Ask Amanda: The Push-up Problem

If I were to generalize the one single movement that the majority of my clients struggle to do correctly, it would be the push-up.  I have clients that can squat, pull, and jump like champs – but when it comes to push-ups, their form literally collapses.  And as much as I hate to say it, the problem is more common in women than in men (due to biological differences in strength distribution, to be sure, but still it’s just a reality).

Last week I had an #AskAmanda reader (and former client!) ask me about the chaturanga specifically – a yoga-inspired style of push-up (below) where the elbows are kept close to the sides and the body is lowered in a controlled motion (not unlike a push-up, but not exactly the same).  Please note: a chaturanga is wayyyyy harder than a push-up, so I’ll address that movement in a bit.

chaturanga.jpgAs for the perfect “regular” push-up, it all starts with the perfect (full, on your hands) plank.  You need to get used to supporting your body weight on your arms, utilizing your core for stability, and setting your basic alignment in place so that when it comes time to actually drop into the push-up, the basic foundation is already strong.  I suggest starting with 10 seconds of planking every morning and evening, then adding 10 seconds (to each morning/evening effort) daily until you reach a full minute – you can then begin working toward your push-up.

plank.jpgOnce the full minute plank is easy, it’s push-up time – but don’t worry, I’m not dropping you to the floor yet.  I start all of my clients on incline push-ups, which means putting your hands on something elevated (like a chair, bench, or box) and moving your chest toward the edge of that thing.  Unlike doing push-ups from the knees, which I only recommend in case of injury (like lower back strain), doing incline push-ups trains your body in the same position (i.e. on the toes) as you will eventually maintain on the floor.  Start with 3-5 push-ups where you can actually touch your chest to the surface, then work your way up to a set of 8-10.

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Once you can drop your chest to the bench every single rep with full contact, you’re ready to try push-ups on the floor.  There are various ways to start here – you can try negative push-ups, positive push-ups, or bottom-up push-ups, all of which are covered in great detail here – until you can complete one full, beautiful, perfect form push-up (hurrah!).  And believe me – all that work is worth it, because the push-up is actually one of the most effective, comprehensive, and efficient upper-body exercises you can do – and it requires no equipment of any kind and you can do it anywhere (#winning).

Now, onward to the chaturanga – the “real” topic of today’s #AskAmanda.  Let’s be real – if you can’t do a perfect push-up, you probably won’t have a half-decent chaturanga.  And that’s ok – because here, dropping to the knees is a great modification to learn how to perfect this yoga staple – just make sure the upper body is still perfectly aligned, like this:

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In the meantime, while you’re keeping your knees down on chaturangas during class, work on developing the “right” muscles outside of class – namely, the chest, triceps, shoulders, rear delts, and rhomboids.  Great exercises for these include chest flye, triceps dips, rear flyes, and seated rows, as well as combination movements like – you guessed it – regular push-ups.  Strong muscles build a structure onto which you can refine movements – rather than trying to “force” challenging movements onto a weak foundation.

If you are looking for more specific guidance on the chaturanga itself, check out this comprehensive article on form and function of the pose – very helpful even for us more seasoned yogis!

Thanks again to my readers who keep suggesting GREAT #AskAmanda topics – and keep ’em coming!  What health/fitness conundrum would you like solved?  Ask away  in the comments!

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Ask Amanda: Stress Eating

Tell me if the following scenario sounds eerily familiar to you:

You start a new eating program – maybe it’s a Clean & Lean, or a Whole30, or just Paleo or low-carb or something of the sort.  You adhere to it strictly, almost religiously, and you start to see the weight coming off.  You are motivated.  You feel in control.

Until one day, life throws a curveball.  Maybe you and your partner have a fight, or perhaps you have a sh*t day at work.  A single cookie won’t deter your results.  One little Frappuccino after lunch isn’t a big deal.  But suddenly the cookie turns into a whole bag, or before you know it there’s a croissant accompanying that Frap.  And one slip-up turns into two.  And two slip-ups turn into a reverse read on the scale.

Within what seems like a painfully short amount of time, you are back where you started.  The clean eating thing seems so far away, like a friend you were once really close with but haven’t spoken to in years.  You feel discouraged, tell yourself that losing weight is impossible, and slide back into the habits you were initially trying to break.

Hitting a bit close to home?

Even the best (healthiest?) of us have some version of this story to tell – but the difference is that it doesn’t end the same way.  When I finally decided to get my weight under control, I committed wholeheartedly – which absolutely doesn’t mean I became a perfect clean eater (read: the drunkenly-consumed FULL BAG of Tostitos I ate on Monday night).

clean.jpg

What it means is that I committed to the process (in my case, intermittent fasting) and refused to let one bad decision or snack derail my entire program.  Whether I break fast a couple hours early on a super-hungry morning or slip into the aforementioned late-night snack, I never let one screw-up become multiple.  I take a deep breath, remind myself why this way of living is important to me, and refocus my priorities.

My friend and client Laura asked me to talk about some strategies to combat stress eating (to which I am going to add boredom eating / drunk eating / general feelings-eating) in this week’s Ask Amanda and I cheerfully obliged, as I do feel it’s one of the “dirty little secrets” that even fitness professionals struggle with (and are ashamed of doing themselves).

First of all, if you are trying in earnest to lose weight (or heck, accomplish any major goal, really), you have to commit to a plan.  Just saying “I want to eat better” or “I want to clean up my diet” is too vague to have any practical meaning, and it will only frustrate you to try and find your way without an inkling of a road map.  Again, there are several ways to do this – this article suggests a few starting points – but once you’ve selected one that sounds feasible, make sure you give yourself every bit of preparation needed (food prep, mealtime adjustments, grocery shopping lists) to succeed on your given plan.

Second, identify your stress (or boredom, or sadness, etc.) triggers and create an “immediate action” plan of what you are going to do – besides eat – when they hit.  Soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces practice IA (immediate action) drills to train themselves to react quickly in case of a rifle malfunction – their reactions to such problems then become automatic and applicable without a split second of confusion.  This is what you want for when your own cravings hit – an immediate deterrence (think deep breathing, taking a bath, reading a magazine, going out for a walk, calling a friend) that you turn to without a second’s thought instead of going directly to food.

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Third, be sympathetic to yourself.  You are likely wanting to stress eat because something is going wrong and you don’t feel great – so don’t beat yourself up further with the guilt of overindulging in food and going “off plan.”  Instead, get inside your own head and retrain your brain – the power of positive thinking isn’t just a new-age mantra, it really works!  Be kind and respect the feelings you have when food cravings hit, then reassure yourself that this, too, shall pass – and channel that energy somewhere else (I always recommend a good workout, of course).

Remember that no one at any stage in her personal health journey is absolutely perfect – as they say, life is what happens when we’re making other plans.  Give yourself room to enjoy food, indulge once in a while, and maintain the pleasure of feeling healthy and satisfied.  Learn to feel the difference between hunger and stress and practice giving your body and mind outlets other than food for when the going gets tough.  And as I said before, having a strong meal plan to “fall back on” when you’ve been derailed can be a very comforting and supportive thing – not a “diet plan,” per se, but a true lifestyle choice.

What has helped you win the battle against stress eating – and what’s your “immediate action” plan for when you need a little help?

 

On the Topic of Excuses

My favorite quote about excuses is, “excuses are for those who need them.”  I try to live my life in a way that does not necessitate making excuses; if I don’t want to do something or fail at something or want to avoid something, I try to be upfront about it – not skate the issue.

That said, I also have a hard time saying no – which means I get myself into situations that I absolutely dread, but have already committed to, and without a solid excuse cannot remove myself from without a great deal of guilt.  Case in point: Velocity Urban Attack 4.

The Urban Attack is a local obstacle race not unlike a (heavily) watered-down American Ninja Warrior.  From the moment I saw the course being built at the mall down the street, I was intrigued, and when I realized it was only $25 to give it a run, I signed up.

attack

The morning of the race rolled around and I was confident though completely terrified; the few practice rounds I did before my start time were mostly successful and while the obstacles were challenging, they were not impossible.  My turn came up and I went for it, monkeying across bars, climbing ropes, swinging from poles, and finally, slamming my hands down on the oh-so-gratifying red buzzer to signify I’d finished the course.

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I was one of only a few women to finish that day and it felt good – but lo and behold, my performance was actually good enough to get me into the finals, held two weeks later.  The week in between I spent in Japan, alternating between stressing out about whether I would race again when I returned to Singapore and just enjoying myself with an ultimate overindulgence of booze and food (see below: bowls of ramen as large as my head and gyoza for days).

Reality came back when I returned from Japan and the question remained: would I commit to revamping my performance that weekend, or would I bow out?  The pro/con list rattling around my head looked something like this:

congress

PROS:

  • could win actual money dollars (first prize was $1500 cold hard cash)
  • physical challenges are kind of my thing
  • adrenaline keeps you young (eh, reaching…)
  • already completed the course; no fear of total failure
  • no additional cost to just try
  • trying to be strong role model for my clients and others

CONS:

  • absolute terror at having to face the course again
  • feeling of impending doom over possible injury (I failed to mention above that I got my leg caught on one obstacle and had a huge, deep cut for about 10 days)
  • adrenaline is overrated
  • deep-down knowledge that winning was very likely out of reach
  • nagging fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt that creeps in with all unknown and/or stressful and/or challenging situations like this

So yeah, while the pros were very tangible, sensible things, as you can see, the cons were very intangible, improbable, and often pointlessly worrisome things that I am always trying to tell my clients not to concern themselves about.

But can you guess what I did?

If you guessed “let the fear consume you and skip the finals even after going all the way down to the venue and actually signing the liability waiver,” then you guessed correctly.  I went all the way down to the site, registered as a finalist, and signed the form – then walked out the door, bailed, and never looked back.  I still have no idea who won that day.

Excuses are excuses, and mine was an amalgam of fear, worry, and some deeply-rooted concern that I would either make a fool of myself going up against all these spry young girls, hurt myself past the point of my insurance coverage, or both.  So I didn’t show up.  

I am not sure what the full point of me writing this post is; in some ways I suppose it’s cathartic to let my readers and followers know that despite the image I try to project on Facebook and Instagram I am not always the warrior princess; I am not fearless; I am far from the podium winner on lots and lots of things I do in life, even though I prefer to highlight the ones in which I am (don’t we all?).

When faced with obstacles in life we have a choice – go through the course, bruises and all, or turn around and bolt away to safe space.  Some days you’re the warrior; some days you’re the weak – and while I hate the situations that make me the latter, I know that sooner or later, I’ll have my redemption, and feel like my strongest self again.

Just don’t make me climb that damn rope again.

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GOALvember Outcomes & Lessons Learned

Every now and then I will undertake a challenge – 10 Pounds in 10 Days (2013), Whole30 (2014), and this year, ROCKtober and GOALvember.

I don’t think of any of these are “lifestyle changes” or “system reboots” or anything like that, but I do think that in life, we should seek out challenges, and more than that, we should look to better ourselves in whatever small ways, for whatever small reasons.

With that (overly noble) idea in mind, here’s my two-week-delayed review of GOALvember – my pursuit of 10 lifestyle “tweaks” intended to make my day-to-day life better, lose a little weight, and get back to a wellness plan that really works for my life and my goals.  Behold the list:

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#squadgoalz

So what did I learn from trying to make these 10 rules stick?  Well…

“Forcing” workouts is almost a guarantee of not getting them done.  Sure, I exercise near-daily, and I love exercising, so it’s not a chore for me.  But trying to quantify workouts (yoga, Crossfit, running, swimming…) is almost more stressful than helpful.  There are four types of target workouts I like to do (see list above), but I am more satisfied plugging them into my week as I go – and as I can- rather than trying to check off some ambivalent number on a list.  There is room for flexibility!

Positive self-talk works.  And guys, I go overboard.  I look in the mirror and say out loud, “Fierce!”  I take selfies that I never post just to give myself a high five for putting makeup on that day.  I put on dresses that hug the curves of my body and for once don’t focus on the little bit of “extra” that peeks out near my upper arms.  I have been giving myself mental high-fives on a way more regular basis, and I will tell you – I feel better each passing day when I do it.  As they say – fake it till you make it.

Alcohol is not (really) the enemy.  I’m not saying it’s good for you, and I’m sure not saying it’s not a vice in my own life.  But what I am saying is that the days I chose to have a few extra tipples among friends were not the days my weight would stagnate or go up; in fact it was often the opposite.  As a social drinker, I associate a few beers with a bit of fun, and I realize that cutting that channel out of my life (again, for an arbitrary reason) makes me more stressed than just letting loose a bit.  And hey, it’s the holidays, right?  Time to toast under the mistletoe, in my opinion. 😉

Clean eating is always the solution.  Well, what do you know – when I am eating more vegetables (salads included, but not exclusively), skipping the heavy breakfast carbs (read: cereal), and enjoying reasonable and protein-focused portions, I have more energy, I lose weight, and I perform better.  Surprise, surprise.  I have all the tools I need, I just need to remember to wield them.

I am happy to report that I am “off program” for the next couple of weeks – even trainers like to enjoy themselves at the holidays, of course!  I’m excited about what the new year holds – Ragnar Ultra, perhaps a triathlon (!), and who knows what else…2016 is a year of possibility.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?  Any great fitness goals?

From ROCKtober Onward to GOALvember

(Ok I know, all the little “keywords” are a little annoying, but bear with me.  It helps me focus.)

ROCKtober has just come to a close, and as you can imagine, I definitely chose October 31st as a “drinking night.”  Halloween combined with Saturday?  It was a party explosion that I wanted to – and did – take full advantage of.

My friend Danley and I in full Halloween effect

My friend Danley and I in full Halloween effect

This is what drives me nuts about drinking, however.  Drinking = eating.  For me, that’s all there is to it.  I cannot throw back a few without becoming ravenously hungry, and then the calories of beer are quadrupled by the calories of a burrito (re: Saturday’s choice) and compounded by half a pack of Tim Tams upon arrival home.

So I am pulling it back even further in the coming month.  At the risk of becoming redundant, let’s take a look at the goal chalkboard, shall we?

#squadgoalz

#squadgoalz

To review, I spent October KILLING it on yoga (I went to more classes in ROCKtober than I did in the first four months of living here combined), running (finally getting back in my groove here, though I’ll have to step it up soon for a Ragnar Ultra, to be discussed in more detail soon), salads (I’ve basically identified every salad location within 5 miles of my work and home), water (easy peasy), and even Crossfit (hit a two-in-a-row this week; a recent record).

I can definitely step it up on the alcohol (per above), junk food (where DID the cookies come from?  And the dark chocolate peanut butter?), and as always, positive self-talk.  Speaking of self talk, by the way, I was super touched by a piece written by Catilin Moran and it really did make me stop and think that if I could only see myself through my mother’s eyes, how much more forgiving of myself I could be…

But I digress.  Let’s talk GOALvember.

I am keeping the same goal board up, because consistency is hard to come by, and I like my goals.  They’re solid.  I just need to keep refining my interpretation of said goals (trying to throw out my entire closet because I hate how I look in every single thing is kind of the opposite of positive self-talk) and focusing on the positive, lasting changes I am making, not on the habits yet to form.

On another note, have I mentioned how much I still love Singapore?  Especially now that #thehaze is starting to fade (and yes, I feel like I personally had some hand in chasing it away with my Halloween costume, like some sort of live voodoo doll), I feel like Nick and I have really hit our stride here, personally and professionally.

What "hitting our stride" looks like

What “hitting our stride” apparently looks like

A final fun development this week is that I found out our little street (Bristol Road) is going to be featured in Expat Living magazine under their “Street Talk” section – with Nick and my picture and all of our wonderful words about our cute little neighborhood.  Stay tuned for the January 2016 issue.

Not particularly relevant, I just found this hilarious and tangentially Singaporean

Not particularly relevant, I just found this hilarious and tangentially Singaporean

Onward to GOALvember, readers – let’s all renew our commitments to being better versions of ourselves.

What are your GOALvember targets?  How successful was your ROCKtober?

Talkin’ Thai & the Great ROCKtober Challenge

Hey guys, it’s been a while.  Sorry for the delay – my parents were in town over the past month and while wonderful (truly wonderful!), it set me back a bit on the blog end of things.  But I’m back – and I have a lot to report.

First of all, can you believe I’ve been in Singapore for FOUR full months?  I hit the 4-month mark on Tuesday, and to be honest, it really is starting to feel like home.  I’m excited to get to six months as I feel like that’s really some sort of “established” goal time (and will also be our first expat Thanksgiving), but even at four it’s feeling nice and cozy.

That said, toward the end of my parents’ visit to Singapore, we snuck in a getaway to Thailand – Krabi, to be specific, beach paradise and gateway to the islands.

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A look down Aonang beach

Sure is beautiful, huh?  Too bad it looked like this for approximately 45 minutes of our entire 4-day stay.  Turns out that whole “monsoon season” is a real thing.

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Grey skies are gonna clear up…nope

Despite getting rained on every moment of every day (poured at breakfast, poured on the boat tour, poured as we tried to shop, poured all the way to the airport), we had a great time – we managed to sneak in some hammock time between downpours, eat a TON of great food (my personal fave?  Green curry beef, of course) and maybe imbibe a bit, often out of a piece of fruit filled with delicious booze.

Mom & Dada going "Coco Loco" at the beach bar

Mom & Dad going “Coco Loco” at the beach bar

Some might say we were crazy to try and make a Thailand trip happen in the rainy season, and those people might be right.  But don’t worry, we don’t take advice very well – Nick and I are headed back (this time, to the utter insanity of Bangkok) for the upcoming Asia Fitness Convention.

I’ll be there reppin’ Aquaspin which, by the way, is taking off in a major way – I’ll be running our first Instructor Certification program next week, and the week after, we’re taking the biz all the way “down under” to Sydney – can’t wait to certify our first international group while we’re there.  A quick behind-the-scenes from our latest photo shoot:

Not mad at this view

Not mad at this view

And oh yeah, in case you can’t tell from the grey skies in the photo above – the haze is back, and it’s awful.  Apparently this is a not-so-hallowed annual tradition whereby Indonesia burns the hell out of their palm oil groves and we get to breathe soot-covered air for an undisclosed amount of time (currently creeping up to a month; some estimates say it won’t clear until November).  Check out the crap I get to breathe:

Hazy lazy days of September

Hazy lazy days of September

But enough about travel, smoke and business – let’s talk about something a little cmore personal, shall we?

After nearly a month of eating, drinking, and general merriment with my parents in town, both my husband and I realized that we’d really start to let ourselves go when it comes to personal care.  Care for some examples?

  • Neither of us have been to the dentist since we arrived
  • I still haven’t gotten my hair cut
  • We’ve both gained weight (let’s not talk about how much)
  • I cooked ONE meal at home during the entire month of September
  • We typically have at least one alcoholic beverage five nights out of seven
  • I’ve done exactly three yoga classes here over a period of four months

I’m sure there is more but I won’t even allow myself to regale you with the full monty of our health and wellness sins.  Sure, I’m still working out regularly (nine Spin classes a week will kind of do that for you), taking Crossfit classes, and getting my 20K daily steps.  But it’s time for a real shakeup in the ol’ lifestyle – so behold – the Great ROCKtober Challenge.

The Great ROCKtober Challenge is really a misnomer, as it’s not really a “challenge” in the sense of a competition, and it’s not necessarily that rocking.  It’s more about returning to a healthy frame of mind and way of living that will give us both more energy, better eating habits, and a stronger mind-body connection by the end of the month.  The basic tenets?

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I laid out 10 weekly goals for myself right where I can see them – in my dressing room – and these 10 concepts (simple stuff, like eating vegges with dinner, getting yoga in once a week, or engaging in positive self-talk) will guide my habits throughout the month.

Do I hope weight loss is one outcome of the challenge?  Sure, and I’ve taken my measurements and body fat percentage to make sure I stay on track with that part, too.  But this challenge is mostly about getting myself back to the place where I feel my best – eating well, moving with intention, and giving my mind time to rest and recuperate.

What are your goals for the coming month – or rest of the year?  I’d love to know your strategies, too!

Hindsight 20/20: Wedding Planning Tips After the Fact

Oh, hello readers!  Did you miss me while I was getting married and honeymooning over the past three weeks (#humblebrag)?

Well, even if you didn’t, I’m back, and I’m bursting with wedding-related memories, tips, and ideas now that my own big day is over.

All things considered, everything went off without a hitch.  Sure, there were some hilarious (and not-so-hilarious) debacles that seemed like crises in the moment (think: mixed-up hotel reservations, lost decorative items, and an ice delivery that came three hours too soon), but I can honestly say that the 13 months I spent planning my wedding really paid off, and we were rewarded with an organized, well-run, and fun event.

That is not to say I couldn’t have done a lot of things better.  Which is why I want to offer this little primer for those of you out there who have weddings to plan (or hey, any big event) and/or want a little insight into the world of DIY wedding planning.  So, here we go, in no particular order:

THINK BAR.  I had to write this one in all caps because it seemed as if the greatest number of mishaps were related to the bar and bar service, and yet the single most important part of a wedding (well, other than the actual marriage ceremony) is the bar and

I wish we’d had an ultrahuge bar area like this!

bar service.  For example, I did not specifically outline to the bartenders that the kegerators (keg refrigerators) I rented were actually supposed to CONTAIN KEGS, and found out later that the bartenders were “shipping beer” back and forth from the truck in plastic pitchers (sigh).  Second, we had reversible bar signs that had cocktail hour menus on one side and reception menus on the other side, but the signs never got flipped and replaced and so there was exactly zero information on drinks at the reception.  Third, we had drinks designated for the cocktail hour and drinks designated for the reception, only to find out that a) the bartenders didn’t know where to find the white wine set aside for the reception, and b) the groomsmen drank a good part of the reception alcohol prior to the ceremony (goodbye, Fireball supply).  So in summary, the lessons learned on this point are as follows:

  • make your bar instructions as EXPLICIT as possible, even if you are hiring pro bartenders and “think they’ll know what to do”
  • do NOT let your groomsmen/groom have access to (i.e know the whereabouts of) any wedding-designated alcohol prior to the wedding
  • designate a “booze baron” (think family member or bridesmaid) to enforce the above as well as have all the answers when it comes to the bar (such as the aforementioned sign swap, ice location, etc. etc.)

Audition the musicians.  Yeah, I know – a lot of people already do this.  And to some extent, so did we – we hired two musicians that play at restaurants and festivals that we’ve attended and whom we really like in those venues.  Key words: in those venues.  When you hand your musicians (who aren’t exactly pros in the English language) some sheet

These weren’t our musicians…but maybe they should have been.

music that, despite being really well-known, is way outside their comfort zone (“Here Comes the Sun” and “Wedding March,” were my two choices), you may not be pleased with the results (i.e. completely unrecognizable versions of both tunes).  So to that end:

  • despite that it’s “cheesy” or “corny” or whatever, just hire freaking wedding musicians to play wedding songs.  They’re the pros.
  • no matter how much you like a singer or group, if you can’t communicate clearly with them (due to language barriers or unresponsiveness or otherwise), you probably won’t end up with an ideal outcome.
  • make sure to hear the versions of the songs you request prior to the wedding.  You’re paying them to provide a service so make sure the service is up to par.

Stick to the checklist.  I made a super-detailed checklist for all “phases” of the wedding, from the day before to the day-of to the pool party the day after.  However, what I didn’t make was an “exit checklist” – a way to ensure that everything we brought IN to the event

A nice little OCD checklist never hurt nobody.

was actually packed up and brought OUT of it (think personalized cake cutter, gift card box, reusable items like extra glassware and napkins, etc.).  Sure, we had a great inventory on setup – but after the fact, when the mess has set in and everyone is tired and you just want to be DONE with it – things get stuffed in boxes (or garbage cans!) and you end up losing stuff in the process (like our top layer of cake for the 1st anniversary!).  Thus:

  • make an “exit checklist” with everything you need to bring OUT of the property with just as much detail as your initial inventory
  • share this checklist with your wedding planner so she can start to move things to their proper “exit” location even while the wedding is still finishing up

Number, label, and double-check everything.  Per the checklist above, I also had an inventory checklist, which listed every single thing we needed for the weekend down to the basic supplies like garbage bags.  Except that the garbage bags didn’t make it (despite

Label everything. Number everything. Be vigilant!

being “checked off” the checklist, they fell out of their original box and weren’t located until well after they were needed, at which point we’d had to send for reinforcements).  An inventory is great until you realize that the items ON the inventory need to be accounted for individually and with systematic organization.  I suggest:

  • number every single item you receive using garage-sale style price stickers, then pack it in a box (also numbered) and keep track of which numbered items are in which numbered boxes.  We thought that having boxes like “reception” or “ceremony” would be clear enough – but they weren’t.  Numbering is a system everyone understands – so instead of asking a groomsman to grab the “orange chiffon ribbon spool” you can just say “grab item 7 in box 2.”  Much better.
  • do NOT check any item off the inventory/packing list until you’ve personally witnessed it entering the property.  We would’ve saved a lot of stress looking for garbage bags if we’d known they weren’t IN the box to begin with.

Let them bring gifts.  I mistakenly thought that only a few select folks would actually bring gifts to the wedding, seeing as we had received so many wonderful registry gifts prior to the big day.  Boy, was I wrong.  We ended up with nearly as many gifts “on site”

Make it clear: gifts go here.

as we’d had sent to us, and apparently the sign at the gift table (which, by the way, was placed directly in front of the ceremony entrance with an 8×10″ sign saying “GIFT TABLE”) was not clearly designated enough, leaving some guests confused, some handing us cards directly during the reception, and even some going home WITH their gift and mailing it back to us.  Le sigh.  To fix this:

  • even if it feels showboat-y, make your gift table LARGE and CLEARLY MARKED (maybe even throw a couple pre-wrapped gifts on there to make it clear)
  • keep your gift table “moving” through all the events of the party – ceremony, reception, and post-party/brunch (should you have one) – this way no one will feel like they “missed it” or didn’t know where to properly leave their generous gifts!

When all else fails, roll with the punches.  We had a team of groomsmen meticulously hang 50-foot strands of carnival lights….that were never turned on.  We had nice, bright bathroom lighting provided for our guests…that was also not turned on until someone nudged us nicely about having gone to the restroom in the dark (!).  We asked our hairdresser to do a quick hairstyle for our flower girl…and found out later we were charged full adult price for her ‘do.  We forgot to bring envelopes for the vendor gratuities…and ended up having our wedding planner thrust cash into their palms, shady-style.  We rented $1200 worth of heaters in fear that our guests would be chilly….and barely turned them on.  These are the sorts of “little things” that they’re talking in the old adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff.”  What seems like a big deal in the moment is hilariously minute in the big scheme of things, and if you can figure out how to get past it, you won’t even remember it when you look back on the overall event.

  • don’t let a minor hiccup become a major event – just solve the problem and move on
  • allow your wedding planner to take care of most anything that happens during the event – you relinquish your title as “planner” as soon as the day starts and you become “bride” – so don’t feel guilty about just telling your planner to “handle it” when it comes to this piddling stuff

Again, our wedding was perfect – fun, chic, colorful, modern, and festive, just like I’d always hoped it would be.  Everyone I spoke to had a great time and I truly believe Nick and I had the best time of all.  If I could do it again, though I’d definitely take my own advice (!), I’d keep most of it exactly the same.  It was the best day of my life.

And now – onward to the honeymoon update!  I’ll be posting pics and a full review soon, so don’t go too far…

What is your best wedding/event planning tip?  What do you wish you’d done differently?

Tales From Beyond the Lounge

Oh hey there readers and friends (and pardon my lack of commas apostrophes and semicolons as this keyboard somehow does not have them).  I am writing you from inside one of the most beautifully designed rooms in which I have ever been…

The Turkish AIrlines Business Lounge.

Believe me, I am not brand new to the idea of an elite airline lounge…that is not to say that I frequent them but this is a whole new level.

From the completely insane exterior to the high design concept of the interior this is truly a sight to behold.  Dont believe me?  Check out some pics.

TV lounge

Upper deck observation area

What you cannot see of course is the fact that as of this minute Nick and I have been IN this lounge for 14 hours (!) – and our flight does not take off for another 16 (!!).

We slept here last night huddled on the couches – we ate dinner here – we ate breakfast here – and as I write Nick is preparing to shower here so we can free ourselves from its (admittedly lovely) confines and try to find some local Istanbul flavor before we go.

You may be wondering at this point what one could possibly do to entertain herself during a 14-plus hour stay in an airport lounge.  Well let me enlighten you…

  • first thing we did was hit the free booze.  Hard.  It is literally a self-serve of anything you want from beer to wine to hard alcohol and all free mixers to boot.
  • next thing we did was go bananas on the Mediterranean food.  After taking several scout missions we found a mezze bar full of cheeses hummus and baba ghanoush followed by Turkish pizza and kofta kebab.  Desserts like baklava and chocolate cake washed it all down so nicely.
  • we sat and conversed by the player piano for a while which made us feel classy even in the context of the aforementioned overpouring of free booze – and we moved on from wine to scotch (for him) and Baileys (for me)
  • as we sat we saw a woman walk by with Massage Therapist printed on the back of her shirt and we nearly pounced on her like cats to a rodent.  Free 10-minute massages felt like luxurious one-hour rubdowns and we were grateful.
  • next up was finding somewhere decent to sleep.  We pushed a couple cushy chairs together joined with a cocktail table and laid across it like a (crappy) bed.  Neither of us is exactly short so this was no small feat but we managed to eke out a couple hours each.
  • the key word there is a couple of hours.  I couldn’t make myself sleep more than that so I began to wander – drinking two STRONG Turkish coffees to fuel my journey – and people-watch the two-thirty am lounge crowd.  I scanned for American accents and found one although I now think she was actually Canadian.
  • my wandering lasted so long that I actually made it through the overnight food service stoppage and into the breakfast service which included Turkish pastries flatbreads eggs and panini – all of which made their way onto my plate and into our stomachs
  • finally I retreated back to our makeshift bed zone to read from my Kindle (downloading a couple new books since the free WiFi is fast and readily available) and two (short-ish) books later brings us to now.

It doesnt seem like a lot really but let me tell you – with literal blizzard conditions outside and a flight to a tropical destination (and the REAL start to our honeymoon) just dangling in front of us like a carrot on a very long and sharp stick this is as productive a use of my time as I can determine right now.

Have you ever been stuck in an airport for over 24 hours?  What are your tips and tricks to stay sane?

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

My dear (and very funny) friend over at This Is Why You’re Single recently posted a letter to her younger self on her blog – and it got me thinking I should do the same.  So, with absolutely no apologies for blatantly stealing her creative idea, I was inspired to copy her.

Dear Manda (enjoy that cute little nickname for now; soon you will have to revert to your actual full name “Amanda” for grown-up professional reasons):

It’s me!  Well, it’s you! Surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be.  A lot of cool stuff happens in the future, mostly computer and technology-related, but also some other neat stuff like dark chocolate peanut butter and these cool running shoes that glow in the dark.  I mean, mostly you’ll care about your smartphone and your laptop (both of which, by the way, are about a decade away for you, so don’t hold your breath), but the future is full of amazing conveniences and improvements (invest in Amazon now.)

Speaking of a decade away, this might shock you, but in less than four years you are going to meet your husband.  YOUR HUSBAND!  Is that some crazy sh*t or what?  I know you haven’t even had one single boyfriend yet (sigh), but don’t distress – sow your wild oats and have your drunken shenanigans and wake up wondering where you left your (awful, platform-soled, regrettable) flip flops – and he will be waiting at the end of that hot mess parade, just for you.  You are not destined to be alone.

(Oh yeah, there’s one other guy before you get there.  Dump him as soon as you can.)

Love life aside, I know you’re wondering how college is going to turn out, and if you’re going to get a job right after you graduate.  Good news on both accounts – you graduate magna cum laude, on time, and are fully employed upon return from your postgrad Europe trip (make sure to thank Mom & Dad profusely).  Life is pretty rad so far, right?

Did I mention you are about to get a dog?  I know, I know – you’re still in college and can barely take care of yourself, much less another living thing.  But you visit a shelter next year and fall in love with one special little pooch – and he will be by your side for over a decade.  Don’t think about how it all will end.  Just make sure you never take any of his little licks, barks, snuggles, even his little poops for granted.  You will miss him every single day when he is gone.

You’re going to spend the better part of the next decade doing grunt work in grad school (yeah, you go back – twice –  even though you swore you were done with school), and by the end of it all, you’ll be five digits deep in debt with two semi-useful Masters degrees – it’s up to you if you want to go through all that, but if I were you, I might just shortcut to what you’re actually DOING at my age…

...which is personal training.  You’re good at it, really good – remember when you used to be an athlete?  That part of your life becomes relevant again.  Don’t worry about your current state of physical disarray; you’re at your heaviest weight of your adult life, so it only gets better from here (stop putting half and half on your cereal and dumping cheese and ranch on your “salads,” by the way).  You end up pretty darn fit, strong, and happy in your career – so if you want to just get your certification NOW and skip the whole grad school thing, I won’t complain.

By the way, you should probably start running (another thing which I know you’ve never tried, but listen, you’re gonna be good at that, too).  You’re going to run the Boston Marathon – and I won’t offer any spoilers on that, but know it’s not exactly what you’re expecting.  You just need to be there.

Despite owning your own business and running all these marathons and getting married and all that, what’s weird about being me now is that I was so much more confident when I was you.  I suppose when you’re young, you’re so hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead, but when you’re my age, you start to just settle into established, easy patterns.  Remind me (you) to break free!  Stay excited!  Be crazy!  You’re going to jump out of a plane in a couple of years, so harness those balls and bring ’em over to me.

You know what else is crazy?  You’re gonna want kids.  YOU HEARD ME.  Don’t tell me how awesome you are and how you’re going to grow up without being tied down and get tattoos that say “fearless” and “freedom” and all sorts of other stupid mantra sh*t (you didn’t, thank God).  I mean, that’s fine for now, but when you get here, you’ll realize that you do want a tiny little human(s), you want it/them with your aforementioned adorable husband, and you’re actually kind of excited about being a (hopefully kick-ass) mom.

As far as moms go, yours is the best.  So is your dad.  Value your time with them and get home to see them as much as your budget allows – but worry not, they’ll eventually retire in California, near you, and you have years of amazing Oktoberfests, Disneylands, and all sorts of other shenanigans waiting.  Don’t forget that family time means everything.

And finally – I know you’ve only been out of the country twice (really, once – Cancun barely counts), but travel is going to become a really big deal for you.  You’re headed to Australia sooner than you realize, studying abroad in Scotland, watching a vow renewal in Ireland, and will have jaunted all over Asia by the time you’re me (including one very special trip to India – uh, spoiler alert?).  Your mind is going to expand and your tastes are going to change, and with it, your stubborn heart will open.  It’s a good thing.  Embrace it.

That’s about it for now, little one – just a few minor things to make the next few years a bit easier.  Watch the drinking.  Save your money.  Go to Sephora and learn how to apply makeup properly.  Stop buying cheap clothes.  As said, get outside and run.  The best of everything is yet to come.

Love,

Amanda

Five (Healthy) Things I Worry About – And Five I Don’t

After writing Wednesday’s post about the whole skinny vs. fat debate, I started having thoughts about some of the other things in my life that either a) drive me bananas, or b) I let completely go in favor of peace and serenity.

Unfortunately, the former list is longer, but still I try to maintain that there are some things in a healthy life that are worth the trouble – but many that just aren’t crucial enough to sacrifice even short-term happiness.  Like what, you ask?

(HEALTH/FITNESS RELATED) THINGS I WORRY ABOUT

5) Getting enough sleep.  If I don’t get six-and-a-half hours of sleep, I’m a monster.  I forget things.  I’m cranky.  All I can think about is when I can sleep again.  I’m starving.  It’s like the worst possible version of myself, all because I didn’t sleep well. I make it a huge priority in my life to sleep early, sleep well, and sleep often.

4) Getting my sweat on.  In addition to the above, I make sure to exercise six out of the seven days of the week (see below).  Exercising is a non-negotiable in my life; even if I am the aforementioned sleep-deprived monster, I can always make myself feel better with a workout – and I truly believe in the now-cheesy line that “exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant.”

3) Getting my rest on.  Just as sacred as my workouts are my rest days.  I plan my rest day ahead of time, treating it like a special event that I look forward to all week.  On rest days, I get massages, take long baths, lay supine on the couch, and just chill.  My body thanks me for it, and the workouts on the day after rest days are always the best ones.

2) Eating enough vegetables.  Rather than count calories, I worry more about nutrient balance (my “macros,” if you will) and how to get the 7-9 recommended servings of produce into my life.  If I am eating vegetables, I am well – my body functions efficiently, my sleep is better, my skin looks amazing, and yes – I poop.  If I am not, it all goes to pot – starting usually with a breakout and ending with weight gain.  Boo.  Veggies 4 life.

1) Staying lean.  Don’t get it twisted – this is definitely not a skinny thing.  I keep my body fat under 20 percent because that is where I feel my best – my most powerful, my most fit, and my most attractive.  My clothes look their best.  My abs look their flattest.  When I am lean, I can see my muscles and muscles make me happy.  I couldn’t give half a crap about the number on the scale (again, see below) but I monitor my body fat like a doctor.

(NOT AS HEALTH/FITNESS RELATED) THINGS I DON’T WORRY ABOUT

5) Body weight.  I am a person with a “medically normal” body weight and BMI (if you aren’t sure where you fall, check out this easy calculator), and I don’t stress over the scale.  If your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and glucose levels are in order, you shouldn’t either.  Body weight is a relatively useless measure for healthy people; rather, check your body fat percentage, get a blood panel, or simply try running a mile to check on your actual health markers.  It’s liberating to step away from the scale and find out which numbers actually mean something for your overall health.

4) Being perfect.  If you know me, you know I like beer.  Beer and fine food.  Ok, beer and fine food and the occasional bowl of ice cream.  But what I mean by not caring about perfection is that I don’t strive for it – I know that I will eventually order a pizza, or cave in to a fro-yo craving, or eat to explosion on Thanksgiving – and I have already forgiven myself for it.  No person is truly healthy that eats and behaves like an ascetic 100% of the time; I’d rather live my life than wonder what it might feel like.  So I do.  And I’m happy.

3) Getting older.  Especially in L.A., there is a horrible stigma attached to getting older.  Not only the apperance of age; no, people here freak out about the absolutely normal signs of aging (OMG!  my knees crack when I wake up!) and outright refuse to acknowledge either a) their harmlessness or b) their inevitability.  I’m 31, and so far, each year has been better than the last.  I look forward to each and every birthday because I am so confident that the years ahead will bring even greater gifts – I don’t even have kids yet! -and I really do believe that with age comes wisdom – and we could all use more of that.

2) Other people.  As my absolute favorite meme of all time reads, haters gonna hate.  I’ve had people tell me I am too muscular (shoot me), too fat (nope), too tall (hmm, maybe they’re too short?), too happy (seriously!), too smart for my own good (what, exactly, is the good in being dumb?), and too “into” fitness (hi, it’s my job).  And to each and every one of them, I have a four-letter word for the level of interest I have in those critiques.  Live your life, make yourself happy, never harm other people, and do your best.  It works.

1) Money.  Of course I care about money – it makes the world go ’round, right?  But unlike some people, I don’t let it rule my life, make my choices, or most of all, determine my worth.  I am lucky enough to have a fantastic job where I call the shots, I control how much income I make versus how much time I work, and I actually love what I do. The sacrifices I would have to make in the face of cold, hard cash just don’t justify losing the happiness, security, balance, and passion that I have now.  So I do the best with what I earn and remind myself, when the wallet gets thin, that what I have going in my life is all the stuff money can’t buy – and I will never be poor because of it.

What do you worry about?  What things have you learned to just let go?