Ashley Horner’s Becoming Extraordinary

I finished up Ashley Horner’s training program, Becoming Extraordinary this past week. I would have finished it a week sooner, but I took a week off when I strained something in my neck so I decided just to redo that week.

Things I Liked

  • I am definitely stronger for this program. I loved that it had phases which kept me from getting bored and every workout felt like a big achievement
  • I typically do two sets of 20 push-ups to get ready for my PT tests and do well enough to max my scores in each event, but push-ups are my weakness. Becoming Extraordinary had me doing three sets of 25 by the end of it, and it wasn’t even a struggle.
  • I CAN DO PULL-UPS. Well, underhand/chin-ups, which are still allowed. And I can do three in a row, which I haven’t been able to do since I was much younger and much lighter.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • The workouts are long. The shortest one was about 1.5 hours and towards the end my lifting would be a little over an hour with another 45 minutes of cardio afterwards, and typically hovered around 2 hours for the whole thing. This meant I didn’t have as much time (or energy) for supplemental trainers
  • I don’t like supersets or circuits. They just about require that the gym be fairly empty, which means I have to go in off hours…and which usually meant either working out late or waking up extra early to get it all in. Yuck.
  • I really, really hate burpees. At one point I was doing 100 of them every Friday. Sometimes I did them all, sometimes I didn’t.

Would I recommend this trainer? Absolutely. It’s really doable for anyone at any stage. I wish there were examples of the exercises because I spent a fair amount looking them up, but it wasn’t bad. I learned a lot from the program, I got stronger, and I look and feel better. There’s also a nutrition portion in the back that I didn’t even look at it because I’m deployed and my food choices are fairly limited.

I wanted something a little shorter, and I feel lost without programmed training so I started her Valor program this week, along with continuing her supplemental trainers Crux (abs and core) and Sweet Cakes (glutes and legs). I’m only on day two, but I feel the soreness already. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be capable of by the end of this program.

Rug Bug

Before I ever came to Afghanistan, I knew I wanted to bring home a rug with me. Rugs are Afghanistan’s largest export and can last for generations if properly cared for. I was excited to have a beautiful, tangible souvenir of my experience and time here so I wanted to be sure I made the best choice.

I didn’t know much about rugs, so I did some research online. I learned about knots and how to tell a handmade rug from an industrial woven one, and even some of the basic typical patterns. I learned even more by visiting the shops and touching and seeing the differences in quality between rugs.


Originally I was going to buy one…and then I saw a runner that I liked and then I also thought a larger one would be perfect in another room. Ultimately I ended up visiting six different vendors before settling on three beautiful carpets, all handmade here in Afghanistan. It was such a neat experience to have them roll it out in front of you and then rubbing the wool and checking the knots in the back and the fringe. I also worked hard to barter the prices down which is also a hallmark of buying out here. The vendor definitely made a good profit on my sales, but I also love that I will have these for years as a reminder of the beauty of Afghanistan and that I’m helping to support the people here.


Someday I’ll learn how to keep my finger out of the frame. But I loved this runner. 


I loved both of these. Actually, I loved all the ones I saw. But these were the final two. 


This one was especially beautiful, but just too formal for my style. 

Transformation Tuesday: An Irregularly-Scheduled Check on Progress

I’ve noticed a decrease in motivation lately in myself, which I wrote a little bit about in finding and setting intentions. I also find it really useful to look back on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

For one, I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t like being upside-down (because I feel like I’m going to smash my face with my body weight behind it) but I was doing a yoga video and the instructor led into a headstand pose to finish the class. It looked easy enough so I tried it, and WOW, it wasn’t scary at all and was actually really fun!

A video posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 8, 2016 at 3:00am PDT


Then last night I had the idea to see what my back looked like. The picture on the right is from March 21 and the picture on the left was last night. That’s only 10 weeks into this program and I can’t believe the progress.


A photo posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 9, 2016 at 10:36am PDT


Last (and my favorite so far), I’ve been working on pull-ups this whole time. I’ve done them with bands, I’ve done them with the skinniest resistance bands, I’ve done negatives, I’ve done fixed arm hangs, and I’ve done ring pull-unders trying to make my arms and back stronger. Occasionally I’d try to do a dead hang pull-up, and I’m getting closer and closer.

Today I wondered about chin-ups, which are a little easier because they engage your bicep for help. Not only could I do one, but I could actually do TWO. IN A ROW. The last time I could do even one I was about 10.

I was so excited I set up my phone and tried my best to squeeze out a couple more (shown in the video).

A video posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 9, 2016 at 6:27pm PDT



I still haven’t mastered not doing crazy things with my legs (like trying to use them to climb imaginary air stairs for help) but I am SO EXCITED with how much progress I’ve made so far. I never would have thought I could do this in such a short time. It’s so hard to imagine where you’ll be at the end, and I don’t always see the progress in myself along the way so small markers like these confirm that I’m on the right path and that I just need to

  1. Do the work
  2. Trust the training

Celebrating Mother’s Day After Losing Your Mother

I lost my mother to cancer when I was 17 after a long battle over many, many years. In a lot of ways it was a relief to know that her suffering was over and that she was free of the shell she was of the woman I remembered her. For a long while, holidays were painful and awkward and then even more so when I suddenly lost my father only four years later. Holidays are bearable now even if I’m acutely aware of how much I miss my parents. If anyone else has lost their mother, here are some ideas of ways to honor their memory on Mother’s Day.


Motherless Mother's Day


1. One of my favorite ways to remember those close to me is with a donation to either their favorite charity or a cause they supported. Every Mother Counts provides resources and care to pre- and post-natal women in impoverished conditions. This water bottle from Oiselle not only is pretty and functional, but 40% of the proceeds go to Every Mother Counts.

My mother (and I) loved animals and was also active in her church doing drives to raise money and supplies to send overseas. Heifer International provides animals to encourage animal husbandry and self-sustainment in many countries, providing not only food from the animal but also a source of income for the families as well.

2. If you’re nearby, a visit to your mother’s grave might be nice. I love peonies and if I were going I would bring a bunch.

3. I have a few recipes that were my mother’s, like her microwave lasagna and her stromboli, that I make on occasion and whenever I do, I feel like her memory is still alive. One of my favorite things that she made was her homemade apple pies, and also these peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in the middle.

4. Before my mother died, I found an old cross-stitch that she’d started. She was talented in ways that Martha Stewart could only dream of. She hand-sewed our Halloween costumes every year, made baskets, and decorated cakes. She also cross-stitched birth announcements for each of us as well as many other embroidery designs that were all over our house. I finished her cross-stitch project and I’ve continued her hobby (though I am not nearly as gifted as she was). I like that I can continue some of her hobbies even though she’s gone.


Setting (and Keeping) Intentions

I posted a few days ago about how I was working on doing more yoga during the week both for my body as well as my mind. There was also a neat article about veterans using yoga to help them recover from physical and mental injuries. 461eb2d5d0980deebb627cdbe2df6f76

One thing most yoga classes ask you to do at the beginning of a class is to “set an intention.” I was really confused by this. Um, I came to practice yoga. I intend to practice yoga and then afterwards maybe I’ll go home and walk my dog? I really didn’t “get” it.

And then there’d be yoga videos I would do, like “Yoga for Forgiveness” or “Healing Heart Yoga” and obviously there was something behind their face value. Gradually, I began to understand that your intention is something that you choose to focus on, whether it’s forgiveness, or truth, or openness. It’s different than a goal because it’s not something you check off saying Yep, did that and now on to something else, it’s something you want and focus on to continually improve.


My challenge this week was to look at myself and see if I’m being intentional with my workouts and also with my life. Heh. No, not entirely. Just this morning I was pushing myself through my workout. It was legs and shoulders today and I had a full schedule during the day so I made myself get up extra early to get my workout in and I resented myself for it.

I ran a slow warm-up and I really had to push myself during the rest of the workout. I kept just chiding myself and telling myself to just “do the work.” Which is good enough, but not good enough to exceed or get myself to where I want to be. So then I have to ask myself why do I bother going to the gym when I’d rather be sleeping? Why don’t I have ice cream after every dinner? It’s because I am working to make my outside match what I feel inside, but if I just let myself go through the motions then I’m limiting the potential for change.

I’m bad at setting intentions but good at setting goals, but I’m setting as my intention to check myself and make sure I’m not just going through the motions.



Reconnecting Through Yoga

I used to be so good about doing yoga regularly and I enjoyed it. I had a fun vinyasa class I went to every Saturday afternoon and during the week I’d also spend some time at home on my mat working on poses (plus yoga is extra fun when your dog and cat think it’s playtime/attention time and come over and drape themselves all over your mat).

I haven’t done much yoga this past year but I finally went to a yoga class here about two weeks ago, and then another, and then last week while doing pull-ups I strained something in my back that ended my workout immediately and tortured me with sharp pains for days.

While sussing out the sore area, I thought maybe some easy yoga might help and so I unrolled my yoga mat and did some gentle poses which eased my pain.

And then, I felt this need for more. I’d wake up and feel like I wanted to do a little yoga, or I’d feel it right before bed or even in the middle of the day.


I follow Rachel Brathen (aka Yoga Girl on Instagram) and a few months ago she had a Kickstarter for a website called One oh Eight, which brought live and taped yoga classes online. I backed it, got a nice Jade travel yoga mat as a reward (which is the yellow background in some of my recent pictures), and didn’t think much else of it until this week when I logged in for the first time. It’s a great format and so far I’ve really enjoyed all the videos I’ve gone through. It’s also fun for me because it’s so unlikely that I’ll ever be able to go to one of Rachel’s workshops, but I can go through her classes online as well as so many other instructors I will likely never meet in real life. It’s also super affordable at only $14/month. That’s the price I typically pay for a physical class back at my home studio.

They do a 10-day trial for free, but I think I will keep this for as long as I want it and it seems that it’s something my body definitely wants.