Category: Lifestyle

5 Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress

The holidays are getting into full swing and with that comes STRESS!!  Holiday parties, cookies, shopping, family, crowds…it’s easy to get lost in it all and burn yourself out.  But it’s important to take a step back, relax and remember what the holidays are really about.    

Here are 5 tips to help you cope with the holiday stress and so you can start off the New Year with a bang!

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1. Plan

Start thinking about the holidays early. If you are hosting a party, start planning out your menu a few weeks ahead of time. To avoid the store crowds, make a list of your loved ones who you need to buy for well in advance and plan to find their favorite items online. The packed malls in December are enough to drive anyone insane!

2. Prioritize

There are things that we MUST do during the holidays and things we WANT to do. Often it can be hard to differentiate between the two. By prioritizing what needs to get done, you can finish those important tasks first, like buying a gift for your Grandmother, so you have time leftover to do some of those things you want to do, like volunteering at a soup kitchen.

3. Exercise

When all of these holiday obligations begin to pile up, exercise can often be the first thing to take a back seat. Make this one of your priorities! Not only can exercise burn off extra calories so you can enjoy those gingerbread men, but it also boosts your endorphins to help get you in the holiday spirit. You can even get creative with your exercise, like adding squats in as you decorate your tree!

4. Sleep

Like exercise, sleep is another one of those things that is less of a priority when we are busy. Skipping an hour or two of sleep to get a few extra things done over the holidays can actually do more harm than good. It can affect your metabolism and actually increase your stress level all on it’s own. Make a point to keep up with 7 to 8 hours of good sleep a night.

5. Indulge

Yes, indulge! Trying to stay away from that plate of holiday cookies or that pitcher of eggnog can be very stressful and often lead to overeating of seemingly healthier options. Allow yourself to indulge a bit this time of year and enjoy the time with your friends and family. You don’t have to go overboard, but a small slice of pumpkin pie or a helping of those buttery mashed potatoes is sure to put a smile on your face and take some of that holiday stress away.

I hope you enjoy the holiday season and don’t let stress get in the way of the real meaning of this season…to enjoy and appreciate your loved ones. πŸ™‚

***This post was originally written and posted for FitFluential.  Click here for the original post.***

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Missing In Action

Remember that time that I quit my job and decided it was time to start my own business? It was one of the most terrifying and liberating things I’ve done.  Well the last six months have been a wild ride.  Not quite Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but close…

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Venturing off on your own is quite the learning experience.  Things you thought you were good at like organization and time management take on a WHOLE new meaning when you have no one to answer to but yourself.  Then there are things like paperwork, taxes, bank accounts, blah blah blah to get sorted out.  You know, the “boring” stuff that must be done.  It’s been a learning experience for sure, but a really fun one.  

However taking on all of these new responsibilities has made me have to take a break from a few other things I enjoy, like blogging.  I’ve been quiet around here for the past few weeks and that has a lot to do with both being overwhelmingly busy and also not quite knowing how to get my thoughts together.  There have been SO MANY things to talk about, I’ve been having trouble simply sitting down and writing them all out!  

But besides the “therapeutic” relief blogging brings, it also brings a sense of community that I have been missing.  Connecting with YOU, the readers, and also getting out in the community to experience things for the blog have been severely lacking.  All things I enjoy but that have taken a backseat to starting this business.  And you know what? That’s ok.

So there might be some holes here and there while I continue to ride on training wheels for the next few months, but I am still here and I hope you will stick with me through this journey.  I hope to collect all of these crazy thoughts in my head at some point and share with you a lot of the lessons I’ve learned…some of which have been difficult to take at times.  This is a wild and crazy roller coaster, but damn I’m enjoying the ride πŸ™‚       

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Disney Fit Challenge – The Competition

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It’s amazing how 10 hours of sleep can make any anticipatory anxiety I was having the day before seem non-existent.  I felt well rested, fueled from a ham sandwich I bought the night before and ready to take on the events.  I knew that I was going to have trouble with the wall balls in the first challenge, but I think excitement was taking over and I was feeling pumped.  

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Nice tote bag full of water I got there…geez!

After arriving at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, we headed back to the HP Field House assuming that was where we had to go to check in for the day.  Like the night before, there wasn’t any information on where to go.  So we headed to the registration area and found the table where we had our competitor numbers written on our arms.  I was C1101, which stood for Female Scaled Division (C), 11th heat (11), station 1 (01).  While inside the Field House we watched some of the teams competing in their first division, then headed to the fields out back to check out the girls in our division competing in the first challenge, Clusters!

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The 8th heat was going which meant we had about 30 minutes to warm up and get ready. We had figured out by watching that there was in fact a 10 minute time cap on all events with a 5 minute break in between heats.  Again, it was quite a shame this information wasn’t relayed to the athletes in advance.  

Kat and I headed to the warm-up area and were kind of shocked by what we found.  It was a large space, completely in the sun with a gravel-like black surface to work on.  There were only about 4 barbells available to use, a few kettlebells and that was it.  Seriously? Not even a single rower.  This made me a bit apprehensive, but we made the best of it. We jogged around the complex a bit, did some stretches and warmed up with some light front squats and clusters. Considering that it was over 85+ degress with 1000% humidity, we were sufficiently warmed up and sweaty within a few minutes.  If the challenges weren’t going to be hard enough, this heat was going to make them even more interesting.  The mantra for the day became: STAY HYDRATED!  Here we go!

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Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

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If you’re wondering what a cluster is, it’s a squat clean into a thruster and at 65# that isn’t a big deal for me.  Well they wouldn’t have been a big deal if I actually got to do them.  Standing in my way were the wall balls…ugh.  I knew these were going to be tough, but I had no idea how discouragingly hard they were going to be.  

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Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

I usually use a 14# wall ball at the gym, but only go to an 8 ft. target on the wall.  These targets were tiny Mickey heads (which were super cute btw!) and they were 10 ft. high. That extra two feet might not seem like a lot, but it makes a HUGE difference when you’re only 5’3″ tall.  You can see in this video that I am clearly struggling in the back.

I probably missed the target just as many times as I hit it, so that first round of 30 wall balls was really like 60 and I think it took me around 6 minutes to complete.  I already felt defeated.  I only got through the first round of 8 clusters, which is a shame because I enjoy anything that involves a barbell.  I would’ve liked to get my hands on that thing a few more times.

I finished with a not so impressive score of 10:40 (meaning I only completed 50 of the 90 reps in the workout) that put me in 97th place out of 113 for the event.  Kat on the other hand kicked ass and took names in this event, finishing 81 reps and in 43rd place.  Look at this badass go!

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Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

Since we were already hot and sweaty, we decided to head over to the Floater Performance Challenges.  These were two challenges that could be completed at any point throughout the first day of competition.  Kat called this the feats of strength portion of the competition, which we both actually found to be rather enjoyable.  Not only did we get to throw some weight around, but it was under a large covered tent with the most amazing fans I have ever seen πŸ™‚

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HAHAHAHA! I really just had to laugh about the broad jump.  This is something we VERY RARELY do at my gym and the one time we did it during a warm up, I immediately knew this was not for me.  My short and stocky stature does not make a graceful jumper.  But here I went, swinging my arms and hoping to not trip and fall on my face when I landed.

Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

Out of the 3 attempts, I think my max distance was 4’7″ or somewhere around that. Highly comical next to the guys jumping 6’+ next to me.  Whatever, moving on…now let me lift some things!  Max repetition bench press was next and I was excited to see what I could do…I’d actually never tried for max reps before!

Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

I was really happy with 24 reps total…just couldn’t squeeze out that 25th one.  The girl before me (who flew like a bird in the broad jump) struggled to get 20, so I felt slightly redeemed.

But the best part was watching Kat go in this!  I know she’s strong…I work out with her everyday, but to see her bang out 44 reps with no problem was AWESOME!  Everyone around us was VERY impressed.  

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My friend Jenn was competing in the Team Division, so we headed over to see her take on their 2nd challenge of kettlebell swings and sled drags.  I have to say, they had great areas set up for the spectators.  Nice, covered bleacher seats were a welcome respite from the hot sun.

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By this point it was after noon and we still had close to 2 hours until our next event.  It was time for me to change out of my sweaty clothes (yes I brought 2 full changes of clothes with me!) and get something to eat.  The food options at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex weren’t great for athletes competing like this.  I went with the grilled chicken sandwich and was disappointed to find that is was plain on a hamburger bun…that’s it.  No lettuce or tomatoes…blech.  Lesson learned to next time bring your own food.

We sat in the stands and watched the other heats in our division compete in the 2nd event which was thankfully inside.  No one was finishing this event, not even the girls who were flying up and over the boxes.  So the game plan going in was to just get as much done as possible.  While waiting, we were also highly entertained by this fun team who were really showing their pink spirit.

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Now on to the 2nd challenge…this was a doozy…

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Going in, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do the 20″ box jumps.  I’ve only just become comfortable with a 16″ box and that’s without adding burpees or rowing to the party. Both of those moves make your quads VERY tired, which in turn makes my legs feel like heavy sand bags.  There was an alternate you could take if you didn’t jump, which was step-ups, but the catch was you had to do double the amount.  So I had 28 burpee box step ups per round in my future.

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Photo Source: Jenn Lazzaro

My original thought was to pace myself, but seeing that no one was finishing and that I had double burpees in my future, I figured I would gain as much ground as I could in the row because I’m a strong rower.  I was glad to see that I was the first one off the rower, but that was about the end of my lead.  I kept a steady pace through the burpees and just trucked through the 10 minutes.  At the end, I got through 10 of the burpees in the 2nd round and surprisingly I felt good about what I accomplished. With one more event left to go for the day, the waiting game began.  

We had 3 hours to kill until our next event….that’s a LOOOOONG time!  We watched some of the teams compete, wandered around a bit and were basically chomping at the bit to just get back to the hotel and shower.  We headed towards the field where the 3rd event was taking place and again watched the earlier heats go.  We noticed that the heats seemed smaller in size with each event…were people dropping out?    

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Finally it was our turn and we knew we were cutting it close with dark clouds approaching. That day the 12 knees-to-arms part of the WOD was changed to 24 sit-ups.  We weren’t given an explanation as to why, but I was definitely happy with the change.  The bars were very thick and I knew I was going to have trouble with my grip if we were to do those.

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My “event photographer” Amanda had left before this event to go hang out with Robert Irvine in Epcot (not jealous at all!) so I don’t have any photos, but I will tell you that this was a much better event for me.  I flew through the dumbell snatches since my normal weight for those is 40#, the hurdle hops were a challenge (as all jumping things are with me!) and the sit-ups and push-ups were just going through the motions.  I didn’t complete the WOD, but I finished 190 out of the 228 reps.  

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The worst part about the WOD was the threat of lightening.  About halfway through warnings started to go off that there was lightening in the area and everyone should seek shelter, however no one stopped the event.  We could see and hear the storm which was a bit disconcerting because we were under a metal rig and hurling metal dumbells in the air….yikes!

After the event we hightailed it back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and watched the animals for a bit.  We had dinner at the hotel and crashed fairly early after our long day.

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Kat and I woke up the next morning and had a long back and forth about our lack of enthusiasm to participate in day 2.  On one side of the coin we had paid for this event and we should finish what we started.  On the other side was the prospect of 75 more of those soul crushing wall balls in challenge 5 and more jumping up and over things.  We both felt pretty discouraged after the events around the first day and decided we would be much happier if we didn’t compete.

So we decided to watch the Gibbons perform feats of strength instead!

We also spent some time among the gorillas…

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Stared at giraffe butts…

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And of course, pet some goats!

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We clearly made the right choice. 

In most things, I would be very disappointed in myself for not finishing something I started, but this was different.  The programming of this event was very strange and not the typical CrossFit style I’m used to.  When you have events that the majority of the competitors don’t finish within the 10 minute time cap, something is clearly off.  Also, when I first signed up for this event back in March, the competition was only supposed to take place over one day with the finals on Sunday.  Now I had no expectations of making it to the finals so I had planned the rest of my trip around just one day of competition. Being a Disney fan first and a CrossFitter second, the appeal of the parks was much stronger than sweating it out through 2 more frustrating workouts.  

I’ll have more on my thoughts on the event, feedback for improvement and observations from other competitors coming up.  For now, I will say that I’m glad I participated in this event as it was definitely a learning experience.  I learned a lot about myself and my abilities in that one day.  But most of all I’m happy I was able to spend that time with my friends in my favorite place.  That was the BEST part of the Disney Fit Challenge.

I would love to hear from you.  What did you think of the event?  What do you think about my choice to not compete on the second day?  Is this something you would like to do in the future?

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Disney Fit Challenge – The Anticipation

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Six months prior I signed up for the Disney Fit Challenge.  The merging of two of my favorite things, Disney and CrossFit, seemed like a dream come true!  I convinced my friend Kat to join me and then the waiting began…  We waited and waited and waited for more information to be announced.  A month prior, the event schedule completely changed and then two short weeks before the event, the workouts were announced.  To say it was a let down is an understatement and my feelings of frustration began to grow.

After following the CrossFit Games so closely for the past few years, I had come to expect a certain type of programming for these type of events and what we got did not meet those expectations.  The programming was not varied as movements such as box jumps, hurdle hops (wtf?!) and wall balls were repeated in numerous events.  The movement standards were totally out of whack across the divisions and overall there just seemed to be a lack of organization.  We had been looking forward to this for quite some time and were now filled with disappointment as to what we had gotten ourselves into.  The only saving grace was that we were going to Walt Disney World, so we just decided to make the best of our vacation and that this event was just a blip on the radar.

We arrived on the Friday before the event and our first stop was the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  I mean, how else do you prepare for a CrossFit competition than to eat and drink your way around World Showcase and walk over 2 miles in the process?! Clearly we had thrown caution to the wind and fun was in full effect.

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After a few hours, we headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to check in.  I’ve been there numerous times for runDisney race Expos which are always chaotic and full of people.  This was a different experience.  We were actually able to park close to the entrance and as we walked in it seemed down right deserted.  I wish the runDisney events were this easy!

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There weren’t any signs on where to go to check-in and I had to ask a cast member.  She pointed us to the HP Field House and to go around to the back of the upper level.

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The check-in area was deserted and we were able to get our wristbands, admission ticket to the complex, and swag bag in just a few minutes.  Is it really considered a swag bag when it is just a vinyl backpack and a tech tee?  Both are super cute though.

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We headed outside and I needed to check out the fields to see what the set up was going to look like for the event.  As I headed down behind the Field House, I was pretty impressed by everything that I saw and was actually surprised that the fields were open for me to get some close up photos.

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The rig set up from Pure Strength was awesome.  The wall ball targets are Mickey’s!!!

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I was very happy to see the hurdles in advance and know that we wouldn’t be having to jump over full size hurdles that you find on a track.  These were doable.

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Here’s my spot!

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Here were the dreaded 10 foot targets for our first event the next morning and under the tarps were the barbells staying dry.  

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So I was a bit more at ease to see everything in person, but I was still a bit hesitant about actually completing the WODs.  We still had no idea what the time cap was for the events, but it was assumed to be 10 minutes since that’s how long the heats were scheduled for. With so many questions still up in the air it was hard to feel confident.  What we did know for sure was that Kat and I were thankfully in the same heat (# 11) and that we would be starting at 10:45 am.

By the time we got back to the hotel and got a bite to eat we were exhausted from getting up at 5 am to head to the airport and our long day of walking.  We crashed by 9 and both slept for 10 hours!  This was actually great because we woke up with plenty of time to get ready (mentally and physically) and felt very well rested.  Now to take on our first official competition…stay tuned πŸ™‚

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Connecticut Brewers Fest 2014 at Two Roads Brewing Company

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Connecticut is becoming a hot bed for craft breweries.  They seem to be popping up everywhere and each one has some very unique offerings.  Last night one of my favorite local breweries, Two Roads Brewing Company, hosted the Connecticut Brewers Fest where over 20 breweries came together under one roof for an epic tasting!

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Two Roads is located in a huge 100 year old factory in Stratford, CT.  The first floor houses the brewery and the second floor is home to huge tasting room and event space. Many of the details of the original building were kept intact and you get the feeling of stepping back into the industrial era when you walk through the doors.   

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After checking in, I received an awesome glass to commemorate the event and use as my tasting glass for the evening.  I headed into the first room where there were about 12 to 15 tasting tables set up.  The first brewery I saw was Thimble Island Brewing Company out of Branford.  I’ve enjoyed their American Ale on many occasions, so I decided to try the Coffee Stout this time and YUM!  This is a beer made for the colder months ahead and served with a good beef stew.  I was off to a good start.  

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I moved on to try a Cannoli Ale from Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, Arch Amber from the Hartford Better Beer Co. and the 203 Lager from a new brewery opening up in Branford called Stony Creek.  I enjoyed them all, except that the Cannoli Beer was a bit sweet for my taste…kind of like a scotch ale.

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I was happy to find one of Connecticut’s newest breweries and a personal favorite of mine, Black Hog Brewing Company.  You might recall that I attended their opening back in August and have been excited to try their new concoctions ever since.  Here they were sampling a new Rosemary Dunkelweizen which I had never heard of before, but the rosemary peaked my interest.  I was happy to find this to be a delicious dark wheat beer with many herbal undertones.  Can I have a whole pint please?

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I moved into the main tasting room where there were about 10 more tables set up, as well as the giant Two Roads bar where you could taste their entire selection.  This room also overlooks the brewery floor where people were still hard at work bottling.  Seriously, this place is massive…

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As I’m sure you can tell by now, I prefer the darker, maltier beers to the hoppy IPAs.  IPAs are really big among craft beer lovers, but I just find them a bit to bitter for me.  There was a large crowd gathered around the Beer’d Brewing Co. table (love the name!) which meant they probably had a great selection.  However there were only IPAs available to taste.  I tried the L.I. Connection which I was told was the maltiest of the bunch, but I didn’t really enjoy it as I expected.  But Beer’d did take the prize for best logo and taps πŸ™‚

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I sought out a few more beers I might enjoy and found quite a few good contenders among the other breweries.  There was the Octoberfest Ale and Season of the Witch from Broad Brook Brewing Company in East Windsor, Weed Amber Ale from the newly operating Weed Company in Cheshire, and one of my favorites from the night Emily’s Chocolate Coconut Porter from Firefly Hollow Brewing Co. in Bristol. Oh man was that delicious!!

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My last stop was to the Two Roads bar to finally get a taste of their Rosemary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale.  I had see the poster for the beer earlier in the year and had been looking forward to trying it.  I’m not a huge pumpkin fan but this was really good.  Had more of a vanilla cinnamon flavor to it…big win!

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Before leaving I checked out some of the merchandise from the Two Roads shop and from the CT Beer Trail table.  Yes, there is a Beer Trail in CT and yes, you should definitely check it out!  There were a lot of fun shirts but I showed some restraint…

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On my way out I took a look at the three food trucks that were set up outside for the event.  The Local Meatball, Bounty and Lobstercraft.  Two Roads has a different food truck visit each day and you can bring it all inside to enjoy with your beer…pretty cool.  The hot buttered lobster roll was hard to pass up, but I had dinner waiting at home so I kept on walking…sigh…

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This was a really fun event and kudos to Two Roads for hosting all of these breweries that are essentially their competition.  It goes to show how great the brewery community is here in CT.

Do you have any local breweries you enjoy in your areas?  What is your favorite beer?

**I was invited to attend this event but was not required to write a review.  All opinions are my own and I  just LOVE good beer**

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