Project Wonder Woman

Well, 2007 is winding down, and the start of the new year is almost upon us. It’s time to make those traditional resolutions that most of us will just toss to the curb by February 1.

Grown up responsibilities and that thing called Life will get in the way of our goals. We will declare that we have no time to take that cooking class, learn a new language, or start an exercise program. Resolutions will be written down, but without some concrete steps and direction to help us stick to them, nothing will change.

But what if we change the outcome of the annual resolution dissolution this year? What if we were to head into 2008 with some solid goals to reach and some actual plans and strategies to achieve them?

That is the goal of Project Wonder Woman, a collaborative, virtual troop of women who will all pledge to complete the requirements for one activity per month from Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas’s book, You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls (currently available from for the bargain basement price of $6.49).

The book consists of chapters covering sixty fun, enriching activities ranging from competing in a triathlon to learning how to sew. Each chapter includes an overview of the activity, an essay from a female expert/mentor, clearly-defined steps for earning the activity’s merit badge, and recommended reading and online resources. A virtual merit badge is earned for each completed activity. In order to qualify for the badge, each PWW member must document her progress with blog posts, photos, and/or video clips as she completes each requirement.

You Can Do It! will provide the framework for achieving our goals for 2008, but it will still take time, effort, and persistence on our end to earn all twelve of our life merit badges over the next twelve months. This is not a 12-week challenge but an ongoing project that can cover everything from life skills to physical challenges, financial mastery to artistic experimentation. Our rewards will vary depending on which activities we each choose to undertake, but I have no doubt that we will all emerge from the experience more skilled, talented, competent, confident, knowledgeable, and infinitely more kickass than we are today.

With each badge we earn, we are one step closer to becoming a Wonder Woman in truth.

I sent a copy of the book to each of my closest female friends this Christmas, and it is my hope that they will all join me in posting to a group blog called Project Wonder Woman as we check off each proposed merit badge for 2008, one by one.

My current working list of proposed badges is as follows:

  1. Breaking Bad Habits
  2. : This one will be a year-long undertaking. I want to get rid of 6 bad habits and develop 6 good ones by the end of 2008. I will tackle one item per month, starting with Punctuality in January.

  3. Organizing
  4. : There are so many things in my house that need organizing that this one should keep me quite busy for a full month.

  5. Healthcare
  6. : I’ve been meaning to choose a good primary care physician who can run the full battery of health tests on me and perform a full physical for a while now, but keep putting it off. It’s time to learn where I stand health-wise now that I don’t get regular check-ups from a military doctor.

  7. Fitness
  8. : Yes, I know I already know how to exercise and stuff, but I will be rolling my 12-week Turbulence Training transformation challenge and my goal of improving my swimming skills through regular lessons into this one for 2008.

  9. Personal Style/Sewing
  10. : This one combines a skill I already possess but haven’t been applying very much (sewing) with an area in which I have been sadly lagging (personal style) since I started to work in the very casual dress code environment of video game development. I looked in my closet for clothes to take up to Philly for the eHarmony shoot December 16-17 and realized that I had almost nothing but jeans, funny t-shirts, and workout clothes in my wardrobe. It’s time to put my sewing machine to work and my stunted sense of style back into active duty.

  11. Budgeting
  12. : I already budget to some degree using Microsoft Money, but I’ll be tightening it up even more as Chris and I focus on completing a Total Money Makeover a la Dave Ramsey in 2008.

  13. Yoga
  14. : Yeah…you know how I always harp on being really unbendy and needing to do more yoga? Well, I still am unbendy and still need to commit to a regular flexibility program. I’m making this a badge-earning opportunity since I am horrible at integrating yoga into my fitness routine when there is no obvious reward or punishment involved.

  15. Car Care
  16. : I’ve always known in the back of my mind that familiarity with the basics of auto maintenance was important, but fear of grease and laziness have prevented me from actually learning much about the machine that carries me 30 miles each way from home to work and back each day.

  17. Gardening
  18. : 2007 was the year of the neglected yard and veggie patch. 2008 will be the year of flourishing flowers, stunning shrubbery, and eye-popping edibles! This activity will be ongoing.

  19. Decorating
  20. : Chris and I haven’t really gotten around to decorating our house since we moved in…two years ago. It’s probably time. I don’t think we are going anywhere for a while.

  21. Painting
  22. : I have kept my oil and acrylic painting supplies from my one college painting class around all these years for no reason. Ditto for the copy of Painter 8 software that I bought around the same time and never bothered to learn how to use. My bare walls need art. I will endeavor to create some for them.

  23. Draft a Business Plan
  24. : A gal can’t stay in video games forever. I am going to learn how to draft a business plan for future reference.

Free Forza Workout Routine

One of my favorite non-gym, non-weight training workouts is Forza, an active workout developed by trainer Ilaria Montagnani that is based loosely on traditional samurai sword techniques–cuts, blocks, thrusts, and more. It is claimed that a 60 minute class can burn an average of 500 calories, though my Polar HRM usually calculates about 450 calories for me. In any case, it’s a decent cardiovascular/strength hybrid that, unlike those repetitive gym machines, never gets boring and doesn’t seem to hinder recovery from intense TT-style workouts.

Men’s Fitness has a free beginner’s Forza samurai sword workout routine posted online. You don’t need a bokken (wooden practice sword) to perform the workout, but a shortened broomstick or other similar makeshift sword-like stick is recommended.

Bear in mind that this is by no means an authentic form of martial arts sword practice, just as the group kickboxing class at your gym is not a real KB training program, but it’s a lot of fun, burns calories, gives you wicked shoulder and upper back muscles, and doesn’t kill your joints with high impact.

For more information about Forza including contact information for ordering the full 60-minute Forza workout DVD, check out the Powerstrike web site or consider picking up a copy of the reasonably-priced Forza instruction manual.

12/13/07 Log: Potluck Day!

Yesterday’s Shapeshift relative PC workout, which included max reps of bodyweight reverse lunges, and Monday’s new exercise, good mornings, have officially caused me yet ANOTHER week of DOMS! My lower hamstrings refuse to lengthen completely at the moment, and I see a LOT of stretching breaks in my near future.

Seriously, does this workout program ever let up?

It’s company potluck lunch day at n-Space, which means that very little work will be done between 12 noon and 3 pm due to the feeding frenzy and subsequent lethargy caused by overeating that always follows. Considering that the company is comprised of mostly geeky males between the ages of 20-35, you might be wondering if half of the entrees are burnt while the other half came straight out of a box of frozen appetizers, but the n-Space potlucks always turn out to be WAY better than any (icky!) traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas spread I’ve ever had. The sheer volume and variety is staggering, and of course there’s no such thing as moderation when a bunch of GUYS are gathered around the trough.


I made some terribly evil macadamia coconut chocolate chip cookie bars from a Rachael Ray recipe and my popular standby, Chinese beef noodles. I’m using bean thread/cellophane noodles this time instead of the traditional flat noodles, and actually cooked the beef and broth overnight in a slow cooker as an experiment. (8 hours on the low setting, in case anyone was curious. It turned out perfectly.)

I’ll be getting my workouts in tonight as soon as I get home from work, then packing for the weekend trip to Philadelphia for the eHarmony shoot.

I have so little in the way of winter clothing nowadays that I may have to unpack my Army issue gortex gear to survive the temperatures up there, I kid you not.

– YF Cardio (45 min)
– Bodyweight Interval Circuit (15 min)

M1: 1 c. WW cereal, 1/2 c. light soy milk
M2: Company Potluck lunch (cheat meal)
M3: – skip –
M4: – skip –
M5: 2 oranges, 1 c. mixed veggies, 3 oz. chicken breast
M6: 3/1 spinach omelette

Water + Green Tea: 16+ cups

Supplements: 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium 500 mg + D, 6 fish oil capsules, 1 vitamin C, 5g l-glutamine

Free Fitness Stuff: 12 Days of Fitness

In case you haven’t already heard about it, there’s a massive fitness, nutrition, workout, and health report giveaway going on right now and for the next 10 days. According to the promotional copy, 250 fitness professionals are donating free articles, audios, and workouts during the 12 Days of Fitness which started yesterday.

Sign up here to access the free content:

I haven’t had the chance to review the stuff I’ve downloaded so far, but I will post a list of the goods I consider worth checking out starting tomorrow. I expect much of the information will cover all of the same basics ad nauseum, but there will probably be a few gems in there. I’m most interested in the downloads that include actual workout programs as these can be integrated into my next Cheapass fitness challenge.

Note: Be warned that while the free stuff is indeed free, you wind up having to sign up for literally dozens of mailing lists belonging to self-proclaimed “fitness/fat loss/nutrition/sports performance experts” you’ve never heard of before in your life in order to get to each item, so I HIGHLY recommend setting up a free throwaway email address at Yahoo, Hotmail, or Google Mail and using said address to sign up for your freebies.

And yes, all of these folks are probably going to try to sell you their commercial programs, ebooks, or coaching services one way or another.

Take my advice and set up the throwaway email address. 😉

12/10/07 Log

Yesterday’s eats were not the greatest (can you say “holiday party leftovers” and carb overload?), but at least the last of the TTOM bloat has finally left me. I’m beginning to think that I need to plan day trips any time I have a day off just to keep myself away from the kitchen, LOL. I honestly don’t know how you work-from-home chicas do it.

Craig Ballantyne just posted some specific photo requirements for the TT transformation challenge. Since I didn’t take my starting photos with a newspaper, I will probably have to start over tonight with new pics in the correct format. I’ll just count last week as my ramp up to the full challenge.

I left DH with a nice little grocery list and am keeping my fingers crossed that he won’t buy a ton of extras. I’ve managed to keep our grocery bill at $40-$45/week for the past two weeks, and fear that that DH will present me with an $80 receipt when I get home. When he is allowed to roam free in a grocery store without close supervision, stuff like Breyer’s ice cream, trail mix with M&Ms, beef jerky, and large canisters of irresistible cashews tend to appear in the pantry.

I’m going on junk food lockdown until the end of the month with the following exceptions:

– Company potluck lunch on 12/13
– My father’s birthday dinner on 12/21
– Xmas dinner with my family

This is one cheat meal per week.

– Shapeshift Top PC
– Intervals – Treadmill Run (60 second intervals at 3.5/8.5 mph x 6 sets)

M1: 40 g steel-cut oats, 30 g raisins
M2: 1/2 oz. walnuts
M3: 3 oz. chicken breast stir-fry with 1 c. veggie mix, 30 g oats
M4: 2 oz. turkey breast, 1 t. hot sauce, 1 T. ANPB, 1 small apple
M5: 3 oz. turkey breast, 1 c. asparagus veggie mix, 1 small orange
M6: 1/2 oz. walnuts, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1 c. light soy milk

Water + Green Tea: 16+ cups

Supplements: 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium 500 mg + D, 6 fish oil capsules, 1 vitamin C, 5g l-glutamine

Free 1-Year Subscriptions to Two Gaming Magazines

Get a year of Games for Windows and Electronic Gaming Monthly from Mercury Magazines, a distributor of free business/trade publications. You will need to fill out a brief form describing your job and industry, but no credit card information is required.

The option to get a free year of Electronic Gaming Monthly shows up after you enter your shipping information for the GfW subscription. I also got offered a year of Cosmopolitan (digital edition) for free, but that may not be a major draw for most of you.

Enter the following to get the EGM offer: Other Industries > Fitness Professional > Other Function > Consulting > Instructor

What a nifty (free) gift for the gamer geek in your life!

How to drink 1 gallon of water/green tea per day

I keep a 16 oz. water bottle at my desk and in my car. I also have a separate shaker bottle with a 24 oz. capacity that I use for making hot green tea using loose tea leaves in a tea ball. Finally, I keep a regular size coffee cup at my desk. I pour in whatever mix of water and green tea I feel like at the moment. The tea is hot, and the water is cold, so depending on whether I’m freezing from the A/C or warm from a lunch break walk, I can regulate the temperatures of my drinks. As soon as the coffee cup is empty, I pour more water or tea into it, and I fill my larger bottles about twice per work day for a total of 10 cups while I’m at the office.

I usually get my 16+ cups of water and green tea in by doing the following:

– 1 cup as soon as I wake up to get me ready to workout
– 2-3 cups during my AM workout
– 3 cups with breakfast
– 1 cup on the drive to work
– 1 cup water with 11 am snack
– 1 cup green tea + 2 cups water with lunch
– 1 cup green tea + 1 cup water with 3:30 pm snack
– 1 cup green tea + 2 cups water with dinner
– 2 cups water with 9:30 pm snack

Yes, I COULD just drink out of the bottles directly, but I find that it’s psychologically helpful to use the smaller cup because it’s a lot easier to chug down the contents of a 10 oz. mug 2-3 times during a meal than it is to face the daunting task of finishing a big 24-30 oz. container. Ever notice how much thirstier you seem to be at a restaurant when you only get a small water glass than when you get a huge bladder-buster 32 oz. mega-cup? You probably need multiple refills of that 8-12 oz. glass during your meal, but rarely drink more than half of that 32 oz. cup, right?

The human brain is not always very logical.

12/6/07 Log: Xmas Skates and Baby Steps

Calories were a bit high yesterday at 1705 cal (35% carb/40% pro/25% fat), but still within the range recommended in Dr. Mohr’s guidelines for a 140 lb female. I had some extra BBQ pork last night when I got home, alas, probably rationalized subconsciously as a reward for skipping the holiday party at my office complex after work and avoiding the alcohol, candy, desserts, and deep-fried, greasy appetizers that are always served there. I’m just glad I opted for protein instead of the crunchy, sugary carbs that were calling to me. I’m cycling intake a bit lower today to balance the extra calories out. It’s recovery workout/non-strength only today, so this shouldn’t affect training intensity.

Monday’ DOMS is going away pretty quickly now. I got in 30 minutes of Yourself Fitness Cardio cranked up to high intensity this morning, and I will be doing an evening stationary bike session at the gym (intervals plus a bit of steady state to get my total minutes up to 30) after work. I’m generally a morning exerciser, but I’ve noticed that I have a lot more energy for hard cardio sessions (interval or medium to high intensity steady-state) after work when I am not in a fasted state. All I do when I go home on Thursday nights is watch CSI anyway, so I might as well do it at the gym with my butt planted on a stationary bicycle seat, right?

140.0 lbs this morning and still slightly puffy from water retention though I’m down 4.4 lbs of water weight from Sunday thanks to some epic water-chugging and very clean eats. I’m shooting for 136.x by the end of the month.

In other fitness news, the two pairs of inline skates I ordered Sunday from should arrive today. They are non-surprise, mutual gifts from my husband to me and vice versa, so we won’t actually get to USE them until Christmas, but I’m looking forward to having a non-impact, outdoor form of cardio that I can do with my husband in the coming year. Gym cardio machines are really getting old, and as much as I like bodyweight circuits for their do-it-anywhere convenience, sometimes it’s just easier and more fun to do something that doesn’t require quite so much thought and gets you outside in the fresh air.

On the personal finance front, Chris and I have decided to work Ramsey’s Baby Steps as written and suspend our retirement contributions starting January 1, 2008 until we get all of our non-mortgage debt paid off and a $10,000 emergency fund established. This should only take 16 months (~April 2009) at most–it may go faster depending on whether Chris pulls in any large sales commissions and/or if I return to doing more freelance illustration work–and with over $100,000 already in our combined retirement accounts, the temporary break from contributing shouldn’t hurt us too much. I’ll simply be even more motivated to get steps two (Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball) and three (3 to 6 months of expenses in savings) finished as soon as possible so I can try to make the April 2009 deadline for funding my 2008 Roth IRA.

Woohoo! I love having a goal, a plan, and a challenge!

– Yourself Fitness Cardio (30 min)
– Walk (25 min @ 4 mph)
– Stationary Bike Intervals (1 min @ L9/1 min @ L13 x 6) + 15 min medium intensity steady-state (L9) (30 min total)

M1: 3 egg whites, 1/2 c. spinach, 45 g. oat cereal, 1/3 c. light soy milk
M2: Pineapple soy protein smoothie
M3: 4 oz. sauteed tilapia, 3/4 c. asparagus veggie mix, 1/2 small banana, 2 small orange
M4: 1 c. light soy milk, 3/4 scoop mocha protein powder, 1/2 oz. walnuts
M5: 3 oz. chicken breast, 3/4 c. asparagus veggie mix, 1/2 oz. walnuts
M6: 3 egg white/1 whole egg omelette with 1 T. ketchup and 1/2 c. spinach

Water + Green Tea: 16+ cups

Supplements: 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium 500 mg + D, 6 fish oil capsules, 1 vitamin C, 5g l-glutamine