Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010! (...and ten ways to make a good resolution)

December 31, 2010. Here we are, I suppose. At the very end of our dear friend 2010. It's that day where all of us, from here to there, gather to celebrate another year gone by. Some of us put on fancy clothes, others fall asleep soundly in anticipation of a new beginning. Most of us contemplate that New Year's resolution, and I think pretty much all of us gather around a television at some point to watch that famous ball drop in New York City.

Did you know that only eight balls have dropped in Times Square since 1908?

The current ball weighs in at about 12,000 pounds and has been employed since 2008. Oh, and there are roughly 32,000 Waterford crystals on it. Yeah, actual crystals.  Can you imagine? It must be amazing up close. Also amazing—those who make AND KEEP their New Year's resolution. Such a great idea, really. Setting goals for a new year. To make them last for a month is usually fairly easy. 12 months? Generally unheard of. I thought I'd give you some tips since, well...most resolutions have something to do with fitness.

1) Be realistic. Don't aim too high or reach too quickly. It's a surefire way to find failure fast.

2) Be specific. Don't just say "eat healthy" or "go to the gym." That's just common sense. Resolve to
    execute portion control, to get more veggies on a daily basis, to hit the gym twice a week for 30
    minutes or to run a marathon. Create a solid goal that you can visualize yourself achieving.

3) Write down your resolutions, proclaim them to your best friend or significant other. When a goal is
    constantly in front of you, or when someone else knows it, you can't help but be accountable for
    your efforts to achieve it.

4) Revise and edit. Keep track of your efforts to achieve your resolutions and goals. If things go well,
    take the next step. If things aren't going well, ask yourself why. Step back and change things so that
    you CAN achieve whatever it is you want to.

5) Believe in yourself. Whatever it is you aim to do, believe that you can. If you don't, you're
    essentially setting yourself up for failure before you've even begun.

6) Don't let pitfalls and setbacks negate your resolutions. In other words—don't ever give up. One step
    back, three steps forward. I promise.

7) Don't make the same resolution as last year. Choose something different. Oh, can be related.
    But make sure you are challenging yourself with new goals. You know, so you don't get bored.

8) Reward yourself for a job well done. If you reach a goal or make the positive change you've been
    aiming for, let yourself know how proud YOU are of YOURSELF. It'll make achieving your next
    goal that much easier.

9) Take it seriously. Make it more than a fun thing you do on New Year's Eve just because everyone
    else is. Really, truly dive deep within your mind, body and soul and decide what it is you'd like to
    change or improve upon. You're worth it.

10) And finally, for every serious resolution you make—come up with a fun one. Why? Because
      everyone deserves to have fun. Especially you.

Speaking of fun, enjoy yourself tonight. Throw confetti and down some champagne in celebratory joy. Pretend you know the words to "Auld Lang Syne" and sing "watermelon" at the top of your lungs. At that point, no one will know the difference. (Trust me, I do it every year.) And if you can't find someone to kiss when the ball drops—who cares. Give yourself a hug, then chug another sip of bubbly. It's NYE, baby! And you've had a great year.

Question: What is your New Year's resolution?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Aunt Dawn's Spinach Pie

It seems as though I am on a spinach kick! Christmas day, we gathered at Jason's Grandma Mary's house for food, family and fun. I was all too thrilled to see a delicious-looking spinach pie on the buffet table. Aunt Dawn made it, and she was kind enough to share her recipe. (Thank you, Dawn!) And so I'll share it with you! Why? Because it's quite simple to prepare. Oh, and well—all of the ingredients are good, and there's really only a few of them! They combine in minutes, creating a light and tasty treat well-suited to any fit life lunch or dinner. Behold, the end result (followed closely by the recipe):

Aunt Dawn's Spinach Pie
4 or 5 tortilla shells
1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup Feta cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a shallow oven-safe dish with tortilla shells, brushing each side of the shell with a touch of olive oil. (Dawn used a pie pan, which means you could possibly get away with using a giant burrito shell as well. Feel free to use corn tortilla shells if that's what you like better.) Bake in the oven until the shells begin to crisp. They will start to brown a little. In the meantime, combine the spinach, tomatoes and Feta in a bowl. When the shells are done, remove the pan from the oven and fill it with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, as much (or as little) as you'd like. Bake for an other ten minutes or so, until the spinach begins to brown from the heat. Remove the pie from the oven, cut and serve. And of course—enjoy! 

Question: What is your favorite healthy non-dessert pie-type recipe? Let me know in the "Comments" section, and feel free to send the recipe to—you might see it featured right here on this 'ol blog someday!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Expect Great Things (...and eight easy stability ball exercises)

A wise man (Michael Jordan) once said that "you have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." Given his success on the basketball court, he must know what he's talking about. And I tend to agree with him. We live in a society so quick to judge, so quick to uphold certain standards—so quick to expect things from others. But yet, we aren't so quick to point the finger at the person we see in the mirror. And no, I'm not talking about your friend that might be standing next to you. I'm talking about YOU.

Sure, we all want to be healthy and fit. But what wanting boils down to is simply nothing more than longing, which doesn't amount to much action. If any. You have to expect ("to regard as likely to happen") certain levels of health and fitness from yourself—only then are you holding yourself up to a personal standard, and only then are you calling upon yourself to answer. Because, let's be honest, do we really want to let ourselves down? When we know we have to be our healthiest and fittest, when we know it's entirely possible, that's when we have to take action. Because it's within reach. So why let it slip by you?

To believe in your ability is to believe that you can. And to believe that you can is to actually do whatever it is you believe in. Make sense? It should, especially when it comes to your fitness. No matter what you've done in the past, and I may sound like a broken record, but it's never too late to start working out. It's totally worth it, you're totally worth it—and you can TOTALLY do it. Expect that of yourself, and consider starting with the following workout.

All you need is a stability ball and a set of appropriately weighted dumbbells. And maybe a bottle of water (those always come in handy when you're working out. Start with two sets of ten repetitions. Add reps as needed, but only until you reach 15 repetitions. At that point, you'll need to add or increase your weights.

8 Easy Stability Ball Exercises
(...and by "easy," I simply mean that they're good for beginners. Believe you me, they will certainly challenge your muscles.)

1) WALL SQUATS: Position the ball against the wall so that it fits into the curve of your back. As you press your back into the ball, position your feet hip-width apart and slightly forward so that when you squat your knees remain behind your toes. Squat until your feet are bent to 90 degrees, keeping your chest upright the entire time. Return to standing and repeat. (Works: Legs)

2) CHEST PRESSES: You'll want to position the ball underneath your shoulder blades to get maximum support for your head. Keep your glutes tight, creating a 90-degree bend at your knees and a straight line from neck to kneecap. Hold the weights, one in each hand. Bend your arms to 90 degrees and take them out to your side, right along your bustline. Press up and lower from here, never letting your elbows drop below your bustline. (Works: Chest, Abs, Glutes)

3) REVERSE FLYES: Lie face-down on the ball, positioning right underneath your chest. Bend your knees to keep yourself from rolling from side to side. With a weight in each hand, curve your arms around the ball. Palms facing in. Lift and lower your arms, keeping that nice curve the entire way, never going beyond parallel with your back. (Works: Back, Shoulders)

4) SEATED ABDUCTIONS: Have a seat with a weight in each hand. Arms at your side, straight, and with palms facing in. Lift and lower your arms straight out to the side, contracting your abs the entire time to help you stay stabilized on the ball. (Works: Shoulders, Abs)

5) SEATED HAMMER CURLS: Position yourself as above, curl the weights into your shoulders while keeping your palms facing in the entire way through. (Works: Biceps, Abs)

6) SEATED TRICEPS PRESS: Same position, hold a weight above your head with both hands. Keeping your elbows next to your ears, lower the weight behind you before extending the arms toward the ceiling. (Works: Triceps, Abs)

7) CRUNCHES: Lie on your back with your legs up on the ball, knees bent at 90 degrees. Your thighs should be perpendicular to the ground. Press your lower back into the ground, place your hands behind your head with your elbows out to the side. Keeping your elbows out there, lift your face up toward the ceiling by contracting your abs. Exhale at the top of the move, just when the shoulders are about to come off the ground. Relax and repeat. (Works: Abs)

8) LEG DROPS: Lie on your back with your legs up toward the ceiling. Position the ball between your feet, then put your hands underneath your glutes. Contract your abs as you lower the ball until it's about halfway to the ground. Return to start and repeat, keeping your chin tucked into your chest the entire time.

And there you have it! I wish you the best of luck...and if you get bored with this routine, send me an e-mail. I'd love to provide some additional options as you advance. There are so many ways to play with the stability ball. All of which can be completely effective in a fitness routine!

Question: What's your favorite stability ball move?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer

If you know me at all (and many of you do), you know that I consider fruit to be Mother Nature's candy. Equal parts delicious and nutritious, it really goes above and beyond the call of duty in the fit life. (The same could be said about vegetables, although we don't always consider them to be a sweet treat.) When we got to Spring Lake (Jason's hometown) on Thursday, Lory (Jason's mom) almost immediately directed me to an enormous basket of fresh fruit that they had received as a gift. Of course I was more than willing to help them eat some of it, and I did indulge in a banana and apple or two over the weekend. But it wasn't until Sunday morning that I really, truly experienced the fruit basket.

Gary (Jason's dad) has a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. Have you seen the infomercial?

Honestly, the infomercial doesn't lie! It really, truly does work that easily. And it certainly creates a delicious juice filled with vitamins, minerals, etc...etc. Minus all the high fructose corn syrup and other unnatural additives, which makes any glass of juice from this thing a great post-workout snack. Since I was post-workout, you can imagine how excited I was to get started. Our first combination:

Yep, carrots!
I wasn't sure what to think of this combination, but they assured me it was a winner so I rolled with it.

And I'm glad I did because it was absolutely, positively delicious. I never knew fruit juice could taste this good. And the carrots—I'm now wondering if my mixer would be able to chop them up into a smoothie-like consistency. Or maybe I should just get a juicer and start throwing the juice into a blender with some yogurt and a banana.

After I downed this small taste of juice, we moved on to other combinations. Orange, apple and pineapple. Orange and grapefruit. Pineapple, grapefruit and orange. They all tasted so good! And the few sips here and there filled me up quite nicely. Best part? Minimal cleanup. This is the only goop left of an apple, orange and that small handful of baby carrots:

It probably measures out to about a cup, take a little. And if you're a smart baker, you know that this stuff can sometimes make an otherwise unhealthy recipe that much healthier. Juicer bonus!

Today's lesson? Juice is good...when it's good. Be careful of your post-workout juice choices as those found in the store can be far from fresh, far from natural and far from sugar-free. Fruit is already filled with natural sugar, so there isn't really ever a need to add more. That's how juice manufacturers stray far from the fit life. Always choose as naturally as you can. When in doubt, just eat the fruit. Or juice your own like we did.

Thanks, I mean...Gary for the delicious juice! I look forward to juicing with you again next time we head on up. I'm thinking we need to try some papaya. Maybe something crazy like a starfruit. And we should definitely use more veggies.

Oh, and in case all of you readers are wondering who Jack LaLanne is, I did some research and found out that he is apparently the "Godfather of Fitness." Also a chiropractor and bodybuilder. We can thank him for the leg extension machine, cable machines and weight selectors. All of which he was the first to create.  Bonus fact: He was 61 in 1975, and at that age he was able to swim the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, California. Doesn't seem that cool? Did I fail to mention that he was handcuffed, shackled AND towing a 1,000-pound boat? Yeah, I know. If you don't believe me, you can click here for an entire list of his accomplishments. No wonder he's got the best juicer your money can buy. Well, at least in my opinion.

Question: Do you have a juicer? What's your best combination? If you don't have a juicer, what would be your first combination if you bought one? And finally, how do you incorporate fruit into your fit life?

Monday, December 27, 2010

EcoTrek Fitness

When Christmas rolls around, we tend to lose ourselves just a little bit in all the appetizers, cookies and spirits. So when it officially passes us, we crave one of two things: post-Christmas sales and some fitness.

I didn't really hit the sales yesterday, but I did squeeze in a most excellent workout.  I met up with Cari Draft, owner and creator of EcoTrek Fitness. What is EcoTrek? A 75-minute workout that incorporates cardio, strength and stretching. Big whoop, right? Wrong! EcoTrek takes you off the beaten path (literally) to achieve each of those three key things in a truly awesome workout. Think sand dunes, hidden trails, the beach...basically all that Mother Nature has to offer. Equipment? Well, all that Mother Nature has to offer. Plus a resistance band.

And maybe some YakTrax if there happens to be snow on the ground. There obviously was on Sunday, but I rocked my old running shoes sans Trax:

I didn't have time to purchase any, although now I totally want to. I can see how they make any winter adventure that much easier. And also safer, as I think they add a significant amount of traction to your shoes. I did alright without them, but I lost just a bit of confidence traipsing down a few of the bigger dune hills. Speaking of which, here's but a glimpse at my EcoTrek session. In case you're wondering, it took place from 8:00AM to 9:15AM at PJ Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon, Michigan. (Most of her EcoTrek sessions take place is western Michigan, so if you're in the area, look up the schedule and participate! You won't regret it—that's a promise.)  The photos:

Let's start at the very beginning.

We followed Cari along Homestead Trail for a while, stopping only for some side bends at the top of a hill before continuing on along the deer tracks and other tiny footprints in the snow. We eventually ended up on the beach.

We stopped to use our exercise bands for some bicep curls. When not in use, they remained tied around our waist, although for some reason, mine kept coming undone. Guess I need to learn how to put more muscle into my knot-tying skills.

Regardless, I kept on. We followed Cari along the beach for a bit before taking on some serious sand dunes on our way to what she called a "marshmallow and brown sugar" view.

I absolutely agreed with her, and it was here that we did a few yogalike stretches for our backs. There's just something so peaceful about working out in nature. I mean, is there anything more inspiring than the view above? At the very least, it makes you realize that the temp is a bit chilly. That your toes are starting to get super cold and that you really want nothing more than a hot shower and some coffee. That, of course, is what keeps you moving steadily throughout the rest of the workout. And move we did.

We continued to follow Cari through the park, stopping here and there for some additional work with the resistant bands, until we reached the end of our journey.

I wanted to take more pictures of everything that happened and everything I saw, but I didn't want to get all paparazzi on a group of people I barely knew. (And I didn't want to slip and fall down the side of a dune, more importantly.) I'm sure they were already wondering who the girl with the camera was—it's me, just another fit life blogger documenting blogworthy things. In the end, I truly believe that EcoTrek is an awesome workout. I completely enjoyed it, despite the cold, and look forward to one day Trekking again.

Cari: Thanks for giving me a great post-Christmas workout, and thanks for the goodie bag! So glad we finally got a chance to meet!

Question: Have you ever been an EcoTrekker? If not, have you done anything like this in your hometown? I'd love to know!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And the winner is...

Heather! Congratulations on such a delicious win! You will love "Heather's Healthy Mix." Please send me an email with your contact information before Wednesday at midnight EST with your mailing address so that I may forward it to the fine people at Me & Goji. Many thanks to all of my participants, and I'd especially like to thank Me & Goji for donating a cereal capsule. Congratulations to you as well, Me & Goji. I see that you were #25 on the Guidewire Group's Innovate! 100 List of outstanding and fast-moving startup companies from around the world. I can't honestly say that I know who the Guidewire Group is, but that really doesn't matter. Such an awesome accomplishment!

And since I'm on a roll with all the celebratory brouhaha...

I'd like to wish Lance, dad a very happy birthday. Don't let the number on his jersey fool you, he's celebrating the big 5-0 today! But he's a young 5-0, really. Give him 50 miles to ride, he'll tack more on at the end. Quite inspiring, his pedaling.

So I raise my water bottle to you, pops.

Here's to 50 more years of life. To more laughs, more bike races and finally, to a few more bottles of wine consumed with great friends and family.

With that, I'm headed out the door. We've been in Spring Lake for a few days now, and I'm very excited to meet up with Cari of EcoTrek Fitness for a beachside workout. She's a personal trainer in the area and a fit life blogger, too. We've been in contact for quite some time now and yet, we've never met! Check in tomorrow for all the details.

Question: Will you catch a post-holiday workout today?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

I'll keep it short and sweet today. My hope is that you've found yourself surrounded by your family, maybe even a few friends. My other hope is that Santa Clause was good to you. Whether you've been naughty, nice or a combination of deserve something special on this day of days. Even if that something is nothing more than a decadently decorated sugar cookie. As you celebrate the season, indulge in a Christmas feast, unwrap presents and chime in on all the carols you know and love, it's my hope that you won't forget the true meaning of Christmas. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Question: Get any fit-tastic presents from Santa?

Friday, December 24, 2010

I am completely relaxed.

Do you have any recurring injuries? I honestly don't, but I get this nagging soreness in my right shoulder. I don't consider it a recurring injury because there isn't any pain, and it goes away for weeks on end. But it always comes back and it usually does so after a hard day's work at the gym. That's why I think it has everything to do with the muscles and tendons surrounding my rotator cuff and not my rotator cuff itself. So I dig in there as best I can in a mad attempt to loosen things up and I stretch it out over and over, but I can only do so much. A professional masseuse I am not—but Jason's aunt Cindy is! And she's a good one, too.

Let's back up for a second. Exactly one month ago today, I turned a very magical 30 years of age. In honor of this, my in-laws gifted me an hour-long massage with Cindy. Oh yes, was I ever excited. This would be (believe it or not) my first massage ever. Yes...EVER. The only snag in the plan is that Cindy isn't in my hometown. And so, since we'd be heading her way for Christmas, I got on her calendar. And I have no regrets about that. Absolutely no regrets.

It's safe to say that I'm hooked on massages. Geeze, did she work me! And it felt so good. Especially on that wicked right shoulder I told you about. Soft music, essential oils, comfortable blankets, dark lighting...the perfect recipe for a mid-afternoon nap. And yet, I couldn't fall asleep. It's not that I couldn't relax, I was just completely interested in everything that she was doing. So many tricks to getting this muscle or that one to relax! She does this thing where she puts one hand on my foot and the other on my hand, pressing down ever so gently to the point where it totally and completely relaxes that side of my body. I don't know if that's the reaction I'm supposed to have, but that's what happened. She stretched me out a little too, which felt lovely. Lucky for me, one hour turned into almost two. I walked out of her office feeling like Jell-O. Unlucky for me, I apparently have some nasty knots in my right shoulder that still need some kneading. SIGH...guess I'll have to get another massage at some point. Woe is me. Hopefully it can be with Cindy.

Aunt Cindy, not Cindi-Lou Who.

Cutest cartoon character ever, right? It's Christmas Eve. Have you watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" yet? Or maybe you prefer "It's a Wonderful Life." Regardless, I hope your holiday is off to a magical start. May your family surround you, may the spirit of giving inspire you. And remember, Santa really likes cookies with sprinkles. (Don't forget to leave a carrot out for Rudolph.)

Question: Ever get a massage? Tell me about it.

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Me & Goji giveaway! You just might win a cereal capsule containing the ingredients of your choice. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 24, 2010).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One-Word Answer

I was on the elliptical the other day, flipping through an old issue of InStyle, when I came across an interesting article...well, it was more like a quarter-page blurb: "Instant Analysis: My fitness routine in one word." It proceeded to quote a series of random celebrities, all of which had given their one-word answer to the topic at hand. Here are a few examples from the magazine:

In case you might be wondering, Ashley Greene is best known for her portrayal of Alice Cullen in the "Twilight" series. (I had to look her up myself, so don't feel bad.) The other two, pretty sure you've heard of them as they've been around for quite some time. While most of us can relate to Christina's "obsessive" fitness routine, I can only imagine how intense Serena's must be given that she is Miss Queen of All Things Tennis.

Contemplating these words, I started thinking about what my own would be—I had a very hard time coming up with just one! As a writer, I tend to geek out on all things word so I went a little crazy. Behold, my top three:

1) CONSTANT: As a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, I am constantly in the gym. Therefore, I am constantly working out. I snag about five workouts a week, two of which are my Circuit Sculpt classes. The other three, they're my own personal workouts that I squeeze in before my morning shifts start. But it doesn't stop there. Because I'm working with people, because I'm leading group fitness classes, I really don't ever stop (though I do control the extent to which I exert energy, which prevents me from overloading). And on the other hand, I hate missing a workout so I'm constantly on the ball with my fitness schedule.

2) FUN: You already know that I geek out over words, but I also geek out over new and exciting exercises. As you can imagine, trying out said new and exciting exercises makes for a really fun fitness routine. On top of that, I genuinely just enjoy working out. Maybe I can attribute that to all the people I've come to know at the gym. They make it fun to spend time there, which makes the workouts go by quickly.

3) VARYING: "Switch it, change it...rearrange it!" When I went to cheerleading camp years ago, we'd chant that as we moved from station to station. Today, I'm chanting it (not literally) every time I plan a workout or fitness class. I hate getting bored, and I keep myself from getting bored by constantly updating my fitness routine. Sure, I have my favorite exercises, but I never do them in the same order.

And so, there you have it. My top three words. But, alas—I can only have one. So I pick CONSTANT. Because I'm constantly in the gym. And when I miss a workout, I get all discombobulated (totally geeking out over that word, too).

Know what else is constant in my life right now? Cookies. 'Tis the time of year to bake up a storm and I have certainly been doing just that.

And as I type, I've got Mint Oreo Cupcakes cooling on my kitchen counter. Ironic, no? Me...a certified personal trainer and health nut in the kitchen creating that which is the epitome of "not good for you." SIGH. You win some, you lose some. Thankfully, I am exercising serious restraint. A nibble here, a bite there won't kill me. But if I over nibble or overbite, well...that's when I get in trouble. And that's what I keep telling myself. (Tell yourself that, too. Just for me. And just because it's that time of year when we all tend do over-eat just a bit here and there.)

Question: What single word describes your fitness routine

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Me & Goji giveaway! You just might win a cereal capsule containing the ingredients of your choice. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 24, 2010).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I frequent a few fit life blogs on a regular basis. It's nice to see what my peers are doing, and I am genuinely interested in what they have to say. And sometimes they have a lot to say about the Green Monster.'s not a scary cartoon character, even though Oscar the Grouch comes to mind (at least that's what comes to my mind). It's actually a smoothie that's been appropriately named by Angela at Oh She Glows for it's monstrous level of nutritional value. What's in it? Spinach!

Sounds gross, right? I've been intensely curious about the Green Monster for quite some time, though I haven't quite worked up the courage to try it. Until yesterday, that is. I ended up raiding the salad bar at Martin's on my way home from the gym yesterday. I was craving something super nutritious and this concoction immediately came to mind. So I packed a perfect little container full of fresh spinach...

...grabbed a few more things, then I hit the road for home. I couldn't help but wonder if I was about to seriously gross myself out. I mean, I love smoothies. But spinach in a smoothie? I wasn't sure about that, despite the fact that my fellow fit life bloggers seem to love it. It couldn't be that bad, right? Turns out, it isn't. Green Monsters are actually quite delicious! And according to the official Green Monster website, they can be made in a variety of different ways. Essentially, you're just adding spinach to your smoothie. You all know why spinach is a good thing, right? Tons of vitamins, minerals and fiber. All of which we need in our diets. I mean, if Popeye likes it, then it must be good.

I used the following recipe, which Angela thinks is fool proof. And I think it's a great base for just about anything else you'd like to throw in. It makes enough for about one full glass, which is a healthy dose (if you ask me).

Angela's Green Monster Smoothie

1/2 tbsp ground flax
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 banana
1-1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup ice

Place the ingredients in the blender (except for the ice) in the same order they are listed above. This weighs everything down, which ultimately helps everything blend together as one. Blend until smooth, then add the ice. Now pour and enjoy! 

Aren't smoothies just the easiest meal to make? I'd have one every single day if I could...oh wait, I almost do. It's usually either that or a salad for lunch. And according to the friendly guy that bagged my groceries yesterday, I make a really nice salad. You be the judge:

Just looks like a bunch of veggies to me, crazy guy. (He was so particular about me NOT messing it up in the bag that he showed me exactly how to hold the bag so as not to cause spillage. Funny stuff. Thanks for the tips, guy.)

Question: Do you put spinach in your smoothies? If so, what do you blend it with? If not, what's your go-to smoothie ingredient?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Me & Goji giveaway! You just might win a cereal capsule containing the ingredients of your choice. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 24, 2010).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Does healthy food make you hungry?

If you're anything like me, you do your best to eat the healthiest foods possible. We all know why this is a good thing so I won't get into the details. However, I would like to talk about the concept of healthy eating and why some people think it makes us hungrier. I recently discovered an article, "When Healthy Food Makes You Hungry," that discusses this very thing. And there is, after all, a scientific study of the same name that seems to solidify this idea. So maybe it's true. Let's talk:

The study's author suggests that the underlying root of the issue is healthy eating versus eating healthy. In other words, giving value to healthy eating because we want to versus eating healthy foods because we have to. When we put value on the importance of establishing a healthy eating routine, we care about the choices we make and so—we make choices that both please and sustain us. When we eat healthy foods, we might only be doing so because they happen to be the only thing available. And at that point, we risk picking nourishment without acknowledging satisfaction which leads us to come back for more—more of something that might not be so healthy—an hour or two later. To quote the article, and to further explain this issue:

The idea, of course, is that "people assume that healthy food is less fulfilling or satisfying and thus eating healthy food conflicts with satisfying our appetite." That said, if we choose to eat healthy food and value healthy food over the bad stuff—that idea is fairly quickly proven wrong because healthy food is both delicious and satisfying. Am I right? Today's lesson: Don't just eat healthy, WANT to eat healthy. Then you won't be so concerned with what you're missing out on because you'll have a better understanding of why exactly you're choosing to miss out. And you might not overeat later.

Conquer that, and you'll surely conquer the gym. Just sayin'.

I am also sayin' right here/right now that I have some of the best clients a personal trainer could ask for. When I was at the gym yesterday, the delivery man handed over a box from Harry & David. Much to my surprise, it had my name on it. I thought to myself—it's probably some delicious fresh fruit. That's what comes to my mind when I think about Harry & David gifts. Oh man, was I ever wrong:

Holy goodness and love in my mouth full of chocolate deliciousness! Sweet box of goodies, I love you! Isn't this fantastic?! Now, what I love about it the most is that it represents healthy eating with a touch of fun. These particular clients of mine are truly healthy eaters, and they're in the gym three times a week, but clearly they know it's essential to leave room for some treats on occasion. Now, it's up to me to maintain the "on occasion" aspect of that thought. Do we trust me with an entire box of chocolates? No, we certainly do not. This'll be a huge exercise in moderation and in discipline. I can do it. I can do it...after I have one truffle:

Good thing I know a thing or two about staying fit and active, eh?
Dear client, if you're reading this, I thank you much.

Question: Does healthy food make you hungry?
REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Me & Goji giveaway! You just might win a cereal capsule containing the ingredients of your choice. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 24, 2010).

Monday, December 20, 2010

WIN THIS: A custom cereal capsule from Me & Goji!

'Tis the season for gift-giving, so I've decided to roll from one giveaway right into another. (Lucky you!) So let's get right to it: it's time for breakfast. What do you eat for breakfast? Me, I like cereal. When I was a kid, my cereal choice often depended upon the prize inside the box. And if there weren't any good prizes out there, I'd go for Lucky Charms or Alpha-Bits. Sometimes even Boo Berry, and if I really wanted to rot my teeth—Fruity Pebbles. (What is UP with that funky after taste?) These days, my choices are a bit more refined. As in, a bit more healthy and well-suited to the fit life. Nine times out of ten, I reach for oatmeal. But recently, I purchased a cereal capsule from Me & Goji.

I love Me & Goji! With all the different cereals on the shelf, picking a healthy one (that you actually like, too) can be a huge headache. Added sugars this, super carbs that. Preservatives and etc...etc. Not so with Me & Goji. You get exactly what you want every. single. time. because you customize your own brew with "energy-packed, nutrient-dense whole foods straight from nature, not chemists." I picked the following:

Each ingredient boasts "health-enhancing weapons, a bullying history of beating down free radicals and invigorating legends of age defying properties."And if that doesn't entice your taste buds, then I give up! Oh, also—you get to name your mix. I named mine "A Daily Dose of Cereal" for obvious reasons. It's oh-so good with a splash of skim.

Now, when I was little, nothing beat getting down to the end of the box and finding that ridiculously cheap toy you play with like, time before forgetting about it. So at the bottom of my capsule, I found this:

 A dried goldenberry! How cool is that? Who knows what you'll find at the bottom of your cereal capsule. Yes, that's right. The guys at Goji are willing to give one Daily Dose reader a custom cereal capsule complete with the ingredients of your choosing. If you want to win, head on over to Me & Goji and build your mix. Then, come back here and leave me a comment with your list of ingredients and what you'd call it. Bonus entries if you "like" Me & Goji and Daily Dose (if you haven't already) on Facebook! All entries must be received by Friday, December 24, 2010 at midnight, EST. The winner will be announced on Sunday, December 26, 2010. G'luck!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And the winner is... (plus, your inner thigh)

Congratulations! Your mailbox will soon be filled with a small package that contains a running shoe necklace from Fashletics—trust me, you'll love it. And I love that your expression of strength and badge of honor is your body, despite the fact that it isn't "perfect" or thin. That mentality is truly helping you be your strong and healthy best and I urge you to continue thinking that way. (Lesson of the day, dear readers!)

To Sarah at Fashletics—thank you for sharing your products with us!

Now, let's get to your Daily Dose. Today's topic: your inner thigh muscles. Ever wonder how to target them specifically? It's really not as hard as you think, and totally worth doing. These muscles help with pretty much any activity that involves your legs as they work with your outer thigh muscles to flex your hip this way and that, so it just makes sense to keep them as strong as possible. My favorite way to hit 'em? Grab a body bar. It looks like this:
Lie down on your right side, legs and hips stacked, right elbow bent to support your upper body. Bend your left leg, placing your left foot on the ground behind your right knee (or calf, depending on your flexibility). Place one end of the body bar over the arch of your right foot. Hold the other end steady on the ground with your right hand. Now, just lift and lower that right leg, keeping it straight with a flexed foot. You should feel your inner thigh muscles contract. Complete 12 repetitions, roll over, then work the left side before returning to your right side for a second set of 12 repetitions.

No body bar? Try wide-leg squats with your toes pointed out. Hold a weight for added resistance. You can also find the inner thigh machine at your gym—they're pretty common, so yours should have one. (My gym has two!) You can also attach an ankle strap to a cable machine set low to the ground. Stand with your inner thigh facing away from the cable machine, leg slightly in front of the other. Balance on the opposite leg as you pull the attached leg away from the machine. You'll feel it, I promise. (No cable machine? Use a band! Create a loop on one end, tie a knot in the other and slam it in a door. Proceed as directed to with a cable machine.)

Now go, enjoy your Sunday! (Come back tomorrow for something truly delectable!)

Question: Did you work out today? Have an inner thigh exercise that I didn't mention, tell me about it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Are you on a diet?

From Atkins to South Beach, Weight Watchers, Clean Eating and everything in between—the diet industry is booming large and in charge. (And consequently, so is the food industry. More on that later.) Every diet out there claims to be the one for you, and they all promise weight loss. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on these diets (or any other diet out there). Let's be clear that I'm not a dietitian or a nutritionist, but I do know a thing or two about eating.

Combine that with my personal training experience, and I feel confident in my ability to help you decide which diet is right for you. However, let me be clear on one thing—I don't think any of you really need to be "on a diet." I do, however, think all of you need to focus on healthy eating. Clean, healthy eating. That's really the best diet out there, unless (of course) your doctor tells you otherwise. The diets I mentioned above...all tools, all resources that try and teach you the proper way to eat. They can help, but there are certain things you need to ask yourself before beginning any bookshelf diet:

1) Will I be getting enough calories? How does this diet cut calories? Do I even need to be cutting calories? Calories are pretty heavily emphasized. It's what we all immediately turn to whenever we talk about our diets and losing weight. "Cut the calories...gotta cut the calories...that's too many calories for me!" Familiar statements, right? Well, let it be known that we all need a certain amount of calories to simply exist, and then our activity levels affect how many calories we need above and beyond that. So make sure that any diet you take on accommodates those numbers. Otherwise you run the risk of being malnourished. Which, as you know, leads to a whole slew of other issues. Not sure how many calories you should be taking in? Read this: "Eating enough? Four signs you might not be."

2) What foods can I eat on this specific diet? When it comes to any diet out there, the quality of the food you "get to eat" is always important. Any diet you devote time to should focus primarily on healthy eating. Not supreme restriction or total devotion to one food group (or food brand). Most of us need a healthy, balanced diet and making major cuts in food groups can sometimes affect the "healthy, balanced" aspect if not done properly. So those Fast Food diets you hear about? Not good, even though people lose a significant amount of weight. Because really, how healthy can they be at the end of the diet when all they've taken in is, well...a whole lot of nothing in terms of nutrition.

3) Does the diet push exercise? It should. If it doesn't, then you're missing out on half the story in your healthy eating/weight loss book. They go hand-in-hand, and any legit diet knows that. 'Nuff said.

4) Is there anything that makes me go "hmmm"? There shouldn't be. Good, makes-sense diets are as natural as they come in terms of processes and foods. You shouldn't have to do anything extraordinary or eat anything really weird to find balance in your diet. HCG drops under the tongue...hear about that diet yet? If not, don't worry. HCG is essentially a hormone that pregnant women produce. I don't know about you, but the very thought of putting that under my tongue makes me gag a little. It doesn't matter how much weight people seem to be losing with this method, it's just downright odd. And it most certainly makes me go "hmmm".

5) What's the proof? Whenever you read about a new diet, or if you consider going on a certain specific diet. Research it. Don't just go on the Internet. Talk to professionals. Your doctor, first and foremost. Maybe a nutritionist or dietitian. Just talk to someone and get the real scoop. Find out whether or not the diet is the real thing. And certainly ask about the success rate once the diet is done.

Based on the above, I really believe that the smartest diet out there is the common sense diet. And by that, I mean clean eating. Smart eating. Normal eating. I know those three descriptions offer room for differences in definition, but really—just eat healthy. Watch what you eat, it's really not that hard! Journal it if you have to. Really, just focus. Educate yourself on what's good, what's bad in terms of all that food out there. And always, always seek the help of a professional—your doctor will ultimately know what's best for you, so always value their opinion over anything else you read out there.

Oh, and—exercise. A diet isn't a diet without some exercises added in for flavor.

(Don't forget to check in tomorrow for the results of my Fashletics giveaway!)

Question: What crazy diets have you tried? And how did you learn what works, what doesn't work for you? Essentially, I'd like to know how you tackle the diet aspect of your fit life.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funny Gym Ads

So I've been running around like crazy for the past few days, just trying to get everything done before the holiday hoopla commences. I spent all of yesterday afternoon shopping for presents, and today I'm in the kitchen baking. Think cupcakes and cookies, and consequently sugar and flour all over the place. Try as I might, I just can't keep it clean. And I really can't focus on much of anything else. It's Friday, and life is crazy busy. But you have to smile through it all because, well...that's life. And life would be boring if we never took the time to smile. Or laugh. Maybe even chuckle. So I give you this, one of the silliest gym advertisements I've seen in a long time:

Oh, Crunch. Always pushing the limit. And yeah, sorry about that—the freeze frame image kinda gives it away. Check out the "Farmer" and "Frankenstein" versions, too. (Sadly, I wasn't able to embed them so you'll just have to click through...and really, you'll want to click through.)

Question: What's the last advertisement that made you laugh out loud?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Fashletics giveaway! You just might win a hand-crafted running shoe necklace. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 17, 2010).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Muscle Memory

When I was little, I loved Memory. It was a Milton Bradley game that involved matching identical cards, but the cards were all face-down throughout the game. You got to flip one card per turn, and if you could remember where the matching one was, you got to keep the pair and flip again.

If they didn't match, you had to put them face-down again before memorizing what was on the card and where it was on the table. The images were all basic—lightening bugs (shown above), rabbits, hearts, owls and such. And I loved it. Little did I know, it was an educational game that worked my brain as much as it worked my ability to stay occupied and entertained. I can still remember what it felt like to spread out those cards across the table, and I can still remember what a lot of them looked like. That's the beautiful thing about the brain. It remembers—and our muscles do, too.

Muscle memory is the reason you can pick up right where you left off. That is, if you've been out of the gym for a bit. Sure, it might be harder at first. And that's because your muscles have weakened a bit over time, but you CAN remember EXACTLY how to perform whatever it is you've got lined up. Aren't I right?

Let me back up: We move because our body can communicate with itself. The motor units in our brain send a message to the body part that needs to get moving, the body part moves and it, in turn, sends a message back to our brain to confirm the action. This entire loop takes place within our nervous system, ultimately creating a series of active pathways otherwise known as our most common movements. They essentially become automatic. We learn, we perfect...we ultimate move our muscles without having to think too hard about them. And that's how and why they remember their workouts from session to session.

So why is this important? It trashes the whole "well, it's been too long so why start now" excuse. It hasn't ever been too long, so get back out there! You might be rusty, and that's OK. Your body will bounce back into action soon enough. Heck, you might even surprise yourself—it could feel really, really good to get back into a fitness routine. Scratch that. It WILL feel really, really good to get back into a fitness routine.

As you do so, you'll reap the benefits of having more energy, burning more calories and generally just tightening and toning your overall physique. That's never a bad thing. And even if you haven't skipped a workout, muscle memory is still important. It keeps you moving from exercise to exercise which ultimately makes you more efficient at the gym. Elsewhere, too as it keep your muscles "on their toes" so to speak.

Make note, however, that the plateau is muscle memory's biggest enemy. Stay on top of your fitness routine to avoid running through your workouts on autopilot. Constant change produces muscle confusion. Contrary to what it sounds like, that's a very good thing. It essentially means you're continuously challenging them with new and exciting exercises (that they, of course, can learn).

Speaking of autopilot, I know the holidays are looming ahead of us and things are getting really super busy—do your best not to rush through your workouts at this time. Stay focused, work hard. Your body will need it the most over these next few weeks. (Especially with all of those Christmas cookies on the table.)

Question: Is there a time in your fit life where your muscles came through for you even though you didn't think they would "remember" how to? 

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Fashletics giveaway! You just might win a hand-crafted running shoe necklace. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 17, 2010).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The intenSATI Workout (and little red dots)

The latest issue of SELF plugged the following workout:

The intenSATI method is apparently not a new method, but I'm clueless. I'm also wondering if I could make it through a class without feeling slightly embarrassed about the whole chanting-of-the-affirmations thing. Isn't that weird of me? Despite the communications degree, the twelve years of cheerleading and the fact that I teach fitness classes—there is something a little nerve-inducing about it. Which is totally NOT what an intenSATI class is all about. On the contrary, it's supposed to be freeing. Physically and mentally empowering, actually. "This practice leads participants to deliberately inform their subconscious mind with thoughts of success, well-being, love and faith while at the same time proactively creating a healthier and stronger physical body," reads the official intenSATI website. Perhaps it's something I'd have to just try out. At the very least, it looks like a fairly intense physical workout.

I've been crankin' on the abs in my own workouts. Tuesdays and Thursdays with cardio. I always jump on the ab straps, which are essentially harnesses for your arms. They're quite similar to those shown in the image at right. I tuck my knees up and/or to the side while keeping them bent or straight depending on the intensity I'm looking for. It really, truly clenches your entire abdominal group, though it does put some strain on your upper body. Ab straps aren't the most comfortable thing to hang from, but they get the job done so I endure. Apparently, I endured them a little bit too much today. It's the only explanation I can find for the following mystery.

See all those tiny little red dots?! What the heck?! It's obviously from my iPod armband, which looks like this:

I can only assume the ab straps created some sort of friction that my skin couldn't handle. Otherwise, I've been invaded by aliens of some sort because, seriously...WHAT THE HECK?! I had no pain whatsoever, didn't have a clue it even happened until I was having a conversation with someone and they pointed it out. Maybe I'll just get out a red marker and play connect-the-dots in an effort to rock a tribal tat until it heals. Or not. Who knows how many shades of red and purple it'll turn. Good thing I'm wearing a ton of longer sleeves these days.

With that, I'll leave you.

Question: Have you ever had any issues with your armband, that is...if you have one? And, what are your thoughts on intenSATI training? Would you participate?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Fashletics giveaway! You just might win a hand-crafted running shoe necklace. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 17, 2010).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Five Shoulder Press Variations

Despite the fact that we aren't exactly in tank top season, you should still be giving your shoulders some much-needed love at the gym. Specifically, your deltoids. More specifically—your anterior (front), middle and posterior (rear) deltoids.

In reality, the shoulder joint is quite prone to injury. It's not built to be a weight bearing joint, but we do call upon it to support weight. Like when we lift heavy boxes or push up off the floor. So it only makes sense to work your shoulders at the gym. And by "work," of course I mean stretching and strengthening.

Let's talk specifically about strengthening those shoulders. Most common move? The shoulder press: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hold a pair of weights in your hands. Bend your arms into your shoulders and end with your palms facing away from your chest. Keep your elbows in tight to your sides. This is your starting position. From there, press the weights up toward the ceiling—make sure you never let those weights move behind your head. Lower and repeat.

Lucky for you, there are multiple ways to vary the shoulder press which keeps you AND your muscles from getting bored. Check it out:

1) Alternate the standing press, taking one arm up toward the ceiling at a time. This is called unilateral
, and it's a great way to make sure both of your shoulders are equally strong.

2) Rotate your hands so that your palms are facing your chest, then proceed as if you were doing the
    standard shoulder press.

3) Channel your inner ref and signal a touchdown: Start with your palms facing each other, then press
    the weights up and down from there.

4) Start with your palms facing your chest, then push the weights up toward the ceiling on the
    diagonal. You'll essentially create a Y with your body.

5) Start with your palms facing your shoulders, then rotate your palms to face away from you as you
    push the weights toward the ceiling.

Other exercises that work your deltoids: front and side shoulder abductions, Y shoulder abductions, bent flys...and really, any exercise that works the chest, back or arm muscles typically calls upon your deltoids in one way or another. Although at that point, the deltoids become secondary muscle groups, which is why you need to be sure to include deltoid-specific exercises. So...go! Grab those weights or hit the gym! Get your "daily dose" of fitness and make it a shoulder workout! (And don't forget to enter my Fashletics giveaway!)

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Fashletics giveaway! You just might win a hand-crafted running shoe necklace. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, December 17, 2010).

Monday, December 13, 2010

WIN THIS: A necklace from Fashletics!

Sarah at Fashletics sent me the sweet little piece of jewelry you see above. It surely is a running shoe, and she hand-crafted it out of solid pewter. Fabulous, right? And how great is her "Live. Love. Lift." tagline? They're words that represent the fit life, for sure. Sarah hopes that "when you wear Fashletics jewelry, you will be reminded of your hard work, your physical and mental accomplishments, and the community of athletes and friends that are behind you every step of the way." And I hope you know that I, too am behind you every step of the way.

Lucky for you, Sarah is willing to send a running shoe necklace your way—just in time for the holidays! What could possibly be a better gift for yourself than a piece of jewelry that happens to be "an expression of strength and a badge of honor"? You'll want to check out her entire collection, for sure. You never know what you'll find for that fit person on your list of people that need presents. From keychains to kettlebell necklaces...

...she's got it all, and it's all wonderfully priced.

And so, let's get right down to it. If you'd like to win the running shoe necklace just like the one Sarah sent me, leave a comment below and tell me what your current "expression of strength and badge of honor" is. "Like" Daily Dose (if you haven't already) and Fashletics on Facebook for extra chances to win. Contest ends at midnight on Friday, December 17, 2010. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Sunday, December 19, 2010. Best of luck!


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