Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peak Fit Challenge - End of Week 2


To those of you following along, here are my thoughts after the end of Week 2 of the PeakFit Challenge.  It hasn't been a perfect week, but I've made some good progress.  Click here to watch clips of the workouts on the PeakFit Challenge website.

Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!




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May 25, 2011 - Week 2, Day 1  (2.1)
Today’s Workout:
Pure Strength I
Weekly Weight: 160.8

I was thrilled with my almost 3-pound weight loss this week.  I’ll be happy with 1-2 pounds a week, and know that it was probably my body’s reaction to the change in diet (no grains) and big jump in workout effort that brought about the drop.  I’m on to the next phase in the program, and grains have been added back into the daily menu.

Today’s workout was Pure Strength I, which I also did on Day 3 (Friday) of last week.  I wore my new workout clothes, which were super-comfortable and somehow made it more fun!  I continued to use the stretchy band that I used last time, but I did incorporate the PFC bands for a couple of moves.  At this point it’s virtually impossible for me to use them with bent-over rows or chest flies, but we’ll get there.  I did feel stronger today—the 10 pound weights were still challenging but not as taxing as last week.  I’m already starting to see come changes in my deltoids, which is very exciting.  I'm 49 minutes* closer to going sleeveless!

Confession:  In the evening I had some difficult moments with my tantrum-filled younger son, and I must admit I succumbed to the stress and dove head first into the carbs.  Nothing “bad” mind you—but it is possible to eat an inappropriate amount of red potatoes and Weight Watchers snacks.  I’m glad “Pure Cardio” is on the calendar for tomorrow.  We pick up and start again.


Day 2.2
Today’s Workout
Pure Cardio

What a difference a week makes.  Pure Cardio was the workout a week ago today, and as you can read in my previous post, it was a killer.  The workout was still a great one today, but my experience was so different.  I took fewer breaks, and didn’t need to pause the video at all the Basecamp segments.  A few modifications were still done (jumping jacks are my nemesis at this point), but I challenged myself and did ski jumps and some other high-impact moves that I’d skipped before.  It might have been the extra carbs in my system from last night’s indiscretions, but it really felt like my higher fitness level gave more energy to finish strong in the end.  Feels great! 

Later that evening:  Tempted again to overeat with my elder son giving me trouble, fussing over a video game, crying over putting away his clothes.  I decided to not allow his whining and crying sabotage my goals.  I didn’t want to wake up in the morning with regret.  I had a healthy salad and thankfully was able to make good choices this time.


Day 2.3
Today’s Workout:
Cardio Strength I

Woke up hungry, tired, and disappointed that my weight was up this morning. I’m going to assume it’s because of added muscle, the residual effects of my Wednesday night indiscretions and the general re-introduction of grains into my menu. 

When workout time came, I really didn’t feel up to it.  There wasn’t the element of fear as before; I was just tired and felt more inclined to take a nap than to break a sweat.  Fortunately, I put on another of my 3 new workout togs and geared up anyway.  And sweat I did!  As with yesterday’s workout, I saw improvement this time around.  I didn’t have to modify or take breaks as much, even completing all of the dreaded jumping jacks! I even did the ski jump/lunges during a Climb, noting that our arm action actually helps propel me into the air.  My Mountain Climbers were more like Mole Hill Climbers, and by the time we got toward the end, sweat was dripping off my nose. I was never gladder to do a curtsey dip!  But my energy was great after I got going, and by the end of 58 minutes I was tired but felt great.  Once again, I feel stronger, and more determined to stay on track and not let life’s stresses foul up the work done so far.


Day 2.4
Today’s Workouts:
Core Dynamics and Dynamic Flexibility

It was one of those days when I honestly felt down and just wanted to take a nap.  My sweet husband took the kids out of the house (one wailing all the way) so that I could have time to myself.  So, no excuses.  I think I did about the same as last time with Core Dynamics, and there were times in Dynamic Flexibility when I felt like I actually didn’t do as well as before.  But I gave it my best shot and got through it.  I still want to take a nap, but I feel better physically—a bit stronger and nicely stretched out.


2.5 - Rest Day 

As much as possible, I’m going to always take my rest day on Sundays.  This is slightly different than the workout calendar, but I will still do all the other workout days in order. Today was pretty low-key—after church I wrote a book review and watched a good portion of the 2005 edition of Pride and Prejudice, which is just divine.


2.6
Today’s Workout:
Cardio Strength I
(L-R) Colson, Neighbor, Matthew & Jonathan

Woke up this morning congested, with a sore throat, headache, depressed energy and spirits.  All of my guys were home for the Memorial Day holiday, and I did not feel like working out.  For better or for worse, my dear husband took the kids out on the porch to continue a Monopoly game (the Wake Forest University version) so that I could have the den to myself, which makes up most of the living space in my tiny house, and the only place I can really work out.  I wondered if they could keep it going for an hour, but soon a neighborhood boy joined them, and they went on long after I finished!  After the video was over, I went out to the porch, dripping with sweat to give my husband a kiss and thank him for being so supportive.


As far as the workout went, I never was as completely energized as I was last time, but I did see improvement.  During the first round of most of the moves I was able to move up in weights, going up to 12 pounds for my heavy weights and 6 pounds for the light weights.  I did all of the Jumping Jacks with no trouble, and I saw a microscopic amount of improvement on my Mountain Climbers. By the end of the workout, I felt so good, re-energized and so pleased at what I’d accomplished, I didn’t care what the scale would read by the end of the week. While I do want to lose weight, this program is providing me other measures of success and accomplishment.


Day 2.7
Today’s Workout:
  Anywhere, Anytime No Excuse Workout


I had to get up before dawn to take my husband to work, so while the sore throat was still there, by the time my workout rolled around, I’d had a good breakfast and had been up for a while.  So while I wasn’t raring to go, the energy level was a bit better than yesterday.

Today was the Anywhere Anytime No Excuse Workout, and I chose one of my new Danskin outfits to wear, matching several of the cast members in a bright teal color.  It was nice to do a new routine after a couple of weeks of repeats. This one was shorter, only about 41 minutes, but Michelle packed plenty into that time period.  It was a nice challenge—it challenged me and it was very sweat-inducing.  I did have to modify some moves in order to keep up, but that just gives room for improvement.  Today is going to be a busy one, and this workout has left me feeling great and energized, not beat up and worn down.  All I need to do is get cleaned up and head on out the door and enjoy the rest of my day.  

While my Wednesday night indiscretions didn't make for a perfect week and probably contributed to a higher number on the scale, I still took strides toward a higher fitness level.  Jumping Jacks are no longer my nemesis (that dubious honor now belongs to Mountain Climbers), and I'm starting to see better definition in my upper arms.  It's exciting to think about what's to come in future weeks of the PeakFit Challenge!

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Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!





*All posted times are drawn from the moment the warm up movement begins until
the end of the cool down, not including any introductions or end credits.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book Review: The Trouble with Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan


The Trouble with Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice continues... (Pride & Prejudice Continues)The fifth installment of Sharon Lathan’s Darcy Saga, The Trouble with Mr. Darcy continues the post-Pride and Prejudice narrative, picking up with Elizabeth Bennet Darcy pregnant with her second child, Alexander.  The Darcys travel abroad and then back at home have the joy of welcoming their new addition to the family.  However, things are not perfectly smooth after the birth of this precious child.  Elizabeth is not herself, struggling with what we today call Postpartum Depression (PPD).  This causes a huge rift in the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy, causing alienation and pain on both sides.  Their marriage is greatly tested, despite their years of strength and loving support.

Later in the novel, the Darcys face yet another crisis when George Wickham emerges on the scene again, in the area with wife Lydia to attend the wedding of her sister Kitty.  George is bent on exacting revenge on Darcy and his family, and he enlists the help of another Darcy foe to collaborate with him in his schemes.  Mr. Wickham is as charming and conniving as ever, but his resentments have degenerated into full-blown evil desires.

The Trouble with Mr. Darcy was almost like two stories for me—one detailing Elizabeth’s PPD, and another surrounding the Wickham drama.  The PPD storyline was very compelling.  Sharon Lathan’s experience and knowledge as a nurse were very evident, detailing the thoughts and emotions swirling about in Elizabeth’s head during that time.  I myself have not experienced PPD, but I have struggled with depression before, and I was very impressed with Mrs. Lathan’s ability to enunciate the thought processes of someone struggling with loving their husband, yet feeling miserable at the same time. Sharon’s knowledge served her well as she crafted this portion of the novel, as well as later on when Lizzy has a bout with mastitis, another painful ailment for mothers.

The Wickham drama was excellent.  I was positively riveted as this colorful and provocative character reared his head yet again in the life of the Darcys.  I will offer no spoilers, but I can say that this portion was very enjoyable, and I loved every bit of it.  Sharon can certainly write an exciting page-turner.

Also within the book is the setup for Georgiana’s own love story, which I assume will be told in the upcoming Miss Darcy Falls in Love.  Sharon cleverly left out almost all details of Georgiana’s tale, but gave her readers just enough information to anticipate this forthcoming title in November 2011 from Sourcebooks.

As was the case with Lathan’s previous novel In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, there is more sexual content than I would prefer.  For the most part it is all within the confines of marriage, so I applaud the celebration of marital bliss.  So often in novels this is not the case.  Sharon’s Lizzy and Darcy are madly in love, regardless of years of marriage and more than one child.  However, as a reader I could do without the amount of detail that is given of their bedroom activities.  Lathan’s writing is wonderful; she doesn’t need to add this superfluous content.  The riveting Wickham storyline and her delightful A Darcy Christmas are proof of this.  When these intimate scenes come about now, I gloss over them and move on to the next conversation or event. 

That one reservation aside, The Trouble with Mr. Darcy is a wonderful addition to the Darcy Saga.  I have not read the first three titles in this series, and can objectively say that newcomers to Lathan’s work could easily start with this title.  I would recommend a rudimentary knowledge of Pride and Prejudice, so that the characters and the effect of their histories would make sense to the reader.

The love of Darcy and Elizabeth lives on in the pages of The Trouble with Mr. Darcy, and you will also find realistic struggles of new parents and captivating drama as well.  Sharon Lathan continues to promote the philosophy of two becoming one, and I look forward to enjoying her vision of one of my favorite characters, Georgiana Darcy.


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Sharon Lathan

While you’re here, check out Sharon Lathan’s guest post, where she addresses how her faith affects her writing and romantic story lines.












CymLowell

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peak Fit Challange - End of Week 1


To those of you following along, here are my thoughts through the rest of Week 1 of the PeakFit Challenge.  It's been a great week, and I'm highly pleased with the results.  Click on the embedded links to watch preview clips of some of the workouts on Facebook.

Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!


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Day 2
Today’s Workout: Pure Cardio

Wow.  What a workout!  52 minutes* of no-nonsense calorie burning!  This one was really a challenge.  Pure Cardio is going to have to be one of those workout DVDs that I’ll just have to continue mastering over time.  The moves came one really fast and hard, so it’ll take some practice getting the steps down.  About 20 minutes into it I would always pause the video at each Basecamp level in order to get a bit of water and to wipe my brow.  There was tons of high impact material, most of which I was able to get myself to do.  Michelle led us through lots of moves I’ve never done before.  It was hard to keep up sometimes, but I did my best.  I only had to modify moves just a few times. I really had to push myself at the end, using aggression to get through it (loved the hammer move).  I wish the stretching had been longer and slower, but overall a great workout!

Food:  I'm starting to miss the grains, which are not on the menu this week.  Making my meals from scratch with new ingredients (kale!!) is taking up more time than I’d like, but this food is super healthy.


Day 3
Today’s Workout: Pure Strength 1

Today we took a break from the cardio to build strength and boost our metabolism by increasing muscle mass.  Pure Strength 1 is a challenging, 49 minute routine.  It features PFC’s exclusive Challenge Band.  It is super tough for me to stretch—I’m more weak than I thought!  It’s easy to see why this program is great for both women and men.  The guys in the cast are in great shape and seem to be well-challenged by the band.  I ended up putting it away and pulling out the thinner strength training band from one of Michelle’s Shape workout DVDs instead.  I also had to modify the planks.  But I did challenge myself by taking Michelle’s recommendation on where to start with the free weights.  My starter “light” weight is 5lbs and my “heavy” weight is 10lbs.  In the past I’ve rarely used my 10lb weights, so this was a big challenge for me.  So while I used a different band and modified the plank moves, I was really tired at the end.  Not beat up, needing a nap, but appropriately taxed and looking forward to my post-workout strawberry-banana protein smoothie.  Side note: Loved the Michael Jackson-inspired soundtrack in the later moments of the video!


Day 4
Today’s Workout: Disney's Hollywood Studios - Star Wars Weekend

I decided to make my “rest” day today a few days early.  But even though I didn’t do a PFC workout, I stayed plenty active.  We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for 9 hours, and by the end of the day my pedometer read 16,000 steps.  I’m usually happy with 10,000, so this was great!

With all the tempting food at Disney, I decided to make the effort to stay on track with my PFC food plan.  The night before I cooked and packaged everything up for the day.  I must say, the food on this plan is great, but the preparation aspect of it can sometimes be a bit daunting.  But today it was totally worth it.  Upon entering the park, the security guard checking my bag took one look at all my healthy eats (blueberries, strawberries, carrots, etc.) and said to me with a twinkle in her eye, “I’m sorry ma’am.  You can’t take this into the park.  You’re going to have to leave it here.  I need that.”  With all the unhealthy tourists she sees every day, I think she was shocked at what was in my pack!

Not only did I save money by bringing my own meals, but I probably felt better than if I had a mess of greasy food in my belly.  Between the great menu and the exercise, I came home and actually lost weight today!


Day 5
Today’s Workouts:  Core Dynamics and Dynamic Flexibility

Today was tricky.  It’s Sunday, so I don’t have a lot of free time alone to work out in my tiny home.  Fortunately, my kids had a longer than usual choir practice, so I was able to drop them off and come home for a workout.  I did Core Dynamics first.  The fact that it’s only 21 minutes is not a reason to think that you’re going to get off easy.  Once again, my weaker strength led me to modify a few things, like doing some moves on my knees and using another Dozois stretchy band instead of the PFC one.  While there isn’t any official cardio, I did break a bit of a sweat with this one.  We had your standard planks and full-body situps (ankle grabbers), but there were also some new moves that I’ve never seen before.  This one is short, but it packs a punch!

After the kids’ choir practice, evening services and dinner, I put the kids to bed and did Dynamic Flexibility.  Oh my goodness.  I absolutely love this one.  After a doing PFC this week and walking around Disney all day yesterday, this stretching routine was wonderful!  I was able to use the PFC bands this time, much to my delight.  This is one of the very few times in my life when I actually wished the video was longer!  After 28 minutes, I felt so incredible.  We’d done just a bit of strength training with the yoga/pilates type moves, my muscles were stretched and I felt good all over.  Pop this one in on a day when you’re feeling a bit tight and/or stressed out after a long week.  This was a perfect routine to do on my Sunday.


Day 6
Today’s Workout: Cardio Strength I


I have to be honest, as I went into this one, I was a bit nervous. While I had a good night’s sleep, I didn’t feel overly energetic this morning. I decided to pace myself and just to the best that I could.  Throughout the 58-minute workout I gave it my best effort, but I still modified moves in order to make it through to the end.  Jumping jacks became low-jacks, pushups were on my knees, and I followed cast member Debbie to do the modifications.  About 38 minutes into the workout I was really slowing down fast.  I had been taking breaks at each Basecamp, but I began taking a few more within some Ascent periods to catch my breath and drink lots of water.  During one move I had to reduce my heavy weight from 10lbs to 8lbs, because I simply couldn’t lift it above my head otherwise.  At the end I was drenched in sweat and pretty tired, but I didn’t feel beat up and ready for a nap.  It’s 20 minutes later as I write this and drink my post-workout smoothie, and I think after a good shower I’m actually going to be good to go for today.   Cardio Strength I was really tough, but I made it through and challenged myself at my own level.


Day 7
Today’s WorkoutCardio Interval Burn


Of the workouts I’ve done so far, Cardio Interval Burn is the longest, at 64 minutes.  Once again, I found myself extremely nervous about it, doubting my abilities to make it through.  The daily efforts I’ve been making have been starting to wear me down, and while I feel great, a part of me wasn’t sure how I’d do today.

Once again, I did better than I thought I would.  I did pace myself and make modifications, but I actually took fewer breaks today than I did yesterday.  Many calories were torched and I was plenty sweaty at the end, but I made it through!  I was so excited, proud and grateful for the achievement.  I even got a little misty-eyed in amazement. Thanks be to God for the health and ability to even try this.

I’ve been wearing some ratty old things that are too big for me, and after this workout I felt so good, so confident that I’d have long-term success in the program that I went straight out and bought myself some proper, decent workout clothes.  I bought lots of purple and black Danskin items, both in my current size and in one size smaller.  I kept my receipt just in case, but I have faith that I’m going to need those smaller sizes one day soon!


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Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!



*All posted times are drawn from the moment the warm up movement begins until
the end of the cool down, not including any introductions or end credits.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble


The Lightkeeper's Ball (A Mercy Falls Novel)
From the back cover:

It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire.  Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-- those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America.  Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon teh Stewart daughters' marrying well.

Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died.  Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiance'.  Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage.  There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident.  And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.

When Mercy Falls holds a charity ball masquerade to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets-- and truths long hidden-- will be revealed.  But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity?  Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing-- not money, family, or romance-- will ever compare to God's unconditional love?

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The Lightkeeper's Ball is the third book in Colleen Coble's Mercy Falls series, however, it is the first I have read of Ms. Coble's work. Although it's the third title, it stands on its own just fine, and I never felt disoriented in joining the series at this point. 

Ball is a pleasant enough novel, weaving chaste Christian romance with a bit of family mystery and a murder plot.  Colleen writes fairly well, although occasionally her style succumbed to a few clich├ęd moments and a little predictability. 

I enjoyed her philosophy on God’s gifts to us and how we need to work those out in our lives.  It’s particularly appropriate in my life, as my family gave up quite a bit 5 years ago to pursue my husband’s goal of being a professional pilot.  Like the character Harrison Bennett, my husband also had a fine job in which he performed well, but his passion was in aviation.  We took many risks and made sacrifices, but by God’s grace we are now a pilot’s family.  Coble’s belief that God enables us with gifts and plants passions in our hearts for those talents is spot-on.  We need to be careful as we “follow our hearts”, as our hearts can sometimes lead us astray, but with proper prayer and guidance, I believe our passions can help in the ultimate working out of God’s will in the world.

Like another novel I read recently that was set in early 1900s California, Lightkeeper’s Ball truly reflects that tumultuous era of change and many struggles that women had.  Coble’s Olivia Stewart is a traditional upper-class woman, but she also yearns for modern things like flying in airplanes and having the right to vote.  I liked how these issues were presented in a way that didn’t require a heavy tone of feminism or male-bashing.  Coble held on to her Christian beliefs in her writing, but she still struck an appropriate modern tone as well. 

The Lightkeeper’s Ball was a quick read, and fans of light Christian fiction should enjoy this.  I didn’t find it particularly memorable, but it’s a pleasant story with a few interesting twists and turns at the end.  It would certainly make a fine addition to your church library, and would be a good choice for older teens and up.




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While you're here, you may enjoy this informative interview with author Colleen Coble:


What do I have to offer this world?  Can I really be loved for who I am on the outside and not for how others view me?  Where does my true significance come from?  In her third installment of the Mercy Falls series, The Lightkeeper’s Ball, award-winning author Colleen Coble will answer these questions while leading her readers down a path of betrayal, desire and ultimate fulfillment. 

The Mercy Falls series centers on a small town in California and its lighthouse.  Coble uses the lighthouse as a reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse always leading us home.  In her latest addition to the series, the main characters must wrestle with their desire to find fulfillment in more than their work and money while being hunted by those who are holding on to resentment and unforgiveness. 

With murder, suspense and desire, readers will enjoy peeling back the layers and discovering that this is more than your average romance novel.  They will be perched on the edge of their seats trying to solve a mystery while discovering that the true worth of an individual never comes from a name or accomplishments.  True worth can only be found in Christ.


An interview with Colleen Coble, author of The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Q: Did you always dream of becoming a writer?  Why did you choose the romance genre?

I wrote my first story in the first grade.  It was about a horse that had twin colts.  The teacher praised it and the writing seed was planted.  I love illustrating God’s love through romance.  I especially love the suspense I put into all my books as well.  I have a strong streak of justice and it plays out in the suspense element.

Q: What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s?  What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s.  I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books.  In that era, there were still cars and telephones!

I would have loved the simpler lifestyle.  However, I would miss my jeans!  How vain.

Q: Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people.  How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right!  The parallels between the two eras are astounding.  I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is.  We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him.  We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream.  When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.

Q: Bitterness and unforgiveness led to the death of Olivia’s sister.  Why is it so important to forgive those who have wronged us?

An unforgiving spirit hurts us much more than the person we hate.  It makes us ugly and crowds out the love we want to show other people.  God is love, not hate.  Bitterness is the very opposite of the attitude God wants us to have.

Q: This is the third book in your Mercy Falls series.  Addie and Katie were the main characters in your first two books.  Olivia was given a true gift in the friendship of Katie and Addie.  What does it take to find trustworthy and loyal friends?  Why do you think that we all desire to find friends like these?

You have to first be a friend.  You have to be open and giving of yourself to have those kinds of friends.  A true friend tells you the truth in love, and that’s an important component of the give and take of real friendship.

Q: What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?

I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them.  They are valuable beyond comprehension.  When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble

Thomas Nelson/April 19, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-5955-4268-7/304 pages/paperback/$14.99





























CymLowell

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peak Fit Challenge - Day 1


Weekly Weight: 163.6
Today's Workout:
PFC Fit Test (28:18 mins)

Well, several workouts, days of walking around Walt Disney World and a bout with a gastro-intestinal bug have made for an interesting couple of weeks!  I’ve lost some weight, but I honestly attribute it to the miles walked at Disney this weekend and my many visits to the bathroom with the illness on Monday night. I was so grateful to wake up this morning feeling normal and ready to get started with the Peak Fit ChallengeClick here to read about the program and my personal goals for the next 8 weeks.

Today’s workout was a 28-minute Fit Test to set a baseline for measuring my progress over the course of the program.  During short periods of time, I counted how many pushups, situps and other moves I could accomplish.  Some of my numbers were pitiful (Burpees!!) and others weren’t too bad (Fence Hoppers).  But overall I felt really good about the test.  It gave me hope that I’ll be able to accomplish my goals in the coming weeks.

The menu for today was super-healthy, full of fiber, and I honestly couldn’t finish it all!  I made lentils for the first time, and I retrieved some frozen Brussels sprouts from waaaay back in the freezer. There will be some changes in my diet, but the Peak Fit Challenge food plan should work just fine with my balanced faith-based program, First Place 4 Health.  I've been involved with FP4H for many years, and while I'm grateful to be down from 248 pounds, I'm most grateful for the spiritual and emotional lessons I'm learning through the program as well.  For me, health and wellness are not just about how many pushups you can do, but they're also about the state of your soul.  I'm grateful to have FP4H as well as PFC be a part of my life.

So here we go!  Stay tuned as the weeks go by—I may not check in with daily reports, but I’d like to at least present my thoughts on a weekly basis.  It’ll be interesting to see how this 40 year-old, non-athletic, mother of two makes her way through the process. 

See you at the Peak!


www.PeakFitChallenge.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware


A Race to SplendorFrom the back cover:

In April of 1906,
The Ground in San Francisco
Shook Buildings and Lives
From Their Foundations.


Amidst this rubble, two women find themselves pitted against each other in an architectural competition of daring, corruption, and unimaginable splendor. Fortune and power lie before them…but only for the one who wins…

Ciji Ware’s magnificent novel tells the remarkable story of rebuilding lives in the face of tragedy. From the ashes of San Francisco rises a heroine you won’t soon forget.

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About a year ago I read Cottage by the Sea, also by Ciji Ware. I found it very enjoyable, so I was delighted to have the chance to read her latest work, A Race to Splendor. And I must say, the lovely cover art also made it completely irresistible.

While I don’t rate A Race to Splendor as high as Cottage, it was still an enjoyable read. Ciji intermingles her thorough, 10-year study of the period with a well-constructed story. From the moments preceding the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, to the temblor and resulting fires, to the laborious reconstruction of the city, much transpires within April 1906 and July 1907. The main characters Amelia Bradshaw and J.D. Thayer develop quite a bit, going from adversaries with seemingly divergent motivations in life, to becoming partners in more ways than one.

I enjoyed learning about the period, and Ware does a great job in educating her readers without the writing having a textbook flavor. I had no idea that much of the damage in 1906 actually came from the post-quake fires. And while I knew there was a large Asian population in the area, I had no idea that they had been under such terrible persecution and slavery. Along with women’s rights, much has changed in the last 100 years. Yes, this was a story of the rebuilding of two beautiful San Franciscan hotels and the struggles that went along with that, but the stories of the individuals and surrounding people groups were also just as important.

A Race to Splendor is not a page-turner in the classic sense, but I found it interesting and for the most part liked the choices that Ware made in her narrative. Although I understand the viewpoint that the character Amelia had as a female architect in the early 20th century, I wish she had a more positive view of marriage. Her attitudes about trust, sexuality and matrimony were understandable; I just wish that those aspects of the character could have been different. Because of a few sexual moments within the novel (one of which was a same-sex scene), conservative readers may want to use discretion with this title.

Overall, Ciji has done quality work here. Her writing is pleasant and it’s clearly evident that she’s done her homework. The story has some devilishly nasty villains, and it’s great to see how the cast of characters grow and how long-held secrets are revealed. It’s interesting that many moments are based on true events as well. I haven’t been to San Francisco since 1979, but I hope to return one day and see some of the locations described in A Race to Splendor, particularly architectural works by true-life architect Julia Morgan. Splendor was not only an enjoyable read, but it shined a light on the period in a way that has piqued my interest. As Ciji Ware had a goal of telling the story of the post-quake rebuild from the rarely-seen woman’s point of view, she has certainly succeeded in her effort.






















This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
No obligation other than an honest review was required
.









CymLowell

Monday, May 9, 2011

DVD Review: The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes


Marvel The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Vol. 1Did you go to see Thor this weekend like I did?  Want to get some more Marvel Comics lore as we await the next installment, Captain America, which comes out in July?  Check out my review of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which addresses the first 13 episodes of this Disney XD channel animated television program.
Marvel The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Vol. 2

The review is now available for viewing on TVShowsDB.com:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Peak Fit Challenge - Goals and Preparation

Today’s Weight:  166.8
Today’s Workout:
Shape: Bikini Body CampTranforming Workout – Cardio Interval (29:15 mins)

I'm getting ready for the Peak Fit Challenge!  Fitness professional Michelle Dozois has created an 8-week program to hone your fitness level and get you into tip-top shape.  This 10 DVD set addresses cardio fitness, strength, flexibility as well as nutrition.  The PFC classes at Michelle's Breakthru Fitness studio in California have been selling out, to great results.  My ordered kit is on its way, so I’m trying to get in as many challenging workouts as I can before the really big ones begin.  I think I'll get started on May 18th, after my vacation to Disney World.

Today’s workout choice was a video that Michelle did with Lisa Wheeler and Tracy York in 2006.  While only 30 minutes, Shape's Bikini Body Camp was a good challenge for me.  I usually pass up the high-impact moves and follow Lisa’s variations, but today I went for it.  Might as well—Peak Fit is coming!  So I did the power jacks, atomic lunges, burpees, etc., although my burpees may have been more like burpettes!  But I got in a great workout—plenty sweaty, a very slight tinge of nausea (actually a good sign for me – but only a little nausea!) and yawns…  Glad I had some good carbs at lunch.

Today on her Facebook fan page, Michelle suggested that we set some goals and think about what we want to get out of the program:

At 5’7” and over 166 pounds, I’m a little heavy, so obviously weight loss is one of my goals.  I work out on a regular basis, participate in the Christian wellness program First Place 4 Health and have come down from 248 pounds, so by God’s grace I’ve come a long way.  However, I’d still like to do better.  I’d like to get down to at least 148 pounds, as that would mark exactly 100 pounds lost since I became a mother in 2000. 

Beyond that, I’d really like to tone up and increase my fitness level.  Regardless of today's workout choice, I have no desire to trot around in a bikini—I’m 40 years old and my body has endured two pregnancies, a c-section and years of obesity.  There are places that will never be firm enough to bounce quarters, barring plastic surgery that will never happen, because at this point I cannot see spending money on something like that.

So for me, I would love to be able to wear a pretty sleeveless silk shift dress without the cardigan. I’d love to be able to do full-body pushups without panicking. I’d love to be able to do jumping jacks without massive amounts of jiggling going on!  I want to be in better shape in my 40’s than I have been in my entire life.  I can’t stop the aging process, but I can be a fit 40 year-old and not a flabby one.  And most importantly, I want to be a good steward of the health that I have been given.

The 8 weeks of the Peak Fit Challenge are going to be intense. I may have to get up earlier in order to get things done, but I’m committed to doing this.  I've done other Michelle Dozois workouts, and I have confidence that she’ll not only make it effective, but fun as well.  This will not only be a great way to start out my 40s, but it will help me later this summer as we move from south Florida to Savannah, GA.  The stress and physical strain of moving is going to be rough.  Between taking care of my spiritual life in First Place 4 Health and my physical one with Michelle, this should be a summer to remember.  May God give me the grace to persevere…









Not ready to buy the whole Peak Fit Challenge set?
Try one of the workouts from the program, Peak 10 Cardio Strength!



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