Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New-To-Me Food Tracker

I found this website recently that allows you to download a free fitness and food journal. It has some pretty neat tools to use and it really helps to keep everything organized in one spot. You can set goals, see your progress, track your calories, protein, fat and carb intake, etc.

The program is called "Fitness Assistant 1" and can be found here. Hope you like it!

In other news...how many of you started out this year with a resolution to either lose weight, exercise more or get healthy? A lot of people start each year with high hopes that this will be the year that they will finally get in shape. Gym memberships soar, diet programs make bucket loads of money and everyone is excited and motivated. Usually this phenomenon lasts about 3-6 weeks before most people fall off the healthy-living bandwagon.

If that was you though, you still have time to make 2010 the year you reach your goals. Tomorrow marks the first day of September, giving you exactly 4 months to get back on track and reach some of those goals you may have set for yourself at the beginning of the year. If you start now, you can look at yourself on 01-01-11 with pride, knowing that you don't have to start the year proclaiming your new fitness resolutions but you can simply maintain the healthy lifestyle you've been leading the last four months. This also may give you extra motivation to endure the eating pitfalls that occur during the next few months...Halloween candy, lots of Thanksgiving stuffing and all those endless Christmas goodies.

So are you ready to look and feel your best on one-one-one-one? (01-01-11)

Talking Point: Did you set any resolutions this year that you've been able to meet? Any others that you are still working on? My main goal for this year was to learn how to eat properly. It's definitely a work in progress, but I'm getting better!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekly Challenge (Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2010)

Sorry for the absence. It's been a crazy and busy weekend, but I'm back and ready to write again!

As I was writing the dates for this week's challenge, I was shocked to have to write "September"! Is anyone else amazed at how fast this summer flew by? School is back in session around these parts and every once in a while, I feel a nice "fallish" breeze. I love fall though so I'm excited for the next few months!!

So how did you do with last week's challenge? Starting a food journal can be a bit time consuming and difficult to get into the habit of doing, but it certainly makes you more accountable for everything that you eat.

I have a confession to make though...the challenges for the last two weeks haven't been very difficult for me. I eat breakfast religiously and am already in the habit of keeping a food journal. I know some of you have gotten into new habits with these challenges though, and I think they are very healthy habits to start or maintain. However, this week, we'll be doing a challenge that will be HARD for me. I'm actually copying this idea from bodyrock.tv found here. The challenge will be to go a week without SUGAR!! I'm not talking about natural sugars found in things like milk or fruit, but sugary sweets like cakes, donuts, brownies, soda and my ultimate favorite...ice cream (I would banish flavored dairy this week too, like anything other than plain yogurt and lowfat milk.) I do pretty well avoiding sugar during the week but I almost always splurge a bit on the weekends and enjoy my guilty pleasure (i.e. ice cream) a bit (or sometimes a lot!!) But for this challenge, I am going to do my best to avoid all sugary treats and snacks for 7 full days. So who's with me on this one? Do you think you can avoid sugar all week?

Talking Point: What is your favorite sugary treat? Could you give it up for a week? I am all about moderation and I don't believe in "banishing" any foods from my diet, but sometimes it's good to give yourself a bit of a challenge for a short while. I have a serious sweet tooth and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE me some good ice cream but I do tend to overindulge a bit much. I have a hard time stopping at just one bite!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ready to sweat

If you're up for a tough workout, you should give this next one a shot. It was tough but kind of fun too because it incorporated a lot of moves that were new to me. There are 15 different moves (I did each one with a 50/10 split...50 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.) I repeated the entire circuit for a sweat-filled 30-minute workout. It was a great way to get the heart pumping early this morning.

1. Heisman (side to side leaps, landing on 1 foot, other knee up)
2. Front Jabs (basically punching and alternating left and right)
3. Hip Extension Jumps (with feet close together, squat down, touch the floor, explode up.)
4. 1-2-3- Heisman (quick shuffle to side for 3, land in Heisman at end of shuffle)
5. Cross Jacks (legs cross in front of body, arms alternate overhead)
6. Mummy Kicks (straight arms criss-cross in front of body while doing quick straight leg kicks)
7. A plank walk-out (From a standing position, keeping both legs straight, roll down until both hands touch the floor. Walk your hands away from your body, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Walk out into a plank position, hold for a second, then walk back)
8. Ski Jumps (feet together, jump side to side - don't twist, keep body facing forward)
9. Upper Cuts
10. Basketball Shots (shuffle to side for 3, squat low, touch floor with both hands, jump up and "shoot the ball" with your arms)
11. Ab Skiing (in plank position, jump both feet toward right hand, back to start, in toward left hand, back to start...DO NOT STAND UP)
12. Kick the hum (Run in place, bringing your heels to your bum)
13. Squat Ins (starting in plank, jump both feet together between hands, then back to plank, keep repeating...DO NOT STAND UP)
14. Frog Jumps (Jump forward into a wide squat, touch the floor with both hands, jump back into wide squat, touch floor with both hands. Keep repeating.)
15. Bench running taps (using a step, quickly tap alternating feet up on the step as fast as possible)

If you try this workout, be sure to let me know what you think.

Talking Point: What kinds of workouts do you enjoy? Do you like mixing it up, or do you tend to do the same things repeatedly? Are there any fun workout moves that you enjoy (or maybe you really hate them but know they're good for you?!?!?)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There's no place like home

I have belonged to many commercial gyms in my life (Gold's Gym in Provo, 24 Hour Fitness in both Houston and Katy, Texas, Gold's Gym in Bryan, Texas and now Gold's Gym again in Hagerstown.) I really love belonging to a gym because they have such great equipment and I enjoy taking the variety of classes that are always offered too.

But I also really like having the ability to workout from home if the need arises. On those days when I am short on time, have a sick child, or am snowed in (like this past winter!!), I like having the ability to go down into our unfinished basement to get in a good sweat session.

Here is what our home-gym currently looks like (we have collected various fitness paraphernalia throughout the years)...


Our weight bench.
We picked this up at a yard sale this summer. It also came with 250 lbs of weights. Yard sales and Craigslist are great places to pick up inexpensive and barely-used fitness items

One of our newest purchases, a Bosu balance trainer (you can get a great stability workout with this and it helps to make traditional exercises like squats, lunges, planks and push-ups even tougher!)

Our only piece of cardio equipment so far...a stationary bike. This is usually where I warm-up and cool-down.

Our tiny TV corner. I have a few workout DVDs that I enjoy doing at times. Right now it is mostly used to play music while I workout to my own routines, but I hope to add P90X and/or Insanity to my DVD collection for this winter!!

Last but not least, our collection of weights. We have 1, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 lbs dumbbells,
two ab balls (8 and 10 lbs) and two kettlebells (10 and 15 lbs). We also have a stability disk, some perfect push-up stands and a pull-up bar that needs to get hung up eventually!
We also purchased some foam flooring to make the concrete a bit more comfortable to work out on. I really do love my home gym and hope to be able to add on to it soon. My goal is to be able to do personal training sessions from my own home someday. A girl can dream!!
Talking Point: What kind of equipment do you have at home to workout with? Any favorite workout DVDs?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upper Body Strength

Here were the results from this morning's 4-miler...
Average pace: 8:10 min/mile
I was actually really pleased with my time this morning. I woke up feeling a little stiff and sore from the BodyStep and BodyPump classes that I took yesterday. I really just wanted to press snooze and sleep for another hour or two but I groggily rolled out of bed, laced up my running shoes and headed out the door when it was still a bit dark outside. I perked up once I got moving and I was glad that I got up and did my run early this morning. It always starts my day off on a good note!

With these achy muscles, I am really looking forward to my BodyFlow class tonight. I feel like I really need a good stretch!!

Last night I also started the 100 Push-Up Challenge which I posted about last week (Looks like there are four of us doing this now...Me, Jason, Ben and Stephanie!) I am doing it along with Jason so we started on column 3 of week #1. We both completed it (although Jason wasn't so sure he would be able to finish the last set, but he pushed them out in the end!) How's the challenge going for you all?

To me, there are two moves that epitomize upper-body strength...the push-up and the pull-up/chin-up. Both of these moves are great because they work so many different muscles in the upper body area as well as provide an excellent challenge for your core muscles. (Actually can you guess which exercise has been shown to be the ABSOLUTE best exercise to work the rectus abdominus....it's the chin-up
!! I was surprise by this too! You can read the entire article here, but here's a brief excerpt:

"Probably the most shocking result of this entire experiment was the level of rectus abdominis activity elicited by a bodyweight chin-up! It beat out any other abdominal exercise, weighted exercises and all, in mean and peak rectus abdominis activity.

Chin-ups are ultimate "anti-extension" exercise for the low back. Some lifters let their lower back arch excessively, which is not only unsafe, but sub-optimal. If they brace their lower back and keep a straight line from their shoulders to knees, the core musculature has to work very hard to prevent the low back from extending.

Another surprise was that using extra weight on chin-ups via a dip belt didn't increase rectus abdominis activity—it lowered it. If you're aiming to get a great core workout via chin ups, I recommend performing slow, controlled repetitions while focusing on keeping the hips and spine perfectly neutral throughout the set."
(BTW: The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is in the position of the hands. In a chin-up, your palms face you and in a pull-up, your palms face away from you.)

Currently I can do about 25-30 push-ups on my toes without stopping, and hopefully by the end of the 6-week challenge, I will be able to do 100 consecutive push-ups!! However, I also want to be able to do some chin-ups and pull-ups. Chin-ups are a bit easier since your biceps can contribute more to the movement. I can bust out one, maybe two chin-ups on a good day, but I cannot for the life of me complete even ONE pull-up. They are SOOOO hard for me.

But I will DO IT!! And here's how...I will start by doing flexed arm hangs and negative pull-ups. Here's an explanation of both (full article here)...

For the flexed arm hang boost yourself up – either have a friend spot you or step up on a bench – so that your chin is above the bar. Once in this position, pull the elbows down and slightly back, keep your chest up and tighten your lats before you take your feet off the bench. The idea here is to hold yourself in this “chin over the bar” position for as long as possible. At first shoot for a 15 second hold and take a 2-minute rest before your next hold. Four sets of holds is a good place to start. Add time as your strength increases.

When you are hanging, bend your knees so that your feet are behind you and your torso and thighs form a straight line. Don’t lift your knees up in front as this will develop a bad habit that will retard your progress. Work to minimize or eliminate the body from swinging as this wastes precious strength.

Negative pull-ups will help develop the strength necessary to perform pull-ups. Get into the “chin over the bar” position but instead of staying in the flexed arm position, you will lower yourself down to the “dead hang” position. Try to lower your body on a 5-count and don’t just drop and flop. There will be a point just before the dead hang position where there’s the urge to relax, but continue to exert control.

Use the same initial position and form doing the negative pull up that’s used in the flexed arm hang. Lock in with your lats, bend your knees and keep your feet behind you. Maintain control as you start your decent and keep your lats tight. If you have a spotter they can help steady you before the drop.

The goal should be to do four single 5-count negative pull-ups with 2-minutes rest in between each. As you progress – and as your confidence grows – add reps to the routine.
I'm going to start my "Pull-up" challenge this week by implementing the flexed arm hangs and negative pull-ups into my workout regime. I'll keep you updated on my progress. My goal is to be able to do 5 full chin-ups and 5 full pull-ups. Pretty lofty (at least for me!) but now that I've officially posted my goal, there's no turning back now!!

Talking Point: How do you feel about push-ups and chin-ups/pull-ups? Can you do any pull-ups? What other exercises are the epitome of strength to you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weekly Challenge (Aug. 23-29, 2010)

So how did you all do with the breakfast challenge from last week? I love breakfast and look forward to it every morning. Hopefully if you haven't eaten breakfast regularly in the past, you can start to incorporate this vital meal into your routine. Breakfast...the meal of champions!!

This week's challenge is food-related as well. I had a conversation last week with a woman who was struggling to lose some weight. She had picked up running again about a month ago and became frustrated that she hadn't lost any weight with it. She then said that once she started to write down what she was eating during the day, she suddenly lost 3 pounds in one week. I think she was finally starting to understand that all the running in the world couldn't overcome a poor diet.

As you all know, I am not a huge proponent of counting calories (I know that works for some of you though, so I'm all for doing what you feel most comfortable with.) However I am a big proponent of food journals. I know when I keep a food journal, it keeps me far more accountable for what I am putting in my mouth and body. It also really helps as a mom to prevent the mindless snacking during the day and discourages my fetish for finishing the food off of my children's' plates!

So that's the challenge for this week...keep a food journal of everything you eat. You could go out and buy a fancy "Food Journal" from your local bookstore, but really any notebook would work for your purposes this week. You will need to record three things...

1. What you eat
2. How much you eat (cup, handful, tablespoon, etc.)
3. When you eat (record the time of each meal and snack)

You may be surprised at some of the patterns you discover just from writing it all down (Like when I discovered that too much of my carb intake was from starchy sources rather than from fibrous carbs like vegetables or simple carbs like fruit.)

Talking Point: Have you ever kept a food journal before? Do you feel like it keeps you more accountable in keeping your diet healthy?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Turning 30

Today's 10-miler went a little something like this...

Average of 8:30 min/mile. We seem to be getting faster! Hopefully we won't bomb out during the half-marathon on September 18th!!

So I turned 30 at the beginning of this year and I have to say that I am loving it!! I was perhaps a little nervous at the thought of leaving my 20's behind, but so far 30 has treated me very well. I'm literally in the best shape of my life, I'm stronger and faster than I've ever been and I'm far more comfortable in my own skin. I really enjoyed my 20's, but if my 30's are anything like what these first 7 months have been like for me, they will totally rock my 20's out of the water!!

I think what helps me is seeing other people getting older and still maintaining a high level of health and fitness. Just because you turn a certain age doesn't mean that life is suddenly over. I was listening to a conversation after my yoga class the other night and one of the girls (a mother of three) was commenting that she might have one more child but ONLY if she could do it before she turned 30!! I actually started laughing out loud...the way she said it made it seem like 30 was the end of the road. I actually think 30 is just the beginning of discovering who I really am. I don't seem to compare myself to others as much, I understand my body in ways that I didn't before and I treat it better than I ever have.

So here's a big shout-out to being 30, or 40, or 50, or whatever age you happen to be. Embrace it, show it that it's just a number and you can make it be anything you want it to be (including your best year yet!!)

Talking Point: Have you hit a milestone birthday that actually turned out to be a lot better than you could have imagined? How do you feel about being or turning 30? 40? 50? 60?

Friday, August 20, 2010

80-10-10 Rule

Have you ever heard of the 80-10-10 rule when it comes to diet and exercise? Basically what you look like is determined by this simple formula...

10% Genetics - This is difficult to do anything with, it was what you were born with...but it really doesn't make for a good excuse either since it's only 10%, right?

10% Exercise - What?!?!? All that sweating in the gym only accounts for 10% of what I look like? Granted, exercise is vital for a healthy mind and body but don't fool yourself into thinking that you can out train a poor diet.

80% Diet - Yup, 80% of what you look like is determined by what you eat everyday. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

This is a principle that I didn't understand AT ALL until recently. I have been working out since I was 15 years old, thinking that it kind of gave me the right to eat whatever I wanted. If I knew that I was going to be overindulging that day, I just did extra cardio to make up for it.

But then I could never understand why I wasn't getting the results that I always wanted. Sure, exercise kept my weight from getting too high, but it never resulted in the toned body that I wanted to have. Then a light was turned on for me at the beginning of this year. I realized that what I put into my body each day was going to determine more of what I looked like than the hours I put in at the gym each day. This was and still is a hard concept for me. I feel like I can easily control my gym workouts, setting aside 60-90 minutes each day to workout is something that I enjoy doing. But controlling what I eat for the other 16 hours of the day is quite a bit more difficult for me! I have such a sweet tooth and sometimes can go really overboard when I choose to indulge (like eating a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting is probably within my reach!!) I have to choose day after day, meal after meal to make good food choices. It certainly isn't easy and I most definitely make many mistakes along the way, but I am finally learning after 30 years how best to fuel my body. I am changing my mantra from "Train to Eat" to "Eat to Train" and it's a whole shift in my diet and exercise philosophy. But I am seeing results, and that's what keeps me going along this healthy path.

I have learned a lot about myself over the last few months and the reasons behind why and when I eat. Everyday is a new beginning, a new step along this journey to a healthy life. Some days are better than others, but I am getting there. Are you ready to come along too?

Talking Point: How do you feel about the 80-10-10 rule? Do you struggle more with getting in exercise or eating healthy? What are your struggles?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do you push-up?


The push-up is one of the most simple yet most effective exercises that you can do. It helps to tone your chest of course, but it also works almost your entire upper body (triceps, shoulders, back) and strengthens your core muscles too. And the best thing about a push-up is that it can be done pretty much anywhere...at the gym, at home, at a park, in a hotel room, etc. No equipment necessary!

So how many push-ups can you do? Can you do 100 consecutive push-ups with good form? If not, I have found a program for you. It's called the "100-Push-Up" challenge and it promises to get you to be able to do 100 push-ups in about 6 weeks. All you have to do is commit to doing the program three times per week for a total of 30 minutes (about 10 minutes each day). So are you up for the challenge? If so, check out the program here.

I think I have convinced my husband to do this program with me. We will be doing our initial assessment this week and then officially starting the program on Monday. Want to join along...I think it will be fun!!

Talking Point: Do you do push-ups? How many do you think you could do right now? Are you going to join us in this challenge?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beginner Workout

I realized recently that a lot of the workouts that I have posted have been geared more towards the intermediate to advanced exerciser. I have several friends who are beginning a workout routine or coming back from having a baby (or babies!!), so I decided to create a few new workouts with them in mind. These workouts will be laid out in such a way that they shouldn't take longer than 20-30 minutes to complete from start to finish, giving those busy new moms an opportunity to possibly squeeze them in during nap time!

So if you only have 20-30 minutes to work out, what should you do? My sister Natasha recently posted this question...
"How much total time per day do you spend working out? I've noticed that you usually do some sort of cardio and then a pretty high intensity toning routine. For those times when you don't have much time (i.e., less than one hour), what should you do to get the most physical bang for your buck? I know that strength training and flexibility are important elements of physical fitness, but I tend to skimp on them and just resort to cardioWhat is your take?"

I admit that I LOVE to work out and most days I workout for about 90 minutes. But there are also days when I don't have much time so I have to scale things back a bit. I used to be an "all-cardio" girl. I figured cardio gave me the most calorie-burning bang for my buck, so that's what I would concentrate on. However, after studying about the wonderful effects of weight training, I started to slowly incorporate it into my exercise routines as well. And now I can honestly say, I LOVE weight training. Doing weight bearing activities is great for your bones and muscle (especially important as we get older) and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn just sitting on the couch. Weight training is also important in building a higher metabolic rate and will help to make you look more toned and defined. Some women worry about bulking up too much, but in actuality, it is physically impossible for a woman to do so. We simply lack the testosterone needed to create huge muscle bulk. (The women you see in extreme muscle-building competitions and magazines most definitely take supplements in order to achieve that look.)

So the question is, if you only have a limited time to work out, should you do cardio or weights? I say BOTH!! Almost all of my weight routines incorporate periods of "active rest" so that your heart rate stays elevated. In this way, you are getting the benefits of weight-bearing activities while still increasing your cardio endurance. It's the best of both worlds and enables you to get a quality workout in even on your busiest days.

BEGINNER CIRCUIT WORKOUT #1

Do this workout 3 times each week on nonconsecutive days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example.) You will need some hand weights (or even milk jugs filled with varying amounts of water would work) and a stability ball (although you can do the workouts without one too.) I would also encourage you to get a workout journal to record your results in each time (a simple notebook will do.) This will allow you to show your progression each time and you can also take notes on which exercises were too easy (i.e. you need to increase the weight used) and how you felt afterwards. If you are a beginner, start out using your lightest set of weights for each exercise and then make a note of whether it was too light, too heavy or just right for next time. All of these exercises are done in a "super-set" which means two exercises performed back-to-back without resting in between (so do exercise 1A, then immediately perform exercise 1B and then perform your period of "active rest" before repeating the entire super-set again for a total of two sets of each exercise.)

1A: Dumbbell squat - 10 reps (Start with hands by your side, feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down like you're sitting back in a chair, keeping your chest raised and your core tight. Your knees should not go past your toes and concentrate on pushing your bum back behind you while attempting to go down until your knees form a 90 degree angle. Pause for 1 count because coming back up.)
1B: Push-up - 10 reps (Start in plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width on the ground. Keep your abs tight and your body in a straight line as you slowly lower yourself to the ground and back up. Note: If you can't yet do a full push-up, try raising the surface that your hands are on -- use a wall, desk, dresser, chair, step etc. rather than do them on your knees. The higher the surface, the easier the push-up will be and then work your way down closer to the ground until eventually you will be able to do them on the ground. Doing push-ups on a raised surface rather than on your knees helps to keep the core more engaged, a valuable component of the push-up.)

*Active Rest: After completing 1A and 1B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercises. After the second set, move on to the second circuit below.

2A: Stability ball hip raise - 10 reps (Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on a stability ball. Slowly push down on the ball while raising your bum (glutes) into the air until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees. Hold for one count before lowering back down to the ground. Try not to let your hands press into the ground while performing this exercise.)
2B: Stability ball crunch - 10 reps (Lie with your lower back on the top of a stability ball and your hands rested lightly behind your head. Squeeze your abs while slowly crunching up, hold for two counts and then slowly lower back down to the starting position.)

*Active Rest: After completing 2A and 2B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, move on to the third circuit below.

3A: Dumbbell straight-leg dead-lift to row - 10 reps (This is a compound movement, meaning you are doing two exercises in one -- very effective and a great time saver! Hold two weights by your side and while keeping your knees softly bent and your back straight, lower the weights to your knees. Your body should form an "L". While in this bent over position, squeeze your shoulder blades while raising your elbows behind your back until the weight are right by your hips. Hold for one count before slowly lowering them back down and raising your body back to the starting position. You should feel this exercise in your hamstrings and your upper back.)
3B: Thrusters - 10 reps (Another compound move...start with your arms bent and the weights right by your shoulders. Squat down 90 degrees, then as you come back up, shoot your arms overhead into a shoulder press with your hands facing each other. Slowly lower your arms back down before performing another squat.)

*Active Rest: After completing 3A and 3B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, move on to the fourth circuit below.

4A: Lunge with bicep curl - 10 reps on each side (Begin with feet together, arms by your side and take a giant step backward with your right foot while keeping both legs straight. Begin your lunge by lowering your body to the ground, being careful to go straight down rather than leaning forward from the hips. In the lowered position, your front knee should be bent 90 degrees, your shin making a straight line from your knee to your ankle and your back knee bent should be bent and almost touching the ground. In this lowered position, perform a bicep curl with both arms, lowering them back down and then rising up out of your lunge. Repeat 10 times on the right side before switching legs.)
4B: Triceps Dips - 10 reps (Sit on a chair with the heel of your hands resting on the edge of the chair. Slide your bum off the seat so that you are holding most of your body weight in the heel of your hands and your legs are bent at 90 degrees. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your bum towards the ground, being careful to go straight down and not push out. Hold at the bottom for one count before straightening your arms and returning to the starting position.)

*Active Rest: After completing 4A and 4B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, you are DONE!

And that's it...a total body workout in about 20 minutes!! I know this may have been more detailed than most of you need, but I thought I would put it all in, just in case the moves were unfamiliar to any of you. If you would like a bit more challenging workout, try the following alternatives (do 2-3 sets of each super-set exercise)...

1A: One-leg dumbbell squat - 12 reps on each side (Perform the basic squat but using only one leg at at time to test your balance and core strength. You could make this even more challenging by keeping the weights above your head rather than at your side.)
1B: T-Push-up - 12 reps (Perform one push-up and as you raise back up, put all your weight on your right hand while twisting your body to the side and raising your left hand to the sky and finishing in the side plank position for one rep. Repeat entire sequence on the left side and then go back and forth until you complete 12 reps)

Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of squat thrusts (without the push-up) between sets.

2A: Hip Raise with one foot on stability ball - 12 reps on each side
2B: Swiss ball plank - 60 seconds (Keep elbows on a stability ball while holding the plank position for 60 seconds)

Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of jump lunges between sets.

3A: Dumbbell straight-leg dead-lift to row (x3) - 12 reps (Perform traditional exercise but do three rows before returning to the starting position.)
3B: Thrusters with bounce - 12 reps (Go down into squat, come part way up before going back down into full squat again (like a little bounce) and then shoot arms up into a shoulder press.)

Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of high knees between sets.

4A: Lunge w/ bicep curl and bounce - 12 reps each side (Go down into lunge, come part way up before going down into full lunge again (bounce) and then perform one bicep curl.)
4B: Triceps dips on one leg - 12 reps (Perform traditional triceps dip on chair but keep one leg straight out in front of you and one leg bent. Perform 6 reps then switch legs.)

Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of jump squats between sets.

Talking Point: Do you prefer weight training or cardio workouts?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Protein...It does a body good

After taking two gym classes yesterday (BodyStep and BodyPump) my legs felt a bit jello-y this morning. But despite that, I was still able to pull together a pretty good 4-miler...


This afternoon I'll try out that yoga class again at my gym. I think my muscles will enjoy the stretching!!

I've gotten a few questions recently about protein so I thought I would do a post today to explain a little about this very important nutrient.

Protein is an essential nutrient required by our bodies in order to maintain health and vitality. The primary function of protein is to build and repair body tissues and structures, like muscle, bone, and skin. Protein also has important satiety factors, helping you to stay more satisfied between meals.

Protein is made up of amino acids, the basic building blocks of cells. Your body MUST get these amino acids from the foods that you eat in the form of protein. If you fail to take in enough protein, your body will start to metabolize itself (breaking down muscle to provide the needed protein requirements.) And because your body doesn't have any way to store protein, this can start happening within 1-2 days of insufficient protein intake. Many people who want to lose weight, mistakenly cut way back on their protein intake as well as their overall number of calories. This will usually result in a loss of lean muscle mass, making a person weigh less, but giving them a "skinny-fat" appearance since they also lost the muscle mass that would have given them a leaner appearance.

Unfortunately, once that lean muscle mass is lost, it is hard to gain it back after a person is done dieting down. This is often the reason people will gain their lost weight back fairly quickly, they simply don't have the muscle mass and metabolism necessary to maintain the hard-earned weight loss. Getting enough protein in your diet while trying to lose weight ensures that you won't deplete your lean muscle mass while still enabling you to get rid of fat.

If you don't need to lose weight, protein is still essential for your overall health and well being since it is used to build and repair muscle tissue. If you don't have enough protein in your diet, you won't be able to see the effects of all those miles pounded, laps swum, or biceps curled!

So how much protein does a person need? Of course there are many factors that go into determining a person's protein requirement including age, gender, size and activity level. The minimum requirement is thought to be about about 1 gram for every .37 pounds of body weight. So a 130-pound sedentary woman needs a minimum of 48 grams of protein each day. Again this is the very MINIMUM. A basic rule of thumb for those who lead a more active lifestyle and engage in working out on a regular basis is to aim for about 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight (so a 130-pound active woman should aim for about 130 grams of protein each day.) This does get a bit tricky too because it has been found that your body can only absorb about 30 grams of protein at a time, hence the need for eating 5-6 times each day. I try to aim for 20-25 grams of protein at each meal. Obviously some meals are a bit less, and some a bit more, but if I can get that amount with each of my six meals, it puts me right where I need to be protein wise.

A lot of times when we think of protein, we think only of meat. And of course lean meats are a great source of protein, but there are a myriad of protein sources out there to choose from. Here's a list of some good dietary protein sources...

Meats
•Most cuts of beef (per oz)=7 g
•Chicken breast (3.5 oz)=30 g
•Pork loin or tenderloin (4 oz)=29 grams
•Ham (3 oz)=19 grams

Fish
•Most fish fillets or steaks (per oz)=6 g
•Tuna (6 oz can)=40 g

Eggs and Dairy
•Egg (large)=6 g
•Milk (1 cup)=8 g
•Cottage cheese (½ cup)=15 grams
•Yogurt (1 cup)=usually 8-12 g
•Soft cheeses (per oz)=6 g
•Medium cheeses (per oz)=7 or 8 g
•Hard cheeses (per oz)= 10 g

Beans (including soy)
•Tofu (½ cup)=20 g
•Soy milk (1 cup)=6-10 g
•Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc. per 1/c cup)=7-10 g

Nuts and Seeds
•Peanut butter (2 Tablespoons)=8 g
•Almonds (¼ cup)=8 g
•Peanuts (¼ cup)=9 g
•Cashews (¼ cup)=5 g
•Sunflower seeds (¼ cup)=6 g
•Pumpkin seeds (¼ cup)=8 g

Also, I have become a huge fan of Greek yogurt. It's thicker and creamier than regular yogurt and packs an amazing protein punch. Here's a comparison for you...






Light Yoplait Yogurt (Strawberry Shortcake Flavor)...


This 6 oz yogurt has 110 calories, 6g of protein and a whopping 15g of sugar (Plus it has lots of artificial sweetener it it too.)



In comparison, here's a 6 oz container of Chobani Nonfat Greek Yogurt... This Greek yogurt has 100 calories, only 7g of sugar and a whopping 18g of protein!!



(I do have to admit that the Yoplait yogurt is much better tasting than the Greek yogurt by itself, but combine the greek yogurt with a few berries, perhaps a bit of honey if you like it a little sweeter and some GoLean Kashi cereal (to add a bit of crunch!) and you have a complete snack packed full of antioxidants and protein!!)

Another good source of protein can come from protein powders. There are lots of different kinds on the market, with probably the two most popular kinds being whey and casein. Whey and casein proteins (the primary proteins found in milk) are both high-quality proteins meaning that they contain all the essential amino acids needed by your body. Whey is known as a fast protein because it is quickly absorbed and broken down by your body. This is why whey protein is best used after a hard workout to quickly replenish your depleted muscles. Casein is a slow protein, providing your body with a steady stream of amino acids over time. This is best used between meals (to help keep you fuller longer) and before bed so that your body can use this protein for muscle repair while you sleep.

I personally use this whey protein...



GNC Pro Performance 100% Whey Protein powdered drink mix



It has few ingredients and contains no artificial sweeteners (I try to avoid these when I can.) It can be costly, but I usually order it only when I can get a good deal online with free shipping and order multiple cans at the same time. I actually don't like this particular kind plain, but I love it when combined with a banana in a smoothie, in my morning oatmeal and in my protein ice cream too.

Talking Point: How do you feel about protein? Do you think you get enough of it during the day? What are your favorite sources of protein in your diet?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekly Challenge (Aug. 16-22) & Blogiversary Winner!

Thanks for all the comments last week everyone!! I really do enjoy writing this blog and it's nice to know that there are people who read it too! So the winner of the Blogiversary prize is....(Drum roll please!!)...

NATASHA!!

She'll be getting five Larabars to try out soon!

Now on to this week's challenge. Does anybody remember the slogan for this cereal? (Hint...It's posted below the name of the cereal in the picture below)...


Image found here

I'm actually not a huge Wheaties fan myself (I find them a little bland) but I am going to steal and tweak their slogan just a bit. For this week's challenge, I want this to be your new motto...

"Breakfast...The Meal of Champions"

By far, the most important meal you will eat each day will be breakfast. After fasting for 10+ hours or so during the night, your body needs this meal in order to start firing up your metabolism and give you energy during the day. According to Elisabetta Politi, RD, MPH, and nutrition manager for the Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical School, "when you don't eat breakfast, you're actually fasting for 15 to 20 hours, so you're not producing the enzymes needed to metabolize fat to lose weight." Some people skip breakfast either because they aren't hungry in the morning, don't have time to eat, or even worse, because they are trying to save on calories. People who don't eat breakfast are more likely to overeat during the rest of the day, completely negating any "saved calories" from not eating breakfast. And if you aren't eating breakfast because you aren't hungry, you are probably eating too many calories the night before. If you began to reduce your nightly calorie intake, I bet you would start to feel more ravenous upon waking in the morning.

In this webmd article, it also states that breakfast eaters are more likely to exercise. You know that you need to fuel yourself properly in order to workout effectively, so it makes sense that eating breakfast should go hand-in-hand with any fitness program that you endeavor to complete.

So this week's challenge is this...eat breakfast EVERYDAY!! Try to eat within an hour of waking up so that you can start firing that metabolism as soon as possible. Also, try to include a good source of protein in your breakfast so that it will keep you fuller longer (and you will have that protein available to repair and fuel your muscles during the day.) Here are some examples of some nutritious ways to begin each day...

A bowl of cereal w/ 1 cup lowfat milk (easy-peasy, right?)...Try to choose a high fiber/high protein cereal to get the most bang for your buck (My pick...Kashi GoLean cereal. In 3/4 cup, it has 10g of fiber and 13 g of protein. Add in the 11 g of protein from 1 cup of milk, and you're protein requirements are set!)

One egg + one egg white omelet with veggies and whole wheat toast...Eggs for breakfast are yummy (and this is a great way to get in some vegetable nice and early), but this one does require more prep and planning time than most people are willing to give to "the meal of champions!"

Protein Smoothie...throw in a frozen banana, some ice, water, protein powder then add any of the following to change it up each day...blueberries, strawberries, pumpkin puree, even spinach (the banana will overpower the spinach taste!). This is especially good on hot, summer days.

Protein Oatmeal...You all know this is my go-to breakfast 90% of the time. I just love it, it keeps me full and is packed full of nutrition. You can add almost anything to oatmeal too to make it different each day, but I am a girl of routine and pretty much make it the same way each day...

1/2 cup oatmeal

1 scoop protein powder

1 spoonful of ground flax (a healthy fat rich in omega-3 and great for the digestive system!)


So that's your challenge this week...eat a healthy breakfast everyday and remember our slogan this week..."Breakfast, the meal of champions!"

Talking Point: How did you do on last week's challenge (trying out a new-to-you workout?) What do you like to eat for breakfast?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Getting the Motivation

Well it's 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I've already done this today...
We averaged 8:40 min/mile for all 12 miles which we were all happy about. (Side note: I run every Saturday morning on the C&O Canal towpath with a running group that formed about three months ago. It consists of me, one other woman who is also running the Western Maryland Half Marathon and two men, one of which is training for an October marathon and the other who still can't understand the notion of paying someone else to run a race when he can run every Saturday for FREE!! He definitely has a point...I seem to wonder the same thing at the starting line of every race that I run. Of course running with so many other people and seeing that finish line at the end seems to make it all worth it!)

As much as I detest waking up at the crack of dawn to run, it is nice to finish early and still have the whole rest of the day to enjoy doing whatever I want (of course after running 12 miles that usually consists of lots of eating and a nap if I get my way!)

I was asked this last week by a friend on ways to stay motivated when starting and maintaining an exercise routine. I listed some of my main motivators in yesterday's blog entry, but here were some of the other ideas that I gave her...

1. Set a goal. I know that I am less apt to skip a workout if I am training for something specific. Make a goal to walk/run a 5K, swim a mile, complete a triathlon or even do 25 push-ups. All of these things will help you to stay on track.

2. Give yourself a reward. I told her to create a chart, much like you would do for a young child, and when you complete 10 planned workouts, give yourself a treat (manicure, new workout shirt, new pair of shoes, etc.) Make it something you really want so it makes you want to get it that much faster!

3. Create a fun play list. Sometimes knowing I have a new play list to listen to on my MP3 player helps to get me out the door on those mornings that I would rather stay in bed. Music can be a great motivator!

4. Find a workout buddy. Knowing that you are responsible to someone else besides yourself always makes you more likely to keep your fitness appointments rather than blow them off. Find someone who is around your same fitness level and try new things together.

Talking Point: How do you keep yourself motivated to workout?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I run for life

I did NOT want to get up this morning (it was drizzly and overcast, a perfect day for sleeping in, right?) But after fighting it for a few minutes, I decided I had better get 'er done! I ran roughly 4 miles (my Garmin petered out on me after a mile or so) then came home and did the following workout in the basement (I love having a semi-home-gym!)...

100 Jumping jacks
10 Squat thrusts (w/ push-up and burpee)
10 Triceps dips
10 Jump lunges
10 Bicep curls (20 lbs)
10 Jump squats
10 Shoulder raises (20 lbs)
10 Mountain climbers
10 Upright rows (40 lbs)
10 Box straddle jumps

Then you repeat with 90,9,9,9, etc., then 80,8,8,8, etc., then 70,7,7,7,etc., down to 10,1,1,1,1,etc. I completed this "10-9-8 Series" in 29:43.

Then I did a similar set for some ab work:
10 Crunches
10 Reverse crunches
10 Bicycle crunches

Then repeated with 9, then 8, etc. I finished this part in 6:06. It was a good workout to mix things up a bit.

The title of this post came from a great song I found yesterday while downloading some new running tunes. It's called "I Run For Life" by Melissa Etheridge. As some of you may know, my mom is currently battling colon cancer. She just completed her second dose of chemo and is doing amazingly well. This song will mean a lot to anybody who has battled or has somebody close to them who has battled cancer or something similar. I have had a lot of people ask me why I run. I could give lots of different answers...for health, exercise, to stay in shape, to feel good, to de-stress, etc. But I have to say the number one reason that I run is this...

I RUN BECAUSE I CAN!

There are so many people who would give anything to be able to do what I sometimes take for granted. My body allows me to lace up a pair of running shoes and hit the pavement for miles on end. I run for both myself and for all those who wish their bodies could do the same. And when the going gets tough and I really want to quit, I will think of all those people who are battling diseases and demons far worse than anything I could imagine...and I keep running. Because that's what they're doing too. They keep fighting because of everything that they have to fight for. And it makes us all stronger for it.

I made this little video for my mom, to share with her why I think she is amazing and to give her the strength to keep fighting that good fight against the darkness that is inside her. I love you MOM....FIGHT ON!!
video

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What have you done today...

TO MAKE YOU FEEL PROUD?

Image found here
The newest season of "The Biggest Loser" will be starting up again in September and I have to admit that I'm pretty excited. I do like this show, even though I do have some beefs with it. The thing I really like about it is that they help people change their lives through diet and exercise (GREAT, WONDERFUL, TERRIFIC!!) The bad part is that they cut their calories DRASTICALLY and have them exercise like 10 hours a day (not good at all and definitely not realistic.) I start to get really bugged sometimes when some of the contestants start crying after ONLY losing 5 pounds one week!!! FIVE POUND IN ONE WEEK....that is huge people, and really not that healthy either. A healthy, sustainable weight loss is considered to be 1-2 pounds per week, but obviously that wouldn't be too exciting for network TV so they do what they have to in order to bring in the big weight-loss numbers.
Despite my qualms with the show though, I am a regular viewer, and I have to admit that it can be pretty inspiring...like last year when they rode 26.2 miles on a stationary bike. I realized I had never done anything like that so the next day I was pedaling my heart out for 26.2 miles, trying to beat their fastest time. I did it...but boy was my rump sore!!
I really do like the theme song too (hence the title of this post.) These lyrics are pretty inspiring in and of themselves...

PROUD by Heather Small
I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I've left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I'm on my way
Can't stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It's never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?...

Talking Point: So...what have you done today to make you feel proud? Me? I'm proud I got 9 hours of sleep last night...woohoo!! Off to the gym now for my kickboxing class!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trying something new

Yesterday I came home from the lake completely EXHAUSTED! It's amazing how much the sun and heat can drain out of you. I was tempted to blow off the gym last night, but I made a commitment to try something new this week, so I was determined to go. And...

I LOVED IT!!

It has been a while since I have taken a yoga class and I've never taken the BodyFlow class offered at my gym (Gold's). A description of this class can be found here. It felt so good to stretch out those tight running muscles and I left the class feeling rejuvinated and ready to take on the world (or at least to tackle dinner and the bedtime routine last night!!) I think I will try to make this class a part of my weekly routine. I'm so glad that I decided to give it a whirl!

Before class last night, I had this very bland-colored meal...1 whole egg + 1 egg white, some organic unsalted peanuts and shredded wheat (did you know that regular shredded wheat only has ONE ingredient? SWEET!!) I usually try to make my meals a bit more colorful, but the supplies were a bit limited as its grocery-shopping day. Still, it was a good source of whole grains, protein and healthy fats.


This morning I did a 4-mile run. I was hoping to get it done closer to 32 minutes, but considering the humidity that had me sweating within a 1/4 of a mile (even at 6:30 a.m.), I'll take my 8:13 average pace today.
After my run I came home and did this routine. You will need to set your interval timer up to do two intervals; one for 10 seconds (your rest period) and the other one for 50 seconds (your work period). You will do 15 rounds and a different exercise for each round. I only did this once through and was wasted by the end, but if you are more hardcore, you could try doing it twice. Kudos to you if you can survive it!! Here's what your interval timer would look like...
Here are the exercises I did (alternating between cardio, upper body and lower body moves.) The number beside each exercise is how many I was able to complete during the 50 seconds of work...
1. Jumping jacks (57)
2. T Push-ups (12)
3. Sumo squat - 30 lbs (26)
4. Squat thrusts (16)
5. Bicep curl to shoulder press - 20 lbs (13)
6. Alternating reverse lunge - 30 lbs (24)
7. Mountain climbers (59)
8. Tricep dips (40)
9. Straight-leg deadlift - 30 lbs (21)
10. Snowboarders (33)
11. Dumbbell row - 30 lbs (25)
12. Kettlebell swings - 15 lbs (25)
13. High knees (70)
14. Lateral/front shoulder raises - 20 lbs (22)
15. Stability ball hip raise w/ curl (13)
Afterwards I did the following core workout, setting up my interval timer to look like this...
Six rounds of two intervals, one at 10 seconds (rest) one at 40 seconds (work). I did the following six core exercises...
1. Standard plank
2. Right-side plank
3. Standard plank
4. Left-side plank
5. Swiss ball rollout
6. Swiss ball jackknife
I did this routine two times through. It was a bit tough to finish considering the amount of sweat I had pouring off of me from the cardio workout beforehand, but I did it.
I refueled with my normal protein-flax-oatmeal and lots of water. My morning snack will be one egg + one egg white and a larabar before heading to the grocery store. Remember, if you want a chance at winning five LARABARS of your choice, just make a comment sometime before Monday morning. The more comments you make, the more chances to win!!
Talking Point: Have you tried yoga before? Do you use it as your primary exercise routine or do you supplement your other activites with a few sessions of yoga each week?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At least one reader!!

I have to admit that I was starting to feel a bit discouraged that nobody was actually reading this blog. But I finally got a few reader responses to those "talking points" that are always at the end of each blog entry (thank you Lauren and Stephanie!!) and then Stephanie wrote a really nice note on how much she is enjoying the blog. It made me get a bit teary-eyed and I realized that even if only one person is enjoying and/or learning something from this blog, then it makes it worth it.

Today's workout was another "Quick & Dirty" workout. It came from this website: bodyrock.tv (WARNING: The woman who does this website is incredibly fit and has some amazing workouts, but she shows A LOT of cleavage. You have been forewarned!!) Here's the actual workout I did:

Four exercises repeated six times for a total of 24 rounds. Each round consisted of 10 seconds of rest and 20 seconds of work (think Tabata-style). This entire workout only lasted 12 minutes, but left me totally spent at the end...

If you're using your Gymboss Interval Timer, you should set it up to look like this...


Complete the following exercises once each time and then repeat the entire circuit six times...

1. High Knees
2. Mountain Climbers
3. Side Plank Jumps (like squat thrusts but you jump to the side instead of out the back and add a little burpee on the end)
4. Super Girl Push-up (go down in a regular push-up, and as you come up, raise one arm and the opposite leg, repeat push-up and then raise the other arm and opposite leg)

(For more details on how to do this exact workout, go here)

During your 20 seconds of work, you should go all out and do as many as you can in the allotted time. Here were my results:

1. High Knees: 34/33/33/34/35/35 (I counted every time my right knee went up)
2. Mountain Climbers: 27/25/26/28/27/28 (Again, I counted each time my right knee went to the chest)
3. Side Plank Jump: 6/7/7/6/6/6
4. Super Girl Push-up: 7/8/8/8/7/8

I also did a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down on the stationary bike. This workout was short but very intense, great for a pre-lake workout (we spend most of Tuesday at the lake so I like to do something short before leaving in the morning.)

I refueled with my usual protein-flax oatmeal (love this stuff!) I also wanted to show my scrumptious lunch from yesterday...


Eating salads is one of the best ways to get in a lot of vegetable servings. My green of choice is fresh spinach and I also added some organic grape tomatoes and tuna all topped with some balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Add in a side of grapes and Babybel cheese and it was a complete meal.

Well, we're off to the lake. I will try my best not to get sunburned this time!! This afternoon I plan on attending my first BodyFlow class in order to complete this week's challenge. I'll let you know how it goes!
Talking Point: Do you like to eat salads? If so, what is your favorite kind of salad base (romaine, iceberg, spinach, arugula, etc..)? What else do you like to put on your salad?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Calorie Counting

I received my first "reader's question" (thank you Stephanie!) which I was super excited about (especially since I very rarely receive any comments.) After my blog about my daily eats, she asked this question...

"How many calories should you have in a day? Is there some kind of percentage
that I heard but was wondering what you thought? I had heard your body weight x 10. So if you want to lose weight, you would put in the weight you want to be at
times 10 and then that is the amount of calories you should use for the day.
What about if you work out? Should you increase your calorie intake at all? If
you are trying to lose weight, I would think probably not but what about if you
are just trying to maintain it?"


Calorie needs and calorie counting are really personal to each person and their individual bodies and mentality. I need to preface this by saying that I am not an expert nor a nutritionist. All I will do is tell you my experience and what has worked for me. What you do with that information is completely up to you, of course.

A calorie is the basic unit of energy that your body uses to do everything from blinking your eyes to running marathons and everything in between. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR) is the amount of energy or calories that your body needs in order to function at its most basic level (what your body would need if you just laid around the couch all day.) There are many formulas and online calculators such as this one that can give you a VERY general idea of what you BMR is based solely on your current weight, height and gender. Another general guideline to you BMR can be found by simply multiplying your current weight by 100. So if you weight 130 pounds, your BMR would be around 1300 calories per day. Obviously these methods are only rough guidelines and should be used as such.

To determine your calorie needs, you would take the number from your BMR and then determine how active you are during the day. A sitting-at-their-desk-all-day office worker doesn't burn the same number of calories as a construction worker and if you run around doing chores and chasing children all day, your calorie needs may be even higher. Calculating any increase in calories burned through exercise also needs to be accounted for to determine your basic calorie needs for any typical day.

The basic idea of weight loss then is to burn more calories than you consume. If you follow this basic "diet" philosophy, you will lose weight, at least for a while anyway. You could be consuming nothing but sodas and twinkies and as long as you burn more calories than you consume, you will still drop the weight (you won't be healthy at all and all those empty calories will have leave you pretty hungry most of the time, but you will be thinner.) A general rule of thumb to lose one pound a week is to burn 500 calories more per day than you eat, so that at the end of the week, you will have a deficit of 3500 calories, the equivalent of one pound.

If you are a calorie counter, I would encourage you to never drop your calories too drastically though. My personal recommendation is to never drop it below 1500 calories/day. Anything less than that in my opinion will send your body into starvation-mode and your body (the extremely efficient machine that it is) will find ways to hold onto any excess weight you may have, making weight loss even harder. Eating less will also mess with your metabolism in such a way that maintaining any weight loss may be close to impossible.

I don't count calories. I had a brief stint with calorie-counting earlier this year as documented here, but I really hated it. I felt that I became a slave to a number and wasn't relying on my own body's cues to know when, what and how much I should eat. And really, a calorie from unhealthy-overly-processed foods is not equivalent to a calorie obtained from a good-straight from-nature food item. Your body knows what to do with an apple, but it gets confused on what to do with Apple Jacks. I found that I did better at losing weight when eating whole, natural, organic foods than I did with the Diet-labeled-100-calorie-processed-packages of food, even though I was eating around the same number of calories (and actually I eat more calories now than ever before, but because most of them are in the form of healthy foods, I still don't gain weight!)

I think the best advice I have heard is to follow the lead of Michael Polan who said it this way...
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you are ready for it, I would recommend to stop counting calories today and instead follow these simple strategies...

1. Eat often (5-6 small meals each day is ideal)
2. Eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible (the fewer the ingredients, the better)
3. Watch your portion sizes
4. Aim to get in 5-6 servings of non-starchy vegetables, 2-3 servings of fruit, 2-3 servings of whole grains and 2-3 servings of healthy fats each day (Trust me, if you can get in these amounts each day, you will not have enough room to fill up on empty calories)
5. Drink water (our bodies can't really distinguish between hunger and thirst, so many times we think we are hungry when in actuality, we just really need to drink more water...I say if in doubt, drink first!)

I bet if you followed these 5 rules, your weight will go down, your clothes will fit better and most importantly, you will be developing a strong and healthy body. And a nice bonus...you will also be providing a great example to those little eyes who may be watching you!!

Blogiversary!!!

So today marks one month since I started this fitness blog. I'm not sure if too many people are reading this, but I am enjoying writing it so it's all good. More on that later...

I thought I would do a post about my favorite on-the-go snack. I have always been a huge fan of granola bars (both their taste and portability can't be beat.) But the nutrition label for a basic store-brand granola bar is a bit scary...


I do like these Clif Builder's bars. They have lots of protein and taste great. The Clif Company is known for using natural, organic ingredients but even their ingredient list is pretty long...
Then I discovered the Larabar. They aren't as sweet as regular granola bars (and there are a few flavors that I really don't like) but check out the ingredients...

Dates, Peanuts and Salt....you can't get much simpler than that, especially for an energy bar. The Peanut Butter Cookie is my favorite flavor (I love anything with peanuts.) They are a bit high in fat (peanuts) and sugar (dates) but I think they are a great substitute for when you need a quick and/or highly portable snack.
So good news blog readers!! To honor the one month blogiversary of "Make It Fit," I will be giving away 5 Larabars (YES, FIVE) to one lucky reader. To win, all you need to do is make at least one comment on the blog itself during the next week and next Monday I will announce the Larabar winner on the blog. The more comments you make this week, the more chances you have to win (your name will be entered in each time you comment.)
Talking Point: Do you have an energy bar that you really like? Have you ever tried a Larabar? If so, what is you flavor of choice?

Weekly Challenge (Aug. 9-15, 2010)

My day began with a 6:30 a.m. 5-mile run...

The weather was great this morning and I felt really good. I ran each mile successively faster, running an 8:30 mile for mile #1 and a 7:47 mile for mile #5.

I followed this run with a circuit weight workout that consisted of the following exercises:

Warm-up
1. Jumping jacks (15 reps)
2. Prisoner squats (10 reps)
3. Push-ups (8 reps)
Repeat entire circuit 5 times.

10 minute Quick and Dirty Circuit
1. Dumbbell row (10 reps)
2. Incline dumbbell bench press (10 reps)
3. Squat thrusts w/ push-up and burpee (8 reps)
4. Dumbbell push press (10 reps)
5. Single-arm kettlebell swing (12 reps)
Repeat entire circuit 3 times.

4 minute Tabata-style workout
1. Dumbbell squat (AMAP in 20 sec)
2. Single-arm kettlebell swing (AMAP in 20 sec)
3. Hammer curl to press (AMAP in 20 sec)
4. Single-arm kettlebell swing (AMAP in 20 sec)
Repeat entire circuit 2 times.

I liked this workout because I can finish the whole thing in 20 minutes, it keeps my heart rate elevated the entire time and I work every major muscle group. I was sweating like a banshee when it was all over (I'm not really sure what a banshee is, or if it even sweats...but I was sweating something fierce nonetheless!)

Afterwards, I refueled with my breakfast-of-choice...

Protein-Flax-Oatmeal

Each Monday, I thought I would introduce a new weekly challenge segment. I hope these will encourage everyone (myself included!!) to step things up a notch and challenge your body into making the changes that you desire.
Weekly Challenge (August 9-15, 2010)
This week is a workout challenge. I want you to change things up a bit by trying something completely new to you. If you belong to a gym, try out a new yoga, spinning, Zumba or kickboxing class. If you prefer working out at home, try a new workout DVD (your local library is a great resource to try, and it doesn't cost you a thing!) If you walk for fitness, try adding in a few 60 second jogging intervals into your daily session. And you could just do what you normally do (bike, swim, run, elliptical, etc.) but just take it up a notch. Try doing some speed intervals on the treadmill or do a new weight workout using the Tabata-style method. Whatever it is, just try to aim for doing something new to you this week. Your body will be shocked by doing something new and if you have plateaued, it could be just the jump start your body needs to reach it's new level of fitness. And who knows, you might even discover something new that you really enjoy doing, a definite bonus!!
Talking Point: So what are you going to do this week to shake things up a bit? My plan is to try a class at my gym called Bodyflow (a yoga-pilates style class.) I definitely need to work on my balance and flexibility training so I am hoping this will be a good class for me to try out.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Going Long

I was a little worried about my 10-mile run this morning for two reasons...1. I felt a bit of a sore throat coming on yesterday and I was afraid I may be coming down with a virus, and 2. I had a GIGANTIC serving of fat-laden ice cream from the creamery last night and I wasn't sure how my body would digest it!

So I was pretty stoked about this morning's run...I felt fantastic! It's been a while since a long run has felt soooo good. I guess you have to experience the bad runs sometimes in order to truly appreciate the good ones.

Here are the final stats for today's run...
TOTAL TIME: 1:26:38
AVG PACE: 8:40 min/mile
Mile Breakdown:
Mile 1: 8:47
Mile 2: 8:44
Mile 3: 8:42
Mile 4: 8:44
Mile 5: 8:47
Mile 6: 8:46
Mile 7: 8:41
Mile 8: 8:43
Mile 9: 8:38
Mile 10: 8:04
I love to see my mile breakdowns, especially since I am really working on maintaining a consistent pace throughout my runs and finishing stronger than I start. Today's run definitely accomplished those two goals. I loved kicking it in at the end too! Only 6 more weeks until the half-marathon and I'm feeling pretty confident about it now!!
After a few stretches, I did my "wall-sit" for about 15 minutes. This is a great way to stretch out your hamstrings after a tough and/or long workout and it also helps to drain the lactic acid from your leg muscles so that they aren't as sore for the rest of the day. I have noticed a huge difference since doing this wall sit at the end of each long run.
(Please excuse those pasty legs and dirty ankles...we ran along the C&O towpath today which always leaves me a bit grimy.)
After a nice long, hot shower, I refueled with my breakfast staple...protein and flax oatmeal. Nope, it never gets old!!

I also ate a banana before heading out this morning and I fueled mid-run with some Nathan Catalyst Sugar Free Electrolyte Drink Mix tablets in my water bottle as well as some Clif Shot Bloks Electrolyte Chews. I am loving this new combination I have been trying out during this training season. Gatorade and the power gels were a bit too sweet for my taste and they always left a nasty film in my mouth afterward.
Talking Point: How do you fuel before, during and after a hard workout? I used to be unable to eat anything before a run, but I have gradually weaned my body into being able to handle a bit of fuel before long runs so that I don't run out of gas too quickly. My shorter runs during the week are usually done in a fasted state though. What about you...to eat or not to eat before exercise, that is the question, right?