here we go again

After weeks away from the gym, I was nervous. I've dealt with anxiety over exercising and what other people thought of me, but I overcame much of that anxiety. And then I stopped going to the gym.

I would tell myself that this would be the week that I started exercising again. I always meant it, but until this week, I didn't follow through. There were plenty of reasonsexcuses. One was my knee.

In junior high, I had knee surgery on my left knee, and then the summer before my freshman year of college, I had knee surgery on my right knee. I've dealt with problems with my left knee (my knee cap moving out of place) for years. Spending hours at the gym alleviated many of the problems as I finally began strengthening the tendons and muscles in my knee.

But something happened with my right knee. I thought it was overuse and misuse. I would straighten my right leg, and my knee would pop loudly each time. I would bend my knees, and I would hear bone rubbing on bone. And I cringed every time. I decided I needed rest and used the rest as a reason to not work out. But the problems only got worse.

I finally started moving on Monday, and while my knee isn't fully fixed, it feels much better and is already making less noise. I can only attribute that to the past three days on the elliptical, consuming lots of water, and once again taking glucosamine (along with cranberry extract, fish oil, milk thistle, and a multivitamin).

When I stepped into the gym today, I did so with a mission. My upper body was sore after one day of rowing and yoga abs and then another day of upper body strength training, so I knew that my Wednesday work out would need to concentrate on something other than my arms and core muscles.

I decided to complete 40 minutes on the elliptical - 10 minutes more than what I did on Monday or Tuesday. Just moving on the elliptical wouldn't be enough, so I looked for interval work outs to fit my needs. But I didn't find anything I liked, so I created my own.

I spent the first 10 minutes on the elliptical increasing the incline. I kept my speed around 4mph. Then I completed 10 minutes of intervals. I moved at 4mph for 30 seconds and then increased my speed to somewhere between 5mph and 6mph for 30 seconds and then repeated that routine for 10 minutes. After that, I completed another 10 minutes on the elliptical increasing the incline and then another 5 minutes of intervals. I ended with a 5 minute cool down and then somehow made it back to my office to finish the rest of the work day. I was a sweaty, sore mess, but I loved every minute of it.

My day had the potential of turning out poorly. I was rushed this morning as I had something to take care of before work. Our coffeemaker also malfunctioned, so I left the house without an egg scramble and coffee. But instead of letting that determine my entire day, I made do with breakfast, eating turkey bacon and some cheese, and got my caffeine from somewhere else. And I finished the day without any cheating on phase one of the South Beach Diet.

I had planned on making turkey chili in the CrockPot for dinner, but my rushed morning made that impossible. My back-up plan was to make a taco salad, using lean ground turkey for the meat, but by the time I got home, I no longer wanted anything Mexican. In the past, I would have struggled to figure out what I wanted to eat, but I found a recipe on Pinterest that I knew would work for dinner.

It's only recently that I've truly started to cook, so most likely, I will be unable to take credit (ever) for full recipes. I say that because I want to make sure and give credit where credit is due.

Dinner tonight was lightly smothered chicken, although I smothered it a bit more. That's part of the beauty of the South Beach Diet. I can eat as much as I want of the right foods, and somehow I eat less than I do when I'm just watching what I eat.

I started with 12 ounces of baked chicken breast (the original recipe calls for grilled). The chicken breast was seasoned with Italian Seasonings; I baked it at 375° for 25-30 minutes on Monday. The juices ran clear, and it was not dry at all. I then sliced one green bell pepper, one onion, and 8 ounces of mushrooms. I sauteed all of the vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

While the vegetables cooked for about seven minutes (they were still crispy - just like I like them), I smothered the chicken in dijon mustard. The original recipe calls for one tablespoon of dijon mustard, but I used more than that. Once the vegetables were finished cooking, I mixed them in a bowl with oregano, two cloves of minced garlic (the original recipe calls for one), sea salt, and pepper.

I put the vegetables on top of the chicken and then covered the chicken and vegetables with cheese. The original recipe called for mozzarella cheese, but I didn't have any so I used colby jack cheese. I also used more cheese than the original recipe because, well, I can eat lots of cheese. The dish cooked for approximately 10 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt and the chicken to be reheated, at 350°.

This is a recipe I will definitely be making again. I ate most of it for dinner, and my husband tried it as well. It's now one of his favorites. Next time I would make less onions as they aren't my favorite and use two bell peppers as well as increase the amount of chicken which would make enough food for two dinners and one lunch at least.

So much today was simple. A simple dinner, a simple work out. But it was what I needed because it showed me that I can do this - even when my morning is rushed and less than ideal. I needed that reminder.

(title from "sort of" by ingrid michaelson)

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