The Challenge Balance

What is it about a good challenge that makes you work hard, have fun, and become insanely competitive with yourself?  All I know is that I love challenges.  It seems silly, but they actually can be really motivating.  I think some of it has to do with my personality type: I love deadlines, timelines and benchmarks.  When I can see myself making progress along the way, it makes the whole process even better.

So this month marked two fun opportunities for me, and potentially a whole lot of other people.  Just a week after joining Core Power Yoga (oh yeah, I am obsessed), the Denver metro area

So much satisfaction each time I get a new punch on my punch card!
So much satisfaction each time I get a new punch on my punch card!

studios (and potentially others, I am not sure) began a 30/40 Challenge.  The goal is to complete 30 classes in 40 days, beginning on Monday, April 13th.  It’s 17 days in with 23 days to go, and I already have twelve classes completed, with another one scheduled for tomorrow night (I work late tonight, alas)!  I really am hooked. I think I figured out how I can finagle 30 classes in exactly 40 days, too, if all goes according to plan.  I will be flying out to the DC area on May 21st, with the challenge ending the 22nd, and I am actually planning to attend a class in Georgetown on the 23rd to celebrate!

So far I have primarily focused on Core Power 2 hot yoga, which has been good for form and stretching, while simultaneously strengthening, as well as Yoga Sculpt, which has been addicting and amazing for my muscle tone and standard daily circuit training.  I would like to try a hot power fusion or 75 minute hot yoga class for the relaxation and form benefits, but haven’t yet committed to one.  Soon, I am sure, and definitely during the challenge.

Can't wait to visit CPY in Georgetown!
Can’t wait to visit CPY in Georgetown!

The initial struggle, and probably the reason for not branching out more, is finding the perfect class schedule – I prefer evening classes as I have to be at work at 8am with a 40 minute commute, so morning classes are tough.  I found a 5:30pm sculpt class every day at the Broadway studio, which I love.  Saturday and Sunday mornings I can go to a 7:30am sculpt class in Cherry Hills Village and be done with my main workout early enough to start my day.  Thursdays I meet my girlfriend, Danielle, at the Highlands studio for an incredible CP2 class with Lance, who is phenomenal.  It just works, and having the benefit of so many locations to choose from, there’s always something available.  If you’re doing the 30/40 challenge, I think some of the benefit is actually finding what works, what style you prefer, testing out different instructors, and re-energizing and reconnecting with yourself.

The other challenge I have committed to, which also began April 13th, is the Tone it Up Eight Week Bikini Series.  I am new to the Tone it Up (TIU)

These ladies are too fabulous for words!
These ladies are too fabulous for words! Source

team, but I am instantly hooked.  It’s basically this nation-wide phenomenon following the empowering and invigorating practices of fitness gurus Karena and Katrina.  I know, it’s almost too perfect that their names are practically the same.  These two women have created a healthy, energizing, fitness-friendly culture with their Beach Babe DVDs, incredibly thorough nutrition plans, infectious positive attitudes, and the idea that now is the time to be as healthy as you can be.  Health isn’t just looking great, it’s eating well without deprivation, working out in order to tone and build muscle, and enjoying the body you have.  These women are beautiful, inside and out, and they have truly inspired me in more ways than one.

The Hiitty Bitty Bikini workout is no joke!

This is the fifth Bikini Series challenge, if I am not mistaken, and it can be whatever you make it. With the Bikini Series bundle, you receive the Beach Babe 3 DVD (ah-mazing), digital downloads, downloadable nutrition plan (with downloadable updates), some fun little goodies (TIU socks, chapsticks, key chain and Perfect Fit protein powder), and weekly schedules, challenges, and workouts.  My friend Amy Lacy, previously mentioned from her incredible Lacy Fit classes last summer (she’s about to have a little baby boy, so we may have to put the classes on hold this summer), introduced these women to me.  Little did I realize that my girlfriends from back in DC were also participating in the challenge.  It’s given me the boost I need to feel inspired and motivated, and it’s surrounded me with an incredible group of women striving for the healthiest version of themselves.

These workouts kick booty in the best way possible!
These workouts kick booty in the best way possible!
I am definitely feeling toned and fierce!
I am definitely feeling toned and fierce!

Although I haven’t followed the weekly schedules religiously, I have incorporated the routines from Beach Babe 2 and 3 into my weekly workouts, utilized some of the recipes, poured over the details of the nutrition plan (it’s like the food and nutrition Bible for women!!), and feel all the more healthy for it!  I know it’s a gradual transformation, which really makes sense why it is 8 weeks in duration, but the hubs can already tell I look more toned and feel better.  He even commented on my abs yesterday – I have abs!  And rather than focus on weight loss, I am focusing on muscle tone, tightening my core, and developing a healthier, more sustainable foundation for the future.  I still have occasional splurge, I mean, I love my husband’s cocktails on a Friday night, but it’s really about the bigger picture.  So with these eight weeks (only 6 to go!) I am focusing on me and lifestyle, long-term improvements.

Through TIU, I also came to meet a number of other amazing ladies in the Denver metro area also participating in the program.  This past weekend we went on a hike on Green Mountain in Lakewood, on a perfect morning, and shared our experiences, highs and lows, and insight about the Bikini Series.  It’s such a great opportunity to find folks who can share in and appreciate your journey.  Regardless of the reasons why we are participating, we’re in it together!

The Denver area TIU ladies and their puppies!
The Denver area TIU ladies and their puppies!

So I suppose I am where these two challenges meet, and I love the results and how the workouts and lifestyles balance and complement one another.  I am determined this bikini season to feel my absolute best.  The hubs and I do have a birthday trip to Napa planned, so I want to look and feel great, and carry this new me proudly into the future!

Who else is totally hooked by Tone It Up?  Aren’t Karena and Katrina the cutest things ever?  Don’t you just love when your hubby notices when you’re looking better?

Epcot and the Flower and Garden Festival

After gushing about the wonders of Core Power Yoga, I couldn’t forget to finish my (fairy)tale of the duration of my sans-race Disney trip!  Silly me, I know.  My folks were in Boulder this past week for a conference, and I couldn’t help but think more about our wonderful trip a month ago (AH! Where does time go??).  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was fantabulous, but I am now a Disney theme park snob, so I know a truly good park when I see one.  Sadly, Universal Studios just cannot quite live up.  The Sunday and Monday of our trip gave me that dose of Disney perfection I had been craving.

Gorsh, I do love me some Epcot!
Gorsh, I do love me some Epcot!
STUNNING - this is a gorgeous time of year to go to Epcot!
STUNNING – this is a gorgeous time of year to go to Epcot!
How amazing are these topiaries?
How amazing are these topiaries?

I nearly forget until shortly before the trip that we would be there for the Flower and Garden Festival!  This past November I was lucky enough to partake in the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon with my hubby and Mr. and Mrs. BakeNBurn.  It was such a blast, and an awesome reason to come to Disney.  You quite literally meander through the showcase of nations, munching and imbibing treats from countries and regions from around the world.  What could be bad about that?  The Flower and Garden Festival, although mostly surrounding the incredible flora and fauna, and spectacular sculpted shrubberies throughout Epcot, also contained a fabulous food element.  Similar to the Food and Wine Festival, stations were set up throughout the showcase for different countries, regions and types of cuisine.  Not nearly as extensive, but just as enjoyable!

Sunday morning my dad I went for another, slightly longer run, around both the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian resorts.  Having them directly across the street

It's been a long time since I'd been to the Grand Floridian, and it's just as stunning!
It’s been a long time since I’d been to the Grand Floridian, and it’s just as stunning!

with lots of interweaving sidewalks made for a really fun run.  We may have stopped inside the lobby of the Grand Floridian for a quick moment to enjoy the air conditioning and gander at the stunning décor.  It really is a gorgeous structure.  We had a light breakfast on the terrace of Shades of Green and then made our way to Epcot.  My dad had to wait for my brother and sister-in-law, who had a busy, fun-filled night in the Magic Kingdom, but my sister, mom and I started by taking lots of pictures with the shrubberies and enjoying the global Coca-Cola soda experience from Club Cool.

Thank goodness for my Seester - a fellow cider lover!
Thank goodness for my Seester – a fellow cider lover!

Once we met up with the whole group, we thought it best to let my brother and his wife explore on their own.  Maddie had never been to Disney, so she wanted to see as much as possible.  The rest of us made our way to England, sipped on ciders and beer, took pictures with Tick-Tock the crocodile and nibbled on fish ‘n’ chips.  At that point we had our first fast pass, Mission Space.  Now I had done this ride previously in 2011 when visiting with the hubs and his parents.  At that time, we had done the more intense version, after which I felt rather green in the gills.  I also knew that it was a very enclosed space, and having a fairly claustrophobic sister, I knew this could be a tricky situation.  We all decided to do the less intense version, and my sister sat on the end.  In this ride you are supposed to simulate a mission to Mars, and each of the 4 people in the capsule has a duty assigned them (basically you get told when to push buttons and then something happens afterwards).  In the more intense version, the capsule is spinning, to give the sensation of traveling through space the pull of gravity on your body.  The less intense version just makes the general movements to give you enough of the sensation without wanting to vomit upon exiting.  It was fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves with the experience.  Gary Sinise was the commander, so that made it all the more fun!

Don't eat me, Tick-Tock!
Don’t eat me, Tick-Tock!  Can you tell we’re related?
To infinity, and BEYOND! Did I mention my dad works for NASA?  Hehehe...
To infinity, and BEYOND! Did I mention my dad works for NASA? Hehehe…

After the ride, we made our way back to the showcase of nations, and returned to France.  My sister and I got delicious Kir Royales and sipped our way past the amazing chair-stacking gymnastic

The shortest distance from England to France?  Through Epcot.
The shortest distance from England to France? Through Epcot.

street performer.  I must say, the street entertainment in the Showcase of Nations is totally worthwhile.  Given the weekend was a celebration of my mama’s birthday, we moved onward to Japan.  When I had come to Disney for my Bachelorette, we went to Japan and each of us selected a pearl and a setting to wear during the wedding.  It was such a fun experience and I knew my mom would love it.  Luckily I taught them how to count down from 3 – 2 – 1 in Japanese, so we were prepared and surprised the pearl attendant.  Now my mom has a lovely necklace to remember this fun day.

Cheers to Germany! Our home away from home!
Cheers to Germany! Our home away from home!

After this, we wandered our way through Italy and into Germany, where we wanted to grab some beer for my dad and Reisling for the ladies, but our Fast Pass at Test Track was ready for us!  We made our way through the rest of the Showcase of Nations and past the Cactus Road Rally “Cars” themed garden to the entrance for Test Track.  Test Track is a really fun ride that they’ve continued to adapt over the years.  Now, when inside, you are put into small groups, and you create your own virtual car.  Then, once on the ride, two groups have their cars simultaneously tested to see overall, which is the better car.  This can range from aerodynamics to performance on poor road conditions to overall speed.  Of course my parents made the most ridiculous car and my sister and I made a realistic, yet sportingly chic car (purple, of course).  I think my dad’s won, but somehow our car went missing in the final performance check… It was a lot of fun.  By the end, you can see how your car ranked with other designs.

Just the fam and the puppsies!
Just the fam and the puppsies!
Aren't my brother and sister-in-law aborable??
Aren’t my brother and sister-in-law aborable??

After our successful performance on the test track, we headed back to Germany for our promised beverages and a delicious pretzel.  After walking all day, it was nice to relax in the Biergarten

Just had to share one last shot of Spaceship Earth!
Just had to share one last shot of Spaceship Earth!

before collecting ourselves for dinner.  We went back to Japan to pick up the pearl necklace, and then on to France for a celebratory dinner at Chefs de France.  My brother and sister-in-law met us back at the restaurant after exploring the park on their own.  It’s always been one of my favorite meals in Disney, and I have promised myself that someday I will stay in one of the Epcot resorts (Beach or Yacht Club preferably), get a park hopper pass for the duration of my visit, and dine in as many good Epcot restaurants as possible.  A girl can dream, and this girl will make it a reality.

Many of us ordered the short ribs and polenta, which was superb.  I think I probably cleaned my plate… I am a sucker for both short ribs and polenta.  Together, it is practically mind-blowing.  We also ordered some delectable desserts to share, and the charming French waiters came to serenade my mother for her birthday.  C’était parfait!

What day in Epcot would be complete without the Illuminations fireworks show?  I know that would be a travesty for me.  My sister and I have memorized the final song for the show, so we obnoxiously sing it as we depart… Sisters!  It was a perfect day, and such a fun one to share in honor of my mama.

Who else LOVES all things Epcot?  Ever been to the Flower and Garden Festival? What’s your favorite activity in Epcot?  Drinking around the world is absolutely considered an activity…

 

For the Love of Chaturanga – Core Power Yoga Review

I was never one of those folks who really understood why people liked yoga so much.  Because I am type A, and according to my MBTI assessment I have a preference for Sensing and Judging, I like things to be effective and efficient, including my workouts.  Time is something that means a lot to me, and I don’t want to feel like I have wasted time.  I do spend time stretching, but I couldn’t fathom doing so for an hour.  However, I live in one of the more yogi states in the country (I actually looked this up – there are 0.8943 yoga studios per every 10,000 people in Colorado), so I knew I would eventually give yoga a good ol’ college try (ironically I didn’t do it in college…).  I also did realize it is more than just stretching, it’s strengthening, and this has been something I have wanted to work on in 2015.

2015-03-30 17.38.50
Time to get my Core Power Yoga on!

So last Sunday, I went to my first actual Core Power Yoga class.  I did Yoga on the Rocks last August, which is an unreal experience, hosted by Core Power Yoga (CPY), but this class was different.  My wonderful friend, Danielle, is getting married in October and I am honored to be a part of her big day.  She had been raving about this amazing yoga sculpt class, which combines yoga, calisthenics, core and cardio in one intense 60 minute session.  I joined her at Core Power Yoga in the Lower Highlands area of Denver.  This studio is the flagship in the Denver area, with company offices aboeve the studio, and a really professional atmosphere.  This class did not disappoint.  The instructor, Cori, was good at keeping us moving and maintaining the intensity throughout the class.

Many of the moves focus on sun salutations, isometric holds, and the utilization of weights, blocks and your own body with the intent to tone and sculpt muscle.  Boy was it effective!  I exhibited all the signs of a good workout the next day, and couldn’t wait to try more.  One of the great incentives of CPY is that all new students get a week free.  Now I don’t know about you, but I love free.  It could be just about anything, I love it when it’s free!  After signing up for my free membership that day, I decided to make the most of it.  After work on Monday I tried the Highlands studio for a Core Power 1 class, so I could work on form and the general movement of yoga.  This studio was much smaller, but felt really homey with a great neighborhood presence.  I am not a complete novice, having practiced at home intermittently with videos OnDemand, and having participated in Yoga on the Rocks, but the actual classes were still very new.  This session was really helpful (oh hey there Chaturanga, I got you now).

The next day I went back to the Highlands studio for Core Power 2 (CP2).  This class was definitely more advanced, not to mention heated.  The pace was much quicker, so I did my best to keep up and absorb the adjustments from the instructor.  Crow and I still aren’t good friends, but I will keep working on it!  I realized I had not sweat that much in my life before, and being from the south this is very hard for me to admit.  Typically I “glisten and glow,” but not this time – I just plain perspired profusely.  It still didn’t quite give me the same sensation as the yoga sculpt class, though, which I later came to realize could just be the instructor and the flow of the class sometimes.

Oh yeah, this was me alright.  Crowed myself flat onto my face.
Oh yeah, this was me alright. “Crowed” myself flat onto my face. #YogaFail Source
A girl can dream - I wish I looked this good!
A girl can dream – I wish I looked this good! Source

Thursday I returned to the LoHi studio for another CP2 class, which was significantly more of a workout.  I was able to more easily flow with the routine, and definitely could tell my breath was more closely aligned.  It was just the right intensity, and yet again, a decent amount of sweat to feel like I worked for it.  Emilie, the instructor, moved us quickly, but ensured we had time in the movement to make adjustments and deepen the stretch or hold.  I joined Danielle again for this class, and although she strongly prefers yoga sculpt, she, too, thought it was a meaningful workout and good class.

I loved the Cherry Hills Studio - it was a great size and an awesome class!
I loved the Cherry Hills Studio – it was a great size and an awesome class!

Finally, Saturday morning presented the last opportunity for my free classes.  I was going on a hike later that morning, so I went early to the Cherry Hills studio for another yoga sculpt class at 7:30am.  This one was even more intense than the Sunday prior (I can still feel it today – good pain!).  It was fantastic, and the instructor, Stephanie, was phenomenal.  She made a lot of corrections throughout the class, thankfully, and really kept us going.  We almost didn’t have time for savasana because she worked us so hard.  I made sure to use 5 pound weights whenever possible to increase the intensity level.

Do you think Rocco would learn to do this with me?

After all of this, as I am sure CPY hopes, I am hooked!  It’s such a great combination of classes, with varying levels and constantly changing routines.  Another huge bonus is that you can go to any studio with your membership.  When I go back to Maryland in May, I could go to the Bethesda studio.  With so many studios around the Denver area, I have a world of options for post-work and weekend classes, all within a reasonable distance.  I will be checking out the Broadway studio this evening for another sculpt class.  I can definitely see incorporating this into my routine between running, Zumba, and at home workouts!

How late am I to the yogi trend?  What type of yoga class do you prefer – hot, vinyasa flow, toning/power, etc?  Have you tried CPY – do you like it?

Disney and Harry Potter – Sans Race

Well that was a nice little reprieve from the blogosphere – but now I am back!  The month of March was an insanely busy one, and while I am glad it passed quickly, I am having a hard time keeping up.  This past October I was promoted within my office, but during the transition of the past six months, I have continued to do both my old and new jobs.  This has made balancing work and life rather more challenging when your work practically doubles.  Thankfully this week should mark the end of the search process for a candidate to fill my former position *finger crossed* at which point I will be able to gladly pass this torch of mine.  With that in mind, it’s relieved some of the stress of the piling work, but only marginally.  It’s not real until the newest employee of our office signs the paperwork and shows up!

It's been seriously gorgeous the end of March... when is the snow going to come in?
It’s been seriously gorgeous the end of March… when is the snow going to come in?

So beyond the incredible work load of the past months, March was incredibly fun and full of great memories.  The month started with my first half marathon of the season in chilling temperatures and snow covered trails, and is ending with beautiful, sunny 70 degree days!  Of course, living in Colorado, you know there could still easily be snow through May, but for the most part, the weather has made a delightful 180 turnaround for the awesome.

March is the month of Spring Break, and although I work at a university, the employees do not actually have off for the week.  My sister and sister-in-law work at the University of Maryland (GO TERPS!), and they both had a week off to enjoy the springtime, so my family decided to plan a trip to Disney World.  Needless to say, it is one of my favorite places to escape to, so I was on board all the way.  The hubs sat this one out, and I couldn’t stay the whole week with my family, but I did get to spend four amazing days in sunny, hot Orlando (yeah, it’s cheesy but I love it).

This was the first time I had been to Disney with most of my family since 2011,

The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.
The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.

so it was a fun time.  I left for Orlando on Friday, March 13th (I know, I was brave enough to fly on Friday the 13th! EEK!), and met up with my parents and sister at the airport.  Thankfully my dad’s 26 years of military service gets him access to the Disney military resort, Shades of Green.  We set off, made a few wrong turns on our way from the airport, but finally arrived at the resort in time for a little R ‘n’ R.  My folks relaxed in their room while I forced my sister to explore the grounds with me.  I knew I would want to get a few runs in while there, so I had to scope it out.  Afterwards, we gathered back up and made our way to Downtown Disney for dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, shopping, and an impromptu viewing of the new “Cinderella” movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s truly phenomenal!

While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!

The next day, my dad and I went for a run around the Polynesian Resort, which was conveniently located across the street from our resort.  The trails and sidewalks weren’t all connected due to some major renovations, but it was otherwise a fun and easy run with my dad.  Afterwards, we got a delicious buffet breakfast and headed out to Universal Studios for, what else, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  So, lesson learned, apparently they have broken up the Wizarding World (Hogsmeade and Hogwarts) from Diagon Alley, which means you need a park hopper ticket to enter both.  We weren’t aware of this difference, and only realized it when I was trying to find my sorority sister (from Maryland) who also happened to be there the same day.  In order to go back and forth, you take the Hogwarts Express, but only with this ticket.

Otherwise, the Hogsmeade and Hogwarts section was awesome.  It looked like

Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.
Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.

it came out of the movie – snow covered, slighly leaning buidlings, wonky little shops, and the castle rising above it all.  Universal Studios does make me appreciate Disney World so much more, however, for the organization and attention to detail.  Although the park was fun, it was easily crowded and not very well laid out.  Once we made our way to Islands of Adventure, we headed through the world of Dr. Seuss (Seuss Landing) and the Lost Continent, until we passed through the gates of Hogsmeade!  First on the agenda?  Butterbeer, obviously!  And it did not disappoint.  This caramel, butterscotch concoction was so delicious, refreshing and sweet… I could have had several but limited myself to one.

Butterbeer with the fam!
Butterbeer with the fam!
How can you stop with just one??
How can you stop with just one??
It's the entrance to Dumbledore's office!
It’s the entrance to Dumbledore’s office!

Afterwards, we decided to check out the Hogwarts castle ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The line was about 45 minutes, although it didn’t take that long.  Once we got a locker for our purses (which was kind of a hassle), we meandered through the greenhouses, past potted Mandrakes, and into the castle, complete with interactive paintings, disappearing stairwells, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  When you arrive in Dumbledore’s office, he is there to greet you with his Pensieve and Fawkes the phoenix.  The castle was very well designed, and made the waiting all the more worthwhile.  Harry, Ron and Hermione are waiting for you in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and attempt to explain that you will be enchanted so you can fly on a broomstick like witches and wizards.  The ultimate goal was a little unclear, but then you make your way into the final passage, past the Singing Lady, and onto the ride.

The ride itself is INCREDIBLE.  I don’t say this lightly.  It’s a meaningful length and completely transformative.  The seats are the kind that strap you in over your head, allowing your feet to dangle.  There are 4 people in a row, and then you are off on your flying adventure.  The ride takes you through all of the scary, creepy, adventuresome moments in the books/movie.  You find yourself amidst a Quidditch game, launched into the forbidden forest surrounded by Aragog and his eight legged friends, being chased by Dementors and dragons, and so much more.  You truly feel transported into this magical world – I literally screeched a few times in surprise!

The castle, and the ride, are so on point!
The castle, and the ride, are so on point!

After the ride, we wandered into Honeydukes and purchased some goodies (Fizzing Wizzbees!  They exist!), and then took

Hagrid's hut was on point!
Hagrid’s hut was on point!

a gander at the wands available in Hogsmeade.  Finally we decided to hop on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which was easy and fun.  The life-size Buckbeak was really cool, nestled in his nest, occasionally peaking up to see what was going on.  All-in-all, it was so much fun.

It was a pretty toasty day, so we decided not to wait for the Dueling Dragons ride, and instead, in honor of my mama’s birthday, took her to Margaritaville for a few margs in the air conditioning.  I am admittedly not a huge Jimmy Buffet fan, but the margaritas at this place are awesome.  They don’t skimp, and they’re delicious.  Ironically, one of my sorority sisters and darling dear friends was also on a family vacay and happened to be at Universal that day!  They had spent much of the earlier part of the day in Diagon Alley so I couldn’t get over to see them, but after sipping our margaritas, she had popped over to the Islands of Adventure side of the park.  I went back in the park long enough to give her a big hug, snap a few photos (she was adorably adorned in HP gear), and quickly catch up.  Afterwards, we headed back to the resort to meet up with my brother and his wife, who had just arrived, and get a yummy birthday dinner for my mama.

Love you, Juliet!  So glad we found each other!
Love you, Juliet! So glad we found each other!
Um, how cute is she?
Um, how cute is she?
Happy birthday mamasita!
Happy birthday mamasita!

Be honest, how much am I missing from Diagon Alley?  Anyone else just love Harry Potter World?  It’s okay to still act like I am 8 years old as an adult, right?