Monthly Archives: June 2012

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health July Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to July’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!
Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the June dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.
Here’s the question:
Six ingredients from the LadyFingers garden were used throughout last night’s meal.  Name FOUR of these ingredients.

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.
Fine print:
1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in July TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.
Good luck, everyone!

Recipe: Moab Beet Salad

In the spirit of my last post about unpacking one’s thoughts, letting travel change you, and growing and evolving as a person, I went out on a culinary limb (for me) and tried something. But first, a bit of back story…..
There are very few foods I do not like. And actually it’s quite hard to even say that I don’t like a particular food because maybe I don’t like a certain way it is prepared, but I like it in another form. In fact, until recently, there was only one food I said I didn’t like in any of its forms – beets. I am an adventurous eater and will try anything, but I always maintained that I didn’t like beets at all. And when I’d say that I would inevitably hear how great they are and some suggestion for how to cook them some awesome way and how that was going to change my mind somehow.
Sometimes I’d go to a restaurant and order something only to find that beets came with the dish, or I’d be a guest at someone’s house and beets were served. I’d gulp them down without even trying to taste them. Just swallow a chunk of beet whole like a pill and wash it down with water.
I don’t even know where this beet hate came from. I just somehow knew that I hated beets and gave myself a pass on ever trying them again because I was so willing to eat nearly anything else. I’m not a picky eater, so can’t I at least have this ONE thing that I don’t like?!
Ok, so before we went on vacation we invited our friend Liz over for dinner. She generously watched our kitty, Quincy, while we were gone and we had her over to orient her to all the ins and outs of caring for the kitty prince of Pittsburgh. Somehow beets came up in the conversation and how I don’t like them. She was certain that she had THE beet recipe that would convert me. (Slice and coat in coconut oil, grill, and salt liberally.) She said that she ate beets nearly everyday last summer because this was such a fantastic way to have them. I was intrigued. If someone is willing to eat the same food prepared in the same way for almost an entire summer, there must be something to it. But, we were leaving in a day or so and I wasn’t going to buy any more food or try something new.
Flash forward to our road trip. We found ourselves in Moab, Utah after a long day’s drive from Boulder, CO. We had already visited two national parks that day, my ankle was killing me, we hadn’t stopped for lunch at all and had survived on my homemade beef jerky, dried fruit, and water. We were tired and surly and the dining options in Moab were not impressing me. Until we found the Peace Tree Juice Cafe. It certainly sounded like what we wanted. It has “PEACE” in the name!
The menu looked pretty good and after a day of beef jerky eating I needed (NEEDED!!!!!!!!) some vegetables and had decided on ordering a salad even before I saw the menu. They had some pretty nice sounding salad offerings and among them was a sweet and salty beet salad.
I guess it was the spirit of adventure that inspired me, or maybe Liz’s recent story about THE beet recipe but I ordered it. Dude got a hamburger and I told him if this is a beet bust, I’d be requesting half of his burger. He wasn’t going for it so I probably had to make the best of the beets.
I should have taken a photo of it when it came to the table but I was too hungry. I devoured that beet salad like a crazy person and it was fantastic! Part of it was because I was beyond hungry and into HANGRY territory, but it was so surprisingly yummy and full of beets that I instantly became a beet convert. Why didn’t I listen when people told me how great beets are?!?! For the rest of the trip I daydreamed of this salad and nothing else we ate came close to it’s wonderfulness.
SO! When I got home, I bought what I needed to recreate it and now I’m sharing it with you. I predict I’ll be having this salad, and various incarnations of it, many many times. It has all kinds of my favorite things in it and can be easily tweaked to suit your fancy.
The Peace Tree salad description says their beets were marinated in lime oil and chili sauce. I just used olive oil to roast my beets and didn’t marinate them at all. Honestly I couldn’t even tell the difference, but if you have lime oil and chili sauce around, go for it.
And, um…. excuse these photos. I admit that my photography skills aren’t fabulous, but the humble beet isn’t doing much to help me out either. I took a bunch that ended up looking rather sad that I just couldn’t even include here. While these photos lack in fabulosity, I promise this salad will make up for it in taste and nutritional punch.
Moab Beet Salad – serves 2 hangry people
5 beets (red, yellow, or a combination of the two. They’re all great.)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 slices of bacon
5 cups of raw spinach leaves
1 tablespoon of goat cheese (This is optional. I usually don’t eat cheese, but I made a concession and I’m glad I did.)
Thoroughly wash the beets and put them on a large piece of aluminum foil. Fashion the foil into a pouch so it looks like a foil bag of beets, and drizzle the olive oil over the beets before sealing up the pouch. Put the pouch in a 375 degree oven for at least an hour or until the beets are fork tender.
Remove beets from the pouch and let cool slightly.
Under running water, peel the beets by just taking off the outer skin. It will come off easily once they’re roasted and doing so under running water will minimize the beet juice staining your hands.

Let beets come to room temperature and slice into rounds or thick matchsticks.

In a skillet, cook the bacon slowly over medium heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels, let cool, and crumble into bacon bits.

Split the spinach leaves between two bowls, arrange the beets on top of the leaves, dot with goat cheese and sprinkle with bacon bits.

Dressing options
The Peace Tree served this with a (I assume) house made Italian dressing. It was really good, but I say when it comes to salads, do what makes you happy. If you have a special dressing you make, use it. Below is what I have been making and using in my own kitchen lately:
1 lemon juiced
3 tablespoons of lemon infused olive oil (or regular olive oil, but I have some lemon infused stuff)
2 teaspoons of Parisien Bonnes Herbes (available at Penzeys Spices)
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake. To really get the herby flavor to come out, let sit for at least an hour, shake again before using.
Can I tell you the lemony zip of this dressing makes my new beet loves taste divine? I just did.
So, lesson learned. Try new things even if you think you don’t like them. I have been going along for 38 years forsaking the beautiful beet. I have to make up for lost time. Share your favorite way to eat beets with me! I’m in search of beet recipes now!


If you’ve been keeping up with me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m home from a week’s vacation.  I’m happy to be sleeping in my own bed again, and I’m super happy to be with my kitty Quincy again, but I wish I was still on the road!
Well, Dude and I had a fantastic time exploring the southwestern USA.  We have both been to a few cities in the area, but neither of us had ever really explored the region.  To say it is beautiful would be to sell it short.  The beauty is beyond description!  Since I am from the east coast where things are either gray or green, freezing or hot and humid, this was a real switch up for me.  And I’ve seen mountains before, but the Rocky Mountains were positively breathtaking.
Some highlights:

  • Visiting with our friend Cheryl in Boulder, CO.  Dude even got to workout at her home gym, CrossFit Roots.  (I was sadly sidelined with my ankle sprain.)
  • Visiting four national parks (Rocky Mountain, Arches, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon)
  • Seeing the Four Corners monument
  • Just shy of 1100 miles alone in the car with my Dude.

As I mentioned in my previous (brief) post, we felt quite small compared to what we were driving through. Vast expanses, enormous mountains, and majestic beauty. Physically small, but also small on an existential level too.  Being among the landscape that has taken hundreds of millions of years to form and to see the awesome power that running water and wind has can really humble a person.  It made my sore ankle and whatever other complaints and problems we have seem quite insignificant.

And so I titled this post unpacking.  First because I still so have some unpacking to do (I’m terrible about emptying my suitcase after a trip!) but also, being out there in the wilderness, cut off from cell phone service and wifi, away from my comfort zone (I’m a city person!!), and seeing things that I couldn’t imagine has really given me much to mull over.  I’m unpacking my thoughts too.

This is something I love about travel.  It stretches you and makes you a bigger and better person.  You’re uncomfortable and out of your familiar element, but that is where change and growth happens.  The trip doesn’t have to be to a fabulous far-off land, but getting out of routine and finding the edge of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Plus, you can have a grand time with the people you love most.  I like that part too.

Have you ever taken a trip that has changed you?  Did you ever feel different after having visited a place?  Share with me on Facebook or in the comments.
And now for some housekeeping details:
1. It has come to my attention that Facebook is up to some shenanigans again and maybe you aren’t seeing my posts in your news feed.  We can’t have that.  I not only let you know when I’ve updated the blog here, but I also put little thoughts, photos, and links up there too and I know you don’t want to miss out on that goodness, right?  So here’s what you do:

  • Go to the First Comes Health Facebook page (click here to be taken to it)
  • Hover your cursor over the button that says “LIKED” (you do like my page, right?) and a little menu will appear.
  • Make sure that “SHOW IN NEWS FEED” is checked.
  • Bob’s your uncle.

Here’s a pic for those of you who are visual learners:

2.  The LadyFingers and First Comes Health dinner and live tweet event is 10 days away!  Please virtually join us as we cook another fab healthy meal and enter to win a chance to sit at our July table!  Here is how easy this is:

We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for this upcoming dinner!  OOOH!!!


Hi everyone. My posting will be sparse this week as I’m on vacation. Dude and I are in southwest USA on a grand road trip!
As we drive from mountains to flat lands and see all kinds of beautiful scenery (some of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen!) I can’t help but to think about how small we are in this big big world.
For now, enjoy this shot of Dude in Arches National Park in southeast Utah and watch Facebook for periodic updates from me.


Down But Not Out

If you happen to be a CrossFitter, you know that being injured, getting cut, scraped, bruised, abraded, and sore is all part of the scene.  How many of us have shown off our callouses to each other?  Am I right?  In fact, just a few weeks ago I attended the wedding of two people who go to my box and so there were a fair number of CrossFitters at the reception.  We all looked so nice for the occasion, but yet our conversation eventually turned to bruise comparison, dead-lift shin scrapes, and post hand ripping healing advice.  My point is, getting a bit banged up seems to be the norm as does shaking off a bit of pain from minor injuries.
However, yesterday I really hurt myself.  And the strange thing was, it wasn’t a CrossFit injury, it was a fluke.  No rope climbing burns, no abrasion on my back from doing sit-ups.  I rolled my left ankle.  It could have happened anywhere but I just happened to be at CrossFit.  And man, does it hurt.  This is not going to be one of those easy-to-shake-off things.
I am very fortunate that one of my fellow athletes is a physician’s assistant and she took a look at it for me on the spot.  No breaks, I just really sprained the heck out of it.
So now I can barely walk.  It has swelled up like a small balloon, it’s extremely painful, and I’m really not happy about it.  I’m out of commission for a while – no CrossFit, no Pilates, no yoga, no running.  My job is to let the sprain/strain heal.  Oh, and did I also mention I am going on vacation tomorrow and was looking forward to lots of walking, hiking, and visiting at least two CrossFits on this trip?  Yeah, I’m REALLY not happy at the moment.

(Boo hoo!!  It’s all puffy and bruised!  Also, do you know how difficult it is to take a photo of the outside of your left ankle?)

This morning I woke up in foul spirits after a fitful, restless night.  “I’m tired!  My ankle hurts!  Our vacation is ruined! I can’t workout! I can’t even walk! WAA!
But then I thought about it.  I’m all about health and wellness, right?  I mean, it’s my identity, my lifestyle, and my job.  What is healthy about being an infantile whiner?  Nothing.  The only thing that whining and feeling bad for myself will get me is myself in a worse mood and I’d probably bring Dude down with me.
Health isn’t solely about eating cleanly and moving your body.  It’s about a good attitude and perspective.  It’s about keeping your emotional and spiritual side in good shape too.  It’s about mental health and wellness and not just physical health and wellness.
So, in light of this, I started listing some of the things that I have going for me:

  • This ankle injury is very minor and will heal quickly.
  • I am fortunate to be able to go on vacation at all.  We’re still going.
  • I will have one whole week with my Dude.  I won’t have to share him with his job for 7 days!
  • I have a great family and great friends who have already checked in on me today.

Now, I realize that mental and emotional health and wellness isn’t as simple as making a list of all the frown-upside-down jolly glass-half-full things in your life, but remembering the good before the bad is a good start.
Here are a few tips for staying emotionally well even when things aren’t going your way:

  • Let yourself feel badly – This almost sounds contrary to what I just said above, but it’s true.  I can’t stand when I’m sad about something and someone comes along to remind me of how WORSE someone else has it.  That does not take away my right to feel down.  Feel what you feel.  It’s ok to be sad, disappointed, angry, frustrated.  Recognize your emotions, know where they’re coming from, and feel them.  They are legitimate no matter what anyone else is going through. Your emotions are real and legitimate.
  • Be grateful – Yes, recognize that things could be better but there are inevitably things that are going well too.  Recognize those things and be thankful for them.  That’s what I did in my list above.  I am so grateful that I didn’t break my ankle and that I’m still going to be spending some time away with the person I love most in the world.  I’d say I’m coming out on top here.
  • Make the conscious decision to set a positive tone each day – It is said that the trajectory of each day is determined by the shape of your mouth.  Frown = down and smile = up.  Although rather simplistic, it’s also quite true in many cases.
  • Know your limits – I can provide you with a mile-long list of platitudes and inspiration to try to make you feel good about things, but there comes a time when achieving emotional and mental wellness is out of our hands and we need some outside help.  There is positively NO shame in asking a friend, family member, doctor, health coach, counselor, or pastor for a boost.  We’ve all been there.  If you can’t do it alone, find someone to help you because it’s worth it.

Please don’t skimp on this side of wellness.  Very often we are more than willing to spend money on a personal trainer or gym membership and all kinds of healthy grass-fed local wild caught organic sustainable free-range foodstuffs to keep our physical side in good health, but our intangible side needs lots of care too.
So, this is what I will be concentrating on today.  This, and sending all kinds of healing vibes to my ankle.  I also would love it if I got tons of blog comments and Facebook messages with stories about how you take care of your mental and emotional side.  Tell me all about how you overcame a crappy situation and turned it into a positive one.  Tell me all your stories!  I’m couch-bound today!

2012 Goals Project - May Review

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s summertime here in the USA.  Not officially, but I’m in a summer state of mind.  While I think we’ve all been busy working on our 2012 goals, somehow a dose of warm weather and sunny days seems to blow the stagnation of winter off and I know I feel renewed and ready to recommit to what I’ve set out to do this year.
The 2012 Goals Project continues to move along and I am happy to welcome a new participant to our group, Matt C.  I spoke to Matt in the middle of May and he was telling me about the commitment he made to himself to exercise and get in shape and I encouraged him to join the Goals Project.  He sent me a great story about how he arrived at his goal and even sent a photo!  His story is below.  Please welcome him to the fold!
There is a lot to report this month, so let’s get to it!
Kelly F.

  • Non-banded pullups –  The injury to my lower back has really set me back on this.  I am slowly working my way back and hope to get back to working hard at this soon.
  • Rx’d CrossFit workout –  I did accomplish this last month and once I am back at full strength will be working toward more Rx’d workouts.
  • 30-day Paleo Challenge –  We have almost completed our 2nd Paleo Challenge and I have done OK.  A few slip-ups over the holiday weekend and I have found this challenge much tougher now that it is spring/summer.  So many parties and picnics.  I am disappointed that I wasn’t strong enough to be completely strict for the whole 30 days but I have done about 90%.

Shannon H.  (Read the spotlight on Shannon right here and find out how her very first marathon went!)

  • I am still tracking on my goal of 1300 mi for the year – 542 miles to date. May was a lighter mileage month since I took a full week off following the marathon. It was hard but very necessary! By the time that week was over I was like a caged animal just dying to get out and run! That week included a ton of walking, spin class and yoga, which I normally do as part of my cross training but it was so weird to not run!
    I am back in the groove now and even though I am not currently training for anything (training for Columbus 26.2 starts June 18) I am still sticking to my usual routine of running 4 days a week. I am just way more lax on the distance since I don’t need to run any specific mileage. This has proven to be difficult because I am so used to 3 shorter runs during the week and a long run on the weekend that I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have to do a “long” run! With the summer heat quickly approaching (we had a really good taste of it these past 2 weeks!!) I am working on trying to convert myself to a weekday morning runner. Right now I am doing 1 of my 3 weekday runs each week in the morning. It is working alright so far but it is so hard to wake up sometimes! Then I will start to do 2 a week, that is the goal – since I like the Thursdayevening group runs with Steel City Road Runners Club. Whether or not I switch that day to mornings too depends on the weather. It’s going to get really fun when I have 7-8 mi weekday runs and have to figure out how early to get up to run those before work!
  • I am running a 5k in early June and hoping for a PR (my current PR is 29:22 and I’d love to finish under 29 min!) so I will update you next month on how that went!

Ann M.

  • Graduate from nursing school with a great GPA and get a job and apartment in the Pittsburgh area – I graduated from nursing school – goal achieved! I’m in the process of studying for my boards and packing up for the big move back to Pittsburgh. I couldn’t be more excited!
  • Exercise regularly – maybe incorporating spinning and/or running into routine – May was a crazy month and all things considered, I think I did pretty well with my workouts. I can’t say that I did anything amazing this month, but I was consistent and I made time in my day to run. I went to a CrossFit class at CFDurham and I’m planning to go every Saturday from now until I move! It’s so much fun and a great way to mix up my usual routine.
  • Keep cooking! No more frozen meals, no more junk food! – Ah cooking. I need an intervention. I would be lying if I said I tried my best to eat well this month. I seem to have one or two good days and then I dive head first off of the healthy eating boat. In the last few days I’ve really made an effort to start changing my ways, hopefully I can stick with it this time. New goal for June: No pop or Swedish Fish will be consumed!
  • I’m still planning on a Whole30 this year. I may need to do it sooner given the state of my eating habits these days! Oy vey.

Diane D.

  • Get LadyFingers listed as a “Preferred Caterer” at 5 or more Pittsburgh venues –I did not concentrate on this during May as I was spent my time working on my internet presence.  This goal is frustrating the crap out of me.
  • Provide catering to 30 new customers -Past and future bookings have me at 21.
  • Improve online exposure – improving search engine placement by 50%, doubling Facebook “likes”, and doubling Twitter followers –Google: LadyFingers has a brand new website that went live on May 31!!  Check it out RIGHT HERE!   It is re-written, has new photos, has new pages and is loaded up with key words and other search engine optimization goodies.  I hope to move up in the “Pittsburgh Catering” rankings within 60 days.  Have Google analytics on each page and will be able to get some data after 2 weeks.  Already booked a party for a woman who Googled “tea sandwiches Pittsburgh” because Ladyfingers comes up on the FIRST page!!  Facebook: Likes started at 49, and are currently at 85.  My goal is 98 and I am at 73% completion.  Many of these are occurring due to the Ladyfingers/First Comes Health Dinner contest!  Twitter: Followers started at 60, and are currently at 108.  My goal is 120 and I am at 80% completion.
  • Keep shoulder and knee healthy while increasing CrossFit work output – Took three weeks off from the gym to try to repair ankles and knee.  It made no difference so I am back at the gym and am trying other non-medical methods to reduce pain while still participating in CrossFit.
  • Return to running during Spring – It is now Summer and running isn’t going to happen any time soon.  This goal is unattainable unless there is some sort of miracle.  I am continuing my step climbing program and have learned to jump rope on one leg.
  • Return to push-ups and burpees by April1 –No change since last update: I am doing knee push-ups in all CFC WODs.  I hope to return to regular push-ups in the warm-up by July 1.  I am still doing burpees on the mat.
  • One dead-hang pull-up and three kipping pull-ups strung together –Can’t come close to either yet but I am working on it.
  • 225 pound deadlift –New PR of 205.  Working my way up.
  • 100 pounds overhead – No new progress since last update.  PR still at 88.
  • Cut out ALL sugar that has crept back into diet – Cut out ALL sugar that has crept back into diet.  Eating 100% Paleo since May 15 so this is going quite well!
  • Use sunscreen, especially in the garden and while driving convertible – Ditched my carcinogenic sunscreen and have decided that if I am going to get skin cancer, at least I’ll have a little color.  In all seriousness, I am re-examining this goal.

Jaci Y.

  • I feel like the month flew by too quickly and I definitely didn’t take the time to enjoy as much of it as I should have.  I did however attend my first Saturday at CrossFit Confluence and participated in all 3 WODs which was a goal of mine and I’ve been putting off since I was intimidated at the thought of completing and be able to complete all 3.  So that’s a personal CrossFit achievement.
  • It was a good month so maybe my other 4 months of goal setting are paying off and now it’s more systematic than effort to achieve what I set to.  Life is good, work is good all around everything is good…so I’d like to chalk that up to my goal setting and how easy it has seemed for things to be that way and fall into place.

Megan G.

  • I tend to get better at my goals near the end of the month when I need to report to you.  I did not work out 4 times a week, and I wonder if that’s realistic for me.  I tend to work out once a week for 90 minutes and then another one or two times for 30 to 60 minutes.  Maybe minutes of activity would be easier for me to obtain than days.For the last few weeks I did a good job eating at home, but I’m starting a project on the road again, so I need to stay really focused.

Brian R.

  • Run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon – Done! In May we ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and it was tough.  Tougher than I expected, actually, but it was so much fun and such a great challenge that I can’t wait to try it again next year.  It was a good lesson in humility, but it was also a concrete demonstration of how much more Ican do than I thought I could.
  • Reach a CrossFit Total of 800 (Translation right here) – This is going to be a slow, chip-away-at-it goal, and this month I managed to knock one little bit off.  In May I increased my back squat – which is 1/3 of the CrossFit Total – from 245 pounds to 255.  It doesn’t sound like much, but I got a huge sense of satisfaction out of it, and can tentatively estimate that I’ve improved my total score from 705 to 715.  Only 85 more to go.
  • Pack lunch for work everyday – Nothing new here, although I think I’m averaging one packed meal a week.  For June I expect that I’ll be able to really improve on things since I’m only going to be at work forhalf the time (I’m traveling for two conferences this month.)
  • Write 45,000 words – With all the other things going on in May I did very little writing, but I did plenty of editing.  I have drafts of two additional stories that I’ve been tinkering with, so my plan is to pick one, finish it, and then move on to the next.  This goal has been a tremendous challenge throughout the last ten years or so primarily because it is too easy to get distracted and set the work aside for weeks or even months at a time.  I need to find a way to continue to make progress even when I am at my busiest.

Bill R.

  • Floss regularly –Continue to floss regularly — having this as a stated goal with you has been sooooo good for me!
  • Fitness – Have been walking every day since getting back to Michigan.  In addition, my wife Rie and I have taken several long bike trail rides.
  • Stop nail biting – Still fighting the nail biting issue — bought a new metal emery board this week which should help.
  • Family, family family – Spent quality time with Mom when I got back from out West.  Looking forward to great family time in NC next week!
  • Eating well, and regular weigh-ins – I continue to weigh myself regularly — I have definitely benefited from this – constant awareness of how easy it is to slip back into poor habits.  Eating lots of strawberries.  Also have gotten back to making my favorite gazpacho recipe for lunches, which gives me plenty of tomatoes, celery, onions, red peppers, and northern beans.  This one recipe helps me shed pounds in a very short time frame.

Matt C.
(Jill’s note:  Here is Matt’s story and the accompanying photo which served as his inspiration.  He calls his goal “Filling Out the Striped Shirt”.  As you can tell from his photo, Matt is a basketball referee.)

I’ve seen myself referee on video and on TV a number of times and I’ve always accepted the fact that I was a skinny dude who sometimes looked no older than the high school kids playing the game. Things changed on February 25 of this year when I woke up and saw this photo in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Never mind the fact that I’m almost getting tackled. It was a hotly contested playoff game between two teams that were rivals and there was about 1,800 people in a gymnasium that had a capacity of 900. There wasn’t much room for the officials to work that night, so there were times that we were bumping into one another. The thing that got me about the photo was how I looked. My right arm raised in the air looked skinnier than I realized. The shirt I’m wearing is a size medium. I was 32 days shy of my 36th birthday and an adult medium shirt was loose on me. I know that genetically I’m not going to be a big person, but at this point in my life, I felt I should probably be bigger than I am.
The rest of the season went on and I had a great playoff run. I had the opportunity to work a semifinal of the suburban Philadelphia district tournament in front of about 5,000 people and then later that week, I was selected to work one of the championship games in front of a near capacity crowd at Villanova University. That was followed up by two games in the state tournament and being one of three or four people who was in contention to work the state championship. This was by far the best season I have ever had, and while it was great, I was still short of my ultimate goal: the state final.
Three deserving officials (one of whom is one of my best friends) worked the state championship game, so I can’t complain. Yet, there’s part of me that feels that from a perception and “court presence” standpoint, the fact that I was so skinny was something that held me back (vertical stripes don’t do me any favors, either).
That’s where I came up with the goal of “Filling Out the Striped Shirt.” After each of the last few seasons, I’ve had thoughts of joining a gym and lifting weights to try and get bigger. Each of those seasons, I’ve always found excuses to not do it.
This season was different. I was so close to my ultimate goal and I know that increasing my on-court presence was a way of getting there (at least it couldn’t hurt). Thanks to my wife Julie, who has been going to the local YMCA on a regular basis, I’ve been going to “Body Pump,” an organized one-hour class of fast-paced weight training, a total of 800 reps targeting different muscle groups in the body. I’m going to the class three times a week and I plan to keep going twice a week once the season starts.
So far, it’s been pretty good.  Julie has been motivating me, the people in class are very welcoming and they all have a great attitude. The instructors are understanding that there are people of different skill levels in the class, and best of all, there are no Lou Ferrigno look alikes, so I’m not too intimidated.
Even though the season doesn’t start until December, I do have a date goal in mind. Most officials from the area will be getting together at a convention in Harrisburg in early August. I want to be able to show up at that convention with enough of a change that people will notice. That gives me another four and a half months before the season starts and I can see if I’ve officially “filled out the striped shirt.”
There’s no real weight goal I want to hit, but more of a perception goal.
Here are my current measurements (sadly) that we can compare to in August and again in December:
Arms: 10.75″ (11.5″ flexed)
Chest: 35.75″
Welcome, Matt!  We look forward to keeping up with your progress!
Jill C. (That’s yours truly!)
  • Unbanded pull-ups – Well, I feel like I’ve hit a wall with this one.  Try as I might I can’t seem to get my chin over that bar!  I’ve contacted my CrossFit trainer, Patrick, for some help and he says he has some ideas for me.  Hopefully I’ll have something to report on this next month.
  • Yoga – This was a failure in April, and in May as well.  I spent this month getting back into my old post-marathon workout routine and adding another activity (more below) and I let yoga fall by the wayside again.  I miss it, and I can tell my body needs the stretch and my mind needs the peace.  Although I’ll be traveling a little bit this month, I will get back into the yoga studio in June.
  • Pittsburgh half marathon – ACCOMPLISHED!  Read all about it right here.
  • (NEW GOAL) Become a more confident runner – Now that I’m done with the half marathon, I don’t want to give up running at all.  I am a very weak runner, a slow runner, and I really need to improve my endurance as well as my mental toughness.  I do work on this in CrossFit, and to be honest I feel like I’m doing well with endurance and mental toughness there, but not on the running trail.  Out there I’m still plagued with self-doubt.  That voice is still telling me I can’t do it.  This is something I really want to overcome.  Badly.  I want to go into a race feeling really confident that I’m going to finish strong and do well.  I haven’t ever done that in my entire running career (6 years).  I’m always worried about something, I’m always wondering if I’m going to have to slow down even more or walk.  I just want to complete a race with confidence.  Right now I’m shooting for a confident start and finish at The Great Race here in Pittsburgh at the end of September.
    I joined the Steel City Road Runners Club and will be running training runs with them regularly.  I hear they are going to have some events over this summer to help the novice or struggling runner.  I plan to take full advantage to boost my confidence.  So far I have gone on one training run and met some cool people, plus I got to run with Shannon H.!  I learned a lot about my own pace too.  Maybe all this time my super slow-mo pace was too fast?  Is that possible?  I think part of building my running confidence is finding my comfortable pace.
  • Add new dinners to our rotation by making 30 new recipes this year – A total failure on this.  I promise to update more on this front in June.
  • More and better photos for the blog – I’m giving this one a “steady as she goes” grade.  I’ll continue to work on my photo taking and blog enhancement.

So, as a group, we’re plugging along!  I think we’re all seeing some successes and some setbacks or mid-course corrections.  That’s all part of goal setting and achieving.  I cannot be more proud of this group for sticking with their resolutions and following through.  It’s the effort that makes all the difference.
If you are interested in joining us, it is never too late to set a goal and work towards it! Send me an email with the thing(s) you’d like to tackle in 2012 and you’ll join the ranks of these fine folks.  That’s all it takes.  It doesn’t matter WHEN you start pursuing your goals, it just matters that you DO start.