Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great Gifts for Fitness Fanatics

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are officially over, but the Christmas shopping season has really only just begun. There are but four (count them) FOUR weeks until Santa comes, and since you're undoubtedly one of his little Elves, that means it sure is time you get to gettin'! That is, if you haven't already. (I haven't. Sigh...) And since it's my job to inspire you with a daily dose of fit, I figured it would be a good time to recommend a few great gifts for fitness fanatics. Got any on your "nice" list? If so, I recommend the following:

1) Books and Magazines
I own the Women's Health version and I reference it quite often. It's jam packed with useful information—and I imagine the same can be said for the Men's Health version. Regardless, fitness fanatics generally love keeping up on the latest hints and tips, so if not a book, then maybe a magazine subscription. Think Oxygen and Men's Fitness, and of course, Women's Health and Men's Health. There are a ton of options, really. And don't forget about cookbooks and cooking magazines (like Clean Eating and Cooking Light).

2) Reusable Water Bottles
We fitness fanatics know that water is essential, but we so often hate using those grimy fountains at the gym. So a reusable water bottle makes for the perfect gift! Especially one that's going to last. I'm still loving my Water Bobble, and let's not forget that SIGG bottles can be customized. And speaking of the reusable, fitness fanatics can often be seen toting food from here to there, so a nice and sturdy lunch box is also a really great idea. I mean, so long as it's cool. Try and avoid the plastic/thermos/cartoon character combination. Because really, those are for the kiddies.

3) Fitness Trackers
I've been insanely curious about the product above for quite some time now. It's called a Fitbit, and it "accurately tracks your calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled and sleep quality." When you walk by the wireless base station, your information is automatically uploaded to the Fitbit website. How cool is that?! Equally cool, the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, which I already have and use quite often (and yes, there are ways to use it without Nike+ shoes. More on that later.). And, of course, everyone loves a good heart rate monitor. You can find them everywhere.

4) Music
Because really, who doesn't love (legally) downloading music? And while you're at it, a nice set of wireless earbuds would be a great gift, too. Or at least some earbuds designed to stay in your ears.

5) Workout Clothes
When you got it, flaunt it in some stylish workout clothes. Stores like Lululemon (shown above) and Athletica offer excellent options for both men and women, though their stores can be hard to come by—hooray for gift certificates!  Equally good options, Under Armour and Nike (which you can usually find in the stores). And if you're on a tight budget, Target always has an excellent selection of gear.

7) Element Bars
We fitness fanatics love our energy bars, and Element Bars are sure to please almost anyone—mostly because they are totally customizable! Give a gift certificate for an entire box, or create your own and stuff 'em in all the stockings you come in contact with. And remember, LUNA and PURE bars are equally delicious options that can be found in almost any local grocery store. In fact, speaking of grocery stores, take it one step further and give your favorite fitness fanatic a gift certificate to the local health foods store. (Lucky enough to be near a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's? I wish I was!)

7) ETC.
I really could go on and on, but I fear you'll eventually get bored out of your mind, so I'll leave you with a clump of additional options: training gloves, fitness journal, home fitness equipment, a complete collection of travel-size personal care products for post-workout cleanups, a gym membership, sessions with a personal trainer, and—my last but certainly not least idea—a massage.

Question: Have you started shopping yet? If so, when? And did you buy yourself any Christmas gifts yet? That's always my problem when I Christmas shop. I usually want to buy myself something, too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fabulously Fit Furniture

How many of you exercise at home? And when you do, do you incorporate your furniture? If I'm not at the gym, I usually turn to our chairs and coffee table for things like triceps dips, inclined/declined pushups, single-leg lunges and step-ups. But really, who wants to step up onto a coffee table...and I really don't want to put my shoes all over my nice comfortable chairs. So it's not optimal, but it does work.

If only I had this furniture:

I came across these "multi-functional" furniture pieces while surfing Apartment Therapy, which will probably always be one of my most favorite websites. Clearly you can see why! I mean, "furniture pieces designed specially for stretching your body and easy exercising"? Genius. Lucie Koldova (the designer) is a true genius. On her website, she explains that "the dimensions of the furniture are optimised in order to serve both functions well." That the furniture "will be attractive to an active demographic." And I think she got that right, though the modernist look and feel may be a bit too much for those of us with more traditional environments. But still, this stuff is awesome and I would love to have something like it in my home. But until then, I"ll keep going to the gym.  And since it's Monday, I'm probably already there!  Question: Are there any pieces of furniture in your home that get used for fitness-related reasons?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Born to Run

Whenever I come across a book that looks semi-sorta interesting, I snap a picture of the cover with my cell phone. I currently have about...well, let's just say too many book cover pictures. The problem? I can't keep up, probably because I also keep a hand-written list in my purse. (What can I say? I love to read! And there's just too many good books out there.) One such book I've been keeping a picture of: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. And I finally bought it last week, hoping it would help motivate me to continue my running game despite the fact that Mother Nature is forcing me off the streets and into the gym—and consequently, onto a track that requires 14 laps before one mile is achieved. Or a treadmill, which sometimes gets very boring.

So far, the book is so very good. And it's inspiring me to keep on keepin' on at the gym. I could come up with an excellent synopsis, but I'll let the author speak for himself:

Intrigued yet? I'm not even finished and I have to say this is a must-read for anyone that likes to run. Even if you don't run, you can't help but enjoy such an in-depth look at a society so otherwise unknown to this world. At the very least, it'll help you understand why so many people dig the sport. To quote the book:

True story, right? Think about it. And also think about the fact that many of us run for health and fitness reasons, too. Though some of us can't for one physical reason or another. McDougall touches on that, as you've heard in the video above. Really, you'll just have to read it. And if you do, let me know. I'd love to get a discussion going.

And speaking of getting a discussion going, we had an interesting one at the dinner table last night. The group of us had just finished eating some very excellent homemade pizzas, and I'm not sure who, but someone pulled out a bag of frosted animal crackers for dessert. They're not exactly the healthiest of dessert options, but according to my mother, they can be acceptable if you only eat half of the recommended serving size. So, four cookies instead of eight. 80 calories instead of 160. While this logic (kinda) makes sense, it's basically her way of justifying a not-so-good-for-you dessert. And hey, we all do it. The discussion I mentioned before, it stemmed out of the following comment. Mom said, "if I only get 80 calories, I might as well eat the big cookies...

...and not the small ones." We tried to convince her that her logic, at that point, was sort of nonexistent. I like to call it playing it safe while cheating. But really, we all just had a really good laugh at her expense. I think it's because all of us could relate. I mean, can't you think of a really good justification you've come up with in the past? Let's make that one of the closing questions for this post.

Question: What's your best food justification? I can eat _____ because _____. And also, going back to the book, I'd love to hear about your last running experience. Was it on a treadmill? Outside with the dog? Tell me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A 20-minute workout just for you!

The very funny thing about this time of year is that there really isn't any time to get things done. Cookies need to be made, parties have to be attended—and then, there's all those mundane tasks we should be doing just to get through the week. I don't know about you, but I often have more than one to-do list in my purse (or gym bag). And really, I can hardly get myself through them. Where all the hours go in my day, I'll never know. But one thing is for certain, I make sure I always find time for some physical activity. You just have to. Even if it's a mere 20 minutes. A little bit'll do ya, really. It will. 

While we weren't so rushed yesterday morning, we did want to sneak in a short workout before commencing our day. We took the dog for a walk...

...only once around the block, though. The wind was especially brutal, and while the furball could've handled it for a little bit longer, we definitely could not. So we headed inside and hit the weights.

What follows is a list of the exercises we completed. It took us about 20 minutes to get through everything, and we definitely worked all of the major muscle groups. Take note, and if you're ever pressed for time, give it a go—and do two sets of twelve repetitions for each exercise.

20-Minute Total Body Circuit
1) SIDE-TO-SIDE LUNGES: Start with a wide-leg squat, shift your weight onto your right leg as you 
    cross your left leg behind you and toward the diagonal. Lunge, return to center for another wide-leg 
    squat, then repeat by shifting your weight onto your left leg. Every wide-leg squat is one repetition.
2) PUSHUPS: Keep your body in one straight line as you lift and lower yourself, bending your arms to 
    90 degrees each time. Your shoulders should be above your wrists the entire time, and your wrists 
    should be slightly wider than your shoulders. Inhale as you lower, exhale as you come up—and 
    squeeze your abs the entire time!
3) DEAD LIFTS:  Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and dumbbells in front of your 
    thighs. Bend forward at the hips until your back is parallel to the floor—it's very important that you 
    keep a straight back, no arching! And don't lock your knees. Slowly return to starting position, pulling 
    with your glutes and hamstrings, to complete one rep.
4) BENT ROWS: Hold a set of weights in your hands, palms facing your thighs and feet hip width 
    apart. Your knees should be slightly bent. Lower the weights until your back is parallel to the ground 
    (try to keep it flat). Pull the weights up again, using the back of your legs to get upright. Repeat.
5) TICK-TOCK LUNGES: Start with your feet hip-width apart. Using your right leg, step into a 
    forward lunge. Stand up and move immediately into a backward lunge using your right leg once 
    again. This counts as one repetition. Complete all repetitions, then switch legs.
9) PALMS-IN SHOULDER PRESSES: Hold the weights in front of your chest, facing your palms 
    toward your body. Press your arms up toward the ceiling, then lower to complete one repetition.
10) CALF RAISES: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Push through your feet to 
      raise your heels, then lower. Repeat 12 to 15 times. Next, put your heels together, toes pointed out in 
      a V shape to target the medial head. Motion and reps are the same. And finally, put your toes 
      together with your heels out in a reverse V shape. This can feel awkward, but it hits your lateral 
      head. Motion and reps are the same. (Holding a dumbbell, standing on the edge of a step, or doing 
      one leg at a time can increase the intensity.)
11) AB ATTACK: Lie flat on your back. Hold a weight in your right hand up toward the 
      ceiling. Bend your right leg, then extend your left leg and left arm while holding them about six 
      inches off the ground. Inhale, then use your abdominals to bring your shoulders off the ground. At 
      the same time, lift your left leg even higher, almost as if you were creating a V shape with your body. 
      Complete 12 repetitions, then switch sides for your second set.
12) SIDE LEG LIFTS: Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders stacked, legs straight and feet 
      slightly forward. Prop yourself up on your bottom elbow, slightly roll off your hips, then lift and 
      lower your legs about a foot off the ground until your desired number of repetitions are complete. 
      Repeat on your other side.

And there you have it! A quick, 20-minute workout just for you! Trust me, you'll love it. (If not, let me know why.)

Question: What do you typically do when you have to squeeze in a quick workout?

Friday, November 26, 2010

And to this I say: Really?

 It's Black Friday, which means the holiday shopping season is officially upon us. I didn't wake up at the crack of dawn—(Target, 4AM? No thanks.)—but I will (at some point) head out to join in on the madness and mayhem. It was my birthday, and there's supposedly a free coffee waiting for me at Border's. You know I love me some Border's. And I've been meaning to pick up the new issue of Oxygen...but anyways. That's unimportant. What IS important, however, are the two "Really?!" topics I've chose to discuss.

For starters, The Situation has his own workout DVD:

I mean...REALLY?! I won't argue with the fact that the man has some pretty great abdominals, but is he truly qualified to star in his own fitness DVD? Turns out, he used to be a personal trainer. I wouldn't know that because I've yet to see a single episode of The Jersey Shore, but something tells me he's getting trained more so than he's doing the training these days. Just sayin'. Will I run out and buy his DVD? I don't think so, but some of his moves are pretty great. However, it's his witty banter that really makes me laugh. Or roll my eyes, depending.

Let's move along to "Really?!" topic #2.

I've had this great Nike running jacket for a good three, maybe four years now. It's my absolute favorite coat ever, and I wear it pretty much anytime I'm at the gym. Or running outside, obviously. It's not super thick, but it keeps me warm without making me sweat. And it fits like a glove.

And apparently, I can weave my iPod earbuds through a nifty little hole near the neck opening:

Yeah, a nifty little hole. And all this damn time I've been fighting the earbud string, trying desperately not to get tangled in it as I pump my arms back and forth during my run. I mean...REALLY?! It's been there this whole time? How dumb can I be. I always loved the pocket for it's ability to hold a key, but I guess I never paid attention to the lining when I put the key in the stupid pocket.

Well, now I know it's there. And you can be damn sure I'll be weavin' my earbud cord through it whenever I run outside. Which might not be that often as it's supposed to start snowing again. But speaking of getting outside, check this out:

Meet Kedzie, our new little sister! When Kylie died, we kinda figured my parents would get another dog. Eventually, though. Both of us were quite surprised to find we had a new furry sister at home for Thanksgiving. They rescued her from the pound, she's just about three years old. And we think she may have come from an abusive home as she's quite timid and shy when you reach out to touch here. Maybe she just needs to get used to us. Because really, she loves to be loved once she realizes you aren't going to hurt her. It's sad, but we're so happy to have her around. And she's a pistol on the leash! My sister and I took her out for a walk before all things cooking began, and geeze—she practically pulled us! We walked about three miles, and it felt good. Even more so because of Kedzie. Though we do still miss our Snookas.

And if you're wondering how my birthday turned out, thanks to all of you who sent me wishes on Facebook, through the mail and in person. I loved them all, and it truly made my day. Oh, AND:

I got to see Maria, one of my dear ol' friends from college. Love her for surprising me!

Question: Did you get any sweet Black Friday deals? What time did you wake up? And did you get any fitness in on Thanksgiving Day? 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give thanks.

The pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving by honoring their generous God with a bountiful feast. And today, we carry on that tradition with feasts of our own. Tables everywhere get piled high with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Even corn bread, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Around those tables, families and friends will gather in thanksgiving. Some will take a moment to allow each person at the table to describe one thing they are thankful for. Others will dive right into the food.

Whatever your tradition, find some time to remind yourself of that which you are thankful for. Be it your parents or significant other, pet or best friend. Health, happiness or distant memories. Be it your job, your education or your this, that or the other.

We live in a society that so easily takes everything for granted, so we must constantly remind ourselves that this life is a gift. Every aspect of it is a gift. And it must be enjoyed. Really, truly enjoyed. So give thanks. And at the very least, thank that turkey who so graciously gave up its feathers to be the centerpiece of your feast. Hopefully you're privy to a good bird this year. Perhaps one that grew up at a place like this:

Now, I can't say for sure where our turkey came from, but I am certainly hoping it'll taste good. As silly as it sounds, I'm always very thankful for that first taste of Thanksgiving Day turkey. You know, the bite you steal off the bird as your dad starts carving it to pieces. (Someone's gotta test it!) And I'm also very thankful for the following, even though these images represent but a portion of all that I happen to be thankful for.

Question: What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Jason: "Three decades, honey...three!"
Tara: "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Jason: "This is the last day of your twenties!"
Tara: "Again, is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Jason: (Insert laugh and goofy grin here.)

The above exchange took place yesterday, which means that today—Wednesday, November 24—I am officially 30 years old. And honestly, it doesn't bother me. I'm kind of excited about it! I don't feel old, even though very small wrinkles are beginning to form around my eyes. In fact, I feel as if my very first birthday was yesterday. That glorious day on which my mom let me shove fistful after fistful of cake into my mouth.

Clearly, some things never change. (Well, sort of—I've taken to sitting on chairs instead of tables these days.)

I might not be a spry young 20-something anymore or a wee bitty baby, but I'm proud of every one of the 30 years I've accumulated thus far. Happy memories scattered throughout, indeed. And I'm looking forward to creating many, many more. In fact, this birthday is already turning into something special worth remembering. And mentioning. Just yesterday, one of my clients so graciously gifted me a bottle of red wine. And one of the girls in my Teen Bootcamp class—call her Flex (she loves it)—gave me the supersweet gift at right. I mean, is there anything better than a handmade gift from a kid? I love it! On the other side, a "Happy Birthday" message accompanied by an assortment of cupcake stickers.

Oh, and it was given to me in a bag that also contained a small variety of these:

Chocolate truffles from a little place I like to call Chocolate Heaven. Dear Lord, help my waistline when these are around! They are my absolute. positive. favorite bites of chocolate. I can't even tell you how much I love them. Really, I can't.

And I shouldn't, otherwise you'll think that my whole "live the fit life" persona is a big, giant sham. Let's just say I make exceptions on birthdays. It's allowed, right? And since the day is not yet over, I'm sure hilarity in the form of celebration will ensue. I shall report on anything you might find interesting, I promise.

Now go, eat something sweet. I'm 30, it's allowed.

Question: Do you have a favorite birthday treat? I love my pumpkin bar cake more than anything (except the chocolate truffles above, they're truly unbeatable).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Be sure to eat healthy on Thanksgiving!

Well, it's official. Christmas has hit my gym. The red poinsettias were delivered last week and the maintenance team no longer exists. Instead, we have little elves scurrying about in an effort to set up trees here and there. Yes, we have a Christmas tree in the middle of our fitness floor. I love it, but I'm going to hate it until Thursday. Because really, Christmas starts only after Thanksgiving ends.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, are you ready for that 2,000-calorie meal? Yep, read it again. 2,000 calories. That's a lot, right? For sure, considering the average individual needs 2,000 calories across one day. Talk about gettin' everything in one fell swoop. But if you play your cards right, Thanksgiving doesn't have to ruin your diet. It really doesn't. Consider the following "rules and regulations," all of which help you eat healthier on Thanksgiving.

1) Start your day with a healthy, balanced breakfast. Think whole grains and fiber, both of which help keep you feelin' full. Hot cereal is always a great choice. Or a slice of toast. Either way, you can add in the fruit and nut butter as you see fit.

2) Start your day with a workout. A morning workout sets a great standard for the rest of your day. Crunched for time? Remember that every last bit counts, so put the cooking schedule aside and grab some of those out-of-town relatives. 20 minutes'll do ya...if that's all you can do.

3) Eat lunch! Staying on your typical meal schedule is a great way to avoid overindulging. We tend to serve our Thanksgiving meal late in the afternoon, which means lunch is a free-for-all.

4) Although this year, lunch will be a series of appetizers including pumpkin soup and baked Brie. If you find yourself privy to some tasty little treats instead of a full-out lunch, grab one of those cute little paper plates and sample the healthiest fare. Fill your plate appropriately, move away from the table and don't look back. Find yourself somewhere nice to sit and eat. Make it feel like lunch, and it'll become your lunch.

5) Watch your portions. Not just at the app table, either. Portion control is probably the most important rule when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. I mean, really...do you seriously need three giant spoonfuls of mashed potatoes? If it's on your plate, then you'll probably eat it. Go light, go right. Here's a quote from Oxygen to reiterate this point:

6) So eat slowly! Sometimes we inhale our meals, which doesn't give our stomachs time to communicate that they're full. Chew every bite, put your fork down between bites, etc. Besides—the faster you eat, the less you actually enjoy all the savory flavors. And let's be honest, Thanksgiving dinners present some of the best savory flavors ever. Am I right?

6) Offer to bring a dish if you'll be a guest at someone else's house. And make it a super healthy dish. That way, you'll be guaranteed at least one thing to eat that won't kill your diet.

7) Watch the alcohol intake. I know, I know...but really, alcoholic beverages tend to contain a large amount of calories, most of which come from added sugars. Not only that, the more you drink—the less you think. Which means we lose our ability to judge good foods from the bad.

8) Pick white meat over dark. It's that simple. And scoop the marshmallows off your sweet potato casserole. Oh, and watch how much butter you put on your rolls.

Translation: It's all about moderation. Which goes back to portion control, too.

9) Pumpkin pie isn't that bad! But don't be afraid to skip the pie crust.

10) Give thanks. I know, it doesn't really have anything to do with eating healthy, but Thanksgiving is all about this one special act. So of course it's on my list of rules and regulations.

Question: What are you thankful for? And what are you looking forward to eating at your Thanksgiving meal?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oprah's Favorite Things

Did you watch? Did you see? Madness and mayhem, indeed! Oprah, you've done it again. How generous of you to give away almost $10,000 worth of goods in one fell swoop. Yeah, I'd jump around like crazy, too:

I have to confess that I don't really watch Oprah. For starters, I'm never usually home when it's on. Honestly, I much prefer Ellen's humor. But I do like to see what Miz O chooses as her verymost favorite things. And this particular year, I was happy to see that she chose three items directly related to health and fitness. All of which I'd like to own. Take a look:

1) Lululemon Relaxed Fit Pants

2) Nike FreeRun+ Shoes

3) A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Wilson
Fantastic, right? And I think this year, in honor of her last season, she's doing yet another "Favorite Things" show set to air on this very day. So we'll see if she picks anything else worth mentioning. Regarding the above: Lululemon is a sweet shop for all things fit wear, Nike is (of course) always fabulous and I've heard about the book. Haven't read it yet, but it does look quite interesting.

Question: Do you have any favorite fit life gear? Me, I can't live without my Nike+ chip or my Water Bobble.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And the winner is...

Angie! Congrats! I hope you love your Journey Bars. Be sure to let me know how you feel about the Coconut Curry. I'm curious to know whether you share my thoughts about that particular flavor. To the rest of you that entered—thank you so much for participating! Rest assured, there will be more giveaways in the future so please keep reading! And to Journey Bars, thank you for sharing such a wonderful product with my readers. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we look forward to your next batch of savory flavors—and we'd be more than willing to taste-test!

So how do I pick my winners? It's no name-outta-the-hat process so you can rest assured that everything is fair and out of my hands. I use Random.org, which is a great website that offers a random integer generator. Integer generator? Yep, I'll never understand how it works, but it does. But first, I have to create a numbered list of names based on the qualifying entries I get:

And then (isn't this exciting?) I put them into the form on the website. It looks like this:

When I click "Get Numbers," it gives me a number between one and 19, 19 being the total number of qualifying entries I received for this particular giveaway. The result? Shown at right. And if you reference the first image shown in this post, you'll notice Angie's name associated with 6. So there you have it—she's the winner! It's official. I promise.

And it's Sunday. I hope you're all enjoying the last day of this weekend. I'm happy to report that I've dodged tomorrow's potential for Jury Duty. We'll see what happens on Tuesday and Wednesday. They say I'm in luck, thanks to Thanksgiving. We'll see.

Question: What's the best prize you've ever won?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Words of Wisdom (with a Side of Pomegranate Seeds)

I have to admit—before this post, I didn't really know who Joan Baez was. I mean, I always imagined her to be a folksy, acoustic guitar-totin' singer from the Woodstock era. But I wasn't sure if that was right. Thanks to Wikipedia (and Google Images), I stand correct in my understanding. Perhaps I did retain something from that stupid music history class I took in college. Or maybe it was my media course in high school. We'll never know, and I digress. Most of Joan Baez's lyrics were very much saturated with activism, which means she definitely had a way with words in her day. (I think she's still alive...maybe?) And it's those words that make her the topic of my post as I recently came across a great Joan Baez quote:

Appropriate, right? We can't really predict how our bodies will fare tomorrow, next week or in the next 20 years, but today...today we can live a happy, healthy life. Right? Choose to live your day in a way that promotes vitality. It doesn't matter what you did yesterday because in reality we all make unhealthy decisions. And since we can't predict the future, it's the healthy decisions we make today that count most. And we all need to be making more of them in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes if we think too big, we get overwhelmed. But when we set small goals, when we take it one day at a time—when we decide how we're going to live now in this moment—we can truly make a difference.

And speaking of making a difference, let's shift to pomegranates.

I've always been intensely curious about the pomegranate as it's an extremely healthy fruit. I've had the occasional pomegranate martini, indulged in a box of dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds from Trader Joe's—but I've never tasted one cut fresh in my own kitchen. Until recently, when Meijer had them on sale for $1.

Turns out, they're a tricky little fruit to cut. You have to slice the ends off, then gently score the sides as if you were creating orange wedges. And since the juice is ever so squirty and stains just about everything, it's best to pull the pomegranate apart underneath some cold water. Which is really the easiest way, because then your shirt remains stain-free and the seeds drop to the bottom of the bowl, leaving the pulp floating at the top. After you drain and rinse the mess, you're left with a bowl full of fresh pomegranate seeds ready and willing to be eaten.

Trust me when I say that pomegranate seeds are like little pockets of pleasure, bursting with a delightful sweetness when crunched between your teeth. They are so very, very good. And so very, very good for you. (Antioxidants, anyone?) I've added them to my oats hot and cold, but my favorite place to put them is in a cup of vanilla Greek yogurt. Holy yum-yum, they are good in my vanilla Greek yogurt. Which means they'd also be super delicious in a smoothie, but alas I'm out of bananas which I typically use to thicken things up. So that'll have to wait until next time. For sure.

But, really. Run out and buy a pomegranate today! I've said this before about many a thing, but the pomegranate is truly...and I mean truly nature's candy. And it'll make a difference in anything you mix it with. And with that, I leave you. Remember to check in tomorrow. I'll be announcing the winner of my Journey Bars giveaway. Hopefully it's you! That is, if you entered. :-)

Question: What did you do today that promoted a happy, healthy you? Have you ever eaten fresh pomegranate seeds? If so, in what way?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Be a lean, mean cleanin' machine.

Well, it's that time again. I can no longer wash my face in the bathroom or sit and sip tea in the living room without noticing the dust. Our place isn't that big, but the stuff accumulates. And it grosses me out, so my type A-ish personality is all over it this week. I've got my (pretty) rubber gloves on, Windex and feather duster in hand, and I'm cleaning. Oh, am I cleaning! Because, really—there's nothing better than a clean home. (And yes, my husband helps. He is a CHAMP when it comes to scrubbing toilets and shower stalls. Lemme tell ya.)

While some detest this chore—let's be honest, most of us do—others see it as an opportunity to burn a few extra calories. Yep, that's right. All that scrubbing and wiping burns calories. Which means, if you really want to, you can call it exercise. But sorry, it can't replace your real workouts.

Here's how it breaks down, as reported in the November/December issue of Fitness:

Granted, the numbers above are general averages produced by the study reported on in Fitness, which means they can (and will) vary per person. And we all know that the harder you work, the more calories you'll burn. So keep that in mind, too. But really, it just goes to show you that a little activity goes a long way. Even if you are just cleaning. So plug in that iPod and get to it already. (I won't say anything if you start dancing, too. Double the burn!)

Question: What's your favorite thing to clean? Come on...there's gotta be something! For me, I love wiping down a mirror. There's something so incredibly refreshing about it. (Does that make me weird?)

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Journey Bars giveaway! You just might win a combo box of 12 delicious and nutritious bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, November 19, 2010).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"You're hot then you're cold."

Oh, Katie Perry. I can't get your song out of my head. I mean, it's seriously embedded. And for good reason as today's post touches on two things—one is hot, the other cold. Let's start with the hot topic.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew mocha flavored coffee. SO GOOD. And honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of coffee. But when the weather turns, I occasionally crave a warm and exciting bev. Green tea doesn't always cut it, and real mochas have too much sugar. But these tasty packets—60 calories each. 'Course, it goes up a bit when you add milk as I did. But milk is milk. It's all good. And it's certainly better than any syrup-filled concoction you'd get at the counter. I just wish they came decaf. Boy do I buzz when the caffeine hits! Sometimes I don't mind it, though. Just sometimes.

I certainly don't mind the convenience factor associated with this product, either. One thing is for sure...Starbucks didn't give me anything to write this review. I'm just a common consumer sharing a tip. So you can trust that it's honestly good. But that's enough about that. Time to discuss the cold topic.

Yep. Ice cubes. However boring they may be, ice cubes do have some redeeming qualities. They keep your drink cold, sure. And obviously they help soothe injured body parts. But did you know they can also minimize the red-in-the-face flush you get after a particularly great sweat session? It's true. Women's Health reports that sucking on an ice cube "constricts some blood vessels in your face, immediately reducing the flush." All that happens as the ice comes in contact with the roof of your mouth.

Sounds like face-freeze to me. But on the other hand, it also sounds totally refreshing. There have been times when not even a shower takes my face from flush to fine, and it can be oh-so annoying. I mean, I don't want to look embarrassed when I'm not, purely because I worked out. That's something to be proud of! So you can be sure this'll be a trick I totally start employing. Your gym should have an ample supply of ice, and if they don't—bring it up. What happens if someone gets hurt? If you're working out at home, obviously you have ice somewhere.

Great, now I have another song in my head:

Will someone PUH-LEEEZ tell me where I can find orange pants like that? I think Jason needs a pair. Also, you heard it right here (right now) that my new goal is to learn the choreography above. I am blown away by its awesomeness. Laughing again. Maybe it can be the cardio element in my 6AM Circuit Sculpt class.

Word to your motha. (Hi mom!)

Question: Do you have a song stuck in your head? (My apologies if it's currently either of the aforementioned tunes.) How do you combat post-gym red face?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Journey Bars giveaway! You just might win a combo box of 12 delicious and nutritious bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, November 19, 2010).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I made a batch of Oaty Cranberry granola bars a few weeks ago. They were quite good, and then...they were gone. So I took to my stack of recipes untried and true, in search of something that just might compare, and I found a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip granola bars. Well, since I'm obsessed with pumpkin, I obviously made them and oh, my. They are good.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
1-1/2 cup steel cut oats
1-3/4 cup rolled oats
2 tsp ground flax
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x8 glass pan with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper, and set aside. Mix oats through salt and set aside, then mix sugar through vanilla in a separate bowl. Combine with oats, stirring until all of the oats are covered. Add the chocolate chips and stir once again. Press the entire mix into the prepared pan and bake it for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for five minutes before cutting the pan into 12 bars.

And really, one bar is easily two servings because they're quite heavy. A nice, thick and oaty heavy, to be specific. Moist (hate that word), too. Probably because of the pumpkin. I keep mine in the 'fridge, which hopefully helps them last a bit longer than usual. Trust me when I say you'll want them to last as long as possible. They're that good. And they're super filling—I pop half a bar before my 6AM Circuit Sculpt class and will occasionally hit the other half before heading back to the gym for a later shift—and both times, I feel fueled for a few hours. Always the sign of a good snack, at least in my opinion.

Question: What do you consider to be the sign of a good snack?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Journey Bars giveaway! You just might win a combo box of 12 delicious and nutritious bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, November 19, 2010).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Contrast Training

Alright, guys. Time for a check-in: Have you been working out? On a regular basis? If not, no worries. I won't scold you. Rather, I'd like to inspire you because today is your day! Translation: It's never too late to start working out. To make your health and fitness a priority. And if you already are, well...kudos to you for living the fit life! Just remember that it's never a bad time to switch it, change it. Or rearrange it. So on that note, let's talk about something we fitness geeks refer to as contrast training. It'll A) help you jump start your workouts, or B) help you bust through a plateau.

Like supersets, contrast training is yet another trick of the fitness trade. Unlike supersets, the focus remains on one (rather than opposing) muscle group. Contrast training combines two exercises. One is muscle based, the other calls upon your nervous system. In other words, resistance versus plyometric exercises. Dig back to your human bio class and you might recall that the nervous system controls our ability to move. So when we do plyometric exercises, we're asking our bodies to react quickly to our desire to move suddenly. And so, the nervous system sends a message to the muscle, which consequently calls upon more muscle fibers to create action. Fast-twitch muscle fibers, to be specific, which are the exact same muscle fibers we use when performing resistance exercises.

Get where I'm going with this? So when we start with a resistance exercises and follow it with a plyometric exercise, we're essentially doubling the fun. Or the challenge, which might be a better way of looking at it. In the end, you're building strength and power at the same time. Something a lot of athletes really appreciate.

Not an athlete? S'ok. Contrast training tends to increase metabolic activity, too. As in, your metabolism...as in, your ability to burn calories.

OK, so you get it. But what combinations of exercises qualify as contrast training? Here's a list. Do one set of the first, followed closely by one set of the second:

1) Squats and Jump Squats
2) Chest Presses and Explosive (Fast) Pushups or Chest Passes
    with a Medicine Ball
3) Chin-Ups or Lat Pulldowns and Overhead Medicine Ball Slams
4) Walking Lunges and Sprints
5) Cable Torso Rotations and Sideways Medicine Ball Tosses

Really, this list is endless. So play around and find a few combinations that work for you. Try replacing one or two of your standard exercises with a set of contrast training exercises. And give yourself ample time to rest in between sets, you'll need it.

And if you need a little balance in your life, head on over to Healthy Living Blogs and check out my guest post on that very subject! So excited to be featured!

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Journey Bars giveaway! You just might win a combo box of 12 delicious and nutritious bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, November 19, 2010).


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