Monday, February 28, 2011

I go GAGA for good exercise.

Welcome to a new week, dear readers! It's Monday, and that means we've got five days of life ahead of us before we get yet another two days of rest and relaxation. Not to discourage you, I'd rather like to inspire you! Try and use these next five day sin your future to the best of your abilities. Go to work, work hard, punch out and fill your nights with equal parts fitness and fun. Emphasis on the fitness, of course. And really, fitness can—and should!— be fun.

To get you started off on the right foot (figuratively speaking, of course) I thought I'd offer up five good exercises. Perhaps you'll find a place for them in your routine this week.

1) STABILITY BALL ROLLOUT: Work your core muscles, particularly your abdominals with a giant stability ball. Kneel on a mat, place the ball in front of you. Put the palms of your hands together, place them on the top of the stability ball in front of you. (Your arms should be straight, and you should be kneeling upright.) Exhale as you roll forward, pushing your forearms along the ball and your hips toward the mat. Pause before overextending your back, then exhale as you roll back to your starting position. If you can't fully extend your arms to create on straight line with your body, don't worry. Work up to it. Just remember to contract your core muscles the whole way through the activity.

2) STABILITY BALL SQUEEZE, CURL AND LIFT: This is a small move that really targets your glutes. Lie down on your stomach, hands on the ground underneath your forehead. Squeeze the ball in between your ankles behind you, then bend your legs to 90 degrees. Keeping your legs bent toward the ceiling, contract your glutes and press your heels up toward the ceiling. Remember, this is a small move. I promise you'll feel it.

3) WALKING LUNGES IN REVERSE: I know it sounds goofy, but if you've been doing waling lunges on a regular basis, doing them in reverse could really challenge you in a new and exciting way. Particularly in your core muscle group, as the reverse action will feel somewhat unnatural and will therefore require some additional support in the balance department.

4) REACHING STRAIGHT-ARM PLANKS: A regular straight-arm plank is good, but there are ways to make it even better. Sometimes, all you have to do is move your hands into a new position. Like, say...a step forward to make it feel as if you were reaching. If you try this method, remember that you still have to keep your body in one straight line. Meaning, you can't let your hips sag.

5) TRICEPS EXTENSION ON A BENCH: You've all done standing triceps extensions, right? The exercise that requires you to hinge forward from the hips at a 45-degree angle? I love this exercise, but when the weights get heavy, it's really easy to cheat by simply straightening up a bit. You can eliminate the temptation to cheat by lying down on a bench.

So there, try those on for size and let me know what you think.  I think they're all pretty great! And with that, I must leave you. This girl right here is headed into the city for a Lady Gaga concert. If I told you that I was excited it would truly be an understatement. She's crazy, but I've always respected her artistry and therefore I can't wait to see it in person. I'm sure it'll say the least. Of course, I'll report back to you on my experience.

Oh, and—a trip to Whole Foods (maybe even Trader Joe's) is on order. I'll be staying in the suburbs, and of course the suburbs of Chicago are blessed with these two great destinations. (Unlike my small beach town.)

Question: What types of fitness activities do you have planned for your week ahead?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the winner is...

The gods of have chosen Lauren! And Lauren—you'll soon receive your sampler pack of Ayala's Herbal Water. I am certain you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Many thanks to the rest of my participants, and to Ayala's Herbal Water for donating such a flavorful thirst-quencher. (Do try and find it at a store in your hometown. You won't regret purchasing a bottle or two!) Let's get back to Lauren for a second. She was actually the only known entrant to follow Ayala's Herbal Water on Twitter and it got me thinking...

Question: Should I be using Twitter? Do you tweet? Would you follow Daily Dose on Twitter? Or is Facebook enough? Let's discuss.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to Work with a Personal Trainer

Whenever I talk to people about personal training sessions, they inevitably ask me this one thing: How does it work? And really, the answer is very simple: It's totally up to you. While that sounds contradictory—isn't a trainer supposed to control things?—it's the honest truth. We personal trainers are here to assist you, and to hold you accountable. And the job we do depends largely on your goals and your schedule. You tell us what you want, we'll do the rest. Well...most of it. You still have to lift the weights. And you still have to eat right. But most importantly, you have to commit—we'll always be ready and waiting for you. That said, there are a few specifics you'll want to think about when you meet with a personal trainer.

1) Know your schedule. (And your budget.) Personal trainers are often very flexible when it comes to scheduling training sessions. We like to be there for you, and we like it when you show up. Think about your daily routine, think about it long and hard and know exactly when (and for how long) you'd be available to train. It's about you, not your personal trainer. So decide for yourself what time is a good time. And determine how frequently you'd like to meet each week. Often this depends on your budget. Don't despair if you can't meet more than once a week for financial reasons. We personal trainers are good at hunkering down in our sessions with you. We can give you a good workout while actively planning for your solo workouts. Or for our next workout together. Back to the time issue: whether it's for one hour or half of and hour, a good personal trainer will always make the best of your time slot. Don't you worry about that!

2) Define your goals. There is a reason you want to hire a personal trainer. Decide that for yourself before you meet with one. When your personal trainer knows your main goal, they can help you break it down into easily achievable mini goals that keep you motivated to continue. Clearly communicating your goals to your trainer will also help them create targeted, specific workouts just for you.

3) Don't hide your body. No, I'm not suggesting you wear skimpy workout gear. Rather, I am suggesting you divulge your medical history with honesty. If you've got a shoulder injury, or if something hurts mid-exercise, don't hide it. Tell your trainer you've got an issue. This prevents further injury, and also allows for even greater customization of your workouts.

4) If you don't like something, or want to try something new—speak up! A personal trainer wants nothing more than to keep their clients motivated and having fun. So if you're bored with something, don't like a particular exercise for whatever reason, or even if you're interested in trying something new you've seen in the far corner of the gym—speak up! We trainers don't set our workouts in stone, and we're always willing to modify accordingly. (Provided the modification isn't asked for out of laziness.)

5) Ask questions. Ask for help. Don't get an exercise? Can't complete a move? Ask questions, or ask for help. We are here to assist you. You are ultimately paying for our expertise, so don't be shy!

6) Never forget the honesty policy. This stands true in terms of your goals, the weight you're using, the weight you are or are not losing! If you hide truths from your trainer, it will affect the quality of your workouts. Don't tell your trainer you're eating right if you've just consumed five slices of pizza. Tell them you're having trouble with your diet so that they can give you some advice that might get you back on track. It all ties together. Most importantly, be honest about the weights you're using at the gym. While a trainer can be good at guessing it, only you can truly determine if you're lifting the right weight. Cheat by using something lighter because it's easier, and you'll really just cheat yourself out of advancement toward your goal.

And since we're talking about being honest, I should probably admit to you that I've just consumed a piece of candy. It was Raspberry Licorice, which I die for every. single. time. This time, I blame it on my parents. They were just down in Florida for a wedding, and Mom happened to find herself a nice little health foods store where she picked up the following snacks for moi:

Some people like tschotskes, I like food. Back to the honesty part of this conversation: I dug right into one of the Raspberry Licorice treats without much hesitation. But first, you should know the following:

That's not something my typical Twizzlers can claim, which is why I dug right in. (Wouldn't you?)

So good! Notice how it isn't Crayola red in color. It almost looks like fruit leather. Tastes like it, too. Like real raspberries. As much as I love me some Twizzlers, they really don't compare. Oh, AND—14 grams of sugar. Love it! Tune in tomorrow to find out if you won the sampler pack of Ayala's Herbal Water!

Question: Are you currently working with a personal trainer? How frequently, and what has the experience been like?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Yesterday, I told you that my place smelled like pumpkin and spices. Today, that amazing smell is gone. I am bummed, but I've accepted it mainly because I am now enjoying the TASTE of pumpkin and spices. A far better option, at least in my opinion. And no, I didn't make a pumpkin pie. Or pumpkin bars, because we all know those are strictly for November birthdays. I did, however, make an excellent batch of Pumpkin Spice granola:

I've been craving granola lately. Don't get me wrong, I am still mildly obsessed with oatmeal. But sometimes a girl wants a cold and crunchy bowl of goodness at the start of her day. Although this particular girl gets nervous in the granola aisle at the supermarket. So many options, so many calories if you buy the wrong bag. And really, it's just as easy to make your own. Seriously, it took me five minutes to mix up the ingredients. Longer to bake it, but it's not like you have to sit there and watch the oats get crunchy. The bowl above is dry, but it held up perfectly well when I added a touch of skim.

I should have added some 'nana slices. A single banana in a bowl of cereal is fairly deluxe in every case. Next time. The recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Granola
5 cups oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper if you have it, otherwise any non-stick cookie sheet'll do. Mix the oats and spices in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar through vanilla extract. Add to the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined. Spread the resulting concoction across the cookie sheet, then bake for 20 minutes. Stir, then bake for another 10 minutes or so. Or until it looks nice and crisp. (Warning! This stuff burns easily.) When finished, mix in the cranberries and sunflower seeds. Let the mixture cool completely before storing it in an airtight container. (Try not to munch TOO much while it's cooling.)

While the honey and brown sugar add quite a bit of sweetness, you can control additional sugar by purchasing applesauce of the natural variety. While there will be some sugar in it, it won't be added sugar. Just, well...natural sugar. And don't limit yourself to cranberries and sunflower seeds. I imagine toasted almonds would be quite delicious. Maybe even pumpkin seeds, too.

Speaking of almonds, I found myself bloggingg at a Starbucks yesterday. One coffee and a small bag of toasted almonds later, this post was complete.

Question: What store-bought granola brand is your favorite? If you make your own, what is your favorite mix-in?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sequence of Things

I celebrated my 30th birthday back in November. As a present to me, my husband so bravely agreed to take me dancing. In a ballroom. As in, ballroom dancing. Both our schedules and Mother Nature have prevented us from attending a class, but all that changed on Tuesday night. It was Rumba night, and the Rumba so happens to be my favorite. We danced for two hours straight, learning basic steps and trying our best to perfect them (without looking dumb). Certain sequences befuddled us, others came naturally for us two very unprofessionals. Perhaps if I had worn half of a blue dress, we would have looked more like this:

Although, I don't think I could ever convince Jason to wear an unbuttoned white shirt. Not if his life depended on it. Needless to say, I am now on a mission to become the first-ever fit bloggin' star to appear on "Dancing with the Stars"—it'll never happen, but a girl can dream. And I will dream. Maks and Derek will fight over my partnership, it will be wonderful.

On to more important things. Like sequential exercises.

A lot of my clients have weight loss goals, as we all do, so I've been keeping them in motion by running them through exercises in a sequence. Meaning, one exercise right after the other. Not only does this keep their heart rate up, it forces them to engage even more muscles to endure. And it gives me more time in the session to pack on extra punch. So far, they've all seemed to respond with gusto. I figured you'd enjoy a few samples of said sequences. Some of which you might already be doing:

1) Squats + Squat Pulses + Jump Squats
2) Squats + Squat Hold + Jump Squats
3) Squats + Bicep Curls + Shoulder Presses
4) Dead Lifts with Bent Row + Bicep Curls
5) Side-to-Side Lunges + Wide Squat Hold + Wide Squats
6) Seated Shoulder Press with Legs Up + Kickouts + Crunches
7) Plank on Dumbbells + Pushups + Alternating One-Arm Dumbbell Rows in Plank Position
8) Plank + Pushups + Side Plank on Right + Side Plank on Left

Speaking of side planks, are you doing them? They're super good for you because they tighten and tone just about everything. Including your obliques—even including your diaphragm, which is the muscle in your chest that facilitates your breathing. And breathing is super important in terms of strength training. To hold your breath is to suppress the supply of oxygen to your working body parts, which puts you at risk for passing out. And makes every exercise that. much. harder. So as you perform side planks, or any core exercise, be sure to breath deeply. Relax into what you're doing and keep each breath nice and slow.

The easier you breath, the more efficient your lung (and your training) will be. For example, right now I'm really savoring each and every breath I take. Oh wait—that's because my place smells like pumpkin and spices. And no, there isn't a candle on my desk. Recipe to come.

Question: Is there a sequence of exercises in your current routine?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Ayala's Herbal Water giveaway! You could win a sampler pack that contains one of each delicious flavor. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, February 25, 2011).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You expand your vocab, and I'll clean out my gym bag.

When I was in grade school (maybe even high school), I very distinctly remember studying for vocabulary quizzes. Every week, we'd be given a new series of words to learn. We'd have to use them in sentences, learn the different tenses if applicable. All that good stuff. At the time, I really hated it. But now I wish I would have paid more attention because honestly—I don't recall any of the fancy words I supposedly learned. I do, however, recall the moves to both my grade school and high school fight songs. I guess my pompoms meant more to me than my dictionary. I digress. (Digress? Maybe that was a vocab word.) Today, I'd like to expand your vocabulary. The one you use at the gym. Here's the word, well...words:

Are you familiar? The pyramid method is a style of strength training that's used quite frequently. In fact, you might already be training in this way if you change your repetitions and weight from set to set. Not only is it an easy method to incorporate, anyone can do it. For example, if you were doing bicep curls, your sets might look something like this: 12 repetitions with 10-pound weights, followed by 8 repetitions with 12-pound weights, then finally 6 repetitions with 15-pound weights. The gradual progression of weight with a decrease in repetitions gets your muscles to perform at their fullest potential, which translates to a tightly toned and strong muscle. You can also do this method in reverse, starting with a heavy weight and light repetitions. Learn these words: Reverse Pyramid Method. Shocking, I know. If you're prepping for a competition, or just want to build up some serious muscle mass, then this method might be right for you. So really, you just learned TWO new words. Actually four, but who's really counting.

I am, I'm counting—all the crap that's collecting in my gym bag. Seriously, it's ridiculous.

As a woman, I am more than willing to stand up right here (right now!) and tell you that I cart around way too many items in my purse (I use them all). As a certified personal trainer and fitness geek, I will do the same regarding my gym bag (but I can't claim to use them all). It's out of control in a major, major way. Here's what happened when I upended the thing:

Like I said, it's out of control. What is all that junk anyway? Contents include a clipboard, three file folders, workout journal, notebook, calendar, various writing utensils...well, nevermind. Blah, blah and blah. You get the picture. (Literally.) I will say this: at least my little bag of gym toiletries was fairly organized.

I zipped it right back up, and back into my gym bag it went. This stuff, however, did not make the cut:

And since you're all sitting on pins and needles just waiting to see the fruits of my endeavor:

I feel like a totally new person. So fresh and so clean, clean!

Question: If not the Pyramid Method, what method do you employ in your workouts? What did you find in your gym bag the last time you cleaned it out? Better yet, how long has it been since you've cleaned out your gym bag?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Ayala's Herbal Water giveaway! You could win a sampler pack that contains one of each delicious flavor. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, February 25, 2011).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your very own Circuit Sculpt class.

My 6:00AM Circuit Sculpters have been showing up like rock stars lately! I couldn't be happier. When I first started teaching the class, which I now teach every Monday and Friday morning, I would only get about four people. And now, when I look at myself in the mirror as I teach, I see about ten sweaty faces smiling back at me. (I use the term "smiling" quite loosely. They love to hate me.) There are a few people who come on a regular basis, others I see filtering in an out from week to week. Still, they filter quite regularly.

But if everyone came, if they all came together at the same time, I'd probably have a good 15 people in my class. How great is that? How great is it that people are waking up at the crack of...well, before the crack of dawn for a good 'ol fashioned butt-kickin' at the gym? I kick butts lovingly, of course. And I'd be willing to kick yours, too. Come join us if you happen to be a member of my gym! If you aren't a member, or if you don't live anywhere near me to even consider being a member, then I give you this. Your very own Circuit Sculpt class. 

About an hour. 5 minutes to set up, a 5-minute warm-up, 40 minutes of circuit sculpting, followed by 10 minutes of stretching.

A good selection of dumbbells, a mat if your floor is hard, a BOSU (or step…anything sturdy you can stand on) and a clock (or watch). 

Your 5-minute warm-up should be filled with active stretching. Time yourself for one minute of jogging in place, followed closely by some arm circles in every direction. Swing your legs forward and back, then side to side…really, just get yourself moving in order to get your blood flowing to your muscles. This step can be skipped if you’ve already done some cardio work. When you’re ready, perform each circuit three times through before moving on to the next one. Do 12 repetitions of each exercise unless otherwise noted. 

To perform a BOSU tap, stand in front of your BOSU or step (if you don’t have a BOSU) and “march” in place as you tap the center of the BOSU or step with your feet. Do this for one minute the first time through, then just :30 the next two times you go through each circuit.

In CIRCUIT ONE, move from the plank right into the pushups. Try not to break your form. In CIRCUIT TWO, start your jump squats immediately upon the completion of your wide-leg squat hold. To increase the intensity of your triceps dips, you can place a weight in your lap or place your feet on your BOSU or step. In CIRCUIT THREE, alternate legs during your back lunges. Keep your arms extended by your ears during your straight-arm crunches, and have a seat on the floor for your kickouts. With fingertips pointing toward your glutes, extend your legs then crunch them back in to complete one repetition.

Remember, you can increase the intensity of any two-footed exercise by standing on the BOSU. This forces you to engage your core muscles, which ultimately helps strengthen them.

Don't forget to stretch when you're done.

Question: Are you an early riser when it comes to exercise, or do you prefer to exercise in the evenings? If you prefer the evenings, what class (if any) would get you out of bed

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Ayala's Herbal Water giveaway! You could win a sampler pack that contains one of each delicious flavor. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, February 25, 2011).

Monday, February 21, 2011

WIN THIS: A sampler pack of Ayala's Herbal Water!

Happy Monday, friends. Was your weekend glorious? Mine was wet, particularly yesterday when the sky decided to let the rain pour down on my little town. It truly felt like spring, despite the threat of more snow. (Dear snow, I'm so done with you.) Jason went to Chicago for the auto show, so I took myself to my favorite little coffee shop for some, and blogging. Yes, I'm mobile. My parents had a little netbook that got little to no use, and they've so graciously donated it to my cause. It's no Mac, but it gets me out of the house for a bit. Let me emphasize that it truly isn't a Mac, which makes me feel computer dumb. I am not a PC, but I'll make do. Especially if I've got a delicious salad by my side:

This place I went to makes up the best honey mustard dressing. I'm telling you, it's divine. Tangy and sweet, just really the best. They also make some delectable sweets, which I'm trying so very hard to ignore. I focused on my salad instead, and when that was gone, I focused on my beverages:

A cup of Cinnamon Hazelnut coffee with a dash of skim milk and a bottle of Ayala's Herbal Water. Have you heard of Ayala's Herbal Water? It's rather good. And I'm super-picky when it comes to flavored waters. I technically shouldn't have had it with me since I didn't purchase it at the coffee shop, but no one seemed to mind when I pulled it out of my bag. And the lemon verbena geranium flavor really accented the flavors in my salad, so I wasn't about to put it back in my bag, no sir! But more on that later, let's get back to Ayala: a pediatrician and gardener (and blogger), she single-handedly created this product in her kitchen as an alternative to artificially flavored bottles of water. Which I hate. I like water, and I like when it has some flavor...but not if said flavor is brought on by a bunch of chemicals I can't pronounce. Great success ensued for Dr. Ayala, and here I am reviewing her product for you! I was sent a sample pack that contained one 16-ounce bottle of each flavor.

You'll notice that each bottle is certified organic, and that's always a bonus in my book. That means there really isn't an artificial flavor, sweetener, color or chemical preservative in sight. No calories either. Just water and herbs. And wonderful flavors, too. Back to my lemon verbena geranium. The sample pack above came with a food pairings card that artfully describes each flavor and makes (obviously) food recommendations. The lemon verbena geranium is described as being like "a dozen sweet sips of roses for your sweetie (and a touch of tart lemon for the one who broke your heart)." So perfect. And it's meant to pair well with green salads. (I figured that one out on my own!) Oh, and if you're wondering:

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to trying out each and every flavor. (When it's cold, of course.) And I'm looking forward to giving you this opportunity, too! Dr. Ayala's company has so graciously given me the chance to provide one lucky Daily Dose reader with a sample pack just like the one you see above. Including the food pairings card! To enter, head on over to Ayala's Herbal Water and browse the entire collection of flavors. Come back here and let me know which one temps your taste buds. Additional entries can be received by doing one or more of the following:

1) Subscribe to the Herbal Water newsletter (and get a $5.00 coupon).
2) "Like" Herbal Water on Facebook.
3) Follow Herbal Water on Twitter.
4) Subscribe to Daily Dose.
5) "Like" Daily Dose on Facebook.

Please note that I will only count the last two if you are a new subscriber, or if you are a new follower on Facebook. In order to get all of your qualifying entries, be sure let me know what you've done! In addition, this contest is only open to those of you that live in the continental United States. All entries must be received by midnight EST on Friday, February 25, 2010. Please leave your email address so that I may contact you for your mailing address if and when you win. The winner will be announced on Sunday, February 27, 2010.

Good luck to all of you! I assure you, you'll love this product And if you can't wait for a prize pack, see if you can find Ayala's Herbal Water locally. Remember, it's absolutely necessary to drink water throughout your day. Dehydration never does a body good.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Swiss Chard: Yummy in my tummy.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends at the gym approached me with a recipe that she said I just had to try. According to her, the recipe produced a meal that was "easy, colorful, delicious and nutritious...a winner in every sense." Which sounded absolutely perfect to me. The main ingredient? Swiss chard. I can't say that I've ever had it, but I took her word for it and headed to the grocery store. Unfortunately, I had no idea what Swiss chard looked like, but I found the little price sign placed above a vast selection of greens and knew that I was hot (as in, the hot/cold game). But I still had to ask a random guy for help, after which I felt stupid because...well, this is what I ended up putting in my basket:

As you can see, the "swiss chard" label is quite bright and in-your-face. Yet, somehow it was not in my face enough. Moments like this one, I blame them on my highlights which result only after far too many chemicals come close to my brain.

But I digress. Since I wanted to know exactly what I would soon be eating, I hit the Internet for some info when I got home. Turns out, Swiss chard is a rather healthy little treat filled with phytonutrients. Filled with what?! Things like antioxidants, or vitamins...even fiber and calcium. Potassium, too. Really, it's just chock full of good things. Much like spinach and kale. You can even eat the stems, which truly remind me of rhubarb. Not according to flavor, just looks. And let's face it, Swiss chard is a very pretty green, is it not? Look at this leaf:

Aren't those colors gorgeous? It almost looks fake. (It isn't.) But how does it taste? Delicious, especially when sauteed with a little bit of Parmesan cheese. And some other things, too.

Can you guess the ingredients? Eh...don't waste your time. I'll just give you the recipe. Trust me, you want it. (Note: It makes enough to serve four people.)

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Prep the chard by cutting off the stems and removing the leaves from the center rib. Chop stems and ribs first, then coarsely chop the leaves. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion, then cook until the mixture becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the chard stems and wine, them simmer until the stems start to soften (about five minutes). Add the chard leaves, then stir until they begin to wilt. Stir in the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Top with freshly ground pepper. And then...serve it up!

I made this shortly after the Super Bowl, which means I still had some fresh salsa on hand. Along with a few tortilla chips, it rounded out my lunch quite nicely because it was supremely tasty. Literally, every bite was delicious. Even this one:

Now go, get yourself some Swiss chard and let me know what you think. And if you've got some good Swiss chard recipes, send them my way! You know me, I'm always looking for good foods to eat. Because, after all, it's the good foods in life that balance out a healthy regime at the gym.

With that, I leave you. It's Sunday, and as it turns out, I'm having another "me" day. The husband headed to Chicago for the Auto Show. What will I do with my time? For starters, I'm headed to a coffee shop for lunch. And some bloggin'. After remains to be seen.

Be sure to come back tomorrow. I'm launching another giveaway! (A refreshing one, at that.)

Question: Have you tried any new good-for-you foods lately?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Days Devoted to You

Yesterday was a bit of a "me" day. I spent the morning at the gym, after which I jumped into my car and headed down to South Bend to run errands. I usually pick up my friend along the way, but she had to work. So alas, my "me" day was born. I really, truly love "me" days. Not because I need to get away. Not because I dislike the people I see on a regular basis. (I don't dislike you, the people I see. Just thought I'd make that clear!) I truly love "me" days because I actually enjoy spending time with myself. Doing things with me, myself and I that me, myself and I enjoy equally. First stop? Lunch.

Jamba Juice! The first location in South Bend just recently opened up, and it's situated right off the campus of the University of Notre Dame. (Hence the energetic college student in the banana costume!) I'm used to Juicing in Chicago, so it's nice to have one close to home now. And by close, I mean 45 minutes away instead of one hour and 45 minutes away. Yeah, I drive a bit for decent shopping. But it's worth it, particularly if I can now pick up a smoothie. Five Fruit Frenzy, and delicious. (If you're familiar with the Jamba Juice menu, I swapped out the banana for more peaches and went with pineapple juice instead of peach juice. Wise move, indeed.)

From there, it was all about knocking errands off the list. Envelopes form the post office, book from Border's. Blah, blah and boring. Until I found Apple Valley. No, it's not some fairytale world where apples grow abundantly next to rivers flowing with almond butter. It happens to be a gem of a natural foods store. I had heard that they opened a location on the strip of shops I frequent, but I really hadn't looked for it until now. Mostly because I drove right by it. And asking me to drive by a natural foods store without stopping is like asking a Kardashian to walk by a camera without posing. It just doesn't happen. In I went, out I came with the following:

Bob's Red Mill steel cut oats, Justin's almond butter and some bulk amaranth. Yeah, I know...ama-wha? Amaranth. A gluten-free, "grain" of sorts. I first came across it in the Journey bars I sampled way back when, but Ashley has been talking about it on her blog a lot lately. And making some pretty tasty cereals with it, too. So I bought some, and I'm sure you'll hear more about it in the future.

While I think you'll agree that the finds above are truly exciting—I'm not the only one that geeks out over weird health foods, am I?—the truly, truly exciting part of my "me" day came when I stopped by my Godmother/Auntie Cheryl's house.

We exchange Christmas presents every year, and this past Christmas we decided to buy each other health or fitness related gifts. She's a nurse and equally interested in all things, and fitness. It goes without saying that our schedules have not exactly been meshing. Better late than never, right? I got her a Water Bobble and a subscription to Oxygen. She got me the goodies you see at right. Plus one other Chocolate Cherry Almond Luna bar, which didn't make it home as I was THIS CLOSE to eating my shoe. That's how hungry I was, so it's a good thing my gift included a snack! Can't wait to wear the top, can't wait to try the tea. Love me some tea, and this brew looks particularly yummy. Green tea with acai berries, blueberries and citrus. Uh huh, yeah.

And just like that, my "me" day was over. I got home, made dinner. Organized a few things. The husband came home. Generally, I just felt fairly relaxed after having spent some time alone doing what I wanted to do. Sometimes, you just have to forgo the craziness of your day and do things for yourself. It's a perfectly acceptable way to spend time, and it gives you a chance to regroup. Even if it means taking yourself out of the gym. Taking a break from your workouts is, after all, a necessary thing. And what better way to regroup than by doing some of the other things you love.

Am I the only one that loves to run errands?

I enjoy folding laundry, too.
Go ahead, call me crazy.

Question: What's your favorite way to get some "me" time?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Body Fat Percentages

Yesterday was fun! I ventured on over to one of the local colleges to represent my gym at a health fair. I wore my trainer shirt and brought along the Omron fat loss monitor at right. (I opted to leave my intimidating skinfold calipers in my box at the gym.) It turned out to be a really great event. Not only was I able to create some awareness for the gym, I met some cool people—and sampled a very healthy lunch. (You know I love me some healthy food.)

It's funny, some people were really geeked about knowing their body fat. Others...not so much. And I don't blame them. It can be a very touchy subject. That's why I never push it on my clients. I strongly recommend it, but I never push it. Usually they come around. It is, after all, great motivation and an excellent way to judge progress. Do you know what your body fat percentage is? Every gym, even your doctor, should be able to assess it for you. When you have your number, you can see where you fall on the body fat percentage scale. It generally looks something like this:

Well, maybe not EXACTLY like that. But the numbers should match. After all, my handy dandy cheat sheet isn't mass produced. Giggle. Anyways...

You can even buy a scale that will assess your body fat percentage. My parents own the model at right. (You can find it at Bed, Bath & Beyond.) I like that it assesses a number of different things, although sometimes I think your body fat percentage is the most important. Think about it: If you're trying to lose weight, you probably want to shed fat. When you strength train, you shed fat and gain muscle. And muscle weighs more than fat. Which means what? That number on the scale might drop a few, then level out as a result. But your body fat percentage should, if all is going well, continue decreasing.

Speaking of decreasing, I'm about to knock a few more continuing education units off my requirement for the year as I've just ordered a course that focuses on foam rolling. I don't know much about it, though I've played with our foam roller at the gym. As luck would have it, my course comes complete with a set of five foam rollers. Assuming I learn everything I'm supposed to, I will have the ability to "recognize postural limitations that can be addressed by using the foam roller," "outline a program of foam roller exercises for flexibility, trunk stabilization, and balance training," and "explain diaphragmatic breathing." Oh, and—I'll learn about "autogenic inhibition."

Sounds crazy. I'm excited. (Happy Friday!)

Question: How does your place of employment encourage healthy living? Are you intimidated by your body fat percentage? Why or why not?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are you a health snob?

From blogs to books and everything in between, this world we live in is completely inundated with health and wellness. From the latest and greatest equipment to the best-of-the-best exercises, from well-branded shoes to clothes that epitomize cool—and we all really, truly want to be cool—we just can't get away from it. So we buy into the hype. We sign up for the latest diets and the most popular fitness classes. We dress ourselves in the hottest gym gear, carry the fanciest gym bag, then we head to the gym and work hard. And when we're done, we hit up a restaurant with friends and order the healthiest meal possible. Because that's what fit people do, right?

Right. But sometimes we get lost in all that shuffle and we start playing keep-up. He's got those shoes, mine are no longer good enough. She's wearing that brand, I can't possibly wear these old shorts again. He's lifting those weights, I'll just give up right now. But really, who cares. I say this: stop judging yourself.

And on the flip side, stop judging others. That is what turns you into a health snob. If you repeatedly look at others and question their fitness, pick apart every last muscle you either see or don't see, or if you condemn them for ordering something slightly unhealthy (or super healthy) at a meal—if you do this, or if you ever catch yourself doing this, ask yourself why you've let it happen. Is it justified, or are you just projecting a personal issue onto an innocent bystander?

We all have our own way of participating when it comes to health and wellness. I can't tell you what to do (unless you're my client, ha) and you can't tell me what to do. My body, my mind and my soul are all completely different from yours. And that's what makes personal relationships so beautiful. Even at the gym. We can all learn from each other. We can all coexist. So harness that negative, health-snob energy when you feel it coming to fruition. Make it positive and talk to the subject of your thoughts. Does she really look like a man, or are you totally envious of her slim and sleek (and totally strong) physique? Does it really annoy you when someone orders a salad, or are you regretting your lack of willpower in the burger department? Again, talk to the subject of your thoughts. You might discover a new trick of the health and wellness trade.

And if you're lucky, you might even discover something about yourself.

Speaking of burgers...nah, just kidding! I don't have a burger recipe for you. I could devour a turkey burger right about now, though. One that's fresh off the grill, maybe with a side of corn on the cob. It's all this warm weather we've been having. And when I think about warm weather, I think about our grill. And turkey burgers.

Love them. Don't you?

Question: Are you a health snob?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wellsphere. Pushup. Recipe.

Is it just me or does it truly feel like spring has sprung? I know, I shouldn't have said that because it's so very far from the truth. Winter isn't over, don't be silly! This heat wave is but a tease, a welcomed reprieve...a taste of what's mellow from Mother Nature herself. And I love it, despite my greatest efforts to fight it. Why get used to something that's just going to disappear? Silly Tara, you live in Michigan! You know better. More snow will come, that's but a guarantee. And an unfortunate guarantee at that. So, here I sit. Typing away, talking to you. Giving my attention to something lasting and true.

But that's neither here nor there, and it's certainly not a dose of fit. So let me begin that part of this whole conversation by introducing you to an excellent website. Feast your eyes on the column at right and scroll down until you see my newest badge of honor, bestowed upon me by Wellsphere. It's an excellent website that brings together health bloggers from across the 'net, combining them all into one easy-to-search resource. Got a question? Find an answer. It's that easy. And I'm more than willing to share my ideas with the community. More than honored to, actually. So take a look around and let me know what you think.

And now, we move on to one pushup. I know, I hate pushups. But you also (hopefully) realize how good they are for you. Good for the chest muscles, good for the back muscles...good for the core muscles, too. But, well. Let's be honest. Pushups can be boring, which is why you should vary them on occasion. Here's one such variation:

LEG LIFT PUSHUPS: Get into a pushup position, then point your right foot to set yourself up in a one-legged pushup position. Lower yourself down, pause before you touch the ground and then lift your right leg up a few inches. This adds a gluteus element to your pushups, while simultaneously challenging your core and chest muscles a bit more than usual. Push yourself back into your starting position, switch legs and repeat. Perform as many pushups as you can, and if you can't reach your desired goal, finish your set with normal pushups.

How's that sound? Hard? Yeah...but who doesn't love a good challenge. So challenge yourself! That's how you make advances in fitness and in health. But you already know that, right? So let's talk about that recipe I mentioned yesterday. Pineapple Granola Bars:

They turned out really well! The recipe itself didn't specify what type of dried fruit to use, so I went with pineapple because...well, pineapples are fantastic. And quite frankly, I needed a break from cranberries and raisins which are the standard fare for granola bars. Now, I can't find the original location of this recipe, so I share it with you here and now without taking full credit for it. But with a few modifications of my own, of course.

Pineapple Granola Bars
1-1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 banana, mashed
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F. Coat a 9x9-inch square pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Press the granola into the pan, use wax paper as it might stick to the spoon. Bake for roughly 30 minutes. Let cool for five, then cut into 12 individual bars.

And then, enjoy!

Question: When you need health information, what websites do you turn to? Further, I'd like to know how you challenge yourself at the gym.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleep is a precious, precious thing.

I was glued to the Grammys on Sunday night, which means I stayed up well beyond my normal bedtime. So when my alarm went off at 5:15AM on Monday morning...let's just say I hit that one magic button three times before somehow dragging myself out of bed. (Not my typical routine, really.) I was scheduled to teach Circuit Sculpt at 6:00AM, and I had about fifteen minutes to get there in time. Needless to say, it's a very good thing I live five minutes away. (Literally, just five minutes.) Amazingly enough, I rolled into the studio with five minutes to spare! Go me, right? Yeah, I patted my own back for that one. My lazy, sleepy back.

I just could not get out of bed. You have those mornings, right? Wait, back it up. You have those evenings, right? You're not that tired, you have so much to do and yet—you can't stop yourself, despite the fact that you know your morning is getting closer and closer. It's stupid! And I kick myself every time I let it happen. Why can't I just go to bed? Tomorrow will be so much better if I just go to bed, right? Ugh, seriously. On the bright side, I got six full hours of sleep. I consistently get at least seven, so I wasn't that far off the norm. But I did feel it yesterday. I even yawned a few times in front of my clients. They laughed, and then they wanted to know what kept me up so late. So at least the yawns fostered good conversation. Always a plus.

At any rate, sleep is important. Especially if you lead an active lifestyle. While we sleep, our bodies (particularly our muscles) are getting some much needed rest. And even though we aren't moving, our systems within are hard at work recuperate from our recent activities while prepping for more to come in the day ahead of us. Which means we're actually burning calories while we sleep. Yes, it's true! And it's another reason why sleep is important. A tip from Oxygen:

And who doesn't want to be a more efficient fat burner? Think about that in two different ways. 1) If you sleep consistently, you'll become a more efficient fat burner while sleeping, and 2) If you get enough sleep, you'll have the energy you need to burn more fat at the gym.

Makes sense to me! You? And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make another batch of homemade granola bars. I'm trying yet another new recipe. One that includes the following:

I'll share the recipe if it turns out.

Question: How much sleep do you get at night? What's the one thing that keeps you from hitting the hay at a decent hour? Do you regularly take naps?

Monday, February 14, 2011

I heart you!

Oh, happy day of love! Did the little guy get you with his arrow? Right through the heart, you say? Good, I'm glad. Because everyone deserves extra love today, even if it's the innocent kind that comes at you from your Grandma. Like milk, love does a body good. After all, it is a matter of the heart. And the heart is one of the most essential organs within us. Which means we really need to do everything we can to keep it healthy. I could spout heart disease statistics at you, but let's be honest—you already know that heart disease is a serious issue. And the very thought of it should inspire you to do everything you can to prevent it.

So lemme ask you this: are you getting enough cardiovascular exercise to keep your heart tickin' strong? Be honest with yourself when you answer that question. Realistically speaking, you should be getting 150 to 250 minutes a week in order to improve upon your current cardiovascular health. (Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, of course.) And since today is Monday, it's the perfect day to start working toward that goal. I know, I know—but it's Valentine's Day and you've got something exciting planned with your sweetie. Or your friends. Whomever! So if you didn't want to do the treadmill, I'd completely understand. Perhaps you'll at least do the Cupid Shuffle for me? Down, down, do your dance, do your dance...

Question: Since it's the day of love, why do you love working out? And if you don't, why not?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

And the winner is...

Congratulations, Bethany! You will love your prize pack (and thanks for the recipe)! To everyone else that participated—thanks for reading Daily Dose! Keep eating your vegetables. Promise me you will. Can you promise me? I promised you something, remember? If you read yesterday's post, you know that I've got an oatmeal recipe for you and I'm here today to deliver it. Oh, and—there's a vegetable involved. One cup of a shredded, orange vegetable.

Hold on, hold on. Before you "yuk" and "ew" all over the place, just hear me out! I mean, you eat carrot cake. Right? It's not exactly the healthiest of desserts, but it does taste mighty fine. And carrots are fairly good for you. So how about a bowl of carrot cake oatmeal?

Yeah, I thought you'd come around. Looks good, right? It was. Very good, actually. Angela over at Oh She Glows posted the original recipe, and of course I made a few slight mods to accommodate my tastes and available ingredients. The resulting recipe:

Carrot Cake Oatmeal
1/2 cup oats
1 cup finely grated carrots
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp crushed walnuts

Finely grate your carrots, then set aside for later use. Add milk and lemon juice to a pot set over medium heat. Stir, then add the spices and stir again. Let the mixture warm up, but don't bring it to a boil. Add the oats and carrots when you feel the liquids are sufficiently heated, stirring until mixed. Cook until the mixture thickens, but again—don't bring it to a boil. (Adjust your heat setting if necessary.) Add the vanilla, maple syrup and one tablespoon of the walnuts. Pour it into your favorite oatmeal bowl, then top with the remaining walnuts and a dash of cinnamon before enjoying what you've just created.

Note: Angela added coconut milk cream to her oatmeal. I didn't have any in my cupboards as I'm not the biggest coconut fan, which means I don't cook with it very often. Needless to say, I left it out. But I did have a lonely little packet of Artisan coconut butter on hand.

I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a go as another topping, and you'll be happy to know that I'm glad I did. It was tasty. Although a bit overpowering at times, so I only added a little bit to each bite.

But still, the oats were fantastic without it so don't despair if you're lacking in the coconut department. I'm also thinking some maple syrup drizzled over the top would have been delicious, but alas...I forgot to test that theory. Next time. With that, I leave you. I'm off to visit Princess Diana's wedding dress. (Honestly, I am! It's on display at the art museum in Grand Rapids.)

Question: What sinful dessert would you like to see in oatmeal form? (I'm feeling creative in the kitchen these days...)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal: Hot and steamy, or just plain ick?

I have been driving by the billboard you see above for quite some time now, and every single time I pass it, I can't help but wonder about two very different things. 1) Who came up with that clever headline, and 2) are those oats any good? You know me, if I'm not eating apples and peanut butter, odds are pretty good that I'm eating a bowl of "hot and steamy" oats. However, I'm a very picky oat-eater. Starbucks, yeah...they make an acceptable bowl. But I'm skeptical about this fruit and maple concoction. I'm skeptical about everything that comes out of McDonald's, really. But in the name of research, I decided it was high time I taste-tested that which the billboard is advertising. So on the way home from the gym yesterday, I found myself here.

At the drive-thru window. And it's a place I haven't been to in forever. One bowl of oatmeal later, I had successfully contributed $2.11 to an organization I probably wouldn't otherwise have contributed to. So it felt weird. And it felt even weirder to drive home with a McDonald's bag in my passenger seat.

Next to my gym bag, of all things. But anyways. That's not the point. The point is that I love oatmeal and I'm willing to taste-test the Golden Arches version just for you. Let's start with appearances because it looks tasty in that instant-oatmeal way (and in the picture on the billboard).

Alas, it does not look anything like the picture on the billboard. I see fruit, I see raisins...I see flavor. But will I taste it?

Yeah, there's flavor. A lot of flavor, actually. Although it wasn't distinctly maple. I'm not sure if it's the cream or the raisins, because oddly enough—this "fruit and maple oatmeal" doesn't have any maple in it. Rather, it's a combination of brown sugar, "natural flavor", barley malt extract...need I say more? No. And if you look at the nutrition information, you'll notice a fairly large amount of sugar within. Exactly 32 grams. Bit of an overload, don't ya think? I do. And I immediately felt it. I had my few bites of this oatmeal on an empty stomach, and I think the sugar went right to my head because I got a fairly decent headache. Could be me, could be my brain. I could be imagining it. And that's enough of that tangent, but really—let's be honest for a second. Does McDonald's have a winner in their Fruit and Maple Oatmeal? I wouldn't go that far, but I also wouldn't call it a loser.

I think I'd order this over a Sausage McMuffin any day. Like, say...if I was on the road and traveling and had no other option. Because really, when it comes to oatmeal, I'd rather just eat my own. It's so easy to make a healthy, extremely tasty bowl that I can't really fathom doing it any other way. Unless, of course, I was on the road and...well, you know.

So tune in tomorrow, I'll share a recipe for one such bowl of extremely healthy, extremely tasty oats. And I'll also announce the winner of the Green Giant prize pack. Exciting! Are you excited? 

Question: Have you tried the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal from McDonald's? What's your opinion?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...