LIIFT4 Journal - Week 8

Week 8

And just like that, summer is over! And so it LIIFT4. The 8 weeks have truly gone by so fast. I have shared a lot of my thoughts on the program on my personal Facebook page and my public Instagram. I actually did a live video on it… here are my thoughts.

LIIFT4 has the potential to be a great program. It can fit into busy seasons of your life seamlessly because it’s only four 30-40 minute workouts a week. Now, I did not follow nutrition exactly or even CLOSE at all, so I cannot speak to the effectiveness of that portion of the program. I can surmise that if I did follow the portion control plan more strictly, I would have lost weight. Following the workouts exactly DID give me arm & back muscles but did not make me bulky, which I know is what many women fear about weight lifting.


I’m gonna be frank, I don’t think you’ll see a huge weight loss difference from start to finish even if you do follow the nutrition piece exactly because the workout minutes aren’t there. Four 30-40 minute workouts per week is not that same as seven 30-minute workouts (21 Day Fix/21 Day Fix Extreme) or six 60-minute workouts (80 Day Obsession). It just isn’t. BUT I do have some challengers who say to me that they could never find the time for something like 80DO or even 21DF and so this program could be their solution, or at least their entry point, to adding fitness to their lives.

So my review is that LIIFT4 is a great program for busy people who are looking to see some small results (so long as they follow the nutrition plan!) OR it’s good for maintaining a current weight.

As an update, Sober September is still going well! This upcoming weekend is my NYC weekend with my girlfriends and they’re talking about brunch, so we’ll see what happens!


Additionally, today was the first day of my free 5-Day Clean Eating Challenge and it’s going GREAT! I’m getting back on track with clean eating and I have about 30ish people participating along with me! They have already posted a lot of great photos of their meals from Day 1 in my Facebook group Reasons to Reach (request to join if you want to creep on the challenge! I don’t mind!).

I’ll probably journal for the next new program, which is Transform :20 with Shaun T, coming out for early release in January! I can’t wait!!!

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 7

Week 7

This was the last true week of summer vacation for me. On Thursday, we had a professional development day at school for teachers that we had to go in for. Technically we had a four-day weekend after that, but now I'm in school mode and there's no going back! 

The last two weeks of the LIIFT4 program are "shred weeks". The workouts are different - the days of the week are switched up (ex. legs is not always on Fridays) and the muscle groups worked are paired differently (now it's large muscle groups together [chest & back] and small muscle groups together [biceps & triceps]). 


I definitely spent some time this week relaxing (AKA binge-watching Parenthood), but I definitely tried to give my days routine and structure to get things done. I actually use the Notes app on my phone and write down every single day and every thing I want to get done or have to do on those days. I usually write this out in 2-3 month spans, often stopping at a major milestone or holiday, whereupon I'll regroup and plan another 2-3 months. When I'm being really obsessive with this, I will write the upcoming week out like a schedule, writing what time of day I should start each task. This may sound nuts to some people, but I find it pretty calming and soothing. It's a way that I can do a mental check-in of where I need to be and what I need to get done.


I had some things I needed to do early in the week (dentist appointments and such - teachers try to cram all of these things in August!) but I also let myself do some back to school shopping. I ended up buying things in a variety of sizes, all the way from XS to XL, depending on the cut and style of the clothing. I'm not gonna lie, my weight has gone up. My favorite pair of jeans feel a little tight. I'll be curious to see what my measurements are like at the end of this program, because I do think I've gained muscle mass but also my nutrition hasn't been great. I don't think macro counting is going so well because I don't eat as clean. What has worked best for me is clean portion control and I think I will go back to that soon (I am running a free 5-Day Clean Eating Challenge starting September 10th, if you want to do this with me! Get the menu here).


I mentioned in my blog post from last week that I'm going to attempt a "sober September" with three exceptions: LDW, my NYC trip, and my SIL's wedding. Well, Labor Day Weekend has come and gone and I didn't drink anything besides water and seltzer! We hosted a big surprise party at our house in Syracuse for my Dad, who is turning 60 this month. I was nervous that I would cave and have a beer or two or three, even though it was only the first of the month, but I didn't! I just had seltzer all day. I was worried that people would kind of wonder out loud why I wasn't drinking but really no one seemed to care. I suppose that's because it was family. I did indulge in treats like cannoli dip and cake and probably went way over what I should be eating carb- and sugar-wise. BUT I'm still looking at this day as a win.


Another LDW win was what Sawyer and I did on Sunday. Typically this summer, when we've had a free day or afternoon, we've gone to a local winery or brewery. Instead, we went to Chittenango Falls, which I'd never been to before, and hiked some trails (what a "rest day", haha). I'm actually pretty proud of us for choosing this healthier option.


I'm looking forward to another week of this program and then ending the year strong. I'm thinking of doing A Week of Hard Labor, a five-day workout program that came out the week of Labor Day in 2017, next while I do my 5-day clean eating challenge (and I'll get to keep using my weights!). Then I think I'll do a 3-Day Refresh before my SIL's wedding (that's a cleanse, but with food!). Then.... I'm thiiiiinking about doing 80 Day Obsession again. Like, full out, maybe with just one cheat day on Thanksgiving. And it will end right before Christmas. I'm not sure yet, but that's when I had the best physical and mental results and felt most in control of my health. Thoughts?

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 6

Week 6

What a week! After getting back from camping in the Catskills last weekend, I found myself with a very busy itinerary, even though my summer job was over. I started off strong with tracking macros and upping my protein intake throughout this whole crazy week, but by the end, I stopped logging in My Fitness Pal app altogether. And I only managed to fit in three of my four workouts for Week 6.

The first few days of the week were mainly spent working on getting things ready for school. I spent a long day at Cafe at 407, which I love not only because it's super cute and serves seasonal, locally-produced food, but all of the proceeds support Ophelia's Place, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the culture and conversation around eating disorders, body image and body dissatisfaction, which I think is SO so important.


Then the week got busier. I drove out to my parents house in Clifton Park, NY to hang out with them and my brother, who lives in San Francisco. We went to a local baseball game and had a lovely time. The next time, my mom and brother spontaneously wanted to come back with me to Syracuse to go to the NYS Fair! Which made me so happy because I love the fair so much (Sawyer, having lived in Syracuse for 28 years, is kind of over the fair). But it's still "new" to me. We had an awesome day and I reached for alllllllll da treats. I had the milk, a pickle, the new 1911 "Tipsy Cow" milkshake, a Gianelli sausage, fried pickles, fried Oreos, maple sugar candy, a wine slushie, some local beer, and honestly probably a few more things I'm forgetting about.


Then, Friday was all about getting ready for my sister-in-law's bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend, which my husband and I were throwing with his mom. We are the man and matron of honor, haha. When asked, my sister-in-law Madison said her favorite snacks were "anything a Gilmore would eat". Soooo I went a little overboard getting food: chips & dip, queso, candy, you name it. And I ended up getting into the candy and had candy for lunch on Friday. And the food train kept on chugging all weekend.

It was a lovely time and I'm so glad we did everything the way we did. But now my husband and I are feeling a little sick and sluggish from everything we ate, haha. I've been diving into Fixate recipes to get back to clean eating. Fixate is a cooking show that features Autumn Calabrese (the trainer of 21 Day Fix, 21 Day Fix Extreme, Country Heat, Hammer & Chisel, 80 Day Obsession, etc.) and her brother chef Bobby Calabrese. With her fitness background and his cooking background, they put together lightened up versions of awesome meals. You can get their cookbook here or get access to all of their recipes with Beachbody on Demand.

I feel like I can't even talk about the workouts because they were totally on the back burner for me this week. And that's 100% on me. Sometimes, when people tell me they want to workout but don't have the time, I say to them, "You have to make the time." And it's true. I totally could have made time on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to get that fourth workout in. I just chose not to. I made it up today, during Week 7, and found out it was only 28 minutes. I totally could have done it. But I'm just gonna push everything in Week 7 back a day and be okay with it.

I'm definitely thinking about running a FREE 5-day clean eating challenge this September, just to feel better about my summer adventures that have left me feeling a bit fluffy. Send me an email to join me! I'll make the meal plan menu and grocery shopping, but I'm definitely open to meal suggestions.

Another thing I'm thinking about doing this September is Ella + Tillie's "21 Days of... {No Alcohol} September"On Air with Ella is a podcast that I listen to sometimes and this free challenge piqued my interest (they're going to be doing a different "21 Days of..". challenge each month). I think I'm going to go dry this September with three exceptions: LDW, a trip to NYC with my girlfriends, and Madison's wedding. I think I can do it. Let's see!

Don't forget to message me if you want to do the 5-day clean eating challenge with me! Maybe send me a recipe idea?


Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 5

Week 5

Wow, week 5! Lots of things to tell you about. My husband was out of town for work for most of this week and it was also my last week of camp at SAIL! Each of those things can lead to craziness for fitness and nutrition, but together it was a little nutty.


I got my workouts done on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I got into a bit of a funk on Tuesday and took the day as my rest day. But since I was going out of town over the weekend, that meant I HAD to do the rest of my three workouts on Wed-Fri. But like I've said before, I'm really appreciative of the flexibility of this program - if I need to shift things around, I can.

I also really like how almost formulaic each workout is. When you buy the program, they mail you a tracking sheet (I think you can also download it from your online subscription) to write down the weights you used. But also means that you exactly what moves you'll be doing in each workout, because it's written down. Sometimes there is a HIIT component and there is always cardio, but it's very patterned and prescribed. This is pretty comforting to me in my fitness journey. Like many of students, I like to know what will be happening in "class" each day so I can best follow along.

Speaking of tracking, I went HEAVY on my Friday leg workout. I used 25 lb weights for many of my moves, including front-loaded squats! I am still feeling the burn as I write this here on Monday. But 25 lbs are my heaviest weights - I may need to purchase some new ones! If you're reading this and you are a person who buys me Christmas gifts, I would love a Dick's Sporting Goods gift card, haha. Weights are usually $1/pound, so as they get heavier, they get more expensive ;)

So I was successful in my workouts all week. Moderately successful was my nutrition. I still tracked on the My Fitness Pal app throughout the week, until the weekend when I was camping in the Catskills with no cell reception or WiFi. And I was diligent about my logging, even if I was going over my macronutrient/caloric goals (like when I went out for drinks for a friend's birthday on Monday).

I mentioned that Sawyer was out of town for the week, which meant I was cooking for one. I forget who I was talking to recently about this, but cooking for one is hard. It's easier to just be lazy and snack a lot (I literally ate cheese for dinner one night) or pick up take-out. When I have Sawyer to make dinner for/with, I tend to have more balanced, healthy meals. So I definitely feel for my single challengers who struggle with eating healthy in this regard - it's tough! I did make a few awesome meals/snacks, including this great Honey Dijon & Garlic Salmon.

I also mentioned that it was the last week of camp. We had a pizza party for the campers on the last day and I ate three pieces of Wegman's pizza for lunch (and chips and cookies), even though it tasted like plastic. I could have meal prepped something, and should have, but I chose to eat with my coworkers and campers. It was a conscious unhealthy choice.

And when I was out of town with my husband's friends over the weekend camping, we ate pretty unhealthily. Again, this was a conscious choice of all of us. I think a lot of the people in the group typically try to eat pretty healthy, but we went all out with bagels, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, chips & dip, etc. I think we maybe had some fruit. No vegetables. And lots of drinking. I want to give a shout out to my friend Jenn, who is training for a marathon and didn't drink over the weekend. It can be a super hard thing to do - hanging out with friends while I gave up alcohol during 80 Day Obsession this past January - April was really tough for me, so I give you mad props, girl!


We've got a bunch of social events coming up over the next month, so nutrition will (as always) continue to be a battle. But I'm going to keep tracking macros and lifting heavy and see what happens!

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 4

Week 4

HALFWAY DONE with LIIFT4! And this week went really well. First, I wanna talk workouts. My workouts were all over the calendar (AKA I wasn't doing the same workout each day as the rest of the world or even my own challengers). But that is the BEAUTY of this program - four workout days and three rest days means that I can move things around.

I even used one of my rest days to get active with one of my good friends and take a bootcamp class at her gym! Which still kicked my ass, by the way. Sometimes my friends will say to me, "Oh, [this activity] will be easy for you, because you work out a lot." Ummmm, NOPE. A lot of fitness activities are still a challenge for me, even after four years hard at work. This particular bootcamp class had us at one point running on a treadmill on a very steep incline. Guys, I haven't been on a treadmill in YEARS. That was tough. I was gonna fall off. And I was so sweaty, I could barely hang on to the handles. But we did it!

Another positive thing about the week was that I maintained all of my weights that I upped in the previous week. There were definitely some tough moments for me, like doing a ton of arm work with 15s (that's a lot for me still!), but I pushed through all three sets because I felt that this was truly my zone of proximal development (boom, teacher jargon).

Now let's talk food. I, once again, did not meal plan. I did meal prep my lunches and some snacks, but beyond that and making a few notes about what dinners were going to be, I did not write out a plan to really stick to my portion containers. Instead, I reinstalled the My Fitness Pal app and tracked my macros for the week. This was something that I used to do when I first began my weight loss journey. Tracking every little morsel that went in to my mouth made me a bit crazy the last time I did this, so I was nervous. But it was easier this week than it had been. I think that's because I eat more whole, clean foods now, and it's easier to input "1 cup of cucumbers" than some complicated recipe from a restaurant that I would approximate .

I enjoyed this macro tracking and I'm probably gonna keep with it for the rest of the summer. I learned that even though I am eating less bread and wheat-based products, my carbohydrate intake is still quite high and my protein and fat intake is low. This led me to do some research and try some new things, like adding Greek yogurt to my breakfast shakes or even trying sardines (I should have taken a pic of video of this.... TBH it was just like tuna). I'm going to keep playing with my food, haha, and find new snacks and flavor combos that are macro-friendly. And you can bet I'll be sharing them!

One final thing - reopening My Fitness Pal was like opening a time capsule. I could see all of the last food I logged (it was like Dr. Pepper, Dunkin Donuts chocolate glazed donut, etc.), as well as my previously recorded weight (which was a good 30 pounds more than I am now). Sometimes it's worth it to take a step back and really appreciate all of the effort you've done so far <3

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 3

Week 3

The name of the nutritional game this week was balance. I did not write out a meal plan as I did for Weeks 1 & 2, but I kept a pretty good mental checklist of what containers I was supposed to have.

I actually did not meal prep for lunches at camp Tuesday-Thursday (gasp!), but rather scrapped together things that I had on hand: tuna fish, hardboiled eggs & tomatoes from my friend's farm, etc. Thursday was actually a teacher appreciation lunch at camp, thrown by our program director. It was lovely and they went all out with fancy Wegmans trays of salad with pears, chicken salad on mini croissants, and pinwheel wraps. I tried nearly everything!

We had two big events this weekend: Brew at the Zoo on Friday night and also a friend's surprise 30th birthday party at Green Lakes. I knew ahead of time that these events would involve less healthy foods & drinks, so I tried to eat very on point during the day. I tried to have a lot of veggies & water and I think I was very successful with that.

On Sunday, we (Sawyer and I) got back to healthy eating. We spent the day at Southwick Beach and picked up Mediterranean salads from CoreLife Eatery beforehand for our picnic lunch. It was a great rest day!

Speaking of rest days, I want to tell you a bit about how the workouts are going! Fitness-wise, it was a very successful week for me. I am so in love with the flexibility of Beachbody's LIIFT4 program. The workouts, as I've mentioned before, are suggested for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week. But, you can of course move things around as needed.

This week, I moved my Friday legs workout to Saturday, since I was preoccupied with lesson planning in the morning, lunch with a new friend at Panera, and then Brew at the Zoo in the evening. I could have squeezed it in if I really needed to, but I took the day as a rest day.

I want to take a minute to pat myself on the back a bit because I really pushed myself this week, fitness-wise. I went heavier on my weights for so many exercises, even using my new 25-pound dumbbells. And I had that good kind of sore feeling the next day. I was proud. Let's keep reaching for those health goals, people <3

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 2

Week 2

Alright, alright, alright, Week 2, in the books! It seemed to go by both quickly & slowly. As I reflect, there were some good things that happened. And also some tough things.


First off, meal prep started off STRONG. I made this shredded buffalo chicken in my Instant Pot that was sooo good. I've never made shredded chicken in the Instant Pot before - it didn't take long to cook at all and was really juicy. I'm really glad I found a way to use my Instant Pot in the summer. But I am looking forward to the fall and making soups again (like Chicken Noodle, Butternut Squash, or Split Pea!).

I made a little side salad to go with my buffalo chicken and I wanted to use ranch to tie the flavors together. I tried this GREAT ranch dressing by Primal Kitchen Foods. It's ranch, and it's paleo, soy & canola free, dairy free, & sugar free. And also delicious. I really recommend this dressing. I can't wait to try their other kinds!


My job got me feeling down this week, though, and so my nutrition was derailed. My most challenging students at camp were in rare form and I came home in tears. It happens sometimes in the teaching world (and I'm sure in most other professions, as well). I tried to make myself feel better with comfort food, even though I know that's not a healthy way to deal with emotions. All weekend, I allowed myself way too many treats. We went out to sushi Thursday, made pasta with alfredo sauce on Friday, got Moe's on Saturday, and then ordered Chinese food on Sunday. Yikes. It wasn't my healthiest weekend.

I did, however, get all my workouts in! It wasn't super hard, because there are only four in a week. But sometimes it's hard to find the motivation to push play when you're feeling blue. But every day is a new day to start fresh & try again. My arms are feeling stronger from these lifting workouts. I'm ready to use food as FUEL for this upcoming Week 3... stay tuned!

Rachel Reaches

LIIFT4 Journal - Week 1

Rachel Reaches_Week 1.png

WOOOO LIIFT4 WEEK 1!!!! I have been (and still am) so pumped about this program, you guys. First of all, it's just four 30-40 minute workouts per week. You get three rest days. THREE. AND there is a "cheat day" built in to the meal plan. My team likes to call this a treat day, because we're not totally departing from the meal plan on this day, but we do get to indulge a bit. And finally, even though it's mainly a weight lifting program, you CAN do all of the exercises with a resistance band instead of weights, which is PERFECT for summer travel.

So how did it really go??

Well, in the summer, I work three days a week (Tuesday-Thursday) at a summer camp called Summer Adventures in Learning. It's an academically based program geared at maintaining and developing academic skills over the summer months in order to address “summer slide”. Class sizes are small allowing teachers to target each individual student’s needsand provide a hands-on, multi-sensory approach to learning creating a fun and engaging experience for students (you can creep on the program and find pictures of me teaching here). I teach music at this summer camp.

It's been working out really nice with my summer health journey, because I plan on doing alternating morning/afternoon workouts with LIIFT4. Mondays will be mornings, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be after camp, and Fridays will be mornings. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday are all rest days.


To be honest, the first Wednesday rest day was kind of odd for me. I'm not used to having a "day off" from working out midweek like that. And in the case of this past Week 1, I actually pushed my Friday workout to Saturday (which is another benefit of the program: it's way less rigid than 80 Day Obsession is) because I wanted to do my leg day workout with my brother. We both visited my parents last weekend and we're both doing LIIFT4! 

We actually did our leg day workout solely with resistance bands (because even though I've done it before, I was not gonna lug all my weights out to my parents' house, haha). And it was fun joking around with him as we worked out.

Let's talk nutrition. For Week 1 of LIIFT4, I made out a meal plan for the week as best I could (check it out here). Obviously, it's tough when you're traveling and you don't know what's gonna happen, so I left some blank spots, but I did bring my superfoods with me for the weekend.

Some things that went well: there were two dynamo meals that we made this week. One was steak and marinated grilled veggies for Sunday night dinner, before LIIFT4 started. I used the veggies in my lunches all week. It felt nice to be back in the meal plan/prep groove. I've kinda taken a hiatus since the last week of school on that. The second was this amazing shrimp curry. We have never made curry before, so it was kind of a risk, but it paid off. That ish was savory. So good.


Things that did not go so well: I tried to make butternut squash noodles with a cauliflower alfredo sauce and it turned out like garbage. I've never made a good cauliflower alfredo. TBH (and "you should always be H", as my mom says), I opened up a jar of Bertolli alfredo that we had in the cabinet and used that on the veggie noodles instead.

Additionally, the "cheat day" turned a bit into a "cheat weekend" (instead of one single treat). We had a good bit of pizza, wine, beer, and fast food over the weekend and, boy, did we feel it this morning when we woke up (I say we meaning me and my husband, we both woke up feeling crappy).


But I got up, pushed play on Day 1 Week 2, meal planned/grocery shopped, had a great lunch date from CoreLife with my husband, and meal prepped my lunches for camp. Back on track.

Rachel Reaches