Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the winner is...

Meganne! Congratulations, girl...and thanks again for participating in my Element Bars giveaway. In fact, I'd like to thank everyone that participated. Keep reading as I hope to make this the first of many exciting giveaways. And Meganne, let us know what you think about your Element Bars once you get them. I hope your concoction turns out to be a tasty treat. (I'm sure it will.)

And speaking of treats, it's Halloween. BOO. Did I scare you? I think this day will always be one of my favorites. Past costumes include a witch, a dice, Superwoman, a witch...and a witch. Oh, and a Christmas tree which happens to be my favorite costume ever. Think green sweatsuit, battery operated lights, tinsel, a gold star and some strategically placed ornaments. Man, it was an awesome costume.

These days, I don't really dress up for Halloween and yes—that makes me sad. I do still get into the spirit of things by wearing black and/or orange. Maybe the occasional cat-ear headband. And although I'm much too old to fill a giant bag with candy, my mom sees to it that I still get a treat.

A floral treat, to be specific. (I know, she's awesome.) This year's arrangement was totally great because it contained a few gourds. And I do love me some gourds at this time of year. (Looking forward to carving out my little pumpkins before nightfall!)

And I can't go a single Halloween without watching this:

Let's just hope this nasty sore throat/stuffed ears thing goes away in time for November—who wants to be sick at the start of their birthday month? Geeze, not me. This is most definitely a treat I didn't anticipate. Perhaps it's a trick that will go away at midnight with the rest of Halloween. Blech. 

Question: What was your best-ever Halloween costume? Did you dress up this year?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Underwater Cycling Race

This is great. Truly entertaining in a why-not, innocent-fun kind of way:

Hysterical, right? I love that they tried to ski, too. Obviously we've already perfected that in relationship to water. In fact, we've perfected the whole bike-and-water thing, too. Search Google Images and you'll find tons of proof that water bikes do exist.

Ever use one? I can't say that I have, but they remind me of the Big Wheel I had when I was little.

Geeze, I could never get that thing up a hill. The wheels would just spin and spin. And the seat would always fill up with water when it rained. Such a silly bike if you really think about it. But you know what, I'll probably buy my kid one someday because every child must experience the Big Wheel before moving on to bigger and better wheels. However, that's something I don't have to think about right now. Just to be clear.

But anyways, back to the underwater cycling race above. I have but one question: What's next...underwater spinning?  Think Lance would be down? SWIMSTRONG, my friends.

One final note: I think my cycling days are over for the time being. The winter winds are beginning to blow, and that means I've started freezing my tush off whenever I leave our place. Sucks big time. (I want to go to there, that warm and inviting place in the water bike picture above.)

Question: Cycling underwater, pedaling the water bike or burnin' plastic on a Big Wheel. If you had to pick between the three cycling experiences above, which would you choose and why?

A big THANK YOU goes out to all who entered my first (and hopefully not last) giveaway! I look forward to announcing the winner tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dirty Dozen

In my town, the Farmer's Market runs through October so this weekend will be its last hurrah for the season. The fruit is long gone, hardly any tomatoes remain. Only cider—and a whole slew of squash and gourds. It sure is fall, which means we'll be relying on the produce section once again for all things fruit and veggie.

We can't, after all, just stop eating these things simply because the season demands it. What would we do without all that healthy goodness? Our fit lives would suffer, that's for sure. So we eat on, even though we're forced to pick produce that comes from afar. Who grew it? We might never know. And what pesticides did they use, if any? It's risky business, the produce section, even though the food industry would like us to believe otherwise.

But we still have a choice. Organic versus, well...the cheaper conventional version. Which is better? And does it really matter? If you're anything like me, you battle these thoughts every time your grocery list demands a few items from the produce section. What to do, indeed.

I've been reading Marion Nestle's book What to Eat off and on for quite some time now (I keep getting distracted by magazines and fiction, among other things) and in it she discusses the difference between organic and conventional produce. Her opinion:

She goes on to explain that organic fruits and veggies aren't necessarily healthier in terms of their available nutrients, just healthier in the sense that they aren't covered in pesticides. So if you can only afford the conventional versions, don't dismay. Continue to purchase them, and wash...wash...wash them vigorously before you even begin to think about eating them—because eating them is more important than NOT eating them simply because you can't afford to by the organic version. Right?

Remember that certain fruits and veggies are worse off than others in terms of pesticide contamination. Which ones? Well...see chart at right! It's a handy dandy cheat sheet that was put together by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit that "specializes in providing useful resources to consumers while simultaneously pushing for national policy change"—all in an effort to protect public health and the environment.

The EWG is so passionate about protecting us from pesticides that they've devoted an entire website to educating us about the pesticide issues at hand, which is where I found the shopping guide. So check out the site, and at the very least, take some time to review the "Top Reasons to Use EWG's Shopper's Guide to Reduce Your Pesticide Exposures." It's quite informative.

And remember, any fit life needs support from fruits and vegetables. They are chock full of vitamins and minerals that, like milk, does a body good.

Question: Is there a fruit and/or vegetable that is always in your shopping cart? Are you a die-hard fan of organics or do you toggle between the two? With what vegetables do you refuse to compromise?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Element Bars giveaway! You just might win a box of 12 delicious build-your-own energy bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, October 29, 2010.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get yourself a personal trainer!

No, this will not be a mad-dash attempt to convince you that it's time to hire me, but I would like to discuss the importance of working with a personal trainer. True, the fees can be a little steep—but the experience makes it worth every last penny. Consider the following:

1) Personal trainers motivate you in a way that you might not be able to motivate yourself. You have
    to answer to your trainer, you hire them to be there for you—and they are always there for you,
    ready to do and say what it takes to get you moving. And if you find a trainer you really like, it can
    make the workout fun. Remember, time flies when you're having fun.

2) Personal trainers bring exciting exercises to the gym floor. To stay certified, all personal trainers
    must partake in various classes that teach them the latest techniques. They learn more than you
    could possibly pick up from a fitness magazine, even though they do reference those fitness
    magazines on occasion. So every session can be different in some way, which means you might not
    ever get bored.

3) Personal trainers know how to tailor a workout to their client. It's their job to know exactly what you
    need...what, specifically, will work for you in terms of your goals. And if it doesn't work, your
    personal trainer will know how to change things up so that it will.

4) Personal trainers can jump start your fitness routine by showing you alternatives to your favorites.
    You don't necessarily have to commit to a hundred sessions, just one could pick you up and out of
    what may seem like a fitness rut.

5) Personal trainers can teach you proper form, and that ultimately keeps you safer in the gym.

In the end, remember that you are paying for a service. Talk to the fitness director at your gym and find out which trainer will best suit you and your goals, and if you end up not liking that trainer, talk to the fitness director again and let them know you aren't happy with the goods. Your trainer needs to be there for you and for you alone. If they are distracted in any way, it compromises your goals and your safety which means you aren't getting your money's worth. And finally, if your personal trainer recommends supplements—question them. Most personal trainers know that good results can be achieved naturally.

And speaking of personal trainers, this one stepped into the wind yesterday. Holy cow, have we been getting some heavy winds lately! Feeling restless, Jason and I went into town after dinner for cup of hot cocoa and some outside time along the bluff (cliff overlooking the beach, for those of you that weren't sure). The hair sure did blow all types of messy-in-my-face. Some pics:

Needless to say, we didn't last very long out there. And my hot cocoa gave me bellyache, which was a total bummer since I love me some hot cocoa on occasion. SIGH. That's what I get for consuming too much sugar.

Question: Have you ever worked out with a personal trainer? What was your experience like? 

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Element Bars giveaway! You just might win a box of 12 delicious build-your-own energy bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, October 29, 2010.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

100-Calorie Cupcakes

Before I got married, my lovely sister planned a bachelorette weekend in Chicago that involved a cupcake tour of the city. Clearly, she knows me well. And because you might not, it is absolutely essential that I explain to you my incurable love for all things cupcake.

I think it started a few years ago when I visited New York City for the first time. "Sex and the City" was all the rage (isn't it still?) and I got the opportunity to recreate an iconic scene from the show with one of my best friends. The premise of the scene itself is not important, you just need to know that it took place outside what could possibly be cupcake heaven. Sweet, delicious Magnolia Bakery, I blame you for my cupcake addiction.

Had I never set foot in that bakery, I might not have ever loved cupcakes so ferociously. They were seriously that good. Quite possibly the best I've ever had. I even bought the official Magnolia Bakery cookbook and still reference it to this day.

While I can't say for sure whether or not "Sex and the City" triggered the cupcake trend, I can say that it's still going strong.

And another television show recently picked up on it. I don't watch "The Biggest Loser," but my coworkers know I love to try out new cupcake recipes, so they were all too eager to share with me last week's turn of events. Apparently, Curtis Stone made an appearance and taught the contestants how to make cupcakes that clocked in at 100 calories. So of course I made them. (Your typical cupcake is definitely not 100 calories. Thus why we refer to them as "treats".)

Curtis Stone's 100-Calorie Cupcakes
5 egg whites
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup nonfat cream cheese
1 cup fresh raspberries, plus extra for garnish

1) Preheat your oven to 325F.

2) Place the egg whites in a bowl and whip with an electric mixer for three
     to four minutes, or until they begin to lighten up.
3) Increase the mixer's speed and whip in salt and honey until the whites begin to peak, then add in the
     vanilla. Gently fold in the yogurt.
4) In a different bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Sift it into the egg white mixture, then spoon it
     into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake papers. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, remove and cool
5) While the cupcakes are baking, rinse the raspberries and puree them in a food processor. Heat over
     medium until they begin to reduce. Cool completely before incorporating them into the cream
     cheese, which should be at room temperature.
6) Frost the cupcakes, then garnish with a fresh strawberry.

Notes from the chef: For some reason, this cupcake batter doesn't rise so you'll need to fill each paper almost to the top to get a full cupcake. It's very light and fluffy, though, which I think is refreshing and not so filling. As for the frosting, general consensus was that it tasted too cream-cheesy and not necessarily sweet enough. I tend to agree, and wonder if adding powdered sugar would help—though it might change the calorie count.

You'll have to make them for yourself, then let me know what you think. Or how you tweak.

Question: What is your favorite cupcake flavor?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Element Bars giveaway! You just might win a box of 12 delicious build-your-own energy bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, October 29, 2010.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm loving this core balance kit!

I was in Target the other day (which doesn't surprise anyone) and came across this core balance kit in the fitness aisle. (Do you shop the fitness aisle? It's where they keep the real toys.) Four little pods, brightly colored and ready for anything. Fantastic, right? I love them! And you will, too—that is, if you enjoy adding some instability to typical moves like squats and standing bicep curls. These pods work much like a BOSU or balance disc, they're just smaller.

That makes them extremely portable, and it also means they won't take up a ridiculous amount of space in your house or apartment. But that's not to say they won't cause a significant amount of burn during and after your workout. I can attest to the fact that they increase the intensity of a plank, that's for sure.

Did you happen to notice the price in my Target photo above? $29.99 is a super steal in my opinion, especially since the kit includes two full-length workouts. Now, I haven't actually purchased a set for myself yet (come to find out, we have a set at the gym) so I can't say for sure whether or not those workouts are worthwhile. But that instability's good. Especially in terms of your core. Remember that whenever you stand on an unstable surface, you immediately call upon your core muscles to help you find balance.

I found this video online, perhaps it's similar to what comes in the kit:

Looks fun, right? I think so.  But a jump or single-leg squat is not the only thing you can do on a set of balance pods. They'd increase the intensity of just about any squat, lunge or plank—basically anything that puts part of your body in contact with the floor. Well, unless that body part is your face. Clearly that won't be comfortable for you as Jason so graciously demonstrates in the picture at right. (My husband, the goofball.)

Question: Have you ever used a set of balance pods? What's your opinion? And speaking of balance, do you consider yours to be good or bad? How do you know?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my Element Bars giveaway! You just might win a box of 12 delicious build-your-own energy bars. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, October 29, 2010.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

WIN THIS: An entire box of Element Bars!

When I was little, I'd spend my summer months hanging out at my grandparents' house because both of my parents worked full-time. Aside from the salami and cheese sandwiches, I vividly recall watching a lot of game shows. Particularly "Press Your Luck" and "Win, Lose or Draw." Also "Double Dare," but that was on Nickelodeon and I didn't always get control of the channels. These shows had very different rules, but they all shared one thing in common—the faceless announcer that described every prize in great detail, usually beginning with "...and you could win this..." as said prize was unveiled before the excited contestants.

Today, I am becoming that faceless announcer and you could win this:

A fabulous box of Element Bars! Yep, no lie. You really can win it. Or at least one like it, because the bars you see above were sent to me by the company so that I could taste and review them.

As you know, I am a huge fan of granola bars. So when I came across Element Bars at Club Industry, you can imagine how excited I was to learn that they're filled with nutritious goodness. I tasted the Cranberry Crunch and Blueberry Bliss, after which I fell in love—after which I knew you must know about them, too. The company itself is based in Chicago and is the brainchild of a small group of people just like you and me. Active people who want granola bars that complement their fit lives, rather than derail them with the likes of high-fructose corn syrup and other unrecognizable ingredients. Active people who baked their own bars in protest. But you and me, we don't always have the time to bake our own bars. And that's where Element Bars come into play. They bake the bars for you.

You get to choose from a great selection of all-natural, unprocessed ingredients and you can even name your bar. Fun, right? I would call mine "Pumpkin Perfection" and it would start with an oaty core, followed by cranberries, flax and pumpkin seeds, then some pumpkin spice. Seasonally appropriate, no?

Or, you can simply choose from a number of already successful recipes posted on their site.

Livin' Lean and The Cherry Dates Nuts were both included in my sample pack. So I sampled them and will very willingly admit that they were delicious.

Livin' Lean (left) was a crispy, fruity and somewhat nutty experience I won't soon forget. Sort of a classic granola bar, but without the classic cardboard flavor that so many conventional granola bars offer up. The Cherry Dates Nuts (right), on the other hand, was soft and gooey and very much like a delicious piece of fudge. Or a Pure bar. Needless to say, both will be great snacks before and potentially after I teach a fitness class. Or as a mid-day snack.

My only concern? And really, this is a general concern that I offer up regarding any granola bar, keep an eye on the calorie count. Those pesky calories can add up, but in the case of Element Bars, they are quality calories that will go a long way in terms of your nutrition.

And speaking of your nutrition, let's get you a box of customized Element Bars. Well, that is...if you are my one lucky winner. To qualify—yes, seriously! I'm really doing this! To qualify, jump on over to Element Bars and start building your custom energy bar. Then, come back here and leave a comment on this very post before midnight EST this Friday, October 29, 2010. Give me your list of ingredients, and tell me what you'd name your bar. And if you sign up for my emails, I'll put your name in the pot twice—bonus chance!

How's that for awesome? So let me know if you do that, too.

Remember, you must comment at the bottom of this post. Emailing me doesn't count! And all comments must be made before midnight EST this Friday, October 29, 2010 to qualify. The winner will be chosen at random and announced this Sunday, October 31, 2010. Best of luck to all of my readers!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Time is of the essence.

I live less than five minutes from my gym. I can leave my house at 7:58AM and get there at 8:00AM on the dot. It's that close. And yet, I'm always about five minutes late. Try as I might, I can't get out the door on time. (Unless, for some reason, I'm scheduled to meet with a client or teach a class.) I blame it on this mess:

By the time I get home from teaching Circuit Sculpt, or if I wake up at 7:00AM, I've got about an hour to shower and eat—and that's plenty of time when you're just headed to a gym. And isn't! My morning smoothie derails me almost every single time. And yes, I do sometimes get distracted by emails and/or eyeshadow. So it's my own fault, really. But regardless, I hate being late.

Which brings me to today's topic: what to do if you're late for a fitness class.

Fitness instructors usually devote the first five to ten minutes of their class to warming up. And we all know why this is important, right? A warm-up gets your body moving, literally warmed up and ready for some intense physical activity. This ultimately helps prevent injury and is the prime reason why you never want to be late to a class. But let's face it, sometimes life gets the best of you and the clock ticks out of control. So if you must walk in late, make it happen within the first 15 minutes. (And do so quietly, even if the music is pumpin'.) After that, it's beyond safe and also a major distraction as most classes are usually well into the swing of things.

If you do manage to get there during the warm-up, catch up as best you can and continue to address any "cold" muscles before moving on with the rest of the group. Remember, your instructor can't necessarily wait for you (even though they probably want to). So when you're behind, you must take on the responsibility of making sure that you are ready for what they've got planned. And once again, if you're more than 15 minutes late—probably best to just skip it this time. Maybe there's another class you can take that starts right after it, or perhaps there's something later in the day. Try not to be discouraged, just focus on the fact that you'll be trying something new today—which means you'll be giving your muscles a break from whatever they're currently used to. And that's always a good thing. 

Question: What fitness classes are you currently crazy about? How do you feel about walking in late? How do you feel about other people walking in late? Do you even like fitness classes? Talk to me! I value your opinion!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Healthy Living Blogs

This internet we surf is filled with blog after blog after plenty of blogs. Some are about cooking, others are about family. And some, never really know. But this blog, this very blog you are reading is about living the fit life. Or, healthy living. And very recently I discovered a community of healthy living blogs which I am now quite proud to be a member of.

If you look in the lower right-hand corner, yes...down there below my searcher, you'll find a new button. (HINT: It looks very much like the button you see at right.) Find it? Good! It will link you to Healthy Living Blogs, where you'll soon find my blog listed among a great selection of others just like it. And trust me, some of them really are super great. So if you get bored, poke around. But do come back for A Daily Dose of Fit, wontcha? I'll miss ya if you don't. Besides, I've got something great planned for you in the very near future. 

Question: Have you left me any friendly comments lately? Keep 'em coming! Click on the "COMMENTS" link below each post and fill out the short form. It's that easy, and I love hearing from you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food, Inc.

After last night, I am fairly convinced that I won't be eating a single piece of food that hasn't been grown in my own backyard. And yes, that is an extremely drastic statement that unfortunately holds no truth. I wish it was possible to live off our land, what little patch of grass we have outside our apartment door. But I don't think our neighbors would take to a chicken coop below their bedroom window, and our potted tomato plants failed miserably which means I probably don't have a green thumb. So, to the grocery stores I go. My only hope is that I can continue to distinguish between the good, the bad and the nasty.

Why so serious about food all of a sudden? Jason and I finally watched "Food, Inc." last night. And...oh my. Have you seen this documentary? I realize we are behind as this movie has been in the video stores for quite some time now. To be honest, I'm actually a bit sad that it's taken me so long to watch it because the content is totally in line with my interests. "Food, Inc." is a documentary, but it is not a snoozefest. Quite the contrary, actually. The words "crazy" and "interesting" come to mind. And on occasion, even the word "gross" popped up. Now more than ever we need to learn the ways of healthy eating because our food supply is, well...a mess.

Images of down-home country farms may grace the walls of your grocery store and mine, but the essence of "down-home" is pretty much gone unless you hit the Saturday market. To quote the film: "In a way, we're not producing chickens. We're producing food. It's all highly mechanized because the birds coming off those farms have to be the same size." The official trailer:

Promise me you'll watch this movie if you haven't already. It really is quite interesting. And it will make you think about your food choices. On one hand, we have to be somewhat grateful that our country is able to feed its people, but on the other hand—we need to fight the fact that our supply is controlled by so few, and that our supply is often a danger to our health. If the big organizations are so good at making food in such large quantities, why can't they be good at keeping that food healthy and safe. Oh, wait...I know the answer. The almighty dollar.

Question: Have you watched "Food, Inc." yet? If so, did it change the way you eat?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Work out with a...pumpkin?

Say it ain't so! I love me some pumpkin! (Just in case you didn't already know that.) It's true that I've carved a few in my life, I have certainly eaten my fair share, and I have also decorated our place with them—we even have two sitting right outside our little sliding door. (A short one for me, a taller one for Jason because that's the story of our life.)

But it's safe to say that I have never...EVER...worked out with a pumpkin.

As it turns out, I am apparently very behind the times. From the October 2010 issue of SELF: "A 5- to 7-pounder is a terrific toning tool for the upper body, " says BJ Cook, a fitness coach and host of the Freaky Fat Loss Pumpkin Workout. Freaky Fat Loss Pumpkin Workout? Stop it right there! That sounds like a spooktacular time, and I'd be totally in if I lived anywhere near Coconut Grove, Florida where this workout event apparently (and appropriately) takes place on October 31. (It's a Susan G. Komen fundraiser.) Needless to say, I live nowhere near Coconut Grove, Florida. Give it up for SELF, as they realized a lot of their readers don't, which is why they mentioned the following moves. Try them all with your pumpkin, or just put on your imagination cap and reach for a medicine ball next time you hit the gym.

    From SELF: "Lie faceup, arms and legs extended and slightly off floor, holding pumpkin overhead.
    Contract abs and crunch up as you raise legs (bend knees for an easier move) and shoulder blades
    and bring pumpkin toward toes. Hold for one second, then lower to start."
    From Tara: If you have lower back issues, you'll want to avoid this move. Depending on the severity
    of your lower back issues, you might be able to get away with lifting only one leg at a time. You be
    the judge. Regardless, all of you will want to keep your chin tucked while performing the exercise.

    From SELF: "Start in a pushup position, palms under shoulders, with pumpkin turned sideways
    under chest on floor. Keeping torso aligned with neck and elbows near sides, lower chest to
    pumpkin. Straighten arms to return to start."
    From Tara: This is essentially just a pushup. Focus on keeping your elbows right next to your sides,
    as you'll get more of a burn in your triceps. For an interesting twist, move one hand forward a bit.
    Finish your repetitions, then do your second set with the other hand slightly forward.

    From SELF: "Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat, holding pumpkin at chest level. Recline torso 45
    degrees. Contract abs and twist torso slowly to the left and then to the right for one rep."
    From Tara: Love this move! You can definitely switch out the pumpkin for a medicine ball, even a
    weight plate. Remember to keep your back straight and squeeze your abs the whole time to protect
    your lower back. And when you get more advanced, feel free to lift your feet an inch or two off the
    ground to increase the burn.

Good moves, right? Based on these, I can only imagine what the rest of the "Freaky" pumpkin workout is like. Sadly, I will never know. And to be honest, I think I prefer my pumpkins on my porch rather than in my gym. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I read my magazines on the couch.

The only thing missing in this particular picture? My favorite brown blanket and a glass of warm tea. Sigh. Can I blow off the rest of my day? I shouldn't. I really couldn't.

Question: Have you ever worked out with a pumpkin...or anything else unconventional? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you used. And I'd also love to know what you did with it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Let's dance!

When I was in college, we'd go dancing almost every weekend. I mean, every weekend. It wasn't about the $2.00 wells or the discounted cover charge. It wasn't even about the boys—it was about the music. Because if they played good music, my friends and I were there. And when I planned our wedding, I think it's safe to say that I was more concerned about the playlist than the party favors. Dancing, if you haven't made this conclusion yet, is one of my most favorite activities in the world—with good reason, I might add.

I was quite pleased to find the following chart in a post on Get Healthy Magazine's blog.

Now, the post does focus primarily on classical forms of dancing. But that's not to say you aren't burning a significant amount of calories during an hour-long session of booty shakin' on a Friday night with your best friends. Or at that wedding reception, or even in the privacy of your own home. (Yeah, so what if I dance around my place on occasion! I'm not embarrassed.)

Why the calorie burn? Not only is dancing a good cardio blast, it's also an excellent core workout. Next time you hit the dance floor, contract your abdominal muscles and feel what I mean. Get those arms moving for an excellent shoulder toner. And your leg muscles, well...obviously they're getting a good workout.

Not sure if you're a good dancer? What matters most is that you get out there and have fun, 'cuz trust me—someone else'll stink more than you do. But if you want to learn some sweet moves, you can always watch this guy:

Question: What song gets you out on the dance floor? Me, I can't sit down when "Baby Got Back" comes on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Carpe Snackem"

The other day, I went to Subway for lunch and got a 6-inch turkey on wheat with all the veggies (minus the sauce) and a dash of pepper and oregano. On the side, a bag of Baked! Lay's potato chips. I don't eat potato chips a lot, but for some reason, I can't get through a nice sub without them. And as I was enjoying said chips, I happened to notice a little blurb in the bottom right corner of the bag.

Carpe Snackem #2: You have goals. And, you've got cravings. Finally, a snack that honors both.

This is a marketing campaign that's been going on for quite some time now, but I hardly ever pay attention to the sayings—probably because I hardly ever eat potato chips. But I quite enjoyed this one because I think it speaks to a bigger picture.

We all have fitness goals and we all know that our diets play a huge role in achieving those goals. So it's absolutely essential that we eat smart as often as we possibly can. But, you know, we're human. And we humans crave things that aren't necessarily good for us. Like potato chips. Sure, we shouldn't eat them, but obsessing over avoiding them FOREVER is just about as unhealthy as the chips themselves. So give in on occasion. Choose a bag that honors your goals and your cravings.

In other words, pick the healthiest potato chips (or whatever) on the shelf, then enjoy eating a single delicious serving. I mean, really enjoy that serving. You'll satisfy your craving, and you'll save yourself some sanity along the way. Just be sure, however, that you aren't satisfying your unhealthy cravings all too frequently. You know why. And remember— even healthy foods get unhealthy when they're eaten excessively.

Question: What unhealthy food item do you crave (and consume) on occasion?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Running with Leaves

Something about fall makes me want to get out there and run. This gorgeous weather inspires my feet in ways that summer and (obviously) winter do not. It might be the crisp, cool air that flows steadily through my lungs. It might be the sunshine that makes the dying leaves glow like golden flakes. It might be those same dying leaves, dead on the ground, rustling and crunching on the sidewalk underneath my feet. Or maybe I just know that winter is coming and my outside exercise time is limited.

Bottom line is that I'm running on the same sidewalks, passing by the same scenes and yet—everything is different. Almost more inviting, and dare I even say cozy? I just love this time of year! Don't you?

If you haven't yet done so, get out there and enjoy it. Forgo the treadmill, put on your cold weather fitness gear and start going on daily runs (or walks) around your neighborhood. Take a mental picture of every tree you pass by, as it might be totally different the next around, what with the rate the leaves are falling these days. Speaking of leaves, listen closely to them crunching underneath your feet as you complete mile after mile. (Love that sound! Just be careful if they're wet.) And don't, under any circumstance, forget to check out the houses you pass by—I love Halloween decorations! Just yesterday as we walked through Target, Jason said to me: "Honey, just so you know, when we have a house I'm gonna go crazy with the Halloween decorations." Fine by me.

Fall is a great time to really push your cardio routine because you can get out there without having to worry about overheating. Or breathing in hot, humid and often sticky air. Crisp, cool weather is great for runners and walkers alike, as the air it brings moves through the lungs with ease. Now's the time to see if you can go one more mile, or to see if you can add some running to your walking regime.

And just so you know, Old Man Winter is making his way toward us. He has that funny way of forcing us to retreat inside. Let's face it, the treadmill is not nearly as inspiring as a sidewalk, which means you can't waste anymore outside time! So, go...have a run. Or a walk. It's that time of year.

Question: Have you changed your fitness routine at all since summer turned to fall?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More repetitions, lighter weights.

Or is it less repetitions with heavier weights? A common question, indeed. When people first get into strength training, they always struggle with the answer. Women are afraid of getting big, bulky muscles while the men aren't. But either way, both groups share an interest in getting stronger. So should women be using the more-rep method and men the opposite? In all honesty, it really doesn't matter. The point is to fatigue your muscles. So whether you do so in five, ten or twelve repetitions (or somewhere in between)—you'll see strength gains. Check out the following video from the American Council on Exercise. It'll reiterate my thoughts above.

Question: If you strength train, which method are you using?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I might have achieved greatness.

Take a minute and recall the following posts:

1) Granola Bars                                            
2) Granola Bars, Dissected
3) Granola Bars, Recreated

And then, just forget about them. If you printed the final recipe, toss it into your trash can because I've topped it. I am so excited—I freakin' topped it! My search for the perfect homemade granola bar has come to a pause. Yes, a pause because I do still have a few recipes I'd like to try out. But for now—complete and total deliciousness (and potential greatness) is pictured below.

I call them Oaty Cranberry Granola Bars (so clever), and the original recipe comes from The City Sisters. I've made a few  modifications, which I typed out for you below.

Oaty Cranberry Granola Bars
1-2/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup oat flour (Pulse the oats in a food processor to create this.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp wheat germ (optional)
1/3 tsp ground flaxseed (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/3 cup crushed hazelnuts
1/3 cup nut butter (I used a peanut/almond combo.)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup honey

1) Start by preheating your oven to 350F.
2) Combine all of the dry ingredients, even the cranberries and nuts.
3) Add the peanut butter, vanilla, water and honey. (NOTE: Run your measuring cup under hot water
    before pouring the honey into it. It'll make it easier to transfer it into your main bowl.) Mix with a
    spatula until thoroughly combined.
4) Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, making sure the edges of the paper hang over the edges of
    the pan. Pour the mixture into the pan, pressing it down completely using your spatula (or hands, if
    you feel like getting dirty).
5) Bake for 30 minutes, or at least until the edges are brown. Mine only took about 25 minutes total.
6) Once the buzzer sounds, remove the pan from the oven and let the bars cool for a bit. Then, pull on
    the parchment paper to transfer the entire brick to a cooling rack. Thanks, City Sisters, for teaching
    me the following: After about a half hour, transfer the granola bars to the refrigerator and let them
    cool in there for about an hour. (I was impatient and only let them sit for half an hour.) It keeps the
    bars from crumbling when cut.
7) Cut, eat and enjoy!

I ended up putting mine into a nice glass container with a few sheets of parchment paper in between layers. They're still in the refrigerator, totally covered, and I'm hoping this makes them last a bit longer. So far, they're still soft and delicious. Man, they are delicious! I ate one yesterday morning as I was heading out the door to teach Circuit Sculpt. Breakfast is a necessity for me (and it should be for you, too) and this tasty treat kept me energized throughout my entire class. Which, by the way, was pretty darn hard if I do say so myself. I broke a sweat big time. And I think everyone else did, too.

I'm looking forward to making these bars again—and I fully intend to continue playing with the ingredients. I'm thinking dried cherries and super dark chocolate. Or maybe some figs. I've really been wanting to experiment with figs lately.

Must eat through this batch first, though. I'm going out with the sister-in-law this weekend to shop for some bride and bridesmaid dresses. You can be sure I'll have an Oaty Cranberry Granola Bar stuffed into my purse for an emergency shopping snack. Never hesitate to pack a snack if you know you'll be out and about for some time. Beats having to hit the drive-thru, right? Right.

Question: What do you grab when you're headed out to the gym and you haven't eaten anything in a while? And also—any fig suggestions for me?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ultimate Pilates Workouts

You might have noticed that I haven't been talking about Pilates. And yes, you're right in assuming that I haven't been doing Pilates either. It saddens me, really. I've been teaching about six classes a week, which leaves little room (or need) for personal workouts. And also, I'm somewhat bored with my Pilates DVD and podcasts. "Maybe," you say, "you should just download more podcasts." Yep, I know. That would be the obvious move.

So as I went to do just that, I discovered my favorite instructors—twins Kimberly and Katherine— branched out from their original podcast with a website. Ultimate Pilates Workouts offers free, full-length Pilates videos that take you from the mat to the BOSU and beyond. And yes, once again, you can watch them all for free. (You'll have to pay a small fee if, and only if, you choose to download a video.)

It looks as though someday you'll be able to create your own workout, but now I see that this site has been up and running for a while (Where have I been?) so who knows if and when that will happen. But at the very least, great pre-made workouts await you! And do you know what awaits me? A boiled egg! I made a few the other day because I was craving a protein-y snack.

Did you know that eggs contain about six grams of protein, and that almost four of those grams come right from the white part? I just read that in ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. The little blurb went on to say that egg proteins are of the highest quality, thanks to an "amino acid pattern almost matching the human requirement for essential amino acids." I'm not entirely sure how to interpret that, but I do know that essential amino acids cannot be created within the body. And our body really needs them, which makes the foods we eat our key suppliers. Draw your own conclusions from there.
I know it's not Easter. Clearly I did not color my eggs (or write funky messages on them, as my family typically does), but I am most certainly enjoying them.  Especially this one, since it's my last one.

Barbie teeth!

I can't stop laughing. I'm seriously so sorry I posted this obnoxious and crazy (and somewhat nasty) picture of myself. Literally, I cannot stop laughing. My sister and I used to do this all the time when we were kids. OK, so what if we still do.

Aly, you can forget about denying it. You KNOW you rock the Barbie teeth every. single. time. you eat a boiled egg. Parental Units, if either of you are reading this, back me up on that fact!

Anyway. That's enough goofing off for one day. Time to get serious. Time to act my age. After all, I only get to be 29 for a few more weeks!

Question: How do you get back on your workout bandwagon if you happen to fall off of it? Do you eat boiled eggs outside of Easter?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Surprisingly Good Biceps Stretch

For the longest time, I had the hardest time stretching my bicep muscles. Triceps were easy, and if I stretched out my chest just right, well...I would sort of feel my biceps gettin' loose. But it was never a deep stretch. The kind that really releases tension to the point of ultimate relaxation, which is a good feeling. Am I right? So I will never forget the moment when I finally learned how to target my biceps specifically. It was an "a-ha!" moment, for sure. And who would have thought that all I had to do was tweak a really common stretch that I had already been doing so frequently.

Follow along: Find a wall and stand facing it. Stretch your right arm out to the side, placing your palm flat on the wall (your thumb should be pointing up). Slowly turn toward the left, moving your left shoulder away from the wall. At this point, you should feel a stretch in your shoulder and chest muscle. (Get ready, this is the fun part.) Holding that stretch, rotate your hand until your palm is facing the floor. At which point, only your thumb will be on the wall. Feel that stretch move right into your bicep?  Yeah, you do!

I swear, when I make my clients do this for the first time, it's like their eyes just light up. I can imagine them thinking "oh, wow...yeah,, that feels good." Or something like that.

Was that your reaction, too?

Anyways, dreary day up here in Michigan. Seems like the sunny weather is losing the battle right quick and fierce-like. I'm forced to channel warm and inviting thoughts to keep up my spirits, and it helps to look at pictures of pretty pumpkins bathing in the sunlight.

Yep, we visited the pumpkin patch this weekend! I'm one step closer to trying out my hand at a batch of pumpkin seed butter. (The stuff is like $15.00 online, which is insane in the membrane!)

Question: What is your favorite stretch? Do you have pumpkins on your porch yet?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stats with a Side of Sweet Peanut Butter

Today's post promises to be a bit of a hodge-podge as I have two important things to discuss: a set of statistics and some sweet peanut butter.

Let's start with the statistics. A fellow trainer gave me her copy of the American College of Sports Medicine's official journal, and it contained an article that talked specifically about menopause. Now, I'm not going to talk about menopause here in this post, but I will share a set of statistics mentioned within the article. They come from Healthy People 2010, which is a decade-long study conducted by our government's Center for Disease Control. (Basically, they just wanna know how we're doing so that they can help us be our healthiest best). And so, the statistics I speak of:

Surprising, right? And guys, I might not have your numbers at this point, but you should still pay attention to the following statement. Loosely translated, it means: get active, people! Ladies, what's up with the 70% of you that aren't participating in leisure time activities? And as a personal trainer, I can attest to the fact that exercise is like milk. It does a body good. Really good. Plus, strength training is fun. Not to mention beneficial in its own right. To those of you that DON'T strength train, I know it can be intimidating—but you can do it. Forget about everyone else and just do it at your own pace and at your own level. My guess is that you'll love it. At least that's my hope for you.

Your dose of fit? To all of you, I say be as active as you can. And be so regularly. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it as best you can. There's really no excuse for choosing the couch over a crunch, or the bean bag chair over a pick-up game of baseball. (Unless you're hurt and/or sick.) And please, don't be afraid to ask for help. And don't, under any circumstance, compare yourself to anyone else out there. Myself included. When it comes to leisure time activities, exercise and strength training—it's all about you. What you can, and what you feel comfortable doing. And if we all work on that together, we'll become a nation of physically fit people and we'll blow the CDC away with our improved statistics within their Healthy People studies.

Next topic, let's talk about peanut butter. I made a most excellent discovery the other day when I mixed a tablespoon of peanut butter with a tablespoon of almond butter, plus some cinnamon and honey. It tasted like pure joy on my Golden Delicious. And it got me thinking—why haven't I gotten more creative with peanut butter in the past? I mean, I now get that it just screams "ADD SOMETHING TO ME" every time I open the jar. So right now I'm thinking about vanilla. And of course, pumpkin. Maybe together, maybe not. We'll see what happens next time I get an apple craving.

Question: If you have all the ingredients in the world, what would you choose to mix into your peanut butter? Also, how much physical activity do you get in one week. And ladies, do you strength train? Why or why not?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

So, I might have made my best batch of overnight oats last week. They really were truly at a level of deliciousness I've never quite achieved before. Think apples and peanut butter with a touch of cinnamon.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 tsp wheat germ
1/2 tsp ground flaxseed
1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk.)
1 small apple, shredded (I used a Red Delicious.)
1/2 banana, mashed
Pinch or two of cinnamon
1 tbsp nut butter (I used almond butter.)
1 tsp chia seeds
Mix oatmeal through cinnamon in a cereal bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator. Let it sit through the night. Sleep well, then wake up and top with nut butter and chia seeds. Eat it with a spoon as you contemplate your day.

So easy. I've also made this warm, which is quite like a nice slice of apple pie. Just cook dry ingredients accordingly using 1/4 cup of water, adding the apple and the banana at the last minute. Stir until it reaches a consistency you like, then spoon it into a bowl. Top with a splash of almond milk, then nut butter and chia seeds. Stir and enjoy!

If you're wondering, my apple supply is dwindling. I can almost see the bottom of my fruit crisper, just have to look past one or two Goldens and it's there. Such a great time of year, no? Summer's sweet fruits take us right into the many flavors of fall's produce. I can't get over it—neither can my stomach!

 Tomorrow, I get back to my roots and focus on fitness. I promise.

Question: What are your favorite fall foods?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Maui Gold

On this day, I truly wish it was still 2009. After a post-wedding brunch at my parents' house, we drove to Detroit where we eventually caught a flight to Maui. After nine months of wedding planning, paradise sounded perfect. And it was.

We saw beautiful beaches, pretty palm trees, stunning sunsets—and we ate our way through what might have been an entire pineapple plantation. Oh my, we loved the pineapples! And really, you can't go to Hawaii and NOT fall in love with the pineapples. We found pineapple salsa at an open market and devoured it with gusto. We drank pineapple wine, which was incredibly sweet but not nearly as refreshing as the pineapple-passion fruit juice we drank almost daily. But of course, we also ate it raw. The freshly cut kind...the kind that comes on the side of any tropical drink you order. Mai Tai? Yes, please. More than one, thank you. (When in Rome, er...Maui.)

And so we were quite pleased to find this little gem of a shop in Lahaina:

Take Home Maui, "offering you fresh and delicious island grown treats including superior, top grade Maui Gold pineapple." Hoping for samples, we went inside—and we were not disappointed.

I'm fairly certain we overate our fair share of samples. You just can't stop, this pineapple is that good! We even sent some home to our parents as yet another thank-you for giving us the wedding of our dreams.

And so why am I telling you all of this?
Because my wonderful husband came home with a box of Maui Gold pineapples for me on Friday! And seriously, you could smell them perfectly through all that box and newspaper and packing tape. Just like a pineapple candle, only better. Much better. In fact, I couldn't keep my nose off the box.

Needless to say, it was a great Year One.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10, 2009

On this day one year ago, I married my very own Superman.

The day itself was gorgeously perfect in every way. The leaves were beginning to change, and the air itself was quite chilly—but it didn't dampen the warmth we felt toward each other. They tell you it will be the happiest day of your life, but you can't really imagine what that means until you actually experience it. Once year later, I still cannot find the words to describe what it felt like to say "I do" to such a wonderful man.

We were blessed to have the very best bridal party.

And our flower girl was a precious little peanut.

My only wish is that I could post a picture of the countless friends and family that surrounded us. The aunts and uncles, cousins, parents and grandparents. The college friends, work friends and everyone else. To all of you, thanks again for making 10/10/09 so beautiful.


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