Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seth Purchases Tea

I love tea. I drink anywhere from three to six cups a day on average and can pretty much be found with a teacup in hand on any occasion. I purchase the vast majority of my tea from Tea Trekker, a local business that's walking distance from my office at Smith College. The owners of Tea Trekker are amazing and always hook me up with really lovely tea. They visit the regions that they source their tea from and always know just what to recommend.

I have from Tea Trekker right now:

  • Yin Zhen Silver Needles (white tea)
  • Yellow tea (from last year -- I forget what it's calling, but it's aging well)
  • Sencha Fukamushi (green -- Japanese)
  • Gold-Flecked Emeral Tips (green -- Chinese)
  • Jasmine Pearl
  • Tieguanyin Anxi Monkey-Picked (oolong)
  • Chai

All delicious! Sometimes however, one might enjoy a cup of flavored tea to mix things ups. Enter Seth.

When we went to the Boston Public Library for tea, Seth got to try some of the Harney & Sons raspberry herbal tea and loved it. I'm not a big drinker of herbal tisanes, so he hadn't had a chance to try many herbal teas at home. Seth in fact liked the tea so much that he decided to order it, plus some other herbal samples from Harney. He also got me some of there Hot Cinnamon Spice black tea (one of the few black teas I really like). Harney gave us a few bonus tea sachets.

Seth got five sample size, which look like around 1 oz. of tea. From left to right he got:

  • Passion Plum
  • Peach Fruit
  • Strawberry Kiwi
  • Rooibos Chai
  • French Super Blue Lavender

The French Super Blue Lavender was purchased for me because blue is my favorite color, and I love lavender. The picture on the Harney website showed the infused tea looking like this. As you can see the tea itself is lovely and the infusion is very striking.

I steeped the tea up straight away! It smelled amazing -- a very strong lavender scent. I made the tea using tap water, heating it to boiling, and steeping it for 5 minutes as recommended (and as I would usually do for an herbal tea). While the tea had a great scent and a lovely floral flavor it was sadly not purple/blue in color at all. The tea water was fairly clean with a slight grey tint in the cup. I don't really care about this so much because the tea was very pleasing, but it's something to consider if you're planning to purchase this tea for the color. I'm thinking that the factor in getting the great color might be the water that you use. Perhaps my tap water has some element that is causing the water to not get as blue as it could. I might try to steep this tea with filtered water to see if this makes a difference.

Seth tried the Passion Plum tea and liked it a lot. (It tasted a bit too much like hibiscus for my taste. I'm not into hibiscus, and it's used in a lot of teas.) He's looking forward to having more of the Raspberry Herbal tea as the weather gets cooler. I'm pretty excited that Harney has made him into a tea drinker.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Focus T25: Core Speed

The Core Speed workout is a bonus workout that Seth received because he ordered T25 directly from Beachbody. Because this is a bonus workout, it's not directly included on the T25 calendar, but a small bit of print on the bottom of the calendar indicate you can substitute out a couple of the Speed 2.0 workouts in the Beta Cycle with the Core Speed workout if you have it. For his first time through the program, Seth has decided to just stick with the standard calendar and not do the substitution, but he generously allowed me to check it out.

Let me say that I am obsessed with the Core Speed workout! I absolutely love it. The workout, like Speed 2.0, is set up in rounds. There are two rounds that you do two times each (meaning you do two sets of moves two times through). The first time through you spend the longest time on each move; you shorten things up in the subsequent round so that you're moving through all the moves in the set fairly quickly. To finish the workout, you do all the moves "from the top" four times, two times at a longer interval and two times with a shorter interval between moves.

This workout, again like Speed 2.0, is very fast. It's amazing cardio with some total body moves thrown in there. I consider this cardio just as good as what you might get with Insanity.

Round one features the following moves:

  • Quick feet up + back
  • Moving quick jab with jack feet
  • 1-2-3 clap: Jog left for three then raise your knee and clap under it, then go right
  • L Squat: Squat and touch the ground with one arm bringing the other behind you
  • Up + over
  • Zigzap hop
  • Squat hop + crisscross jack
  • Burpee + crisscross
Woah! That was tough. Shaun T goes fast. The burpee + crisscross is especially fast, and I was having to try very very hard to keep up. I was basically throwing myself down towards the ground for a burpee. I consider my cardiovascular system to be in top shape, and at the end of this round I was breathing hard. Round one of Core Speed is definitely the hardest part of this workout. Almost all the moves incorporate jumping/hopping of some kind, and you are moving fast. The burpee with crisscross is killer.

After going through a second time we moved onto round two.
  • Hop up + back + jab
  • Squat thrust + hook with a knee
  • Single arm burpee: They did this move fast, and it was very very hard. I found it quite a challenge to keep my butt down and keep good form. Things got better as I did this move again and again, but I was barely able to keep up with them.
  • Crisscross + half-tuck jump: Normally I love this move, but it was brutal coming on the heels of the single arm burpee.
  • Quick jab combo: With this move and the next we were jumping around less which let me recover every so slightly.
  • Side hop uppercut
  • 180 degree hop squat with an in + out jump
  • 2 count power knees
Round two, while still very hard, especially with the single arm burpee, overall featured fewer high impact moves than round one. Thank goodness! The punching did a nice job of mixing things up and allowed for some brief moments when we weren't jumping around. 

After doing the two rounds through twice, we had around nine minutes left to go. After a quick jog recovery we started doing everything from the top. That's right, every move in a row. We did this four times. Two times through with longer intervals for each move and two times through with shorter intervals for the moves. Between the changes in interval lengths we again got a short time to jog and recover. The Core Speed workout is the only one that features a jog recovery of any sort, which is a good indication of how fast and hard you are going in this workout.

As I said before, I absolutely love the bonus Core Speed workout. It's 25 minutes of all out cardio intensity. I was dripping with sweat after this workout. I should also mention that even though it was "only" 25 minutes, I received over 1,000 NikeFuel for this workout, which is about as many as I would get going on a run of this length. (And NikeFuel definitely favors runs over other workouts in almost every case. For example, I usually only get around 1,000 NikeFuel for an hour Insanity workout, which is harder than running for an hour.)

For days when you're primarily doing strength training but want to add in a quick burst of cardio, Core Speed fits the bill. For days when you're short on time and want to go crazy, this workout is ideal. I usually don't feel like I've worked enough when I do 25 minutes of exercise, but the T25 workouts have definitely changed my mind about this. Intensity is king, and Shaun T knows how to bring it. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's Next?

Tough Mudder is over, so what now? You know me; I can't be without a fitness goal.

As it got into the latter weeks of the Tough Mudder training, I was running around 20 miles a week and doing long runs in the eight and nine mile range. That's because I took some of my Tough Mudder training from a half marathon training schedule. I'm currently in pretty good shape with my running. With this in mind, I decided I should build on this fitness and run a half marathon. I'm already most of the way trained.

I will be taking part in the 3rd Annual Gulf Beach Half Marathon. The event is coming up very soon on Saturday, September 14 -- just four weeks away. The run takes place in Milford, Connecticut, around a thirty minute drive from my hometown. The course is touted as the most gorgeous and flattest in Connecticut and winds along the beaches in Milford.

I'm very curious to see how it stacks up against the Hogsback Half Marathon that I did in Colebrook last year, as that was a beautiful and very flat course that snaked through many lovely state parks and conservation areas. That was also very well organized -- a great experience. (I would have done it again, except that one of my best friends is getting married that day.) For comparison, I'm eager to see how I enjoy the Gulf Beach Half Marathon.

In terms of training, I plan to do the last four weeks of Hal Higdon's Half Marathon -- Novice 1 training program. I used this program to train for Hogsback and liked how it allowed me to prepare for a half marathon while still allowing me lots of days free to cross-train and enjoy the other non-running activities I love so much. The only modification I'm making to Higdon's program is to have my four long runs be 7, 8, 9, and 10 miles for weeks 8 - 11 (starting with this past Saturday when I did the 7 mile run). Higdon's program has a 10K race thrown in for week 9, which I'm going to skip in favor of a longer run.

Since the half marathon course is going to be so flat, I've been doing a lot of running along the bike path, which is around a mile from my house.

Also, for variety, I've been enjoying the many trails and conservation areas that are adjacent to the bike path. On my long runs, I allow myself to explore, which keeps things motivating and interesting. I don't need to do trail running for the half marathon, but since trails are more challenging than roads, my guess is if anything it will help my training not hinder it. I got to enjoy some time on the Robert Frost trail during my run this Saturday.

So far things are going well with the training. As with my training for Hogsback, I am using run/walk intervals on some of my longer runs. I'm not sure if I will always do run/walk intervals or phase it out at some point. I am not what you might call a "serious" runner -- I just run for fun -- and I find I enjoy doing the run/walk intervals. I feel like I'm getting good exercise when I'm using that strategy, so I figure I might as well keep doing it.

I'm looking forward to the race next month and will hopefully have a fun time doing it!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Focus T25: Upper Focus

Upper Focus was the last T25 workout that Seth had to try out, so today was kind of an exciting day. This workout, like Rip'd Circuit, requires the use of either dumbbells or a resistance band. Seth opted for using 5 pound hand weights again. The people on the DVD are using a variety of weights: 5s, 8s, and 12s.
The workout started like most of the workouts in the Beta Cycle with a few moves to warm up: split lunge agility, low switch kicks, double switch kicks, and high switch kicks. Then it was time for static uppercuts followed by jack uppercuts. All of this was familiar from the other Beta workout.
Shaun T then had Seth move to the floor for a plank hold. Tanya provided the option of doing this move on your knees, and, as always, she's a good person to follow if you're new to this type of exercise. The plank transitioned into the starter drill, which was a slow burpee without the push-up. After the last burpee, Seth had to stay down for some basic push-ups. Next Shaun T added the moves together, having Seth do a full burpee with push-up. This was done at a slightly lower pace than usual to really give you the chance to get to do the push-up.
At this point, the workout was about five minutes done, and Shaun T had already gotten people moving pretty hard with the burpees. It was time for chest openers, where Seth had to stand and stretch his arms overhead in a v shape. He then had to add a jump to this move.
At around minute 18:30 it was time to pick up the weights for shoulder presses. This transitioned into the Arnold press that we saw in the Rip'd Circuit. The shoulder work continued with front raises and then dual side raises.
It was then time for some cardio with a sprint with a jab punch. The woman, Jam, on the DVD was really going for it on the punches! I loved watching her.
Shaun T then had Seth move to the floor for singe arm chest flies. After doing each arm individually, Seth had to do a dual arm fly. This workout seemed to have a lot of long-lever moves, so it makes sense that people were using lighter hand weights. Next, Shaun T added a v leg hold to the dual arm fly. This is a move recycled from the Asylum 1: Strength workout.
After working the chest, it was back to cardio with straight arm double jacks followed by double jacks with alternating toe taps. For the toe taps, you had to bright your leg straight up in front of you and touch it with your other hand.
It was then back to the resistance training with the sumo row and then sumo double row. These were basically a deltoid move done in a sumo squat position. Then it was a sumo squat with an upright row. The last move featured a front row while the other rows were more a row back. All these moves looked like they were designed to work the rear deltoid.
It was back to cardio for the shuffle and heisman then shuffle with heisman turn.
The next muscle group Seth had to work was biceps. Shaun T had him doing an isometric hold with a bicep curl on the other arm; this was done on the left and then right. I remembered this move from Asylum 2: Upper Elite. Then it was on to dual bicep curls followed by reciprocating bicep curls.
Back to cardio to get the heart rate up with single arms jabs right then left.
It was then down to the floor for hip-ups. I think of this as a move for the glutes and hamstrings more than for the upper body, however, I understood where Shaun T was coming from when he transitioned the hip-ups into tricep dips with bent legs. The next floor move was straight static hold into straight leg hip-ups.
Back up for shuffles with half-tuck jumps. Seth was looking great on those tuck jumps. He as probably really glad he wasn't doing floor work at the moment. However, there were only 3:30 left, so I knew he was going to finish strong!
Up next was side plank up + over on each side, left then right. I seemed to recall this move from yesterday's Dynamic Core workout -- it's back.
With 2:00 left, it was time to reprise some of the moves for a finish done in a burn out style. It was back to alternative shoulder presses, followed by alternating bicep curls, then push-ups, and finally hip-ups with a v hold (the last move of the set being new). Finally, Shaun T called, "Time," and the workout was over.
Seth got to finish with a special new upper body three minute cool down.
Seth is pretty excited about this workout because he definitely thinks it's the one that will cause the most change to his chest, back, and arms. He hasn't done much resistance training before, and I think this workout will be a great introduction. Using light weights, as Shaun T does, will build lean muscle, but if you want "big guns" you'll definitely need to lift heavy.
It was also great to see Shaun T using weights in this program. Even though I don't prefer doing resistance training, I know it's important. I do, however, love some of the resistance training workouts that Shaun T has put out, most significantly the Strength workout from Asylum 1. Shaun T does a great job integrating cardio with weights. This makes it more fun for people who like cardio and makes them more motivated to do resistance training.
Seth has now done all the workouts in the T25 program for the Alpha and Beta Cycles. He has around four weeks left on the program, and I'm excited to see his results. I think that we can expect to see even more changes than in the first month, mostly because of the addition of resistance training with weights in the Upper Focus and Rip'd Circuit workout. I can't wait to see how his fitness is went he reaches the end of the program in mid-September.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Local Wine

As one of our vacation-week adventures, Seth and I decided to visit two local wineries today.

Our first stop was Black Birch in Southampton, about a forty minute drive from Amherst.

The tasting room and store was in a cute little building. There was also a lovely area in the fields outback where you could sit in a chair, relax with a glass of wine, and enjoy a view of the grapes they have planted all around.

We ended up getting to do the tasting with one of the men who actually makes the wine. He attended college in California specifically to learn how to make wine. He and his three other business partners opened Black Birch two years ago on the farm that a couple of the co-owners own.

The winery has been experimenting with growing their own grapes and is having some good luck. In the meantime, they are sourcing their grapes from local regions: Massachusetts, Southern Connecticut, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

We got to try a half dozen wines at the tasting, four whites and two reds.

Vidal Blanc

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon

Here's a picture of the menu with descriptions. They don't list their available wines on their website, so this is the only way I can share the information with you. 

Overall the wines were fairly on the drier side, which I definitely enjoy. The Riesling and Vidal Blanc were my personal favorites. The Cabernet Sauvignon had just been bottled and wasn't even settled enough for resale, but the winery owner gave us a taste anyway. It was quite good. 

I had never had Traminette or Cabernet Franc before. The Traminette was a bit spicy for my taste for a white. The Cabernet Franc was extremely dry, but very interesting. The winery owners had blended 80% Cabernet Franc with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon to give this wine a slightly less dry flavor and add a hint of fruit. I think that this wine would definitely be an acquired taste; I could imagine really enjoying a wine this full bodied in the winter. 

After the tasting, we were able to go down to below the tasting room where they store the wine. You can see they have wine in both stainless and oak.

I picked up a bottle of the Riesling before we headed out to our next stop. I also took note that in addition to selling their wine on location at the farm, you can get it at Provisions in downtown Northampton. I might be able to stop by and pick up a bottle after work.

Our next stop was Mineral Hills Winery at Godard's Farm in nearby Florence, about a five minute drive away. When we arrived, it was clear that Mineral Hills is a slightly larger operation. They had a farm store that stocked not just wine but other also honey and some seasonal produce, mainly apples and blueberries.

I had actually been able to get a bottle of Mineral Hills wine before at Atkins. I had tried the Frontenac, a full bodied red wine and found it very nice.

Mineral Hills offered an extensive tasting menu of around a dozen wines, including two fruit wines and a mead. Seth and I tried the following.

Gold Cap Chardonnay
Seyval Blanc
Noho Blush
Cayuga White
May Wine
Apple Wine
Mead (Honey Wine)

Cabernet Sauvignon
Wicked Blue

Most of the grapes were again sourced locally, though the Chardonnay was created with grapes from California. The whites were slightly sweeter overall than the wines were had at Black Birch. The wine at both locations was delightful, just a bit different. The Cayuga White and May Wine were both very very sweet for me. Seth, who prefers sweeter wines, really enjoyed them, especially the May Wine. For the Cayuga White, the grapes were sourced from the Finger Lakes. The May Wine got its grapes from Newport.

The Noho Blush was a standout for me for the whites, which is a surprise since I normally am not so into blush wines. The Noho Blush combined the Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay with a few other grapes with excellent results.

This was also my first experience with mead. I thought I would find it much too sweet, but it was actually really exciting. The wine list describes the mead as, "A medium dry honey wine [. . .] that exposes the flavor of the honey in a dry finish." This would be a fun wine to have on it's own. Bonus: Getting to feel like you're Beowulf.

Seth was excited to try the Apple Wine and the Wicked Blue, a blueberry wine. These were both good, though less fruity than the wines we get at the Amherst Farms Winery. They were quite sweet, but not as sweet as the fruit infused wine from Amherst, which Seth says he prefers. 

My favorite of the wines at Mineral Hills was the Chambourcin. Some of the grapes in this wine (and in the Frontenac that I'd gotten from Atkins) were sourced from UMass, some were grown at the farm, and the rest were from New York.

At the end of the tasting, Seth and I decided to pick up two bottles of wine; I got the Chambourcin and he got the Mead. Since I know that I can get this wine at Atkins, we can conveniently pick up more whenever we want.

Seth and I had a fantastic day exploring some local wineries beyond our neighborhood winery, Amherst Farms Winery. We will definitely be enjoying the wines we picked up with some nice dinners at home soon.

Focus T25: Dynamic Core

Seth did the T25 Dynamic Core workout from the Beta Cycle for the first time today.
The workout started with a warm up of switch feet, low switch kicks, double switch kicks, then high switch kicks. Next up were static uppercuts which moved into jack uppercuts. It was clear that Shaun T wanted to get your heart rate up before he started the ab work.
At around minute twenty-two, it was time to warm up the core with the twisting "T" abs. Seth had to do this move twice, the second time, lower.
Then, it was then back to more cardio work with speed knee kicks followed by hammer kicks. Shaun T had Seth doing the speed knee knick and hammer kicks both on the left and then both on the right. At this point, Seth was around six minutes into the workout and had done more cardio work than traditional ab work. This was very different from the Alpha Ab Intervals which had lots of floor work with the abs.
The cardio continued with sprint + table top, a move I remembered from Ab Intervals, where it was a cardio "recovery" move, used to break up the ab floor work. This was followed by crisscross + half-tuck jump, a favorite move of mine that I very much enjoyed in Speed 1.0. Then it was shuffle with a kick. Seth had to shuffle to one side, then bend down to the floor and then kick.
Shaun T them moved onto a connecting deep squat where Seth was in a squat position and twisting his arms left and right then tucking down to have his arms meet between his legs.
Finally it was down to the floor for ab work with the move torso lift. This move was taken from Pilates where, I believe, it's called a roll-up. The floor work continued with alternating straight leg scissors, again a move from Ab Intervals. This move too seems to be Pilates inspired; it looks a lot like scissor legs.
The floor work continued with hip ups with a reverse crunch. The next move was the butterfly leg lift. This move was done in a seated position. One leg was bent outward (like if you're seated in lotus position). The other leg was moving up and down. Shaun T's next move was familiar from his other workout programs, seated knee crossovers. I don't remember where I saw that move -- maybe Insanity? -- but I am sure that I have done it before. It's a memorable move.
It was then on to bicycle abs into a v hold. At this point I was starting to think that it was pretty brutal to have all these ab moves on the floor in succession. But Shaun T was not going to stop. Up next was hands to feet with a reverse crunch. For this move you had to reach out and touch your toes in a seated position, then do a reverse crunch.
Side plank was the next move. This was familiar from Ab Intervals. I can only imagine that Seth was happy to be working another part of his core. From the side plank, Seth moved into a superman. I love this move for the back. Superman transitioned into walking pike-ups. Then it was rocketman. This move is basically the same as superman except for in rocketman your arms are back and in superman they are forward. The final move of this set were side plank hip-ups.
After doing this entire set of moves on the left, Shaun T made Seth do them all again on the right. For moves like superman and rocketman where there isn't really a left and right side, a pulse was added to the move. The pike-ups changed from walking pike-ups to jumping pike-ups.
The next move was side plank up and over on the left and right. At this point there was only about a minute to go. The final move was plank walk with a squat pyramid. This move was basically the same as the pyramid in + out abs from Alpha but with the plank walk added. Definitely tricky.
Whew! What a workout. Grouping all the cardio at the beginning and all the floor work at the end definitely makes this workout harder than Ab Intervals where you have the cardio intervals to break-up all the floor work for abs.
Seth tried to do as many things unmodified as he could, but this made him feel like he wasn't able to really successfully complete the workout. When he says this, he's specifically referring to being too tired to do the last move, plank walk with a squat pyramid, which gave him trouble. On the plus side, the strategy of modifying less made him realize that he was able to do some of the moves he had been doing modified without the modifications, for example the bicycle with the reverse crunch.
He also says that the pike-ups and plank work still proves difficult. He wishes that there was someway to modify the pike-ups a bit more. Unfortunately because of the nature of that move it's hard to have a modification. Still that's a bummer if you are looking for a way to have the workout be a bit easier as you learn the moves and get stronger.
To sum it up, the workout starts out with some fun cardio and then moves into some very challenging floor work for the abs, so be prepared for that. The format is slightly different than Ab Intervals because you are doing the ab work without rest. This makes the workout even more challenging.
At this point, Seth has only one workout left in Beta that he hasn't done, Upper Focus. He'll be trying that tomorrow. Because we ordered from Beachbody directly, Seth also received a bonus workout, Core Speed. This workout can be integrated into Beta. This time through the program however, Seth plans to just stick with the standard calendar and will hold off on adding Core Speed until his second time through the T25 program.
That's right -- he likes the program so much he's already planning to do it again once he finishes the first time through. This will allow him greater mastery of the moves and allow him to do the workouts with more intensity as he builds familiarity.
We'll be back tomorrow with an update about Upper Focus.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Focus T25: Rip'd Circuit

When Seth and I previewed the Rip'd Circuit workout earlier this week, Seth was worried. He was concerned about not being able to finish the workout or not doing it well. However, come today, he nailed it!

Rip'd Circuit is the first T25 workout to incorporate the use of hand weights or bands.The program comes with a resistance band in case you need one, but we have plenty of dumbbells, so Seth decided to use those. (I encouraged him to opt for dumbbells over bands because I think it's easier to have good form with weight.)

Rip'd Circuit is a great total body workout with a focus on resistance training. Shaun T has you start with some cardio with a slow jog, followed with a stretch called squat push-up (where you basically get into a squat and then with hands on knees do a push-up motion). To warm up the legs more, Shaun T has you do a squat thrust and alternating straight leg kicks.

After this brief warm up, it was time for the circuit. Shaun T stared with the cardio move, Speed + Agility, Seth's favorite. Then it was time to pick up those dumbbells for bicep curls for the arms. People in the workout were using anywhere from five to twelve pound weights. Next up was pulsing lunges on the left and right for the legs using the weights for resistance. The final move of this set was straight leg lifts for the abs.

The next circuit started with cardio again with fast speed knees. Almost all of the cardio moves in this workout seemed familiar from other workouts. Rip'd Circuit is a total body workout for sure, but, like I said before, the focus is definitely more on toning with resistance training instead of cardio, so it makes sense to keep those moves familiar. For the arms section of this segment, Shaun T had Seth doing what was called the Arnold Press, a move similar to a shoulder press but starting from a position where your elbows are in an L-shape with your arms together in front of your chest. For the legs move, Seth had to do squat pulses holding the weights. The ab move of this segment was dual heel taps, familiar from the Ab Intervals workout.

Back up for cardio, this time high switch kicks. Seth used to modify this move with Tanya, but not anymore. He's definitely getting lots stronger. Next with single arm lawnmowers for arms followed by air plank + one-legged burpees for the legs. This was Seth's first time trying a one-legged burpee and this move proved the biggest challenge of the workout for him. I tend to agree -- it's hard to coordinate which leg you need to burpee into on each given rep. Seth and I plan to practice this move a bit so that he can get the hang of it. The last move of the circuit was, of course, for the abs, hip-ups into a v-hold. Seth nailed this like a champ!

Shaun T started the next circuit with jumps with a twisting ab (where you jump then squat down and twist to touch your arm to the opposite toe). I remembered this move from Asylum 1's Vertical Plyo "warm up". It was then one-legged tricep dips for the arms, deadlifts with a curl and squat for the legs, and plank work with knees in and out and tap knees up and down.

Only one circuit left to go! The cardio move was half-tuck jumps, familiar from a few other T25 workouts. Seth was really working it on this move. He'd been working hard all workout and with only a few minutes left was still going strong. The next move for arms was definitely the hardest of the workout, 4-count push-ups. Slow push-ups are killer. I know I would have had to do these all on my knees. For legs, it was time for weighted moving squats. The final two moves were for the abs. First was a 4-count dual leg lift. Second was something Shaun T called 5-count power abs, which featured c-sit, butterfly one leg in, switch legs, reverse crunch, and a v-sit. To end the workout, Shaun T had Seth holding the v-sit for extra time.

Seth reports that he found the work with the weights to be a bit of a challenge, mostly because this was the first T25 workout that used weights, and he's not as familiar with them. Overall though, he found it easier than the Total Body Circuit from Alpha, mostly because there was less floor work in plank position. He thought that the floor work from Total Body Circuit that used body weight as resistance was somewhat harder for him.

Still Rip'd Circuit was definitely a challenging workout. Seth was gratified to find he could do it well and completed the workout feeling successful. He especially liked getting to do Speed + Agility and also the deadlifts with a squat and curl.

This workout is definitely different from the T25 workouts that came before it. Using weights gives it a different feel. It had more of a defined circuit feel than some of the other workouts because each of the sections (cardio, arms, legs, abs) of the circuits were so pronounced.

Tomorrow is the Dynamic Core workout. Let's see how it goes.


The week of August 11th is our summer vacation week this year. Because Seth and I had put in new windows and the new slider this year, we decided to hold off on a vacation. That being said, we wanted to do something special for our week off and chose to make a trip to Boston for the day. 

We left around 8:00 a.m. and drove the hour and forty minute drive to the Alewife T station where we took the T into Boston.

 Seth loves taking the T, so this was a big part of the adventure for him.

We got to Copley at around 11:00 a.m. and decided to have a quick snack. One of the things we were planning to do in Boston was have afternoon tea, but this wasn't until 2:00 p.m. Seth was pretty hungry and wanted to eat quickly, so we stopped at the first place we saw Finagle a Bagel. I had a bagel with eggs and vegetables, and the bagel was truly excellent! Finagle a Bagel has around a half dozen locations in Boston and Cambridge and was definitely worth the stop for a quick bite to eat.

After our bagels, we decided to walk along nearby Newbury Street for a little shopping. 

We made a stop into one of my favorite stores, Lush, which fresh handmade bath and body products.

Seth and I picked up some soap, bubble bath, a face mask, and body lotion. We also got this amazing thing called Fun, a 4-in-1 soap, shampoo, bubble bath, and Play-Doh. I'm kind of excited to start playing around with it and molding different shaped soaps for the shower. Bonus: It smells like candy.

Seth and I also made a stop at Niketown, where I picked up a new pair of socks and a sports bra for high impact exercise. I had been really needing a new sports bra -- the ones I had are getting very old and not offering much support. The best one I have for running is getting old and starting to chafe.

After our explorations of Newbury Street, we decided to head over to the Boston Public Gardens. We headed down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall enjoying some quiet nature in the city. We got a nice view of historic Back Bay and all the amazing brownstones that line Commonwealth Avenue along this stretch.

Wednesday's weather was absolutely perfect -- sunny with a high in the low seventies. It was a great time to walk around the Public Gardens.

We headed over to the pond where we could see people taking rides on the swan boats. 

We briefly sat under a weeping willow and listened to a trombone trio play. 

After our jaunt around the gardens, we decided to walk back towards Copley along the Charles River Esplanade. The runners were out in force, and, to be honest, I was jealous -- it was a perfect day and a great location for a run.

Along the Esplanade, we found a pier with Adirondack chairs.

There was an amazing view of Cambridge and MIT from the pier.

Seth loves the water. He claims that he doesn't, but he totally does. In his enthusiasm, he decided to put his hand in the Charles. Don't worry he washed it later. He was very excited about the whole thing.

Finally, the time had come to head over to the Boston Public Library for afternoon tea. We wound our way back through Back Bay to Copley and the Boston Public Library, a place that had taken on almost mythical significance to me based on their awesome digital library that I frequent. The building was gorgeous. 

The entryway had the most magnificent mosaic ceiling with the names of famous author integrated into the tile work. 

Our tea was to take place at the Courtyard Restaurant at the library. We found the restaurant and were taken to our seats. Appropriate to the restaurant's name, from our seats we had a wonderful view of the library's courtyard.

The restaurant itself was very lovely. We had the most comfortable chairs. 

The waitress took our tea order (the food items on the tea menu were all included for a fixed price; no choosing required). Seth had the raspberry herbal tea and I had the Sencha green.

As a big lover of tea, I should point out that all the tea on the menu was all Harney & Sons. I like Harney's tea, but it's not super special if you're really into tea. So, if you're looking for a really excellent tea with knowledgeable tea enthusiasts serving it that's not what you'll get at the Courtyard Restaurant. The focus here is on the overall afternoon tea experience, nice ambiance, and a fun selection of food.

Our food soon arrived on a three-tiered plate. 

The bottom section was for savory tea sandwiches.

-Cucumber with Herb Cream Cheese
-Smoked Salmon Butter Canap├ęs
-Apricot Chicken Salad
-Turkey & Cheese on Marble Rye
-Crab with Chive Cream Cheese on Mini Lemon Butter Crust Buns
-Tomato with Crumbled Bacon
-Egg Salad on White

The middle plate was for sweets.

-Fresh Fruit Tartlet with Blueberries & Mango Ribbon
-French Macarons
-Mini poppy seed bunt cakes
-Raspberry Thumbprints
-Chocolate Sinclaires

The top layer was for scones!

-Currant & Plain Scones
-Apricot jam
-Devonshire Clotted Cream

Everything was quite tasty though it was a ton of food and took us ages to eat. We were at afternoon tea for well over an hour, and had a delightful time relaxing and snacking. My favorite items were the scones (of course), the chocolate sinclaires, the cucumber tea sandwiches, and the salmon tea sandwiches.

After our tea we needed to move around a bit and digest. We decided to explore the historic Boston Public Library.

There were three floors worth of rooms in the older section of the library. (Note: The Boston Public Library is two connected buildings. The older, historic building, is mostly used for study space only. The newer building hosts most of the library's collection.) The architecture has intricate sculptures and murals.

After leaving the library, we hoped on the T and headed back into Cambridge. We briefly explored a few comic book stores in Harvard Square. We were planning to have dinner at a ramen noodle shop at Porter Square, one T stop away from Harvard. Since we weren't hungry yet, and Porter was only a mile walk from Harvard, we decided to head over on foot.

We were very glad we did. The walk took us along the outskirts of Harvard and through some really nice neighborhoods along Massachusetts Avenue. Midway towards Porter we came upon a running store, Marathon Sports. I can't resist sporting goods stores of any type, especially not running stores, so we headed in. Also, I was looking for a new pair of running shorts, Nike Pacer shorts, and didn't see what I wanted at Niketown.

Marathon Sports was one of the best running stores I've ever been in. They had a wonderful selection and fantastic prices. Seth found me a lovely pair of Pacer shorts on sale for $19.99, an amazing deal! Here they are with my new sports bra and socks.

After our stop at Marathon Sports (which I totally wish had a store in Western Mass), we continued our walk to Porter.

The ramen shop we were to eat at was located in a mall that featured many Japanese restaurants and stores. We visited a shop called,Tokai, which carried a variety of Japanese wares from Domo plushies to lovely tea wares.

They had a couple of matcha bowls that were so lovely I had to take pictures.

By this point, it was after 6:00 p.m., so we headed over to Sapporo Ramen for supper. This was what Seth was looking forward to most on our Boston trip. He had eaten ramen here in the winter and loved it. (And he had to wait in line for over twenty minutes to eat because the place is so popular.)

We both ended up getting the Yasai Ramen which had pork chunks and mixed vegetables. The bowl was giant!

Here I am enjoying my first bowl of real ramen. It was very tasty, but I wasn't able to finish -- it was to enormous!

Our trip to Boston concluded, we headed back out to Alewife on our final T trip of the day and then drove home.

What a fantastic day! Boston was loads of fun. Hopefully we'll be able to make it back to the city soon.