Saturday, December 31, 2011

"It's about old friends."

Whenever this night rolls around, I can't help but think of Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally"—such a great movie with a classic New Year's Eve ending.

Because really, like Billy/Harry, none of us really know the words to "Auld Lang Syne." Well, except for "should old acquantance be forgot." I always sing that part then trail off into hoots and hollers with confetti and horns. Don't you? Maybe it's just me. But according to Wikipedia, this Scottish folk song is about forgetting old times. It questions whether or not it's right to forget those old times, and it asks us to remember all of our friendships. If you're curious about the lyrics, I give you the English version as posted on Wikipedia:

Have fun, be safe. And have a very happy new year, old friends.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Foodie Pen Pals: Keri {&} Brian

It's that time of the month again—for the second month in a row, I participated in the Foodie Pen Pals program and I am so loving it! I send out a box of goodies, I get a box of goodies. Win...and win. This month, my package went to Rachel of Travel Challenge and I got a package from Keri of Keri {&} Brian. Keri went straight to my heart with a slightly sinful gathering of goods from Trader Joe's:

I love Trader Joe's, but I only get to shop it when I'm in Chicago. As of late, that hasn't been very often so that makes Keri's package even more awesome.

Up first, Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels.

The entire bag is one serving, but I opted to play it smart by only eating three as a post-lunch sweet tooth satisfy-er. It worked, they're sweet. And "sweet" as in "awesome," too. I plan to make these last as long as I can. Unfortunately, I won't be saying the same for the juice box filled with raspberry lemonade coconut water.

A) It was good...and good for me, B) I was thirsty and C) I haven't had a juice box in fo-evah! So it was kind of fun to slurp the straw 'till I got to the very end. Yeah, it's for kids, but mine's on the way. Flavor and straw aside, I love that "O.N.E" stands for "one natural experience." That's always a good thing, right? The natural experience? I'm hoping for one of those any day now.

Back to my box of goodies.
Which, just so we're clear, I did NOT consume in one fell swoop.

Behold, a bottle of chocolate-infused coconut water.

Honestly, I was a little nervous about this one. Chocolate and coconut water did not seem like an obvious match to me. But I like chocolate drinks, and if they're healthy, all the more reason for me to drink them. So, truth be told, I really...really liked this. I typically buy chocolate almond milk when I feel the need, but it's super thick so I always end up diluting it with water and ice. The stuff above, it tasted like my best dilution ever. It was good! Refreshing, and full of healthy ingredients like electrolytes which would make this an ideal after-workout bev.

Not so good for after a workout?

A caramel-filled, sea salt infused dark chocolate bar. What a treat! And just so you know, I only took one bite. So there.

As for the rest of my goodies, I haven't quite used them all yet, but I certainly will. Keri sent an awesome spinach salad recipe to go along with the mixed nuts. If it turns out well, perhaps we'll find a way to share the recipe it with you.

Next month, well...what with the arrival of Baby, I shan't be participating in the Foodie Pen Pal program. It saddens me, but I'd hate to fall behind and cause someone else NOT to get their package. So I look forward to February, when I'll get and give my next box of goodies. But if you'd like to give and receive a box next month, or any month hereafter, this is how it works:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"The Most Popular Health Topics of 2011"

I don't live in New York City, but that doesn't stop me from reading Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog on The New York Times' website. Not only does she have an awesome first name, Tara "sifts through medical research and expert opinions or practical advice to help readers take control of their health and live well everyday." That makes her blog awesome, too. Most recently, she posted an article about "the most popular health topics of 2011."  The author, someone named Anahad O'Conner, studied (among other things) Google's analysis of the most popular and fastest-rising search terms of the year. According to the report, the following search terms topped the "Fastest Rising Workouts" list:

1) Thor Workout
2) Ryan Gosling Workout
3) Chris Hemsworth Workout
4) Captain America Workout
5) Cam Newton Workout
6) Elisabetta Canalis Workout
7) Afterburn Workout
8) Asylum Workout
9) Tough Mudder Workout
10) 100 Workout

 And on the "Fastest Rising Diets" list:

1) Dukan Diet
2) Four Hour Diet
3) 17 Days Diet
4) Slow Carb Diet
5) Perfect Health Diet
6) African Mango Diet
7) Lichi Diet
8) Esselstyn Diet
9) Rachel Ray Diet
10) Beyond Diet

Geeze, I don't even know what some of those things are, but it sure is interesting to see what people in the United States were "googling" all year long.

If you go back to the article, you will also find links to popular search items on both Yahoo! and Bing, as well as links to the most popular articles on the Well blog itself. This, of course, made me curious—what were the most popular articles on Daily Dose this year? Now, unfortunately my analytics can only produce a "Top 10 of All Time" list, so there are three articles on it from 2010. The rest are from this year:

1) Power Balance Wristbands: Real or fake? [2010]
2) Official Product Review: Sparkling ICE Water [2010]
3) Heart Rate vs. Hard Work
4) Orange Juice
5) WIN THIS: A variety pack of Pure bars!
6) What is a Zercher squat?
7) "You can't afford to be skinny!"
8) 100-Calorie Cupcakes [2010] 
9) WIN THIS: A cookbook from Terry Walters!
10) Hmm, which yogurt to pick...

If you haven't read them yet, check 'em out!

Question: What kind of workout and/or diet searches did you make this year?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Workout Wednesday: A Core Test

Lord knows I'm not doing much core these days—one and a half weeks 'till the due date, folks! I'm ready, so totally ready for this baby to come out. Just in the last day or two, I've really been feeling the effects of hitting that any-day-now mark. I walk slower (but I'm not doing the waddle), and my energy is dropping (but I'm still trying to get in some light strength training). My plan from here on out is to simply move in whatever way I can without going overboard, all in an effort to keep the muscles alive, to keep the ticker pumping and, keep from going insane! We'll worry about next year's fitness goals after Baby comes. I'm already looking forward to getting back to my pre-preggo state. I miss all the fun exercises I used to do!

And as you think about your fitness plans for the upcoming new year, let me suggest you check in with your core. Your core, after all, is pretty much the epicenter of all that you do. Not only does it create a solid base from which you move, it supports your balancing act and keeps your posture in check. The problem? A thousand crunches don't necessarily signify a strong core, so it's important to check in with the one exercise that tells the story: The plank.

I know, I know. I hear it all the time from my clients. Planks stink, but they're really one of the best exercises out there—you've heard me say that before, for sure. Plus, they go anywhere you do. All you need is the floor space, so there's really no excuse for NOT working that core of yours.

How to test your core with a plank?

It's simple. Get into the position above, placing a stopwatch of sorts in between your arms. Engage your core, focus on that breathing and see how long you can hold it for. (Last time I tested myself, I hit three minutes and two seconds. These days, I'm good for about 30 seconds before I fail. You know, 'cuz of the whole baby thing I've got going on.)

Can you hit at least two minutes? You've got good core, friend. Anything less might mean you need to up the ante a bit. Best way to do that? More planks, of course! (And when you need a break from planks, be sure to browse my posts pertaining to core exercises, you might find some new ideas.)

Remember this—It's always best to test your core while it's fresh. And the planks only count if you're holding the position above without movement. Can't add pushups, can't shift to straight certainly can't let your hips sink toward the ground, or move up toward the ceiling. Both of these actions break the efforts of your core abdominal muscles. One might call it, ahem, cheating.

Once you figure out how long you can hold a plank for, stick with that number until the plank gets easy. After that point, add another 10 seconds. And another, and another until you reach the point of greater challenge.

Pick a time, set a goal...make that goal part of your new fitness plan for 2012.

Let's talk about Baby again for just a second, only because it got the cutest Christmas present from Grandpa Chris (my dad): Two sets of LIVESTRONG gym shoes...

Two sets of LIVESTRONG gym shoes...well, they're actually socks. But still, aren't they stinkin' cute? My dad is a huge Lance Armstrong fan and I can't even explain to you how excited he was about this find. Boy or girl, his grandchild will love them.

Question: Did you do the plank test? How long can you hold one for?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Official Product Review: Eat Well Enjoy Life Hummus from Tryst Gourmet

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have caught one of my recent discoveries:

Obviously, it's not a secret that I love hummus. I love making it, I love ordering it at restaurants and I will certainly fork over the cash to buy it at the grocery store. That's where I came across the stuff you see above. Eat Well Enjoy Life Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus with Sunflower Seeds and Apricots. 

Sold. And subsequently in love.
For real, it's good. And totally good for you.

I've really been trying to eat more lentils lately, so when I saw them in hummus form with some not-so-traditional toppings—it truly was an easy decision and to the checkout counter I went. Obviously the beans (lentils, white beans or edamame) replace the chickpeas featured in more traditional hummus recipes, but the tahini is still there. As is the texture. Certainly the flavor, too. Eat Well Enjoy Life sent me an overabundance of tubs to try out, featuring at least one of every flavor variety.

Jason and I had been snacking on it since it all arrived on our doorstep...

...but we couldn't possibly make our way through all of it before the use-by date, so I brought one of each flavor to my parents' house for Christmas this past weekend. It was my healthy contribution to the appetizer spread.

Let's see if I can remember what's what. In the red bowl at the top of the shot, straight Edamame. In the square dish, starting in the top left corner:

• Edamame with Yellow Peppers, Black Sesame and Ginger
• Tuscan White Bean with a Roasted Garlic Tapenade
• Edamame with Roasted Red Pepper and Toasted Sesame
• Tuscan White Bean with Roasted Pine Nuts and Herbs

But even if I've gotten the names all wrong, all you really need to know is that each flavor is delicious in every way possible. I toggled between all of them. Even the three made out of edamame. I'm not the biggest fan of edamame, which are baby soybeans, because soy based products usually give me issues—I had no issues with these concoctions, other than I couldn't stop eating them.

Again, at least it's good for me.

So, today's lesson: Next time you're on the hunt for some hummus or if you're looking for an appetizer for your New Year's Eve get-together, go beyond the traditional mix and buy a bean-based version such as the one above. Treat yourself to all that the lean beans have to offer. Trust me, you won't even realize how healthy you're eating. Eat Well Enjoy Life hummus offers what every other tub out there does...and more, given their distinct flavor varieties.

CLICK HERE to find it in your town. And be sure to follow Eat Well Enjoy Life on Facebook—you never know when they'll roll out a new flavor!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmastime is here.

Every year, we gather around our Christmas trees and celebrate a wonderful holiday. One that brings together friends and family otherwise separated by distance. Or maybe drama. We celebrate a holiday that promises new hope. For some, that hope is Jesus Christ. For others, Santa Clause. But no matter who, what or how you celebrate Christmas—the holiday itself is a reminder that life is worth living with every ounce of ooomph you've got. Life is worth sharing, too. With family (no matter what), with friends...and even with foes.

So, too are the gifts we've so carefully wrapped and placed beneath our Christmas Trees. They are, typically speaking, very materialistic things. But those things remind us of and represent the love and appreciation we have for each other. And it's that love that makes us all feel good inside.

And it's that feeling we should all capture as it propels us into the final days of the year. Days that prep us for the start of another.

When it comes to Christmas, I have very fond memories of time well spent with family. My sister and I are well past the toy stage, but that doesn't mean we've grown up. Santa still brings us presents. Rudolph does, too. And every year, we plot ways to wake up our parents as early as we used to. Now, we have significant others that like to help.

And now, we have the families of those significant others with which we get to celebrate, too.

We'll never stop growing up in terms of Christmas, my sister and I. But really, it's more about never letting that Christmas spirit die. That hope and love. And it's about never forgetting the memories we've made. One of my favorites:

Although I don't exactly remember the day itself, I will always remember these photos from my very first Christmas. That's my Dziadzia (translation: Grandpa), and I am about one month old—totally and completely oblivious to Christmas despite the cute little Santa outfit, but completely fascinated by whatever it is he had been saying to me.

Still, to this day, I love chatting with him.

Hard to believe that he'll soon be able to hold my own little munchkin.

If only Baby had come in time for Christmas.
I would have had the perfect outfit for it:

Hard to believe that I ever fit into that tiny little onesie. Harder yet to believe that I'm about to give birth to my own child, who might fit into that same tiny little onesie.

It truly is a wonderful life, no?
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

There is no better gift than love.

It's the Friday before Christmas. I have no doubt that some of you are scrambling to pick up those last-minute gifts, or maybe you have plans to stay up until midnight to wrap all the gifts that have been hiding about your place for weeks. Perhaps you're way ahead of the scramble this year. Wherever you fall in this grand scheme of things, remember one thing: You can't let Christmas go by without gifting yourself something wonderful.

This gift I speak of is neither expensive nor material, but it can be worth everything to you.

It's love.

There is no better gift than love, especially when that love is self-directed. Why?

Source: Pinterest

So take a minute right this second, right now before the hustle-bustle of the holiday hits. Take a minute to love yourself unconditionally. And as you do, reflect on the year that's almost behind you. What have you given yourself from January until now? Countless hours in the gym? A trimmed down waistline? A marathon? Whatever you've done for yourself, realize that it was for you. Not anyone else. Not the devil on your shoulder as you look in the mirror. Not the skinny girl next to you on the treadmill. You did all that for you because deep down—you truly love yourself. And there's nothing wrong with that.

This weekend, as bows fly off boxes and smiles come about because of material gifts...take it all in. Truly enjoy it. And if you don't get everything on your list, or if something someone bought you isn't remotely close to anything you'd ever want, or even if you don't get a single gift—realize that there is no better gift than the love you give yourself. Wrapped up inside your heart, it's a present that can trump all others. Even the really awesome ones.

So give yourself some love. Right this second, just do it.

And then go finish wrapping those gifts.

Santa Clause is comin' to town!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just the Rules: Tosca's Guide to Eating Right

I must confess to devouring something without a care in the world. No, not chocolate or ice cream (surprise). Rather, it's a book. One that I had mentioned on my list of great gifts for fitness fanatics—clearly someone knows I'm a fitness fanatic! The book: Just the Rules: Tosca's Guide to Eating Right. It was an early Christmas present, and at the rate I'm going, I'll be done with it before Christmas actually hits.

If you don't know her, Tosca Reno is the queen of eating clean. What does it mean to eat clean? Well, for starters it isn't a diet. It's a way of life that centers around eating the way nature intended us to eat. Minus the processed stuff, and totally based on all the natural stuff. So this book I'm currently reading is like Cliff's Notes for all the rest of Tosca's Eat-Clean books, comprised of the 51 most important aspects (rules) of eating clean.

Tosca's goal is to "gently but firmly push you over the line to getting back the best version of you." And she does just that. Here, take a look:

And that's just the first section. While some of you may already be applying these pointers to your daily life, it never hurts to be reminded. And this book proves to be a good way to do just that. For starters, there are pictures in it. (Always cool.) But most importantly, it's very easy to read. And comprehend.

It's not an expensive book, either. So get readin' already!

Question: Rule #14 explains that a treat is not a's a treat, one that's meant to be enjoyed. Within moderation, of course. So what's your treat of choice?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Workout Wednesday: The Animal Approach

Have you "pinned" anything wonderful lately?

While I spend most of my time sifting through "everything," I do venture over to the "fitness" section (of course) in search of new and exciting exercises. Although, if I'm being completely honest, part of me hates it when I do this. I find such awesome moves and I can't really do any of them right now. It's frustrating, but I'm developing quite the bag of tricks for my post-baby workouts.

An example:

Behold, the crab crunch. It's part of Health Magazine's "animal-inspired" workout. Six moves, all great. And different. So for this Workout Wednesday, I'd like to direct you to their website on which you can find the workout in its entirety. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Also, I'm kind of diggin' the pink pants.
And I already have the yellow sports bra.

Silly you, I would never wear them together like the girly above does.

But I would wear the pink pants, believe you me.

Another weekly doctor's appointment today.
I wonder if Baby is making it's way into this world yet.
Two and a half weeks to go!

Give or take.

Question: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I miss yoga.

It's only been a week since my prenatal yoga class ended. A week ago today, so tonight will feel very empty to me. It was a six week session, and quite possibly the best $60 I've ever spent. As I reflect on the benefits of doing prenatal yoga, I can't help but think about their place in my own practice:

1) Finding relaxation: I would get so relaxed during breathing exercises that I'd literally feel myself start to crumble from an upright, seated position. I never really knew breathing could do that to someone, and I'll carry that feeling with me as I fight for relaxation during labor.

2) Alleviating pain: I've had a relatively pain free pregnancy. Perhaps I owe it to the yoga (and the exercise). Especially in these last few months.

3) Sleeping better: Falling asleep is starting to become an issue, mostly because I can't get comfortable. The belly is so big! So I've learned to channel the Darth Vader, yoga way of breathing in through the nose and out through the throat. Again, it truly does help me relax.

4) Strengthening muscles: Well, obviously. It might be slow and steady, but holding those poses with an extra bit of poundage at your waist is no small task.

5) Finding support: I enjoyed meeting other moms, some of which have been through pregnancy. We swapped stories, some of us. We learned from each other, and learning is never a bad thing.

As for the last two benefits—easing delivery and recovery—I'll have to get back to you on those. Until then, I'm turning to the Internet for my weekly class. In particular, the 25-minute version of Prenatal Yoga #1 from YogaDownload. I have the audio, and some handy flow charts. A clip from the charts:

I also downloaded some flow charts for a Prenatal Vinyasa Flow class, but I'm not sure how easy it will be for me to relax into the practice if I'm constantly having to look at a series of images. Perhaps I'll just have to channel my inner ohm.

Question: What websites do you turn to for free yoga classes?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gym Motivation T-Shirts

Every year, right around the holidays, I put together a list of great gift ideas for fitness fanatics and on one such list—a funky fitness tee. I firmly believe you can never go wrong when gifting a great tee. Especially if the tee is motivational and/or hilarious. Motivation keeps you going, hilarity makes it fun.

Back to the funky fitness tee. Had I found Gym Motivation T-Shirts before putting the post together, I would have certainly referenced some of their products. I can't tell you how funny I find the following:
Don't worry guys, they make men's gear, too.

Question: If you could make a hilarious or motivational shirt for the gym, what would it say? If you already have a hilarious or motivational shirt for the gym, what does it say?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Be yourself.

I absolutely love this quote. The message is spot-on, and it's one we so often forget as we seek out acceptance in a world that inundates us with "perfection" and the need to achieve it.

It's so easy to compare ourselves to others, real or in print. But those "others" are not you, and (newsflash) they most likely have the same fears, dislikes and concerns that you do. In fact, they might even have more of them. They are human. So when you catch yourself longing for the leg muscles of that girl in the tight Nike pants, or when you pin another image of a set of abs that you'd like to be yours—look in the mirror. Say hello to yourself. Your self is what really matters. You are what matters.

And being you in this imperfect world is perfection.

Rise above everything else. Rise above the temptation to feel less than yourself. Rise above the need to fit a certain mold, to be a certain person.

Just be yourself.
Your happy, healthy self.

There's no better way to be, I promise you this.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Garlic, Chicken and Herb Salad

I love salads, this is not a secret. I hit the salad bar quite frequently. I buy pre-made salads at the grocery store. And there's only one restaurant I request when a friend calls me for lunch because only this one restaurant can stake claim on one of my most favorite salads ever. (If you're local, it's the Turkey Ceasar with Honey Mustard Dressing from Caffe Tosi.) But lately, oh. There has only been one salad for me—I blame a fellow trainer. (If only you hadn't served this salad at my baby shower, Michelle!) It's a garlic, chicken and herb concoction that can be made within the comforts of one's own kitchen.

Seriously, it's delicious.
I drool just thinking about it.

Why? Fresh herbs. And a certain Garlic Expressions dressing. It just might be one of the best vinaigrette salad dressings I've ever consumed. And I typically only consume the vinaigrettes, so I've tested my fair share. Flavor aside, this stuff has nothing but recognizable (and healthy) ingredients. Just like the salad itself.

A closer look at the star of the show:

The recipe that follows is really more like a list of ingredients, all of which are featured above. It's a matter of taste, to be honest. This is typically the rule when you make a salad, right? Finding the right balance of ingredients? So follow the below lightly, and feel free to adjust quantities as your taste buds might see fit.

Note, if you make it exactly as I've listed it, you'll get an entire bowl full of goodness well-suited to at least eight people. Keep that in mind as you cut and chop. Also, I used a bagged Italian cheese blend in the essence of time (I had other things to prepare for today's Christmas lunch with Jason's family), but I've eaten this salad with a combination of freshly shredded cheeses. Take whichever route you'd like, obviously fresh is best. As for the lettuce, I used Romain and Iceberg. Again, it's totally up to you. Spinach would even work. The more you blend, the better. (That goes for the herbs, too. Feel free to use a wider variety than what's listed below.)

This recipe also calls for bits of bacon, which I've chosen to leave out (selfishly).

Source: Michelle, a personal trainer at my gym

• 1 head Iceberg lettuce
• 1 head Romain lettuce
• Fresh basil
• Fresh parsley
• 1 bag shredded Italian blend cheese
• 1 lb chicken breast cutlets
• Black pepper
• 1 bottle Garlic Expressions salad dressing
• Bits of bacon, optional

1) Cut the chicken cutlets into bite-size pieces. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Sautee in a pan over medium heat until cooked. Let cool.

2) As the chicken cooks, chop the lettuce and herbs. Mix in a decently sized salad bowl. Add the cheese, then the chicken.

3) When you are ready to serve the salad, shake the dressing and pour it right on top. Use your best judgement when pouring—no one likes a soggy salad!

4) Top with bacon, if desired. Perhaps some freshly ground black pepper, too.

I know, right? So easy! And so minimal. And, healthy. The first time my mom made this at home, my dad couldn't believe she wasn't adding any tomatoes, onions, croutons...all those typical toppings. He understood why after he ate it, I'm fairly certain.

I think you will, too.
Give it a try next time you crave a salad.

Question: Do you have a favorite salad?

Friday, December 16, 2011

And the winner is...

Congrats, girl! It's the cutest cookie spatula ever, and I can't wait for you to add it to your repertoire of kitchen accessories. I smile every time I look at it, and I know you will, too. To the rest of you, dear readers, in case you missed my comment in response to her question about palm sugar:

Palm sugar is very much like table sugar, meaning you can swap then for each other even-stevens. However, palm sugar is not from a sugar cane plant. Rather, it comes from the palm of a coconut tree. It is often much deeper in color than table sugar, too. Although you might find natural, organic table sugar with a darker complexion. Regarding the fact that mine was cinnamon-infused, don't despair if yours isn't. Simply add a touch of cinnamon to your recipe to make up for it. To taste, of course.

And that's all the cookie crumbles from me today. Quick and short on this cold, windy Friday. The festivities begin for me this weekend...Christmas festivities, I mean. I'm hosting a lunch tomorrow for my husband's side of the family. Which, as you can probably imagine, means that Baby is still quite content in mummy's belly. No signs of nuthin' right now. Just a kitchen full of food waiting to be prepped. Guess I better enjoy prepping this meal...soon I'll be doing so with a baby nearby. And from what I understand, that complicates everything.

I can't wait.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Determine Your One-Rep Max (1RM)

"Oh, yeah?! Well how much can you lift?"

"I don't know, how much can you lift?"

"I bet I can lift more than you."

"Bet you can't."

"Bet I can."

Ever get caught in this type of conversation? You THINK you might be able to lift more than your challenger, but if you're being honest with yourself, you really have no idea. And you certainly don't want to get hurt proving a silly point that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but you really do want to prove that point only because you might be able to. This conversation ever happen to you?!

If you know your one-rep max (1RM)—proving your point might be within reach. But this isn't really why we determine one-rep max. Your 1RM, otherwise known as the most you can lift during one repetition of any given exercise, is a useful guideline when it comes to building strength or developing endurance.  This number helps you decide just how much you should be lifting.

You've heard the theories:
• More weight and less reps helps build muscle strength.
• Less weight and more reps helps build muscle endurance.

They're not bad theories by any means, and honestly, they're an acceptable way to approach strength training. But we can get a little more specific if we involve some numbers. Mainly, your one-rep max. The more specifically you choose weights from workout to workout, the easier it is to achieve your goals.
 I know, numbers.
Hate them, too.
Don't despair...

There are a number of scientific and mathematical ways to determine your one-rep max, but I think the easiest way to go about it is to simply grab a friend (or a personal trainer) and test yourself.

Let's speak in terms of a single-arm bicep curl, just so we're all on the same page.

To test your one-rep max...really, this is not that'd simply pick a weight and attempt to curl it. What weight to pick? I'd go with something five pounds heavier than you'd use in your normal set of 12, 15 or XX repetitions. After you curl the weight once, determine whether or not you think you might be able to do more. If you think you just might, let the arm rest (this is important) (maybe do some leg exercises) before you test the bicep again, choosing the next weight up.

Keep your spotter (friend, trainer) close by as you continue in this way. You'll eventually get to a point where you can't complete the single repetition without assistance, at which point you'll know that the previous weight is your one-rep max.

Once you know your one-rep max, you can apply it to the previous theories.
A recent issue of Oxygen states it best:
• "When trying to build strength...four to seven sets of up to five reps at 80 to 90 percent of your 1RM."
• "If you are looking to train for endurance...aim for two to four sets of about 15 reps at 40 to 60 percent."

Based on these updates to the commonly used theories, you just might find that you're not lifting enough. Of course, only your body can really tell you whether that's true. Don't let any theory, chart, calculation or whathaveyou tell determine what your comfort level is. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Question: Do you train according to your one-rep max?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Workout Wednesday: The Forgotten Muscles

It's easy to build a workout around the major muscle groups. This generally isn't a problem, except that the little guys get left behind. By "little guys," I mean secondary muscles not otherwise known as your biceps, triceps, quads...etc. Your trapezius muscles, the muscles in your wrists and ankles, perhaps your lower back, or all of those rotator cuff muscles that support your deltoids. I'd consider all of these to be "little guys." There are, however, hundreds of muscles in the human body. Here's but a few of them:

While they all need to see some action at one point or another, some of them are easier to target despite the fact that we often forget to. Of course, these muscles do get some action when the bigger muscles around them are called to work, but in our weekly workouts...well, we really should be taking time to target them.

And that's exactly what this edition of Workout Wednesday will focus on: The little guys. Below is a list of five exercises. Definitely not a total body workout by any means, but a list of exercises you might wish to add to your current routine. Complete two sets of 12 repetitions of each, unless otherwise indicated.

1) Wrist Curls. Grab some light dumbbells for this one, or a can of soup if you're at home. Knee in front of a bench or chair, resting your forearms on said bench or chair with your palms facing the ceiling. Curl the weights up, lower and repeat. When done, flip your arms so that your palms are facing down. Curl your knuckles up, lower and repeat.

2) Internal and external rotator cuff pulls. You'll need a band for this one, preferably one with a handle to make grasping the band a bit easier. Loop one end around a sturdy pole, or tie a knot and slam it into a door. Grab the loose end in your right hand, standing with the anchor point at your left. Bend your right hand to 90 degrees, tuck your elbow into your side and keep your hand right in front of you. This is your starting position. Maintaining this position, pull the band away from the door. Don't worry about how far you can pull—just focus on keeping that elbow (and your upper arm) glued to your side. After you complete your repetitions, turn around so that the band (still in your right hand) is attaching to the anchor point on your right side. Using the same starting position, pull the band across your torso. Repeat on your left side.

3) Shoulder shrugs. Nothing new, right? Arms relaxed at your side, lift your shoulders to your ears...targets the traps. You got it.

4) Ankle rotations. I mentioned these awhile back when I was getting into my FiveFingers. Many barefoot runners need to strengthen the muscles in their ankles and feet, but calf presses will only get them so far. Strong ankles and feet, however, are not just for barefoot runners. How many times a day do you rise upon your toes to reach for something (or walk in high heels)? I think the visual at right, courtesy of More Magazine, perfectly explains the exercise I'm referencing. If it doesn't, be sure to let me know and I'll walk you through it.

5) Hip add and abductions.  Hip exercises are certainly not new to A Daily Dose of Fit. In fact, I mention them all the time. They are so, so very important! I've said it before and I'll keep saying it again. Do your hip exercises! Use the machines at your gym, tie a band around your legs...whatever you do, just make like Nike and do it!


A week and a half until Christmas. If you celebrate, are you ready? I'm tying up loose ends in the presents department, and I still have a few goodies to make, but our tree is up and the music is always on. Baby, of course, is showing no signs of being ready to make it's presence known to the world. Patience is key, as are these next few hectic days. I shall be distracted from the lack of labor, that's for sure. And in all honesty, I still have three and a half weeks to go. Give or take, of course.

Happy hump day!
And a very happy birthday to my best friend. Welcome to 31, girl.

Question: What would you like to see in an upcoming Workout Wednesday? Any suggestions?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my giveaway! You just might win a limited edition "be a good cookie" spatula from OXO! (Contest ends at midnight EST on Wednesday, December 14, 2011). 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh, Santa...have I got a plate of cookies for you.

Some healthy chocolate chip cookies, to be exact, and it's perfectly acceptable to consume more than one. Except you might wish to save them for the sleigh ride home. It'd be totally worth it.

And you, dear readers, might wish to save them for...well, I can't think of a reason you'd want to save these bad boys. But if you can, then you should. They're so incredibly good, and having a few in your cookie jar or freezer wouldn't do anyone an ounce of harm! They're actually good for you, which isn't something a lot of cookies can claim. Especially at this time of year when sugar and candies reign supreme in almost every cookie recipe.

Let's take a closer look at them:

Would you believe that there are only seven ingredients in this recipe? Yep, just seven. All of them healthy. Well, if you buy the right chocolate. Not all chocolate is created equal. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips simply because I had them in my freezer, but I would have preferred a chopped up dark chocolate, minimal sugar type of chocolate bar.

Sometime you just have to make do, oh darn.
They still turned out pretty good, despite the not-as-good chocolate.

Maybe it was the spatula.

OXO sent me a free spatula so that I might feel so inclined to speak about the spatula itself—it represents OXO's mission to help fund pediatric cancer research and to increase awareness about their Cookies for Kids' Cancer charity. Something I'm all too willing to promote, given that I'm about to have a child of my own. According to OXO, "over 25% of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive because of a lack of effective therapies." Why this lack? Funding, obvi. So 50% of the profits associated with OXO's Limited Edition Cookie Spatula will help support Cookies for Kid's Cancer, OXO's effort to "provide inspiration and support for individuals, communities and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer through the concept of local bake sales."

Who doesn't love a good bake sale, right? Especially one that supports such a great cause. And who, if we're being really honest, wouldn't love a spatula that says "be a good cookie" on it?!

 Everyone needs a spatula, and it might as well be cute—bonus points that it supports a charity that really, truly does much for the kids of this world. Let's not forget about that.

You can purchase one for the fit foodie on your list at your local Bed, Bath & Beyond. (Find additional retail outlets.) You can also order it from Amazon. Or... can win one! SURPRISE! Another giveaway comin' at ya! Isn't this time of year just grand? I love giving presents to people! It's so much fun to light up someone's life in this way.

(Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to my readers living in the States. My deepest apologies go out to those of you that don't. I know, total bummer.)

To win, simply leave a comment on this post in which you tell me your favorite cookie of all time. Leave your email address in case you win. You can also:

1) Like Daily Dose on Facebook.
2) Subscribe to Daily Dose emails.

Oh, here's the cookie recipe:

Inspiration: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Clean Eating Magazine

• 1/2 cup almond butter
• 1/2 cup peanut butter
• 3/4 cup cinnamon infused palm sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks

1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Combine wet ingredients, then add dry (including chocolate) and mix until well combined.

3) Scoop onto a cookie sheet, then bake for 10 minutes (give or take, depending on your oven).

That's it! So easy. Now go, make them. If this doesn't entice you, I don't know what will:

Giveaway ends Wednesday, December 14, 2011—it's a quickie, so enter now! The winner will be announced on Friday, December 16, 2011. G'luck!


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