survive. Even though I knew I was lost, I also knew I deserved to be found. But no one would— because no one saw me drowning. I became a perfectionist; I wanted to be the best at anything and everything. I earned straight As. I became newspaper editor. I kicked butt at mock trial. I was chosen to be a kairos leader. I won awards for everything from writing to mathematics to volunteering. Everything that crossed my path, I had to be perfect at it.

Muddy Melissa, circa 2005

Muddy Melissa, circa 2005

At the heart of it all… I just wanted love. I felt so abandoned— rejected, even— by what had happened within my family, and I was grappling with all of that deep pain. I was too young to see that my family’s struggles weren’t happening because they didn’t love me; at the time I truly believed that if they’d just loved me enough… none of this bad stuff would’ve happened to me. So I endlessly chased this elusive idea of perfection, because I thought that if, just if, I was perfect— they’d love me. How could they not? If only I were perfect…

Getting back to Kim’s inspiring story, it all boils down (in a way) to control. These feelings inside of us— for me, feeling abandoned; for Kim, battling anxiety— we convince ourselves that is we can just control what is outside, then maybe we can control what is inside as well. If I am just good enough, my family will love me. If I just check the door again, nothing bad will happen. When I read her brave words, I could relate. It’s a way to make sense of all the things we can’t make sense of. It’s a way to make tangible these feelings that are oh-so-intangible.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned to let it go (don’t you dare start singing that song from “Frozen!”). I’m still a perfectionist; I probably always will be. But I’ve also learned that being loved isn’t about being perfect— those that truly love you will, likewise, love every little freckle, all your foibles, each epic fail, and everything in between. Nobody can be perfect. But loving the imperfect? Now that’s perfect. The drive for perfection doesn’t torment me like it used to. It’s no longer about wanting to be loved— it’s about wanting to be the best me that I can possibly be… simply because I have such love for myself already.

I’ve learned, I’ve grown, and I’ve healed. The birds are bright again. Music has its joy back. The grass bursts with green once more. And my family? Well, it’s a journey… and we may not all be on the same path, but there is love in each direction nonetheless. It isn’t perfect— but, if you haven’t gotten the message by now— imperfection is the root of love.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out Kim’s blog! She’s just about as awesome as they come!

5 Dumb Fitness Mistakes Smart People Make

1. Doing 100s of… well, pretty much anything

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It seems logical: if 10 situps are good, then 100 situps are better! Sorry to break it to you guys— but this is faulty logic. The fact is, there are very few exercises which you should be doing 100s of. When it comes to exercises, in general, completing 6-8 reps targets hypertrophy, 10-12 reps targets strength, and anything more than 15 reps targets cardio endurance. It all boils down to this: if you can do THAT many of a certain exercise, it’s way too easy for you to be doing.

I see this all the time with crunches and situps; people come to me complaining “but I’m doing 100s of crunches every day and I still don’t have a six pack!” Well, therein lies the problem. These exercises (crunches and situps), first and foremost, are two of THE MOST ineffective ab exercises out there, so it isn’t any surprise that even those without developed core muscles can so easily do 100s of them. The remedy? Switch to a more difficult exercise that challenges you enough that you can only complete 6-15 reps of, such as Russian twists, hanging leg lifts, or weighted otis ups.

If your goal is to build muscle or to increase strength, then doing 100s of anything will NOT get you there— since your rep range is targeting cardio endurance. And if your goal just so happens to be to lose fat by targeting cardio endurance, then completing 100s of reps of something is ridiculously inefficient anyway. High calorie burning cardio activities include running, biking, swimming, and lots more, whereas completing 100s of push ups, situps, etc. burns substantially fewer calories. That’s not to say it’s a total waste of your time— but would you rather bike for 20 minutes or do push ups for well over 60 minutes? Enough said.

My real problem with this is simple: it discourages people so easily. When you’re clearly working so hard doing 100s of this, that, and the other thing— yet you’re still not getting the body you want— its exceptionally easy to get discouraged, become frustrated, and give up. This is my qualm with a lot of the “daily challenges” floating around out there; people download these silly “squat challenges” and do squats into infinity– when, truth be told, any fitness professional could tell them that 3 sets of 6-15 barbell squats is what’s really going to get them that ‘squat booty’ they’re lusting after.

The Fix: Ditch the 100s of reps. If your goal is to burn fat, then switch to a more effective form of cardio. If your goal is to build muscle or to increase strength, then switch to exercises that challenge you within the 6-15 rep range. Ideally, you’re going to want to include BOTH— cardio and muscle mass/true strength— in an optimal fitness regimen.

2. Going “no carb”

When someone tells me they’ve gone “no carb,” I can’t help but chuckle a little bit inside. Why? Well, I’m not going delve into the “are carbs good or bad?” debate here— but, the fact is, a “no carb diet” DOES NOT exist! Regardless of whether you’re pro-low-carb or not, it’s scientifically undeniable that there is no such thing as a no carb diet.7177396572b55e5f2ebabdcaefd37d60

Carbs are in pretty much everything: fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and more. So, unless you’re eating nothing but egg whites all day every day— yes, carbs are, in fact, in your diet. While you may be low carb, you certainly aren’t no carb. And if you WERE no carb? I simply shutter to think of the nutritional deficiencies of a diet completely devoid of fruits, no veggies, nada.

The Fix: Do your research on carbs. Make your choices accordingly. My professional opinion? A diet full of healthy carbs— in a ratio appropriate to your personal metabolic type— is ideal (questions about what this means? email me at muddymelissa@gmail.com!).

3. Trying to make the unhealthy healthy

Chances are you’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve even given it a shot. A “healthy” pizza recipe, a “paleo” ice cream recipe, a “clean eating” brownie recipe. It’s not the worst thing in the world. You’re trying to make healthier choices. But… you still kinda want that pizza, am I right? Yeah, you know I’m right.

We’ve all been there. I’ve done it too (and posted many recipes like this on my blog!). We’re trying to make the unhealthy healthy— “have our cake and eat it too.” This is NOT necessarily a bad thing in and of itself!

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But it is dangerous… very dangerous. You’re craving oeey-goeey, creamy, cheesy, homemade macaroni and cheese. So you pop on Pinterest and you snag a recipe for “clean mac n cheese.” Zoodles instead of pasta, butternut sauce instead of cheese… hmmm, should do the trick, right?

Only you try it, eat it, and while it’s good… it’s not what you really wanted. It doesn’t do the trick. You still want that macaroni and cheese, and that craving hasn’t been satisfied. So you wind up eating some macaroni and cheese anyway, then probably binging on a few other items while you’re at it, because— hey— you tried so hard to stick to your plan and now it’s all mucked up so to hell with the whole darn thing. Sound familiar? You know it does…

The Fix: Tread carefully with “healthified” foods. Sometimes it’s a better game plan to allow yourself to indulge in a small amount of a food you’re craving in order to prevent a total binge. And if you do cave and go off-diet? Remember that you’re only human and it doesn’t need to lead to a binge.

4. Skipping the weight section of the gym

Women have come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go. 5 years ago, seeing a woman in the weight section of the gym was almost unheard of. Nowadays, more and more women are doing their fitness research and realizing that strong bodies are fit bodies. But— the fact remains— the phobia surrounding the weight section still remains.female3

Typically, people who want to lose weight can’t fathom the need for hitting the weights. This is especially true for women who mistakenly believe that lifting weights will make you “bulky (it doesn’t— it just makes you awesome).” If you just want to lose weight, then you should only be doing cardio… duh! Wrong. Cardio is essential for burning calories, but building strength is JUST as critical as well.

Lifting weights builds muscle mass, and muscle burns more calories than fat. In fact, research shows that those who lift weights burn 40% more fat at rest. So, by not hitting the weights, you’re losing out on countless calories you could be burning throughout the day. Not smart! Really, who says “no thanks, I would like to NOT boost my metabolism?!”

And none of this even mentions that weight lifting sculpts the body, increases bone density, improves balance, lowers blood pressure, and all other sorts of healthy-body goodness.

The Fix: Incorporate weight training at least 3 times a week into your current training plan.

5. Giving in to the gimmicks

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I’m always surprised at the number of smart people that fall for fitness gimmicks— supplements, fad diets, superfood crazes, and worse.

For marketers of these gimmicks, it really is like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course everyone wants to be healthier, look better, and feel better. We’re all easy marks in their eyes. But— the undeniable truth is— the ONLY way to achieve that is through hard work: diet and exercise. It’s the one thing that’s been proven, time and time again, to truly work.

But… people want an easy way out. So they buy weight loss shakes. They try that silly saran-wrap thingy. They think acai berries will change their life. At the end of the day, people get fooled into believing these things work simply because they WANT them to work— anything to avoid the reality that hard work is what it’s going to take.

To top it all off, even smart people can be suckers for these gimmicks. We can’t be experts on everything, and whenever we aren’t an expert on something, it’s only natural to defer to the experts. So when we see a doctor, dietician, or someone that seems reputable endorsing something— well, we can be easily fooled. Especially when these “experts” tout some pretty convincing pseudo-science as evidence.

The Fix: Accept that hard work, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are the ONLY ways to reach your goals.

⇒ Need help? Don’t hesitate to contact me at muddymelissa@gmail.com

Fashion Forward Friday: Feel the Teal

It’s been nothin’ but warm spring weather and clear blue skies here lately, so this week’s Fashion Forward Friday is showing some love to one of my favorite colors: teal!

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 Equilibrium ActiveWear Crazy Crocodile Top from FitnessFashions.com

 Nike Victory Gym Tote Bag in Blue Lagoon and Metallic Silver from Nike.com

 PrAna Women’s Printed Double Headband in Cool Green Ibiza from DicksSportingGoods.com

 UnderArmour Women’s UA StudioLux Artsy Leggings in Thai Teal from Brooks.com

Too Insanely Good to Be Healthy: Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Sweet Potato Waffles

Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Sweet Potato Waffles 2It’s carb loading time! Fortunately, carb loading doesn’t mean that you have to veer off your clean eating path and start downing white bread, white pasta, and loads of sugar to give your body those-much needed carbs; nor does it mean that you’ll be banished to the realm of boring oatmeal either. This sweet and savory clean eats carb loading breakfast is the perfect way to fuel your body AND satisfy those taste buds. Enjoy this one guys— I know I did!

Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Sweet Potato Waffles

 

Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Sweet Potato Waffles

Serves 1

1 apple, cored/seeded, largely grated

1 large sweet potato, spiralized

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon clove

1 packet stevia

2 egg whites

Preheat waffle iron. In a lightly oiled pan over high heat, saute the spiralized sweet potatoes until tender (about 10 minutes). Afterwards, toss the spiralized sweet potatoes, grated apple, cinnamon, clove, stevia, and egg whites together until combined. Brush the waffle iron lightly with oil, and add half of the waffle mix; cook until golden brown— roughly 10 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the waffle mix. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt, a drizzle of raw honey or pure maple, or (my personal favorite) top with a pan-fried dippy egg!

I’m a Mudder: Seeing Myself Clearly Through The Muck

Looking at me, you probably wouldn’t guess I’m a mudder. I suppose I’m not the type most would imagine carrying sandbags through mud pits or low crawling through muck-filled trenches. There’s not many people who would look at this five foot tall blonde girl wearing 99.99% pink and think “yup, this looks like a girl who loves mud.” But don’t let appearances deceive you— I’m tough.

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A not-so-clean past

At age 14, I was placed into foster care through the children and youth services system. I’ve seen, experienced, and endured more than most in my days, but I’ve never given up. I’ve succeeded where most others would have failed. Foster kids rarely make it out of the system without being in juvenile detention, getting pregnant underage, or battling drug and/or alcohol addictions. Those that do escape these fates rarely finish high school, and an even smaller percentage enroll in higher education. And of those? Well, the percentage of former foster kids who actually earn a college degree is… pretty darn miniscule.

But I did— with a full scholarship, no less. No doubt, I’ve seen my share of hardships, and I’ve always had the strength to overcome them. But did I see myself as strong? Not really. I was just me, plain old Melissa. I was just doing what I had to do to keep going. That’s all. It wasn’t until I became a mudder that I realized how strong, inside and outside, I truly am.

Wiping away the dirt

After I registered for my very first mud run, I had this “oh shit fit” where I questioned what on earth I was doing. Doing a mud run was something I never expected myself to do, and it certainly wasn’t something anyone else expected me to do either. I was always the nerdy kid with my nose in a book, and I absolutely abhorred the idea of getting dirty. So where the idea to sign up for a mud run came from— that’s anybody’s guess! But something deep, deep inside me urged me to do it. The mud was calling me.

The morning of my very first mudder, I had a profound moment of clarity. Standing at the starting line in the freezing bitter cold of the early morning’s grey light, I was still overcome with those feelings of fear, anxiety, and self doubt. How was I going to get through this on my own? Could I handle all of the obstacles— literal obstacles— I was facing? Was I insane for even thinking I could do something like this to begin with? With all of these emotions churning around inside the pit of my stomach, I realized something.

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Becoming Muddy Melissa

My entire life has been an obstacle course, and there has always been something standing in my way, trying to stop me. I have never— not for one solitary second— let it. So those twelve foot walls? That twenty foot rope climb? Barbed wire, fire, and electricity? Bring it. Because I’ve been through hell and back already, and, even when I’ve had every reason to give up, I never have. I’ve kept pushing forward. I’ve kept living, kept smiling, kept loving. I didn’t need that mud run to prove I was strong, but it was in that moment that I realized I’ve always been strong.

I left that mud run with cuts, bruises, mud-caked clothes, and a second place finish— but a smile on my face no less. I had the best time of my life, and I’ve been hooked on mud runs ever since (so much so that now I’m known affectionately as ‘Muddy Melissa’). Being a mudder is an intrinsic part of who I am, and, even though some people can’t understand why I’d want to hurl myself over walls or crawl through mud or complete ridiculous obstacles, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not for anything.

Because strong is sexy. Bruises are beautiful. And tough? Well… that’s me.

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Note: original article was published on Running Junkies.

The Hard Truth About Rock-Hard Abs

As a personal trainer, it’s an important step in establishing the trainer-client relationship to start an open dialogue with each client about the client’s wants, goals, and expectations. In all of my years of experience as a trainer, the biggest want (by far!) that my clients express to me? Abs. Six pack, rock hard, fully defined abs.

⇒This, of course, is when I need to start swinging a gentle 2×4 at ’em.

Don’t get me wrong; I fully believe that just about anyone with enough drive to do the necessary hard work can achieve that oh-so-coveted set of abs. But the fact is: abs don’t come easily. Not only do they require rigorous control of day-to-day nutrition, but they also demand an extremely low body fat composition.

The low body fat composition needed in order for abs to show varies for each person, according to body type, genetics, and other factors. In general though, men might start seeing abs at around 15% body fat, but more likely within the 10-12% range. Full-on abs, however, won’t start showing until 6-7%, and male bodybuilders will drop to an even lower 3-4%. As for women, who naturally have a higher body fat composition than men due to breasts, hips, and thighs, women might start seeing abs at around 22% body fat, but generally within the 10-12% range abs become more prominent. And female bodybuilders? They can drop below a very low 8%.

Not only do abs require an extremely low body fat composition (which, for some, might not be healthy since your body does, in fact, need fat), but those abs you’re coveting are often merely representative of a person’s body at their physical peak. In essence, you’re comparing your everyday physique to someone else’s pinnacle. Female and male bodybuilding competitors (and even female and male fitness models— such as the ones you see on television and in magazines), in reality, simply do not look like that year-round. Most go through bulking and cutting cycles, and during a bulking cycle their body fat composition (along with their nutritional intake) will be much, much higher.

These people prep in advance for these events, be it a big competition or a photo shoot, but they don’t necessarily maintain that look year-round. Tactics they resort to can often include extreme dieting, carb restriction, sodium restriction, utilizing diuretics, taking supplements, and even intentional dehydration. Since retained water causes cells to expand— thus looking fuller (i.e. less lean)— all of these methods are often used to emphasize a person’s lean physique. In layman’s terms: they’re shedding water weight. Is this healthy for a day-to-day lifestyle? No, of course not! But for those who work and/or compete in the fitness industry, these methods are a temporary measure used only to highlight each person’s body for that big event— competition, photo shoot, press event, whatever the case may be. After that— they immediately return to a healthier lifestyle.

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Truth be told, in addition to all of this, you could be lusting after a set of abs that just doesn’t exist. Numerous fitness magazines have been exposed using shady maneuvers such as drawing on abs and/or using photoshop enhancement to create abs that simply aren’t there or to enhance not-so-prominent abs. When you take this into account— well, the whole notion surrounding “must-have abs” becomes more than a little bit murky.

So, while abs may be attainable, are they really maintainable?

For most, the answer is no. For those of us who are truly passionate about fitness, day in and day out, the idea of strict daily nutrition, living a meal prep life, an athletic body composition, and the high training demands… it’s just a part of who we are. It’s our life’s passion, and it brings us happiness.

But for those who simply want to look good, feel good, and be healthy, those same things are incredibly daunting tasks. What is the cost of those abs? Counting calories, tracking macros, meal prepping… being the person who is always saying “no” to dinners out, a glass of wine, etc. I tell my clients: “this life is what it takes to have and to keep those abs; is this the life you really want to life?” I always stress that, yes, I can help them get there— but they have to be willing to do the hard work.

In the end, most of my clients choose to amend their goal of six pack abs. Armed with the facts about maintaining abs, they’re better equipped to make a more realistic choice about their goals. For this reason, it’s critical that a trainer not only understand their client’s goals, but also that the trainer clearly explains what attaining AND maintaining those goals requires. Otherwise, we, as trainers, are simply setting our clients up for disappointment when they inevitably realize that the lifestyle those abs demand isn’t a lifestyle they want to live.

As for the few who do choose to commit to the ab-centric lifestyle, they are truly the most dedicated, passionate, fitness-centric folks I have ever come across, and it is always a pleasure to work with those who are willing to go down a road knowing all of the hard work, sacrifice, and commitment it takes.

No matter what, abs or not: the goal is to be happy and to be healthy! At the end of the day, that is really and truly all that matters.

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