Thursday, March 31, 2011

EPIC FAIL: I cannot make almond butter.

When it comes to making almond butter, or any nut butter, I am an epic failure. I just cannot get it completely, totally right. Mild success, sure. It happened once upon a time. But the resulting concoction wasn't nearly as good as my store-bought favorite, so I wasn't completely satisfied. Tuesday night, I found mild success again.

Sort of.
Let's discuss...

When you make nut butters at home, you inevitably have to break out your food processor. I have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, shown at right. And can I just say_I love it dearly. However! I've come to realize that it isn't made for making nut butters. Not even small batches. For starters, the bowl is too small. If I put more than a cup of almonds in it, it can't keep up. And when you make nut butters, you have to let the processor process for a good 15 minutes at the very least. This little guy I have, you have to hold the button down to make it process. That's a lot of holding, m'dears. I've got other things to do. But I do love nut butters, so I've been sacrificing my time in the good name of nut butter experimentation. But like I said before, there hasn't been much solid success. Mini-Prep started smoking this time around.

I tried to follow Ashley's Roasted Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter recipe. I had some almonds, it sounded good. Why not?! Into the oven the almonds went, out they came and I was ready to fight the battle yet again. So I spooned in one cup of the almonds, started processing and simply just waited. And waited. And waited some more. It was chopping up nice and fine, but it wasn't coming together like a good almond butter should. And the Mini-Prep was getting rather hot to the touch. Ashley suggests adding some oil to bring it together, so I added olive oil. (It was either that or Canola, so I opted for the former of the two. It didn't affect the taste.) It seemed to work, but when I stopped processing, I noticed the smell of overworked electrics. And yeah, just a slight bit of steam (was it smoke?) coming out of the base. Lucky for me, it had come together decently enough. Well, enough to warrant putting it into a little jar for safe keeping. But I still had another cup full of almonds to process. I couldn't let them go to waste. So into Mini-Prep they went.

And this is when things just didn't work out for me. MP had enough, and it was basically refusing to work at a speed that would be efficient enough to continue. And so, I was forced to empty the contents of the bowl into a nice plastic container suitable for storing chopped up almonds of the Roasted Maple Cinnamon variety. I'm glad I saved them. They made for quite the delicious oatmeal topper yesterday morning:

Which, of course, smelled much better than the lingering burnt-out electrics smell. All of Mini-Prep's components are in the dishwasher right now, so I haven't tried it out since overworking it. Perhaps it's dead. I hope not. Lesson learned: Don't make nut butters in the Mini-Prep. It can't handle it. Needless to say, I'm now on the market for a bigger food processor. So if you have one that you're in love with, let me know. But speaking of being in love, I am absolutely head-over-heels for Ashley's recipe. The small batch I did get out of the fiasco made the fiasco itself completely worth it.

But I know for sure it won't last long, hence the need for a bigger food processor. I taste-tested Tuesday night, but got the full effect yesterday at lunch. Onto a piece of toast it went.

And, well. You know what happened next. Let's just say it didn't last long on that little white napkin I so artfully placed beneath it. Sigh...I need a new food processor, pronto! 'Cuz I'm gonna need another batch of this double-pronto!

Question: Have you had any success making nut butters at home? What food processor do you use?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Total-Body Workout (No equipment needed!)

A did a silly thing this week. I ate breakfast at the gym on Monday. Oh, I know. That's not silly. I do it a lot, actually. The class I teach ends at 7:00AM, so I use the hour in between it and my first client to plan for said client (and any other clients I have that day). This, in fact, is the silly thing I did:

I ate my oats in an almost-empty Almond, Peanut & Cashew Butter jar. Call me crazy. Sort of, I guess it's not that silly. But I did feel like I was eating straight nut butter for breakfast. As in, right out of the jar and into my mouth—don't lie and tell me you've never done that. (You haven't? Oh. Well...anyways.) When I was packing my breakfast, I noticed that there was but a single serving left. Forget the bowl, I'll make this super easy. And it was. In the mix above: Better Oats Raw Pure & Simple oatmeal, half a banana and a spoonful of Chia Goodness. And yes, the Chia Goodness tasted much better this time around. Sadly, so did the butter. But now it's gone.

Sometimes, we just have to go without. But not without exercise. Although you can forgo the exercise equipment. You might be traveling, you might not feel like going into a gym or you just might not have an assortment of toys at your fingertips. Whatever your reason for going sans equipment in a workout, it doesn't matter. You can still make it a good one with the single piece of equipment you will always and forever have: your very own body. I subbed a Cross Training class yesterday, implementing the no-equipment rule as best I could. It went well, so I thought I'd share it with you.

(NOTE: This class was built to fill a 60-minute time slot. Please remember to warm up and cool down. Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise, unless otherwise noted. Oh, and grab a towel. You might sweat a little. Just thought I'd warn ya.)

Lemme know how it goes. I love getting your feedback on my workouts. It helps me build better workouts next time around. And no, I didn't forget about that foam roller workout I promised you. It's coming, I swear. But first, I have a smoothie to discuss. Yesterday's lunch started off looking like this:

But ultimately ended up looking like this:

A nice, tasty and healthy Strawberry Carrot smoothie. Aside from the obvious ingredients, I threw in some flaxseed and wheat germ. (And I only used half of the yogurt.) As for the carrots, I ended up pulling out Jack (the juicer) but I imagine you could shred them and get the same effect. (Someone try it and let me know.) What you don't see: the tasty Sunflower Butter and Homemade Pumpkin Butter rice cake sandwich. So yum.

Question: What have you done with carrots lately?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Words can't express. Except when they can.

I am totally obsessed with Wordle right now.

I'll be the first to admit that I geek out over word play (it's the writer in me). But seriously, how fun is the jumble above? Wordle takes any website, or anything you type in, and creates a great little graphic of all the words. You can customize font, color,, it's fun. And if you think about it, a great way to create an inspiring little image. For example, you could Wordle your favorite song or poem. Or maybe a quote that speaks to you.

Here's another one of my Wordles:

Not quite the inspirational piece, as I just typed in all the exercises we did in Circuit Sculpt on Monday. I like to think it represents muscle confusion. You know, since we're always goin' crazy and changing it up in class. Anyways, if I don't stop right now, I will Wordle my day away. So that, dear readers, is your dose of fit. A simple reminder to have fun during and outside of your workouts.

Question: How do you make your workouts fun?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fun with Foam Rollers

I ran a six-miler this weekend. It was cold, despite the sun shining brightly. When you live by the lake,  temperature deceptions happen quite frequently. You look out and you think it's warm, but when you get out there, it's actually brrrrisk and the wind off the lake is brutal. Me and the wind, we fought it out this weekend. I ran into it the whole way, successfully crossing what I like to call The Scary Drawbridge.

Seriously, it frightens me even when I'm driving over it. You can see right through to the (dirty) river below, which leads right out to the (big) lake at left. It's high, and the railings are somewhat low. I summoned up the courage to stop and snap the following...

...and literally sprinted my butt across to the other side. I get the heebiejeebies just thinking about it. Literally, my whole body just shook.

Anyways. A few weeks ago, I signed myself up for some continuing education credits. It was a home study program from DSWFitness that focused on Foam Roller Fitness, which is a topic that I obviously didn't know much about. The extent of my knowledge: to use a foam roller is to self-massage tired and tight muscles. After I spent the last few weeks studying and reviewing (and playing with) all the materials I ordered—it's safe to say I now know foam rollers are for that and oh, so much more. Saturday night, I tested my newfound knowledge. Sadly, I missed one question. But that didn't prevent me from passing the course!

So now, I feel equipped to tell you how to use a foam roller. Let's start with an answer to the following: What can you do with a foam roller? Let me count the ways:

1) You can stretch with it. (Obviously.)
2) You can use it to improve your coordination and balance.
3) You can challenge your muscles in ways that also strengthen them.

Best part, anyone can use a foam roller. Yes, even you. That's the beauty of the foam roller, it's highly adaptable to any fitness level. It's also completely affordable, which is always a good thing when it comes to fitness equipment. The typical foam roller is priced below $30, usually around half that price. And if you take care of it, it'll last you a very long time. Believe it or not, there are actually a wide variety of foam rollers out there. I have the following:

The most common roller, of course, is the full version (far right) which tends to measure about 32 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. If you've never used a foam roller before, you might consider investing in the full version as well as a half version with a flat side (center). The half version will be a better place to start in terms of balance exercises, more on that later. Let's get back to what you can do with foam rollers.

You can stretch with foam rollers.
Ever hear of the Golgi tendon organ? It sounds science fictioney, but it's the part of your muscle structure that releases tension. When stimulated, it sends signals to your nervous system which eventually alert you to the presence of tightness in your muscle—which ultimately helps you relax your muscle in an effort to avoid injury. It's this organ that we target when we foam roll. For example, when you roll up and down the outside of your leg, you are looking for tension in the illiotibial (IT) band. If you were to find a spot that was particularly painful, proper foam rolling technique would call for you to stop on that point of pain for 20 seconds. This would further stimulate the Golgi tendon organ in your IT band, which in turn helps it relax (stretch). Make sense? Of course, you can also use the foam rollers as stationary objects meant to assist you in your stretches. Rolling isn't always required! If you were in a kneeling lunge position, perhaps pushing your hips forward to stretch your flexors, you might place the foam roller under your front foot to achieve an even deeper stretch.

Foam rollers can help improve your coordination and balance.
I mean, you've heard of those crazy log rolling championships. Right? Seems to be a big thing among the serious lumberjacks of this world, but really—they're on to something. Picture the foam roller as a log in the water. Could you stand on it? I bet you could, but on solid ground (of course). (We'll leave the crazy water stuff to the 'jacks.) It just takes some practice. And some serious coordination and balance which ultimately stems from the strength of your core muscles. I'd suggest you start with a half roller, flat side down. Once you can balance on it for 20 seconds, flip it over and see if you can balance on the flat side itself. Again, after you've mastered that for 20 seconds, only then would I progress up to the full foam roller. Once you find success balancing on the foam roller, various movements can enhance the challenge of balancing on the roller. Baby steps, though. Right?

Foam rollers challenge your muscles in a way that also strengthens them. 
As I previously mentioned, any coordination and balance work you do on a foam roller will stimulate those core muscles. Of course that strengthens them. But if you master the balance aspect of things, you can begin to introduce squats, medicine ball squats...really, there are a ton of different ways to strengthen your muscles on the foam roller. Expect another post on that soon, I promise. (I fear this post is already long enough, and I'd like to devote another to a complete foam roller workout.)

To conclude, I must note that whenever you do use a foam roller, take note of your surroundings. The same exercise will be different on a hard floor versus a carpeted one. Obviously it will be easier on the carpet which becomes a source of friction. Also, if you're standing on the roller, give yourself ample space in case you fall. But please, take care not to fall. Find yourself a spotter if you're at all nervous about the exercise. Oh, and—I love writing at coffee shops (even though I can't take the iMac with me)! This is why:

With that, I leave you.

Question: Do you own a foam roller? And just for kicks, are you studying anything fun and exciting right now? I always like hearing what my readers get into when they're not working out!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And the winner is...

Congrats! And welcome to the wonderful world of Greek yogurt! It's so much better than any other kind, at least in my opinion, and I'm so glad you're discovering that for yourself! I can't wait to hear what you make of the Chobani sampler pack. (Let me know if you love the Lemon as much as I did. I'm seriously craving it right now. And don't be afraid to use the Plain flavors instead of sour cream in select recipes for an instant health kick.)

I can't help but thank Chobani for such a generous prize donation. Truly excellent, and most especially delicious. Please don't despair if you didn't win, I assure you there's Chobani somewhere in a grocery store near you. If not, hunt for it next time you pay a visit to another town!

Moving along. I'd like to share with you the following poster (source), which dives into the world of calories. The all-important number on any food label, and a number we love to keep track of. Especially if we're trying to lose or maintain the poundage on our frames. Enjoy:

The Cost of Calories

Question: How concerned are you with calorie intake? Do you keep track of it? How?

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The other day, I spent some time researching a few behind-the-scenes things in an effort to better this blog. Oddly enough, I came across the following:

As a former cheerleader, you know I love it. And you know I believe that cheerleading is, in fact, a sport. I won't argue why, that's a conversation best left untouched (it never ends well). But I will stand up right here, right now to argue the point that cheerleading challenges the body. Precision and control are a must and only the strongest of muscles can maintain it from move to move. Not big, bulky muscles, but long and lean muscles. So, of course, that's why Cheerobics could be a great workout. Only in the UK, though. Which bums me out. (Remember the ladies of Fit2Cheer? I wonder how their program is developing...) Until this program comes stateside, we ladies (and adventurous men) will have to stick with things like Zumba. If you scoff at these classes, scoff no more. It's all cardio, all movement. But most importantly, it's fun.

Classes like Cheerobics and Zumba represent the numero uno reason I love the fitness industry so much. The creativity is infectious, new adventures are always available and therefore boredom is never an issue. So even if you're not down with Cheerobics or Zumba, I urge you to keep yourself abreast of the newest and greatest thing at your gym or in your area. Stray from the norm and try something different. You just might surprise yourself. I sure did surprise myself yesterday when I tried a new cereal for lunch.

Apple Cinnamon Almond Chia Goodness from Ruth's Hemp Foods. I thought for sure it was a winner, it had all the right ingredients. Chia seeds, raisins, apples, almonds and cinnamon. Eventually some almond milk, too. (Chia seeds turn into gel when combined with liquid, which in turn makes the cereal grow like those sponge animals you used to create from a pill and some water.)

I know, right? Looks good. I literally made a "this is gross" face when I took my first, second and third bites. I thought I might learn to love it, but alas—safe to say that I didn't. At all. But I'm not giving up on my purchase. I actually think it'll be good sprinkled over some oatmeal. That way, all that Chia won't be the main event. Just a sideshow full of flavor.

Question: What creative fitness programs have you tried lately? And further, have there been any foods that have disappointed you in your recent past?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a sampler pack of Chobani Yogurt! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Saturday, March 26 , 2011).

Friday, March 25, 2011

DOMS, and my attempt to cure it with juice.

DOMS = Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. I have it today. In fact, I've had it all week. My inner thighs and glutes are screaming something fierce, and I blame it on Sunday's 7-miler. Oh, and Monday's Circuit Sculpt class. (And maybe even yesterday's spin class.) No mercy! I show myself no mercy, and then my body does the same to me. I feel like an octogenarian whenever I try to sit down, but I honestly love that feeling. I take it as the sign of a great workout, that's for sure. But it's an annoying sign, nevertheless. I can't remember where, but I once read that cherry juice does wonders to combat DOMS. So I bought some (deliciously combined with pomegranate juice).

And then I consumed it. Verdict? It's quite the tasty treat, although I did dilute it a bit with some ice cold water. I don't much care for super-sweet beverages, and this definitely fell into that category. Whether or not it actually helped my sore muscles...well, the verdict is out on that one. Research indicates that it works, but according to the study I read, you have to consume a bottle of it twice a day for three days before exercise. And if you think that's too much, you also have to consume it for four days after exercise. That's a lot of cherry juice, right?

The good thing is that cherry juice is fairly high in antioxidants, as is pomegranate juice, so at the very least—you're introducing more of these disease fighters into your system. I'm not sure if that's ever a bad thing. Speaking of antioxidants, they just might fight inflammation. And so, this is part of the reason cherry juice seems to take a stand against delayed onset muscle soreness. But really, let's be honest. Despite all that good stuff, it's just tasty treat in liquid form. So why not drink it on occasion, right? Just make sure you get a pure version... that lacks any additives. Especially sugar. Boo to added sugar.

But really, when it comes to DOMS, there is truly only one cure: a little rest and relaxation. Listen to your body, proceed if and only if you can without pain. It's true, sometimes sitting still for too long can have a reverse effect. But when our body tells us it needs a break, it's always wise to take one. Push too hard, strain those muscles too much...well, who likes getting hurt? Not a single person. I bet a lot of you like scrambled eggs, though.

Jason (hubs) and I eat them often because A) they're cheap, B) they're versatile and C) they're full of protein. And I love (and need) me some protein. Yesterday's mix was quite interesting, and I feel compelled to share.

If you think you see peas in the mix, you see correctly. I mean, who eats peas in their eggs? Apparently I do, along with some chopped green onions and just a touch of fresh mozza cheese. And since I put black pepper on everything, into the eggs it went. Now, I ate this particular brew at lunch sans hubs. But if he were home, and if he had made the meal, you might find Sun Chips in your eggs. Yes, it's true. Those chips that come in the loud bags. In. My. Eggs.

I about died. He's an adventurous cook, that one.

Try the peas, please! You won't be disappointed.

Question: What's the strangest thing you've ever put into your scrambled eggs? And when you get sore, what's your go-to remedy?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a sampler pack of Chobani Yogurt! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Saturday, March 26 , 2011).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WIN THIS: A sampler pack of Chobani yogurt!

If you were to place me on a deserted island with five of my favorite things, you can be sure that I'd have me some Greek yogurt. And if that Greek yogurt was of the Chobani brand, I'd smile myself silly. Don't get me wrong, I am more than willing to express my devotion to a wide variety of Greek yogurt brands. But I repeatedly turn to Chobani because it tastes divine and is readily available. Somewhat expensive, that's true. But worth it, especially when you want yogurt that's good for you. You can imagine how excited I was to find this on my doorstep:

Jackpot! Count them, one...two...TWELVE cups of Chobani Greek yogurt in 12 different delicious flavors. When they said they were going to send me something to review, I expected a few coupons in my mailbox. Or maybe a cup or two packed strategically in some dry ice. Needless to say, I literally jumped for joy when I discovered the above. Aren't they so pretty?

Chobani Greek yogurt is, as I've said, one of my most favorite foods. The fat content in each cup is fairly low, the ingredients are all natural which means there isn't a preservative in sight. Also included in each cup—a decent amount of bone-building calcium, as well as the muscle-must otherwise known as protein. Oh, and some serious flavor that sometimes results from the addition of fruit. I know, I know...fruit on the bottom of a yogurt cup isn't always the best thing out there. I typically don't like it at all for a number of reasons (taste, sugar). But Chobani got it right. They really did, simply because they use real fruit that's been sweetened with just a touch of natural sugar. None of that HFCS stuff we've all learned to avoid (but sometimes can't, thank you food industry). And speaking of fruit, they've used it all. Think pineapples, strawberries, bananas...even mangoes and pomegranates. But if you prefer the simple style of yogurt, lemon and honey flavors keep it real. And the flavorless straight-up Greek yogurts work well in recipes. Check out the Chobani Kitchen for inspiration. You'll want to eat everything like I did in terms of the box above. Proof:

I do believe the Lemon flavor was my absolute favorite. The addition of strawberries and blueberries made it especially divine. (I wonder if I can achieve the same effect by squeezing some lemon juice into a carton of plain yogurt. Hm.) Next up, Pomegranate.

Served in a rush with a side of toast topped with peanut butter and homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam. I hate eating while I'm getting ready, but when you have to, you want something that's quick but tasty. I pack them when I know I have to eat at the gym, too.

Honey rocked my taste buds, and I honestly never thought of adding it to my yogurt. In this case, I've also added crushed peanuts and some Chia seeds, and I served it to myself with a side of banana.

What would you top your Chobani with? If you're my lucky winner, you'll get the chance to figure that out—Chobani has agreed to send one lucky Daily Dose reader a sampler pack much like the one you see above! To enter, leave a comment below telling me what flavor you'd like to try and what you'd top it off with. Please include your email address in case you win as I'll need to get your shipping info. Additional entries can be received by doing any of the following:

1) "Like" Chobani on Facebook
2) Follow Chobani on Twitter
3) "Like" Daily Dose on Facebook
4) Subscribe to Daily Dose

Just be sure to let me know what you've done, otherwise I won't know to count it! And unfortunately, the winner must be located within the continental United States. Contest ends at midnight EST on Saturday, March 26, 2011. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 27, 2011. Best of luck!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And the winner is...(plus a soup recipe and some link love!)

Congrats, Tammy! Can't wait for you to cozy up with some tea in your tea glass. Many thanks to Libre Tea for donating the prize. (You have been especially generous and for that I am quite appreciative!)

And now, you need to know about this cup of soup.

It's of the Broccoli Sunflower Seed variety, and it's incredibly delicious on a cold, rainy day. (It's been a cold, rainy week up here in Michigan. Yuck...I say YUCK to that!) The original recipe was posted on VegaliciousRecipes, but I made a few tweaks and eliminations to accommodate my own personal taste buds.

Broccoli Sunflower Seed Soup
1 lb. broccoli, loosely chopped
1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 Vidalia onion
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Cook the onions until soft, then add the broccoli and stir effectively. Add the chicken broth and the crush red pepper flakes, then bring the entire mix to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or so, then add the sunflower seeds. Continue to simmer, watch for the broccoli to soften. At which point you can use a hand-held mixer to blend things up a bit more. (I only did this for a few seconds because I like my soups on the thick and chunky side.) Add the yogurt and blend again, then season the entire concoction with the lemon pepper mix. Serve with a side of toasted brown rice bread smothered in almond butter and homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. (I mean, if you want to.)

Since the hubby was completely uninterested, I was able to eat off this soup for a few days and I absolutely never got sick of it! I've always loved broccoli soups, but they tend to come boggled down by cheddar—and I am absolutely not a fan of cheddar-based soups. No, siree.

However, I am a new fan of Gina's blog. Check out The Fitnessista if you like to read healthy living blogs. As a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, she and I have a lot in common and I'm looking forward to following her. She had me at "medicine ball in between your knees." When I read her post containing this move, I was reminded of its very existence as an awesome exercise:

Despite the slightly unfocused images, it's a real burnin' way to increase the intensity of your squats. Because really, how many squats can you do before absolute boredom kicks in? And just like cheaters, bored muscles never prosper. So try it. I'll be doing them in Circuit Sculpt on Friday, that's for sure! (If any of my Sculptors are reading this, don't say I didn't warn you!) Just place a medicine ball in between your knees, squeeze it with your legs, and proceed to squat as usual. Not only will it work your legs, it'll increase the effort put forth by your glutes and your inner thighs. And who doesn't like to keep those areas tightly toned?

Gina also mentions BodyRock in the same post. It's another website that I recently came across, and I've been keeping my eye on it for a week or two now because Zuzana posts some really awesome body weight exercises. Check it out if you need something new to do in your home gym. Or your outside-of-the-home gym. You bet I'll be rockin' my clients' bods with some of her moves!

Until then, It's Wednesday. We're halfway through the week and I've got another giveaway scheduled for tomorrow. Don't miss out on your chance to win...well, you don't think I'd honestly give it away, do you? Tune in!

Question: How do you stray from the norm when it comes to squats?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yes, you can work your entire body on a cable machine!

I'm really rather unmotivated today! Call it a serious case of the workweek blues, combined with a cold that seems to have come back to life. Sniffles and snot, oh my. It's only Tuesday, so I'm hoping it shakes off right quick. Seriously, I could curl up with a book and call it good for the rest of the day. But I can't because I'm stacked with clients this morning. One in the afternoon, too. And of course, there's you. My dear lovely reader anxiously awaiting their dose of fit. Happy to oblige, so let's get to it.

I love me some cable machine! Of course, I prefer free weights, but I hate getting bored. I know my clients do, too which is why I tend to mix it up from session to session. And so I jump from free weights to the cable machine quite regularly. It's so versatile, so forget bicep curls and triceps presses. Behold, an entire full-body workout! Try these moves, which I've organized by corresponding muscle group. Start with two sets of 12 repetitions at a weight that begins to burn around the 6th or 7th repetition. You can do it, I have faith!

1) Legs: Mock a dead lift and work your lower back, too. Attach a double-ended rope to a hook set to the lowest working point, then turn around and grab the rope in between your legs. Squat down with the rope in your hands, leaning forward to about 45 degrees as you would in a typical dead lift. Stand up, pushing your hips forward. And since you're holding onto the rope handles, the weight will come with you, ultimately creating more work for your legs. Just be careful not to give yourself rope burn on your inner thighs!

2) Back: Attach a straight bar to a hook set at the highest position. Grab it with both hands and walk yourself back to the point where your arms are out and up in front of you. With a soft bend in your knees, while keeping your chest up and back straight, pull the bar down toward the top of your thighs. This targets the latissimus dorsi muscle, which is the largest muscle in your back.

3) Chest: Sure, you can do cable flyes, but I much prefer single-arm chest presses because they engage your core a bit more. Just attach a single handle to a hook set at armpit level, grab it with one hand, then turn around so that you're facing away from the hook. Step forward with one foot to anchor yourself, then push the handle forward from the armpit while taking care to keep your chest from moving forward. Reverse and hit the other side when you're done.

4) Biceps: The typical response to biceps on a cable machine involves the straight bar, but I much prefer using two handles set at shoulder-height. One on each side of the machine, of course. With a handle in each hand and your palms facing toward the ceiling, your arms will be stretched out to either side. Curl them into your shoulders as if you were putting on a "gun show," making sure to keep your elbows up the entire time. You can also do this exercise with one arm at a time, which would simply force you to engage your core a bit more than before.

5) Triceps: Attach a double-ended rope to a hook anchored at head height. Turn around from the machine, then reach behind you and grab the rope. One handle in each hand, elbows bent into your ears, upper body bent forward to 45 degrees. Again, you'll want to anchor yourself with one foot forward. Extend your arms straight to the other side of the cable machine, relax and repeat.

6) Shoulders: Attach a single handle to a hook set at the lowest anchor point. Set yourself up perpendicular to the handle, with the handle itself in your outside hand. Place your inside hand on your hip for balance, then pull the handle straight out until your outside arm is parallel to the floor. If you think this is called a shoulder abduction, you'd be thinking correctly!

7) Abs: Attach a double-ended rope to a hook anchored at head height. Turn around and drape the rope across your neck and shoulders, sort of like if you had a towel around your neck, and firmly grasp the ends. Tuck your elbows down, feet hip-width apart and slightly bent. Crunch forward as you would if you were on the floor. You can do this same exercise in a kneeling position.

Of course, after you hit the weights, you should always stretch. But I need not remind you of that. RIGHT?

Question: What is your favorite exercise on the cable machine?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a loose leaf tea glass from Libre Tea! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Tuesday, March 22, 2011).

Monday, March 21, 2011

WIN THIS: A loose leaf tea glass from Libre Tea!

Well, we squeezed out seven miles yesterday. All before the rain hit, but we still felt chilled by the not-quite-warm-enough spring air. My mom and sister are training for a half marathon, and they will also be running the Shamrock Shuffle with me in a few weeks—it was nice to get some mother/daughter miles under our belt.

We so rarely get to run together. It's true that our paces are slightly different, but we generally stick together whenever we do run together. I usually have to scale it back just slightly, which I never mind doing. Especially this time, as I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to keep up given my recent bout of upper respiratory funk. But I did, and it felt great to get out there and check off a few more miles. (In my Nikes, not my Vibrams.) I probably could have, and probably should have pushed my pace a bit. But I didn't want to split us up. We were having too much fun running around Saint Mary's College (otherwise known as my former home for four years) and the University of Notre Dame.

Of course, running around the football stadium and then passing Lightpost 13 (the site of every tailgate we set up) had us craving a game. Much like the entire run had us craving a smoothie:

But if you've ever gone running in colder weather, you know that a warm beverage is really what you crave the most. All that cold air has a way of chilling you right to the bone. Even for hours after you've pounded pavement. So when I finally got home to my little place up here in Michigan, I turned to one of my trusty favorites. Green tea. And I brewed it in the loose leaf tea glass that Libre Tea sent me to review.

I have always been intrigued by loose leaf tea, but have never had the slightest clue how to brew it. That may sound silly, but it's true. I love green tea, so when they offered to send me some Organic Ming Mei green tea, I was elated. And anxious to give it a go. You all recall the benefits of green tea? Let's review: one cup of green tea has antioxidant levels equivalent to 22 vegetables. 'Nuff said, right? You can read that fact and more on the Libre Tea website. So why loose leaf green tea, rather than the kind you find in a bag? Smaller footprint. Better flavor.  And trust me, it really does taste better. I tore right into mine.

And so basically, you put the strainer on the cup, put the tea in the strainer and then pour hot water over the tea and into the cup. With the cap on, you tilt it upside down and let it brew for a few. Tilt it back over, remove the cap, and then enjoy! So easy. So warming. So good. And I'm SO giving one away! To enter, leave a comment on this post and tell me how you feel about tea. Do you have a favorite? Do you use loose leaf teas? Additional entries can be received by doing the following, but you must tell me you did them!

1) "Like" Libre Tea on Facebook
2) Follow Libre Tea on Twitter
3) "Like" Daily Dose on Facebook
4) Subscribe to Daily Dose via email

Please leave your email address so that I may contact you in the event that you win! Contest ends on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at midnight EST. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 23. 2011.

Best of luck!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When the hubby is away, the wifey will play!

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to keep herself entertained, right? Don't get me wrong, I'd rather the boy be with me. (He's in Chicago, perfectly content with what he is doing. Of that I am certain.) Even so, it's been a great weekend. The evidence:

Whenever I pay a visit to my parents, I always seem to leave with more than I arrived with. I can't figure it out. See above, and note that I drove down with the Vera duffel and the tan purse on the floor. Everything else: things left behind during previous visits, things purchased at stores I don't have near my own home, and sometimes (in the case of the brown purse on the bench) things gifted to me from my loving parents. I mean, look at all this stuff! It's a bit ridiculous, given our lack of storage space at the moment. But it's also quite fun.

I mean, obviously we made way too many wedding programs. Why I feel the need to keep them? No clue. But alas, I cannot part with them because I love them so. Maybe someday I'll have a daughter, and maybe she'll want to play wedding with them. Or maybe someday I'll finally realize that nothing is to become of them, at which time I'll toss them without a second thought right into the trash bin.

And yes, I did take a picture of myself in the mirror. Fun with mirrors! You know you do it, too.

REWIND! Einstein's was great. Remember my lack of interest in bagels? They've got these bagel thins, and they're super good. So good I didn't even snag a pic. Honey Wheat with low-fat Sundried Tomato and Basil cream cheese held me over for a few hours. Just enough bread, just enough flavor. Just enough goodness and love in my stomach. For dinner? Turchicken burgers on the grill, complete with fresh guacamole and a sweet potato.  But why, you might wonder, was I so dressed up? My favorite cover band was playing at a bar I hadn't been to in ages. Good times had by all.

And really, even when you're living the fit life and watching what you eat and do—you have to allow yourself some good times. Try not to get too bogged down by calories and crunches. Yes, it's important to keep track of these things, but do not under any circumstance obsess about them. In life, happiness is the very most important thing and to live a balanced life is to live a great life. Get your workout in, but get your playtime in, too. Always and forever.

Question: How do you get your playtime in?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to Pick the Perfect Exercise Band

Hey, hey! Who's excited that it's Saturday? Me, this girl right here. I'm in South Bend right now commencing my weekend with a bit of errand-running. First stop? The new Einstein Bros. bagel shop. I don't usually go for the bagels, but we'll see. I also have big plans for Border's. This 'ol friend of mine is closing up. So sad. Are you losing a Border's? Wherever will you buy your books? I haven't figured that one out yet. Perhaps I'll go to the little guy in my small, tiny town. It never hurts to support the little guy, right? And that's why I'm going to check out some small health foods stores in South Bend, too. Mom reminded me of one I haven't been to since I was little. Fingers crossed for most excellent foodie finds! I also have to get some new makeup, and...well, I won't bore you.

On to more pressing matters: EXERCISE BANDS! I know, right? So exciting. It's OK if you're laughing at the sarcasm because deep down—I know you know they're downright awesome. Also, they happen to be the one piece of equipment that should be in your home gym. They are so, incredibly versatile it's almost ridiculous. But you have to get the right kind. I've had bad bands before. My own personal collection is quite bland right now. HA! Bland bands...

I do most of my training at the gym, and we have some fairly awesome bands. They look like this:

This is what you might call an Xertube, and you can find them online at a variety of different places. Many fitness professionals shop at SPRI, and I think it might be one of the resources we use at the gym. One tube'll run you around $10, but you can often find sets at the store for a much cheaper single-unit price. And quite often, those sets come with a DVD or handy little storage bag. But you can't just buy any 'ol band and expect it to work the way you want it to. There are things to be considered, friends!

First, take a look at the handles in the picture above. Note that the handles are padded, which doesn't really make a difference but is a nice little bonus. Now focus on the way the band attaches to the handle. This connection should always be extremely secure. It should not provide any room for slipping whatsoever. Slipping bands are annoying, and they mess with levels of difficulty. Speaking of difficulty, you'll need more than one band as different muscle groups require different resistances. And different bands offer different resistances. Consider getting a Light, Medium and Heavy band. And if you plan to step on them (for biceps curls or squats with a shoulder press), consider getting one with a sleeve. Your shoes can dig into the rubber, subsequently ripping the rubber which renders the entire thing useless. And a useless exercise band doesn't do anyone a single ounce of good. But if you don't want to spring for the sleeve, just keep an eye on your bands and purchase new ones at the slightest indication of wear and potential tear.

Now, you might be wondering why my own personal bands don't have handles. Handles make everything a bit more comfortable, but that's not to say I can't do handle-specific exercises with mine. I can. I just have to get a really good grip first. Let's be honest—I prefer the version with handles. But I make do when I have to.

Aside from the handle factor, there are also a wide variety of styles out there. From Amazon:

While these are all very fun to play with, I am of the belief that anything you can do with these can be done with one of the two models above. You just might have to tie a tight knot to achieve the full-circle effect. Don't ya think? I do. I also think these homemade wheat thins are downright tasty.

I know, completely off the topic at hand but very worthy of a mention. I love me some wheat thins, but I don't love the ingredients included in the boxed variety. This is obviously a welcomed change. And once again, I got the recipe from Angela at Oh She Glows. Girl has got some serious skillz in the kitchen!

And now, I'm off to run those errands! I love running errands! (Does that make me weird?)

Question: Do you own exercise bands? What is your favorite way to use them? And for giggles, I'd also like to know what your favorite cracker is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eight Ways to Make a Healthy Salad

I ate the last of my Siggis yogurt yesterday. Blueberry, but now it's gone. My sad face is not. At least I still have a few freebie coupons left. So until we meet again, dear Siggis. Until we. meet. again.  (She says, as her head drops and her frown deepens. It's true, she almost shed a tear! But not is, after all, only yogurt.) (Only the BEST. YOGURT. EVER!) Thankfully, Chobani yogurt is all too willing to step up to the plate. Love me some Chobani! But I digress. This post is not about yogurt. (Although, if you stay tuned, I have another yogurt-centric giveaway scheduled. It's still my blog birthday month, dontcha know.

Hello, gifts for you!)

This post is about, among other things, salad. Because who doesn't love a great salad? They're like the epitome of fit-tastic eating! Except when they aren't. Not all salads are created equal, we must remember this. When you visit the salad bar, which I'm prone to doing quite often, you have to really think about what you're putting on top of your lettuce. In fact, you have to think about your lettuce! Before I get into that, take a look at yesterday's lunch.

Now, I can't speak for your grocery store, but mine puts out the most fantastic salad bar complete with pudding and pasta salads, and an entire fleet of other delectable yet dangerous foods not worth eating. I tend to stick to what's fresh. Case in point, my plate above. Ingredients? I thought you'd never ask. Mixed greens, grilled chicken strips, one hard-boiled egg, green and red pepper slices, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, black olives, peas, sunflower seeds, Chia seeds and freshly ground black pepper.

Oh, and strawberries. Can you find them in the picture above? It's like the edible version of Where's Waldo?. Remember those books? I loved them so much when I was little. They'd entertain me for hours and hours. And sometimes they'd make me really mad if I couldn't find him fast enough. That's the lack of patience in me. But anyways, back to making salads. What follows are eight ways to make a healthy salad. (From my own experience, of course.)

1) Don't go it alone with the Iceberg. While it's not bad for you, it's not the best lettuce out there in terms of nutrient count. Mix it up with a little Romaine, perhaps some red leaf. The deeper the green, the more you'll get out of it.

2) Forgo the dairy. As in, cheese and/or creamy dressings. As much as we love these things, they contain a lot of fat. If I'm desperate for cheese, I'll sprinkle some Feta across the top. Just a hint! But I almost never crave a creamy dressing. I much prefer splashes of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3) Keep your dressing on the side, if at all possible. You'll be surprised at how much you DON'T need. Dip your fork, then spear the bite. Or vice versa. It's up to you.

4) Think in terms of color when adding your veggies. The more colorful your salad, the wider variety of nutrients you'll be getting. And, quite frankly, the more filling your salad will be.

5) Don't forget the protein! Beans, beans—the magical fruit! Seeds and nuts work, too. And there's always eggs and chicken. But don't, under any circumstance, go with fried chicken strips. CALORIES! I realize that some of you like to eat bacon (not me), so if you do, try to pick the freshly cooked kind. Bacon doesn't come in a bottle.

6) Skip fruit, but add fruit. Let me explain: If you want something sweet in your salad to balance out all the flavors, go for the fresh fruit. Not the dried fruit, as it can be loaded with sugar. Aside from strawberries, blueberries and mandarin oranges are nice. As are melons and apples.

7) Add flavor with seasonings. I never eat a salad without black pepper. I've been known to add garlic powder, too. Really, anything goes. Seasonings add hardly a calorie, but they can add sodium. So make sure there isn't any hidden salt in your favorite before you shake it on.

8) Choose your carbs wisely. Angela of Oh She Glows makes a nice salad topper worth trying, or you can serve something like the following on the side:

Two brown rice cakes with equal parts butter of the Trader Joe's Almond and homemade pumpkin variety. Yummy in my tummy. Really, so good. Just do your best to stay away from those curly noodle things, or the fried tortilla strips. Never a good carb.

With that, I must leave you. It's Friday, which means the weekend is here. Just gotta get through one short morning shift at the gym, and then it's on. This weekend? Off to South Bend again. Looking forward to running errands with the mother, and literally running with the mother and sister and auntie as well. 7 miles. It should be interesting, given the recent pause in training due to the annoying cold. Which, by the way, is worlds better than it was.

Question: What are you doing this weekend? And what's your favorite salad topper?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Ironic Delivery

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Are you wearing green? I am, but it's really not masking my red throat. It hurts so bad! And yes, I realize how dramatic that sounds. But it really does hurt and I can't stand it. Nor can my body as it's currently protesting my daily efforts by taking away all possible amounts of energy. Needless to say, I did not make it through my Wednesday. I left the gym around 10:00AM, before which I completely cleared my schedule.

After which, I came home and promptly plopped myself onto the couch to watch the last half of Paris When it Sizzles. It's an old Audrey Hepburn movie, obviously I'm a huge fan. (I die for Breakfast at Tiffany's every time.) I am not, however, a huge fan of taking medication unless I absolutely have to. In an effort to prevent the increase of whatever virus I've picked up, I took a 24-hour cold pill that still hadn't worn off when I got home. So I couldn't take anything else. Nor did I really want to. But I did, however, get this lovely (and absolutely ironic) delivery in the mail.

Have you ever heard of AllYou? It's a magazine commonly found at the check-out in the grocery store. It primarily targets women, but they offer up free samples every day on their website. And since I'm human, I love getting freebies. I think you might, too. Man or woman! So a month ago, Emergen-C  was the freebie. Ironic that this lovely little mailer came yesterday. The day I got sick. Right? Double ironic that a fellow trainer recommended I get my hands on some. You know, because of all the Vitamin C it can offer up. So, needless to say, I dove right into my 1,000mg of Vitamin C right quick. (Well, with a little hesitation. The word "fizzy" isn't a descriptor I commonly apply to my beverages of choice, and I was worried it would taste like chemicals. But I digress...) The pour:

The results were actually quite tasty. Not the slightest hint of chemical, and it was super cold which felt really good on my scratchy throat. Now, I realize that the benefits of taking Vitamin C are argued to be unproven, but it can't hurt me. According to WebMD, the highest recommended dosage is 2,000mg—which I am nowhere near with this 1,000mg packet. And even if it can't cure my cold, it will help my bones and muscles. So that's a bonus. As always, you should talk to your doctor before taking any vitamin- or mineral-based supplement. Only they can truly tell you if it's worth it. One thing I can tell you: Athenos Greek yogurt is not worth your money.

I was super excited to find it at the grocery store a few days ago because A) I love their hummus and B) I love Greek yogurt. But I am not a fan. I really am not. Let's take a closer look at the ingredients.

Boo to the sugar and corn starch. And what, exactly, is "natural flavor"? I don't know. I always try to avoid these ingredients when I pick up yogurt, because with them, yogurt so quickly turns into a dessert. One thing's for sure, it certainly looked good.

It tasted good, too. But that's not always a good indicator of something actually being good for you. I do suppose, however, that there are worse things you could be eating. Regardless, I think I'll stick to my Siggi's.

Perhaps the extra Vitamin C, too.

Question: Is there one ingredient you try to avoid at all costs? And what's your take on Vitamin C in relationship to the cure for the common cold? Believe in it, or do you turn to meds?


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