#AvengerinTraining – Captain America Week

Finishing Strong

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Entering the final week, I felt strong. Stronger than I’ve ever felt before. I discovered muscles I didn’t know could ache. I had better balance and control in my workouts. And since Captain America is my very favorite Avenger, I’d been looking forward to this week since the beginning of this challenge. And this week certainly did not disappoint!! It was an amazing finish to an amazing 6 weeks of focus and determination. I’m not an actress! And I’ll probably never be in a big budget action film. I’ll never have a crazy six pack or weigh 140 pounds. But I lost 15 pounds on this program and I have felt healthier than I ever have before! And that is success.

Week 6: Captain America Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

Steve Rogers, an average man with above average morals and a desire to do more than he was born to do. After joining the Army, Rogers was given a “Super Soldier Serum” that transformed him from a small town Brooklyn boy into the superhero known as Captain America.

To become what he needed to be to play the Super Soldier, Chris Evans packed on 30 pounds of muscle and spent a lot of time in the gym training as he never had before. Take a look over at BodyBuilding.com for the full report.

Inspiration

Movies

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Avengers, Age of Ultron, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are all obvious. And if there’s on other comic book hero that will bring that all-American spirit, it’s DC Comic’s Superman. The alien who started it all. Without Supes there might be no Cap. And just imagine that sad, sad world!!

Music

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap comes back the world but is out of his time and has missed decades of pop culture, music, movies, etc. To try and catch up, Cap keeps a running list of things that people suggest he see or do or listen to. I tried to add some of the music to this list that Cap might have missed in the decades he spent in the ice. Including Falcon’s suggestion, Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye.

Meals

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I really loved having steak back on my shopping list!! Thanks Chris Evans!! Take a look at Evans’ meal plan at BodyBuilding.com

Weekly Workout Challenge

I chose an army crawl challenge for Captain America Week for the obvious reason. Before becoming Captain America, puny Steve Rogers joins the army to try to make something more out of himself, not knowing at the time what that would mean for him in the long run. So army crawls it was!!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 2 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 2: 3 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 3: 4 Army Crawls across living room (Hands and Feet)

Day 4: Rest Day

Day 5: 3 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Day 6: 4 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Day 7: 6 Army Crawls across living room (Elbows and Knees)

Extra Credit

Boxing @ Church Street Boxing Gym

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Photo from Church Street Boxing Gym

This was my favorite class of the entire 6 week program. I’d never taken a full on boxing class before. Church Street Boxing Gym is everything a boxing gym should be. It’s in the basement of a building in downtown Manhattan. There are pictures plastered on the walls, a giant ring in the middle of the gym and punching bags hanging around every corner. Church Street offers a free intro class and it was so great! Best workout of the entire series. I love that they allow you to start punching the bags right away. Halfway through the class we were hitting the bags. I gotta tell you, it’s addictive and after all the other classes I’ve taken, I would sign up to do this weekly!!

Parkour @ Brooklyn Zoo

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Photo from Brooklyn Zoo

Parkour, for those of you who don’t know this word, is a form of free running. You’ll often see it in high speed action chases in movies/ TV like: Casino Royale, Arrow and of course Captain America. It’s the art of being able to handle any challenge that comes in your path as you run. Jumping, swinging, ducking. Throwing your body into the movements needed to keep your momentum up. Brooklyn Zoo specializes in a lot of amazing high intensity classes. And their parkour class did not disappoint!!! If I thought the boxing class or the cirque class was intense, I was mistaken after taking this!!! Another class I would definitely try again sometime. And their gym is really cool!! Classes are $20 if you pre register online. Give it a try and stretch yourself far beyond what you think you can accomplish!

Check out Iron Man week,  Hulk weekBlack Widow WeekThor Week and Hawkeye Week in case you missed them.

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you are trying any of these. I would love to hear from you!!

#AvengerinTraining – Hulk Week

Hitting Stride

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

In Week 2 I really felt like I was in the zone. My morning runs were really strong. And coming out of Iron Man week I was ready for the next challenges. The foods I ate during Iron Man week really helped me reboot my eating habits and eat clean and healthier meals! Heading into week 2 it was time to up the ante. Check out the plan for Hulk Week below:

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Week 2: Hulk Week

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Artwork by Blule

The next Avenger to be introduced to the franchise was, The Hulk. After an accident in the lab and exposure to toxic amounts of Gamma radiation, mild-mannered scientist, Bruce Banner, was transformed into the green behemoth known as The Hulk. When angered Bruce goes green and starts smashing.

Originally played by Edward Norton, the role of the Hulk was recast for The Avengers. Mark Ruffalo took over the role. Obviously the muscle mass that The Hulk has onscreen is a creation of the magicians of the CGI department at Marvel. Ruffalo himself did do some training for the role, but maintained a scientists’ physique. He also reportedly gave up meat and dairy to prepare for the role of The Hulk. Read Mark’s interview with Paste Magazine here. And check out The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MensFitness.com which is where I got some inspiration for this week’s plan.

Movies

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Again, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the list for the obvious reasons. I also watched The Incredible Hulk for inspiration, which is the least successful movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I actually really like it. And I think Norton makes an excellent Hulk! (I tried to watch Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’… but that was a mistake. It’s a really terrible movie.) Besides the Avengers, there’s another group of super beings that might be able to relate to Hulk’s mutation…the X-Men. X-Men 1 and 2 are both great films and keep with the theme of being a little different than the average human. And then I added Fight Club to the list for good measure because 1: it has Edward Norton so…there’s that. and 2: it’s just a really phenomenal movie.

Music

This list is comprised of music from The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers as well as music that reminded me of the Hulk. Anything to get me in the mindset while pumping iron every morning. Hope you pump up the jam with this playlist!

Meals

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For Hulk week’s meal planning, I took a lot of suggestions from The Incredible Hulk fitness plan from MuscleandFitness.com and just tweaked it by removing dairy and meat from the list. A lot of greens (obviously) but mixed with some of the leftover items from Iron Man week, it made for a great week of eating!

Weekly Workout Challenge

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 15)

Day 2: Dumbbell Chest Presses and Flys (2 sets of 25)

Day 3: Rest Day

Day 4: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 15)

Day 5: Standing Shoulder Presses and Arm Curls (2 sets of 25)

Day 6: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (15 reps)

Day 7: Chest Flys, Dumbbell Chest Presses, Standing Shoulder Presses, Arm Curls (25 reps)

Remember to add in Day 7 (2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)) from Iron Man week before each day’s challenge in Hulk Week. We are building up to a full body workout by the time we hit the end of the 6 weeks.

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Extra Credit

Here are the extra classes I took for Hulk Week to keep thinking Hulk-y thoughts:

Cycling @ Monster Cycle

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Photo from Monster Cycle

This is a relatively new cycling studio in Manhattan. Right off the bat I was told that this was different than any cycling class I had previously took, but most specifically from Soul Cycle (which I told them I was used to doing.) Monster has great music, good energy and no tap backs. I have to be honest and tell you that Soul Cycle is my jam. But Monster was definitely my jelly!! I really enjoyed this class. And their first time rate is only $13, while their single class rate is $33. Definitely a class worth trying!

Yoga @ LuluLemon

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Photo from LuluLemon

I chose to do yoga for Hulk week because keeping the heart rate in check is one of the ways that Edward Norton’s Banner keeps from transforming into The Hulk. Every Sunday at stores around the country, Lululemon closes down it’s shop and makes room for the yoga mats. They offer free yoga in their stores and even provide mats if you need one. It’s a wonderful, free weekly workout and they feature different instructors from local yoga studios each week. So you can get a sneak preview of different studios in case you are looking for more than just once a week. The instructor I took from during Hulk week came from Jivamukti Yoga and it was a really amazing practice! I have never been able to do a full bridge, and the instructor really pulled me out of my comfort zone…literally!!

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. And check out Iron Man week if you missed it.

Make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc! And let me know if you join my Avenger in training revolution. It is really transforming me and I hope it can do the same for you!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

My Beauty Is Fleeting, My Worth Everlasting

I rarely look in the mirror and think… “I am beautiful.”

I look in the mirror and think “I have something on my face.” “I neeeeed to lost 15 pounds immediately.” “Maybe I should just wear a bag today, nothing else seems to be working.” But beautiful? It’s a rare occasion when I think that of myself.

And yet friends, family, strange men on the street are constantly throwing this positive affirmation my way. And I keep wondering, if they are in fact talking to me.

What a sad culture we live in. What a sad culture to grow up in. A culture that constantly bombards you with images that shake your self worth. Skinny is not only the new pretty, it’s the only pretty. Blonde is better than brown. Never leave the house without lipstick on. Being better goes hand in hand with being prettier.

I am 32. I am single and I let my mind wander to the dark place. The place that tells me that I am single because I am not pretty enough to be married. Not desirable enough to be wanted. Not worthy enough of love.

What a load of… well, you know!

My God has created someone far better than I allow myself to be. He has created a woman worthy of thinking herself beautiful. A woman worthy of praise and devotion. A woman worthy of love.

Women, we are made for more! (Men, you are too, but I’m focused on my ladies right now!) Do you feel that sometimes? Does that ever enter your mind? It’s constantly on mine. I have to tell you what you already know. Your beauty has nothing to do with your worth!!!

Beauty will fade. It will shrivel. It will disappear. And it is meaningless. Truly and utterly meaningless.

That being said I guarantee that tomorrow morning I will probably still get up, do my hair, put on my makeup, look in the mirror and wonder. But tomorrow morning I will know that it doesn’t matter quite so much. That God has more for me in this world than what shade of lipstick I wear or what size jeans I buy. And tomorrow morning that will be enough for me! Make it enough for yourself!

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Don’t miss this week’s episode of So…This Happened: Click Here

Healthy is the New Sexy!

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

We have a big weight problem in this country. And it’s two fold. Obesity is an epidemic that continually plagues us. Big Mac, Extra Large, Super Sized. In America, our mantra is usually “Bigger is better.” This is not reflected in the media. As our movie stars get skinnier and skinnier, the rest of America embraces extra helpings, because, “Hell, we’ll never look like that anyways. So why not!”

But even someone as gorgeous as Cindy Crawford is the first to admit that she doesn’t even look like “Cindy Crawford” in the privacy of her own home. It’s a myth. An illusion. (Read her article from Redbook Magazine 2009: Click here)

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Photo Credit: Vogue Magazine 1988

And to be honest with you, I bought into it early on and have continued to struggle with it ever since.  6 years ago when I was working at a certain famous New York bridal salon, it was worse than it ever had been or would be.

The fashion industry is brutal for a chubby, Southern girl with a deep love of apple pie and Coke slurpees. The pressure can get the best of you and definitely got the best of me. Now, it could have been a whole lot worse, but it was bad enough to require an intervention from my friends at the salon.

The truth is, I felt fat. All the time. There was a constant stream of food always available to us. And “bad” food like chocolate cake, cheesy fries, and an endless supply of gummy bears. When you’re going as fast as we went, you’ll eat whatever is in front of you.

My weight hit an all time high at 198 pounds. So I decided to try an “herbal” remedy I’d seen a commercial for. It was called Hoodia. It’s an African cactus and it promises to “trick your brain into thinking you’re full.”

Yes. It curbed my hunger, but it also had me going about 100 miles an minute and my heart constantly felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. But it was working. I lost weight. And inevitably, everyone around me kept telling me how great I looked. So I chalked it up a success!

At one point I think I was taking 6 or 7 pills a day. If that wasn’t enough, I also did that lemon, cayenne pepper, maple syrup cleanse for a full 10 days. And I lost another 15 pounds. Triumph!

For all I could tell I was doing something that was working and was garnering the desired effect. People noticed the difference and were pleased with the skinnier, unhealthier, “sexier” me. I couldn’t see that I had developed an eating disorder!

Thank God for great friends, who saw what was happening and told me it had to stop. I got off it, promptly gained all the weight back and then went about trying to lose it the healthy way. With exercise and eating better. (What a revelation!)

The sad fact is that every time I get the flu or food poisoning or something, I’m secretly grateful for the little extra weight loss. The feeling of my hip bones sticking out a little more than usual. It’s a battle I fight constantly and probably always will. But now it’s one I feel like I’m winning. And the majority of the time when I look in the mirror I see someone who looks healthy. Not fat or skinny! I have strong legs that carry me all over this beautiful city. I have a body proportionate to the size of my head (I looked like a bobble head when I lost all that weight.) And I am proud of my body and what I can do with it! Finally.

And I’m happy to say that my goals reflect a much more balanced viewpoint.

Photo Credit: Tacfit
Photo Credit: Tacfit

Stay tuned for more from this Avenger in Training!

And share your thoughts below. I’m not the only one who deals with this. Don’t struggle in silence.