Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to Choose a Sweetener

Whether or not you have a sweet tooth, added sweeteners can be downright unavoidable. And unfortunately, these added sweeteners can wreak havoc on your system. Your waistline, too. So before you actually dump that teaspoonful of Sweet 'n Low, agave or whathaveyou into your indulgence of choice—I urge you to consult the following flow chart from Be Food Smart.

How to Choose a Sweetener

Funny, but a little eye-opening, too. Right?

Question: To what do you add sweetness to? And what is your sweetener of choice?

Friday, April 29, 2011

A foam roller workout just for you!

Ugh, the dentist. While I appreciate pearly whites as much as the next girl, I don't appreciate being poked and prodded by a hygienist. It's just not fun. My lips stretch and crack, my jaw feels like it will lock, and when they rinse that gritty mess of toothpaste off my teeth—those little itty bitty drops of water that land on my face irritate the bejeezus out of me. Ugh, the dentist. At least I walked away without the need for further attention. No cavities, what-what!

Anyways, the one good thing about yesterday's appointment? It put me in a part of town I don't usually venture into, which put me directly across the street from an artsy fartsy little coffee shop with free wireless and flowing Intelligentsia. I ordered up a cup of decaf with a splash of skim and hazelnut, plus a small and simple plate of veggies and hummus. 

I said to my coffee cup: "Go ahead, stain my clean teeth, you vicious little cup of coffee. We'll show that hygienist, you and me."

And so there I sat (without makeup)...

...typing away. Typing this post, actually. The post I've been promising you for what seems like forever. You know, the one that contains a foam roller workout. Sorry for the delay. My to-do list has been looking a bit like this lately:

Scattered and disorganized, page after colorfully chaotic page. I can't seem to get ahead. Nevermind that my Google Reader is well over 300 deep at this point. I think I'm a week behind. But I digress. A foam roller workout. So let's chat.

Many people assume that foam rollers are for stretching...for self-inflicted deep tissue massages. And while those people assume correctly, it is not the entire story. Foam rollers work wonders in terms of increased core strength and stability. And they can also take your workout to a different level by changing, albeit ever so slightly, some fairly common exercises that you're already doing. (Side note: I don't typically dig celery, but it appears to be an excellent transporter of hummus.)

I have put together the following (just for you), and it will require the use of one full-length roller. These are pretty standard pieces of almost every gym, and if you're working out in the privacy of your own home, they can be purchased rather cheaply. (Another side note: Holy avocado and hummus! I'm in love.) And so we begin.

A Foam-Rollin' Workout
1) SINGLE-LEG SQUATS: Clearly you won't be standing on the foam roller. Rather, I want you to try using it as a balance tool. So many of us fit freaks can probably do squats until tomorrow, which is why it proves to be important that we challenge our legs individually on occasion. So use the roller to keep yourself upright as you squat, squat and squat your little tushies to, tomorrow.

2) BRIDGES: Target your glutes and hamstrings exclusively with this move. Lie flat on the ground, place your hands by your sides, feet on top of the roller. Hold it steady as you push your hips toward th ceiling, contracting your glutes and hams the whole way through.

3A) PUSHUPS: Put your hands right on that roller and push your little heart up over and over again. Although it doesn't change the mechanics of the pushup, it creates an unstable surface which forces you to engage your core a bit more. (Can't do pushups? Click HERE.)

3B) CHEST FLYES: So if you really hate pushups, try chest flyes. Lie on the foam roller so that it follows the length of your spine with your head resting on one end for support. Feet together and on the floor, or if you're feeling really adventurous, lift one foot off the floor. Proceed to perform your chest flyes, engaging your core for more balance.

4) POSTERIOR ARM LIFTS: Lie face-down on the foam roller, with the roller following your spine. Rest your forehead on the foam roller. Relax, but take your arms out to the side. Create a fist, stick your thumb out and point it toward the ceiling. Contract your back muscles, bringing your shoulder blades together to ultimately lift your hands a few inches closer to the ceiling. This is a slow movement, so take your time to contract those shoulder/back muscles.

5) KNEE TUCKS: You might have done this one on an exercise ball. The concept translates to the foam roller. Lie on your stomach, hands under your shoulders, foam roller positioned just below your knee caps. Push up into pushup position, then tuck your knees into your chest. Repeat without losing that pushup position.

Not too tough, right? Enough to get you started. If you have access to a half roller, try adding in a few bicep curls and triceps presses while standing right on top of it. Don't try this with a full roller, as it might roll right out from under your feet which will...well, I'll let you imagine it. If you don't have a half roller, swapping in a BOSU or two balance pods will suffice it.

And with that, I must leave you. Clearly I have much to do. So happy it's Friday, so ready for the weekend. I'm going to yoga tomorrow, and I think the in-laws are coming down for a visit. That's about it for the weekend's agenda. How nice is a weekend with little to nothing to do?

Very nice, me thinks.

Question: Whatcha got going on this weekend? Anything fit-tastic planned?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guest Post: Jammin' in the Kitchen

Is it Friday yet? Geeze, I feel like this week is dragging itself out. Perhaps I've just been busy. Busy at the gym, busy with various writing projects. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Nor am I complaining about my sore shoulders. Since I couldn't attend Gentle Yoga this week, I tried Yoga for Weight Loss #1 and Yoga for Weight Loss #2 from YogaDownload. Two 20-minute programs, which I did back-to-back on Tuesday afternoon. Today is Thursday, and I'll spin. But I'm really looking forward to my Power Yoga class on Saturday. But first, I have to get through the week. Wherever will I find the time to do the things I need to do? This is a question I know I'm not the only one asking. Although I've never really had an issue with it, I know one of the first things to go in our hustle-bustle life is breakfast. An important meal, but one people so often find themselves rushing through. Enter Lauren from Jammin' in the Kitchen. She loves life "through good food and fun," and she's here today to share with you a few tips for eating breakfast on the go.

Good day to you all!  My name is Lauren and I blog over at Jammin' in the Kitchen.  I live in the San Diego area with my husband (married almost one year!) and I work for a local camp providing guest services.  I have a slight obsession with lounging in my pajamas at home and cooking at the same time.  One of my favorite ways to cook is finding healthy alternatives for traditionally less healthy recipes, and l enjoy finding creative ways to add some extra fruit and veggie goodness to my diet.  Of course, you have to have your treats, too, and any way I can make something healthier and keep it tasty, I'll do it.

I am a huge fan of Tara's blog and really enjoy reading her posts each morning.  I love working out and mixing up different workouts during the week.  In the past several months, I have consistently mixed and matched my workouts: cardio, high intensity interval training, weight lifting, name it!  The end result: my body has never been so lean and muscular at the same time.  It's great!  Physically I feel the strongest I've ever felt in my life, which is saying a lot for a former cardio and processed carbohydrate junkie.

When Tara asked me to write a guest post, I was thrilled to say the least :)  Since Tara's blog is all about being fit and healthy, I thought it was only appropriate to write about some of my favorite healthy breakfasts.  I leave at 7 AM to begin my morning commute, and it takes me almost an hour with traffic.  Since I try to squeeze in my exercise before I leave for work, I end up eating my breakfast in the car as I drive to work.  It's a little tricky to eat and drive at the same time, so I've come up with some easy and healthy (and handheld!) breakfasts that help me get my day going.

1)  Coffee in a travel mug. 
I make my coffee before I leave to save time (and money!).  Carrying it in my travel mug keeps it warm longer and the handle helps me sip more easily as I drive.

2)  Whole wheat wrap with peanut butter, banana and spices.

This has become my favorite (and most frequent) breakfast!  Costco sells great wraps by Flat Out, to which I add natural peanut butter, cinnamon/nutmeg/pumpkin pie spices (whatever I have on hand), ground flaxseeds and a sliced banana (though you could use any fruit).  I roll it up, wrap it up in some plastic wrap, and it's easy to eat with one hand while I drive.  This is also great to do with an egg white patty (see #3), ham or turkey, fresh spinach, and a Laughing Cow cheese wedge.  Wrap in foil to keep all the goods warm.  Delicious and filling!

3)  Whole wheat toast with PB&J, egg whites, and fruit. 
Okay, so this isn't exactly car-friendly, but it's really tasty for those mornings when I have a little extra time.  Toast some whole wheat bread and spread with PB&J (helloooo, yum!).  Spray a microwave-safe cup with cooking spray, and crack egg whites into it.  Season with salt and pepper, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave on high for 30 second increments until you have a nice little egg white patty.  Add some fruit (these are delicious blood oranges, in season from our local farmers' market!) and coffee, and there's your delicious and healthy breakfast.

4)  Oatmeal!

Again, not car friendly, but this is easy to make at work.  I like to mix old fashioned oats, almond milk, a scoop of protein powder, cinnamon/nutmeg/pumpkin pie spices, and sliced fruit (banana is my favorite!) all together, and microwave for a minute and a half.  I like my oats slightly chewy, so I add more milk after it's done cooking if it needs to be thinned out.  The fruit "melts" and gets incredibly gooey and delicious.  I top it off with a spoonful of natural nut butter and stir it in until it melts.  Almond butter can't be beat.  It's SO good and keeps me full for hours!

5)  Muffins.

Very car friendly!  I like to make my own (using whole wheat flour, less sugar, Greek yogurt, egg whites, fruit puree—anything to cut out the butter and other unnecessary gunk!), cut them in half, and spread with nut butter in between to make a little muffin sandwich.  (Can you tell I like nut butters? :) )  Find one of my favorite muffin recipes here.

6)  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
Yes, you heard me right :)  I love these for breakfast because they're portable, and you can easily healthify them with whole grain bread, natural nut butter, and no-sugar-added natural preserves.  Add a piece of fruit on the side and you're good to go!

When all else fails, don't skip breakfast.  It is worth the time and effort to prepare something the night before (which I usually do) or take 15 extra minutes in the morning on your way out the door.  There are so many places to stop and grab something quick on the way.  Try an English muffin, egg & cheese sandwich, fruit & yogurt parfait (or make your own!), or natural granola bars (I love Nature Valley and Larabars!).  Order a skim milk latte instead of coffee for the extra protein and calcium.  You can always find healthy options out there, so stop making excuses.  Give your body the nutrition it needs to keep you going the rest of the day!

Thanks for reading!  I hope this inspires you to create your own fun, healthy, easy breakfasts.

OK, now I'm hungry! My favorite on-the-go breakfast? Oatmeal in a mug, or an almond butter/banana sandwich. Love them both so much I could eat a double dose right now. Instead, I will put together that foam roller workout I promised you. Check in tomorrow to see what I come up with!

Question: What's your go-to on-the-go breakfast?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"What is strong?"

I am loving the above. It's actually a commercial for Saucony, the popular running shoe brand, but it feels more like a short (very short) film. Am I right? It leaves me inspired. Not necessarily to run out and purchase a pair of Saucony shoes, rather, inspired to believe in the power of my own strength. It does exist. My strength is not a figment of my imagination or a wish forever unfulfilled. My strength is real. My strength is my truth. And it's mine, all mine.

It's mine when I lift weights.
It's mine when I run miles.
It's mine when I pedal faster.
It's mine when I sweat bullets.
It's mine when I hold planks.
It's mine when I stand tall.
It's mine when I smile big.
It's mine when I rest well.
It's mine when I take chances.

But most importantly, my strength is mine when I believe in its power. Because only then can the above statements be true.

Do you believe in the power of your strength?

I think you should.


Because I believe in you.
And I do believe you have a great deal of strength inside of you.

In and out of the gym.

Question: How do you find your strong? And what does it mean to you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"To the beat of our noisy hearts..."

Yes, those are lyrics and they come to mind when I think of my new toy: a Polar FT1 heart rate monitor. I broke it out yesterday morning for the first time during my Circuit Sculpt class, which is a mix of cardio and strength training. I expected my heart rate to be all over the place and it was, but with an average of 122 beats per minute (bpm). More on that later.

The plastic transmitter:

I thought it would be super uncomfortable but it really wasn't. I tucked it underneath my sports bra, sort of like this:

I think it made all the difference in the world. This little guy, by some science unbeknownst to me, transmits my heart rate to a computer. Otherwise known as a watch on my wrist.

Gorgeous, isn't it? Yes, that was sarcasm. But looks can be deceiving, and they are in this case. The information it ultimately provides is the ticket to a great workout. Wait—why am I wearing two watches? This brings me to my only complaint thus far. I wish the Polar FT1 heart rate monitor had a stopwatch on it. When I teach Circuit Sculpt, we do a lot of exercises based on time, rather than repetition, so I need to have some sort of stopwatch available to me. And the clock isn't the best of help when you're face-down in a plank, so I'm going to have to wear two pieces of jewelry when I teach. Stinky, but I can deal.

Let's talk about heart rates.

It's really rather important that you know what your target heart rate is. This information helps you train at a level your body can handle. Of course, you also have a maximum heart rate which needs no explanation. Except, well...I will give you one. Obviously it's the highest heart rate your ticker can handle. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise. It's always best to check with him or her first, but generally speaking, you should only shoot to train within 60- to 70% of your maximum heart rate. This, of course, is your target heart rate. Anything above it is pretty hardcore, and not necessarily the best for you or your heart. But training right around that target heart rate, even for a little bit, is good for you. And your waistline, too.

Back to my average of 122bpm. My target heart rate (THR) is actually somewhere between 152 and 140bpm. Although I achieved said THR at various points throughout my workout, it makes sense that I didn't sustain it since the class combined cardio and strength training into one. Think of it as a bit of interval work. (You know how good intervals are for you, right?)

Now remember, you don't have to purchase a heart rate monitor to keep track of your heart rate. Simply find your pulse in your neck or wrist, count the number of beats you feel in ten seconds, then multiply that number by six. That's your heart rate. And if you know what your target heart rate is, you'll be able to tell whether or not you need to pick up the pace (or slow down). Now, there's no need to check every minute of your workout, just off and on throughout. Or whenever you feel your heart rate pick up.

You can also go by ratings of perceived exertion.

This brings me to one last heart rate tip: Keep track of the exercises and/or classes that get your heart rate going. It'll give you a solid bank of exercises to turn to when you need a good, heart-pumpin' workout.

Oh, and if you can't figure out which song houses the aforementioned lyrics, I give you the following:

Question: How do you incorporate target heart rate into your workouts?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Sweet Potato Lunch

Did everyone have a great weekend? I always despise the Monday after a holiday, mostly because I feel as though I've failed my diet in more ways than one. Even though, if I really think about it, I didn't. But still. I don't typically eat Polish sausage and noodles, and the handful of chocolate I shoved into my I'm set for days.

Funny thing I noticed over the weekend? My hips and glutes are sore. I complemented yoga on Wednesday with a spin class on Thursday and then I taught Circuit Sculpt on Friday. Perhaps it was the backwards walking lunges, or maybe it was the spin class. It was 45 minutes of pure pedal bliss, and I mean that honestly. I cannot wait until the weather warms up for good so I can get Jamis (my bike) back on the road. It's still a bit chilly in Michigan, mostly because of the wind off the lake and the series of rainstorms we've had, so I'm still commuting by car.

Back to yoga. This is one class I don't think I'd make it through:

Mostly because I'd die laughing. (It reminds me of this video.) While I do understand that there are a wide variety of muscles in our face, I'm not so sure I'm sold on a class based solely on working them out. Wouldn't it be just as productive to sit in front of a mirror and make faces? Or better yet, wouldn't it be just as productive as going through your day with a smile on your face? I think so.

Maybe that's what I should do on Wednesday since I can't attend the yoga class I went to last week. I've got a client. But I'm hoping to replace said class with something from YogaDownload. Any recommendations? Oh, and there's the Saturday class I'm hoping to attend. I know it's only Monday, but I'm already looking forward to a weekend filled with nothing. No plans. Nada.

Moving on. Let's talk about this delicious concoction:

Sweet Potato Pancake. Yep, it's got yams in it. Well, actually it doesn't. Did you know there is a distinct difference between the two? We so frequently use the two terms interchangeably, but the yam is actually a bit sweeter (if you can imagine that). And the sweet potato is,'s orange and flaky when cooked. According to Wikipedia, these 'taters are referred to as yams typically just to distinguish them from the traditional potato. Apparently the nutritional content alone wasn't enough of a distinction. Even though it should be, as sweet potatoes are actually quite good for you. They provide healthy carbohydrates, dietary fiber and beta carotene (which is equivalent to vitamin A). The other potato, well...lots of carbs in that one, but less beta carotene. And certainly more starch.

I don't know about you, but I've never been a big fan of straight potatoes. They bore my taste buds, which is why I'm usually noshing on the sweet variety. But a baked sweet potato gets boring, too. Enter the sweet potato pancake, a recipe I found on Caitlin's blog. I pretty much followed her instructions exactly, right down to the drizzle of maple syrup, so I won't take the time to post it again here. Besides, it'll give you an excuse to check out Healthy Tipping Point. It's almost as good as the sweet potato pancake. Which, by the way, made for an excellent lunch last Friday. It would be a great breakfast, too. If you felt so inclined.

Speaking of inclinations when it comes to meals, do you plan ahead? Erin touched on this a few days ago. It's not that hard, and it'll do wonders for your weight-loss and fit life goals. I plan a basic menu every Sunday, right before we hit the grocery store. Lately, I've been writing it out on this handy wipe-off planner.

It's a magnet, so it hangs on the front of our 'fridge. (I got it when I participated in the Yoplait Greek presentation a few weeks ago.) Of course, it isn't a do-or-die menu. It's simply a guide that assures us we always have something to eat. What you see above is last week's menu. With all the holiday hullabaloo, we didn't have time to hit the grocery store yesterday. We'll get by for another day or two, but I digress. You don't have to have a fancy pants menu like I do to successfully plan out your meals. Any 'ol piece of paper will do. Even if it's a Post-It note.

But the more you plan ahead when it comes to your eating, the greater your chances of following a healthy diet. When we're hungry, we often don't think about what we're eating. Call it desperation. So if you always have something healthy on hand, you can grab and go without worry. Or when you know exactly what you have to make for dinner that night, your odds of giving up in front of your cupboards in favor of takeout might be a bit slimmer. Make sense? Try it. At least for a week.

And try the pancakes, too. Super tasty.

(Oh, by the way—I haven't forgotten about that foam roller workout I promised you a while back. Look for it this week.)

Question: Do you plan ahead when it comes to your meals? What techniques and/or methods do you employ?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

And the winner is...

Congratulations, Kathryn! And a very Happy Easter to you—and to everyone else, too! Thanks for participating, this was by far one of my most popular giveaways. That doesn't surprise me, though. Pure bars are quite delicious. If you didn't win, treat yourself to the bar of your choice next time you hit the grocery store. It'll be the best buck or two you've spent in a long time. I promise! Besides, it's Easter. Treats are a must. You've earned it!

My treat of choice at this time of year?

Do little baby bunnies truly sound like chirping chicks?

Back up for a second. It would be more appropriate to call these tasty guys a "guilty pleasure" rather than a "treat of choice". There's something about these Cadbury Mini Eggs that gets me every single time. They're so much better than M&Ms! (There...I said it.) While it's true that I prefer the dark chocolate version, they're hard to come by and so the milk chocolate version stands in quite nicely.

I found a little single-serving bag at the drugstore on Friday.

Such a good thing I did NOT have to purchase the big bag in order to get my fix. Even so, I managed to walk away having eating only three.

Although Lent has passed and I am now free to consume sweets as often as I'd like to, I am still going to attempt to exercise serious restraint. Sweets are, after all, my guilty pleasure.

It's true that we have to allow ourselves guilty pleasures. Life is too short to continuously restrict ourselves. And remember, not all guilty pleasures are of the food variety. Guilty pleasures are simply things that distract you from your goals, or from other more important aspects of your life. Or perhaps they just put a smile on your face on an otherwise dull and dreary day. Some of my guilty pleasures include:

1) Sweets. More specifically, Cadbury Mini Eggs. Preferably the dark chocolate version. Oh, heck...I'll take the dark chocolate version of anything, really. It's my drug of choice. Must. Conquer. Addiction. Once and for all.

2) Us Weekly. I mean, really? Do I seriously need to know everything there is to know about every celebrity out there? I could throw away hours reading the Us Weekly website. Don't judge me, but I could.

3) Almond Butter. I can't stop eating it. This you already know. I need not expand.

4) Dr. Pepper...but I very rarely ever drink it. Although I did have a glass of it just yesterday. And by "glass," I mean two sips of it from the grocery store fountain after I had already downed a full glass of water. And those two sips will hold me over for another three, maybe four months. At which point another craving will kick in and I'll inevitably cave to it. Call me human.

5) Gossip Girl. Lord help me. This is the cheesiest television show I have ever seen, and yet...I cannot stop watching it. I'm totally enthralled by the characters, their love triangles, the drama and the fights. Oh, and the fashion. Yeah, we'll just say I watch it for the fashion.

Anyways, the moral of the story: don't forget to enjoy the things you love most, however trivial they may be. It's all about moderation. And perspective. Remember that guilty pleasures are not everyday necessities, just little tidbits of flavor and fun meant to enhance life when life needs some enhancement. Pick-me-ups.


Question: What are some of your guilty pleasures? How do you incorporate them into your fit life?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guest Post: Creative Soul In Motion

I couple of days ago, I wrote a guest post for Erin over at Creative Soul In Motion. And now she's writing one for me! This is why I love blogging—you never know who is going to read your blog, or what will become of their interest in your blog. For example, although we've never met in person, Erin and I have chit-chatted via email a few times. Mostly blog talk, but still. She's cool! When she asked for a guest post, I jumped at the chance and of course I asked for one in return. Or maybe it was the other way around. I can't remember, and it doesn't matter. I think you'll like what she's got to say.

Hi everyone! I'm Erin, the foodie-writer-artist-fitness lover over at Creative Soul In Motion and I am so excited to guest blog for Tara over here at A Daily Dose of Fit. As a newbie in the blogging world, I super appreciate Tara's helpful advice and insights as I maneuver through the blogging world, and when she asked me to guest blog I was overjoyed. Seriously. I even did a fist pump in the air at my desk. 

Anyways, earlier in the week over at my blog I admitted that I'm not always the most punctual person and stated that my Weekly Goal is to be on time.

Now, I'll be the first to confess that it's hard to balance everything I want to accomplish in a day. Twenty-four hours just doesn't seem enough for all of my responsibilities, obligations, projects, hopes and aspirations and on top of that I love my body and need time to exercise, eat healthy, fresh foods and recharge. WOW! Just writing all of that out makes it seem impossible to fit into one day. But you know, I think we can do it and keep our sanity all at the same time.
So when I took on this challenge I knew I couldn't rely on good intentions alone, so I reached out to friends and racked my brain to find ways to become more punctual and here's what I came up with:

1) Define your goals.  
Before you start planning out your time you need to figure out exactly what is important to you and what you want to accomplish. I find it's best to think of your goals in three different stages: yearly, monthly and weekly. Once you define your goals, it's extremely helpful to post them somewhere visible to help you keep focused and committed. 

2) Plan out your days and weeks. 
Every Sunday, I like to spend an hour or so literally planning out what I want to accomplish throughout the week. Depending on where I am in relation to my "Yearly Goals" I may devote all of my time to 1 or 2 projects, other times I will plan lots of time for errands, cleaning and social events. No matter what you have going on, by planning your week out in advance you can see where you have some extra time and it can help you feel like you have a bit more control over the week's events.

3) Write everything down.
I want to repeat this  because it's one of the only ways I stay sane, it is super helpful and makes your life easier: write everything down. Even if you have a great memory, by jotting down all of your responsibilities, tasks, goals, events and plans you will free up valuable space in your mind.

I use a few devices to help me keep everything in order: A) I carry a little notebook to jot down anything and everything that comes to mind when I'm on the go, B) the checklist on my Blackberry is super useful to keep track of the small tasks I want to accomplish at night and the calendar helps me remember where I need to be and when, C) I keep work tasks in a separate daily planner so that I know what I need to do at the office versus at home.

4) Schedule in down time and workouts.
To ensure that I don't miss my workouts, I literally schedule them into my Outlook calendar so that I don't forget. Also, it's SO important to give yourself time to just rest and recuperate—maybe use this time to go for a nice stroll or read a book, either way you need to schedule in "me" time. 

5) Stay focused on the task at hand.
Everyone loves multi-tasking but honestly jumping from one task to another and back again doesn't doesn't give your mind time to really focus and it can cause things to take a lot longer than they should. So try focusing on just one task at a time; if you need help set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, and every time it goes off you can surf the web or check your mail for a minute or two, but then go back to your project and reset the timer—this should help you re-learn how to focus.

6) Sneak in exercises.
This is one of my favorite ways to make sure that my body is getting some exercise every day. In the morning, I stretch with cat and cow and the do 50 crunches before I shower. When I get home from work, I do 10 squats and another 50 crunches after I change. Finally, before bed I do 10 wall pushups and 10 chair squats. I just started doing this and I love it because it's easy, takes only a few minutes and gives you a quick burst of energy!

(Sorry guys, I hate to interrupt Erin's lovely post, but I have a thought I'd like to share: I love how Erin is sneaking in exercise from morning to night. This is a great and perfectly acceptable way to get some exercise on those days when getting to the gym for an hour is out of the question. However, I do want to urge everyone to be careful not to overdo it. If you pepper your workouts throughout your day, remember that a rest day the next day is still necessary to give your fatigued muscles time to recover. It's in this recovery part of our fitness regime that our muscles rebuild themselves into longer, leaner parts of our body. And now, back to Erin's post...)

7) Enlist help when you need it.
I know we all want to be rock stars and do everything ourselves but it's not necessary at all. Asking for help doesn't mean you're weak or incapable, what it means is that you're smart enough to ask for help when you need it. So put your pride aside and remember that your friends, family members and co-workers are there to help you!

8) Prep your lunch and dinners for the week.
Before I go food shopping I like to come up with 6 dinners I plan on making during the week. That way I know what I need at the store and don't have to come up with ideas when I get home from work. Also, I am a HUGE fan of leftovers for lunch so I always plan on making a little extra to bring to work with me the next day(s). Finally, I always make sure to have some quick, healthy snacks on hand for days that I'm traveling or in a rush. 

In the end, I am using this week to reclaim my days and you should, too! So, rather than being a slave to the clock, make your time work for you and definitely share any time management tips that you find useful so I can add them to my arsenal! 

You can send me a message through my site, Creative Soul In Motion.

Thanks for the great post, Erin! Such wonderful tips on time management, which is something I think we all struggle with in one way, shape or form. Especially when it comes to fitness. Because remember, a fit life is only successful when diet and exercise mesh with everything else you've got going on. Never sacrifice your sanity, social life or sleep for exercise. You must, absolutely must find a way to achieve balance. Without it, you lose more than you think.

Tune in tomorrow to see if you won the variety pack of Pure bars! 

Question: What's your secret to time management? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turn Your Workout Routine Green

It's Earth Day! Get out your recycling bins, it's time to show Mother Nature how much we appreciate all that she has given to us. We have one Earth, and it's up to us to take care of it. For us, and for generations to come. While we dream about life sustained on other planets—it isn't our reality yet so we must take care of the planet we've got. Every minute of our day, every day of our year. Now and in the years to come. And yes, you can turn your workout routine green. Not with envy, but with appreciation for the Earth.

Here's how:

1) Assess your source of water. Are you toting a plastic water bottle to and from the gym? Plastic wears out, and then it sits in landfills for years upon years. Choose a glass bottle instead, one that you can reuse. Or at the very least, be sure to pick a water bottle with a filter so that you can get the good stuff from any fountain or faucet. Those 24-bottle cases at the store? Remind yourself once and for all that you can do better.

2) Pick cardio equipment that doesn't plug in. Go for the dual-action stationary bike or simply run the track—or run outside. And since we're on the topic of being outside, ride your bike instead of driving your car. Swim in a lake instead of your local pool. Find actual stairs instead of the Stairmaster. Use the monkey bars and benches at your local park to put a creative spin on your typical strength training routine. Why not, right? Better to be outside enjoying nature than inside sucking up electricity.

3) Choose post-workout snacks and healthy meals made with food directly from the source. Not only will you do your body some good, you'll help ward off some of the effects our food industry has on the environment. It takes a lot of transportation and a lot of resources to make and box one lowly little granola bar. Best to make your own, really. It's so easy.

4) Wear workout gear made with 100% cotton. It breaks down much easier when you're done with it. I know, I know...but cotton shows off the sweat stains. So be it, that's what I say! I'll be the first to admit that this is one area of my fitness that needs some improvement...I don't own much cotton gear. Bad trainer! But...I'd rather see sweat than see my Earth bogged down by spandex running pants.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with fitness, but if you aren't recycling—why? You better have a good excuse. (We don't have a recycling service in our apartment complex, and when we did recycle, we had horrible bug infestations. Needless to say, we're house hunting. And so looking forward to our first recycling bin.)

Question: How are you celebrating Earth day? What are you doing to protect the environment?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gentle Yoga

Before we get to the exciting stuff, do one thing for me: update your bookmarks to please! I know, it's about time. It just makes sense, right? Hooray to the fact that it was still available! If you're subscribing via RSS feed, it should still be the same and will still direct you to A Daily Dose Of Fit. But I will eventually weed that address out in favor of the new one so ya might as well change that bookmark already while you're thinking about it. Go ahead, I can wait...

Got it?

Good. Alright, and now for the exciting stuff: I did some yoga this week! As you know, yoga has never really been a part of my life. I get the benefits, I've played with just never fit my fancy. Although I'm starting to think I never gave it the chance, as so many of you suggested I should. So why the mind shift? I found an article in a recent issue of Oxygen that reiterated the many benefits a decent yoga practice can bring to a fit life that relies heavily on strength training. Said article even supplied a series of six yoga poses, each of which was described in detail. I felt inspired to try them, so I dusted off my yoga mat and set the magazine article right in front of it.

Yoga studio it was not, but my ten-minute session intrigued me. This was on Tuesday. Yesterday, a fellow trainer (Michelle) suggested I join her in the 10:15AM Gentle Yoga class at my gym. I had an opening in my schedule, so I jumped at the chance. I thought: A) why not? and B) perhaps the opening in my schedule was a sign of sorts.

I didn't have my yoga mat, which bummed me out, but I made do using an extra one I found stashed in the back of our equipment room. Fifteen minutes into the class, I realized that I wouldn't be able to attend next week because of a previously scheduled client. I was bummed, and that's when I realized I might have finally caught the yoga bug.

I have to say, the class was great. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to keep up, and there were a few times that I felt lost. I had to stop and check out the teacher to make sure my interpretation of her yoga lingo was correct. But I kept up, and I kept up well if I do say so myself! I think all that strength training I do, combined with all the stretching, made it possible for me to really engage in each and every move. Only once did the teacher correct my form. I was in downward dog, and my shoulders were overextended. Ugh, darn. And that's the one pose I thought I could do in my sleep. Sigh.

After class, Michelle complimented my ability to keep up. She's been doing yoga for a while now, so I trust her observation. I patted myself on the back, then quickly realized how much I felt like jelly. What a great sensation! Total relaxation. As the day progressed, I noticed an overall sense of tightness in my body. Not sore tight, but tight tight. As if that one session magically toned me from head to toe.

Call me crazy, I'd understand.

No, really. But seriously. As I moved through the class, as I concentrated on breathing correctly, I realized one thing: I carry a lot of tension in my jaw. It wasn't hard for me to relax every bone and muscle in my body, but it's as if it all travels right up my neck and into my jaw. I have to really concentrate hard on not clenching every little muscle in there. And even as I sit here and type, I must admit that my jaw is tense.

I need to relax.
I need to do yoga again.

I am going to attend one yoga class a week over the course of the next month, so hear me now! There is a more advanced class at my gym on Saturdays, so maybe I'll give that one a try next week since Wednesday won't work out. Or maybe I'll drill YogaDownload again. But I'm already thinking the class environment is going to be so much better for me. If I can't hook myself in that one month period, well...maybe I'm just not meant to practice yoga.

I'm hoping for the best, and I'm thinking it's going to work out.


Question: If I was the new girl in your yoga class, what piece of advice would you give me?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a delicious variety pack of Pure bars! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, April 22, 2011).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Link Love: Creative Soul In Motion

Is anyone else experiencing a dreary week, or is it just me? Up here in Michigan, we started off with snow and have since been dealing with rain. I like the rain, though. It falls with the promise of spring-green plants and beautiful May flowers. The weatherman tells me our temperatures are on the rise. 60-degree weather this weekend? I'll take it. Yes, please. Let it be spring! I want to feel warm again.

Moving on, time for some link love. Are you familiar with Creative Soul In Motion? Erin writes it, that's her in the picture at right. It's a great little blog, full of "growth and happiness through active living." I love her tone, I love her topics—and I think you might, too.  At the very least, pop on over there today. Yours truly is a guest blogger. But I'm not sure what her posting schedule is, so if you don't see the post immediately, have patience and do check back for it! It will be there at some point.

I am so honored to have been asked to share my thoughts with her readers! If you're reading this because of her blog—welcome to A Daily Dose of Fit! Glad to have ya. But if you're one of my loyal readers, reading this because you love your Daily Dose...well, first I have to thank you for reading, and second...whatcha waitin' for? Go check out Creative Soul In Motion!

Well, after you answer my

Question: What makes you feel like a creative soul in motion?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a delicious variety pack of Pure bars! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, April 22, 2011).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On modifications.


Seriously. It snowed yesterday. And it wasn't (obviously) the kind of snow that fell into thin air and disappeared. It actually stuck for most of the morning, putting up a good fight but ultimately turning into rain by the day's end. It is April. It's supposed to rain in April. That's how we get May flowers. It is not, I repeat, it is not supposed to snow in April. I guess Mother Nature decided to make a last minute modification to the weather plan.

Darn her.

Oddly enough, I chose to break out the overnight oats yesterday. I've been noshing on regular oats for a few months now because they warm me from the inside out. But it's been rather warm as of late, so I figured it was time to start switching over to this colder, more refreshing way to eat oats. And since I knew that I'd be driving Jason to work, I believed them to be the perfect grab-and-go solution.

Plus, I had a recipe worth trying:

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats. A tasty bowl of goodness, really. (I should have slapped some almond butter on top. Sigh...I always think of things too late.) Discover my inspiration by clicking here, and then check out my modifications to the recipe.

But wait, first I want to discuss the concept of modifications. They apply to the wonderful world of fitness, dontchaknow. And they're actually quite important. You see, every exercise has a modification. Something that changes the essence of the move ever so slightly in an effort to A) minimize pain and discomfort, B) change the level of difficulty, or C) adapt the exercise to whatever equipment is available. So my advice to you on this day? Never hesitate to ask for modifications. Here's why:

A) Whenever you feel pain or discomfort when performing an exercise, your body is obviously telling you that something is up. Cease and desist! I guarantee you that your form is off, which can lead to further pain and discomfort in other places not previously in pain or experiencing discomfort. But if the muscle group you happen to be focusing on is fine, well...that's where modifications come in. Variations on exercises help us all adapt, no matter our bodies and the challenges they present us. No matter our fitness levels, either.

B) Modifications to exercises can change the way our muscles respond, which ultimately keeps them challenged. Like, for example, when it comes to a squat. Bad knees? Modify the traditional squat for a while by placing an exercise ball in between your back and the wall. Once that gets easier, hold some weights. Slowly modify the exercise until you can perform an unassisted squat without pain or discomfort, and while maintaining proper form. If you're taking a group class, don't hesitate to ask for modifications. In fact, your instructor should provide them before you even HAVE to ask...because your instructor should be watching you, and he/she should see that you need some assistance. (Am I right, fellow instructors?)

C) If you don't have kettlebells, you very well cannot do kettlebell squats. Right? Wrong! Modify using a dumbbell or a medicine ball. It's that easy to work around a lack of equipment. Don't have the funds to purchase a home cable machine? Buy a TRX or some exercise bands! That's the beauty of the fitness industry. It's highly adaptable and filled with creative people who are always coming up with new and exciting (and fun) ways to do the same 'ol exercises people have been doing. Besides, when we switch and change our exercises, we continuously challenge our muscles.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get back to that recipe I promised you.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup natural applesauce
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 apple, chopped up into pieces
2 tbsp chopped pecans

Mix everything in a bowl. Cover and let set overnight. It'll be ready in the morning, I promise.

(End directions.)

It doesn't get much easier, folks. You can heat the mixture as per the original recipe, but it tastes just fine as a cold cereal. At least that's what I thought.

Oh, by the way. Best Buy didn't have my heart rate monitor. Epic fail, but I have one on order so I'll be sitting tight for the next seven to ten days. Ugh. No patience, this one. I think I'll make some granola bars to keep busy.

Question: Have you ever had to modify an exercise? Why, and how did it go?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a delicious variety pack of Pure bars! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, April 22, 2011).

Monday, April 18, 2011

WIN THIS: A variety pack of Pure bars!

What a weekend! I swear they get shorter and shorter. Or maybe I just need to stay away from Chicago for a minute. I've been going into the city so much as of late. This weekend's event: a belated Christmas celebration. My sister and I promised our parentals a nice night out, and we finally got it on the calendar. It's hard to coordinate six very busy people! The hubs and I ended up taking the train in, and I packed a fun little snack for the mid-afternoon trip:

Had to show ya 'cuz I dig the pattern on this Pink Lady. Have you ever seen an apple so...striped? It's a fashionable little thing, given that stripes are so in right now. (Aren't stripes always in?) I should have packed one of these guys, too:

The "purest" form of deliciousness, I swear. Ever eat a Pure bar? I love them so. And I love the story behind them, too. One mom, a vegetarian daughter, and their adventures in the kitchen which ultimately lead them to a super snack shared with others—to the point where it turned into a full company that temps the taste buds of people everywhere. Let's get back to the bars. Did I mention they're organic? THAT never hurts. When you read the ingredients in each bar, you know each and every one of them. No mysterious additives, just...well...just "pure" fruit and flavor. And if you eat this one... get some chocolate, too. Fantastic in my mouth! It's the Trail Mix bar. And I love it for all the Omega-3s, protein and fiber within. Can't beat that it an afternoon snack. Also good:

Pure Organic Apple Cinnamon Bar.

Pure Organic Cranberry Orange Bar.

There's nothing like packing a good, tasty snack when you're on the go. Because let's be honest, the fresher the food, the more complicated it is to eat on the go. So bars like these, well...they satisfy without filling you up with nonsensical ingredients that do more harm than good. Because when you're living the fit life, when you're doing everything you can in terms of exercise, obviously what you eat is highly important. So a Snickers bar from the gas station just won't do. But these Pure bars would. And really, they taste so good that you'll forget you're putting something natural and good into your body.

Don't believe me? Sign up for the chance to win a variety pack. I'm serious! I will tell you how in a minute, but first, you need to know that I need to know your email address! If I can't get in touch with you, I can't figure out where to send your prize. If you don't want to leave your email address in your qualifying comment, feel free to email dailydose (dot) notes (at) gmail (dot) com. And now, how to enter:

1) Take a look at all the Pure bars, then leave a comment telling me which one you'd most like to eat
2) "Like" PURE bar on Facebook.
3) Follow Pure on Twitter.
4) "Like" Daily Dose on Facebook.
5) Subscribe to Daily Dose via email.

Be sure to leave a note telling me all that you do! Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, April 22, 2011. The winner will be announced on Sunday, April 24, 2011.

Back to Chicago for a second, just have to tell you that Carnivale is a most excellent place to eat. If you live in the city, or if you plan on visiting, make a reservation! It's pricey, but worth it. Think authentic Latin cuisine in a colorful atmosphere. I had a vegetarian dish complete with squash, mushrooms and wheat berries in some sort of spicy, tasty sauce. (The picture I took of it doesn't do the dish any justice whatsoever, so I'm not posting it.)

I think the 'rents had a good time:

Love them! And I love that they live the fit life, too. Mom is about to run her second half marathon, and Dad...otherwise known as Lance Armstrong...he's always on his bike.

Now...go! Enter my giveaway!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Age-schmage! Check out this fit granny:

This lady legend is one to look to for motivation. She is living proof that exercise does your body good. Now and certainly in your years to come. It is never, ever too late to get moving. And it's completely worth it. Your life doesn't have to slow down once you reach a certain age, why should it? Your life should be enjoyed, lived to the fullest—and to the strongest. The more you exercise now, the easier it will be for you to live that future life of yours.

If I can still train at the beautiful age of 90...shoot, I'd be one happy woman! Guess I'll have to wait and see what the next 60 years has in store for me. Hopefully, plenty of fitness is involved. And maybe a day trip or two to Chicago. Did that AGAIN yesterday.

More on that tomorrow. Time to enjoy this Sunday.

Question: What are you doing right now to ensure that you are fit in your later years? Is there an older individual that consistently inspires you?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I heart breakfast.

I've been lounging on the couch a lot lately, my nose in a book.

The kind people at Barefoot Running sent me a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Barefoot Running. Sounds like a scintillating read, right? I thought so.

Is there anything better than sneaking in some time on the couch with a good book?

Yes: Breakfast is better.

It might be impossible for you to convince me that I should love another meal more than I love breakfast. I dig it with every taste bud I've got. And while you might argue that one falls in love with breakfast simply because one wakes up hungry, I beg to differ. For me, it's not about that. Rather, it's about the meal itself. It can be sweet or savory, baked oatmeal or boxed cereal, name it. I love it. (Unless, of course, you name bacon. It's the only breakfast item I will not touch. I think it stinks, and it's too salty. But I digress...)

Aside from being quite tasty (in my opinion), breakfast is truly the most important meal of your day. After a night of burning calories (yes, we burn calories while we sleep)—it simply makes sense that we need to refuel when morning comes. A car doesn't go without gas, right? You should expect the same from your body. It can't function properly without food. Healthy food, to be more specific. So it goes without saying (but you know me, I say it anyway) that your day should always start with something healthy and nutritious. Bonus points if it's delicious! But it's not just about our ability to function.

Noodle this quote from WebMD:
Let's say you snack on something healthy before you hit the hay. Lights out at 10:00PM, alarm goes off at 6:00AM, you don't eat breakfast, blah blah blah and suddenly it's time for lunch. And it's noon, which means you've just gone 14 hours without eating. So you'll probably devour something (maybe even too much of something) for lunch. That is, unless you've staved off hunger by dipping into the office candy bowl. Regardless, I bet you feel like crap.

But this doesn't have to be. Just eat breakfast! Do that for yourself. It doesn't have to be cereal. It doesn't have to be oats. It doesn't have to be eggs. It has to be healthy, and it has to hold you over. Think protein, think carbs. Think clean. Remember that breakfast, just like any other meal, isn't about feeding a hungry stomach—it's about fueling a healthy body.

Speaking of, I need to fuel this body. And since it's Saturday, I've got the time to whip up something delicious and (of course) nutritious. I think I'll go with another one of Ashley's great Breakfast Bakes.

Visit her "Recipes" page, then scroll down to find a few of her favorite variations. Girl is a whiz when it comes to breakfast. I've been making her Bakes off and on for a while now. They're quite good. And I love that you can make them in the oven OR the microwave.  Also, I love that you can tweak the ingredients and still find great success. I stuffed this one with blueberries and a kiwi, then topped it off with almond butter, sliced bananas and crumbled Roasted Maple Cinnamon almonds:

So good. But I do think this next one is even better:

I stuffed it with peanut butter, then topped it with sliced bananas and Lee's Blueberry Chia sauce. I mean, I literally can't explain how good it was. Would it help you to know that I made it two days in a row? Or that I'm currently salivating over the picture above? Oh, man. I might make this today's breakfast, too.

But before I do that, I need to clarify one thing: I baked all of the above in a cereal bowl. Portion control? Check.

Question: What is your breakfast of champions?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Support Your Carpal Bones

If you don't mind, I would like to go back in time for a second. Back to that day I talked about pushups and how to perform them. Yes, I realize this was but a few days ago, but I'd like to expand on something directly related to what I talked about. Directly related to your wrists, actually. Because as I said before, weak wrists wreak havoc on your pushup game. And while pushups can strengthen your chest muscles (and more), they don't do much for the muscles nearest and dearest to the eight bones in your wrist. The eight carpal bones, to be specific. Little tiny balls held together by tendons and muscles, supported further by all the muscles in your forearm.

The above will give you a general sense of what I am talking about. (I'll spare you the scientific mumbo-jumbo for now.) Take note of the brachioradialis. While it gets some action whenever you perform a hammer curl, it's the extensor muscles that get forgotten most frequently. And it's these muscles, along with the brachioradialis, that truly support your carpal bones. So let's talk about how to strengthen them, because really---when was the last time you thought to strength train your forearms directly?

The following exercises can be performed twice a week. At the very least, just once. Never, however, on consecutive days. Like all the other muscles in your body, the muscles in your forearm need a break, too. Start with two sets of twelve repetitions each, and only lift a weight suitable to your current forearm strength--don't be surprised if that weight is lighter. Remember that these muscles aren't the biggest muscles in your body. They can be strained if pushed too hard. That said, I think you're ready for the following. (Not sure? Consult your doc.)

1) WRIST CURLS: With a weight in each hand, rest your forearms on top of an exercise ball, bench or table. Let your hands hang off the edge, palms facing toward the ceiling. Just like a bicep curl, raise and lower the weight, moving only from the wrist down. Repeat desired repetitions, then flip your wrists so that your palms face the floor. Do another set of repetitions here, same motion. Note that these exercises can also be done standing, using an exercise band with handles. Quite possibly even a bodybar if you've got access.

2) ROPE ROLLS: You'll need some equipment for this one. Gather a rope, weight plate or dumbbell and a bar of sorts. Something light, like a broomstick. Tie the rope to the weight, and tie the other end of the rope to the bar. You'll want it tight the point where the bar won't rotate inside the knot. Grab the bar with both hands, palms facing the ground. Standing tall, proceed to roll the bar in an effort to raise the weight off the ground, consequently rolling the rope up and around the bar. Release the weight and repeat to complete your second set.

3) HAND WIPES: Hold a very light weight in each hand. Bend your arms to 90 degrees, tuck your elbows into your sides and face your palms toward the floor. Move your hands back and forth, as if you were wiping something off the floor. Back and forth, back and forth.

4) ISOMETRIC CONTRACTIONS: Clasp your hands together in front of you, fingers interlocked. Press your hands together hard and hold for 15 seconds. Relax and repeat, working your way up to a total of 30 seconds.

Remember that any sharp pain is a direct attempt by your body to make you stop doing whatever it is that's causing the pain in the first place. If you have weak wrists, it is absolutely essential that you keep this in mind as you proceed. And please, do proceed! We tend to focus on our main muscle groups, forgetting the smaller (and equally important) muscle groups. You can't pick and choose the muscles you want to train--you should be training them all quite regularly. Luckily, there are a wide variety of compound exercises out there that help us get all that training done.

What's a compound exercise? An exercise that uses more than one muscle group. But let's talk about that another day. It is, after all, Friday. And although it's not looking too good, I do hope to get out and go for another walk. Yesterday turned out to be less than desirable. (I told you spring in Michigan is silly.) Pockets of sunshine, sure. But generally quite overcast. And I hear there's more of it in my future. Can someone please send me some sunshine and summertime?

On a brighter note, I think I decided on a heart rate monitor. Let's hope Best Buy has it in stock. I'm not one for patience when it comes to buying new toys!

Question: What muscle group do you repeatedly forget to train?


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