Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Old Friends.

Earlier this month, I decided to reunite with an old friend: 24 Hour Fitness. I was just having gym withdrawals, what can I say? I was keeping up with workouts at home just fine, but getting out of the house and sweating elsewhere just keeps me a bit more sane. Plus, I missed the elliptical, stair master, row machine and spin bikes. I was still able to use my employer discount and returned to the 24.99/month rate. It's just too good to pass up!

I think the new fitness variety has helped with my weight goals too; I'm now over 10 pounds down in my 20 pound goal! Prior to returning to the gym, my loss stalled because I was basically gaining and losing the same 3 pounds for w-e-e-k-s. Said stall was primarily due to poor weekend food choices, but I think re-joining 24 boosted my overall motivation. Feeling really great this week.

My new cardio routine has been a 20 min. cross-training program on the elliptical followed by 30-40 minutes of spinning. The result? Serious muscle confusion! The elliptical routine calls for intervals of back-pedaling, which I've never really done. As for the spinning, I've been going to the cycle room when there's not a class and just do my own custom routine, mostly based on whatever songs come up on my playlist. Tough, but really fun! Lots of speed intervals and hill climbs. Spinning seems to paint a better picture of what level of shape I'm in. Let's just say I now know I've got some work to do, haha.

For strength and resistance training, I stay at home and either do a Nike Women NTC workout, some good ol' Jari Love DVDs or Jillian's new Ripped in 30. I've only done the Week 1 workout and can't really do a full review, but I will say that if you loved 30 Day Shred and classic Jillian moves, you NEED to have this in your rotation.

Additional NTC love: I unlocked all of the badges! Now I'm moving on to the Advanced workouts. Did a 30 minute Get Strong routine the other day and it was no joke. Best. Free. Fitness App. Ever!

Still plugging along in my Personal Trainer studies. Some chapters make my eyes glaze over, but others are just so damn fascinating! I'm regularly reminded that I'm definitely pursuing the right career.

Life is pretty peachy right now. No real complaints. Other than running. Buh. Yeah, definitely on a downswing with that. So much so that I'm considering bailing on the 5K I signed up for on April 16th. Obviously my attitude toward running was on an upswing when I registered for the race, but these days? Not so much. But, I still have another couple of weeks, so maybe things will change for the better by then. It just sucks because every time I do practice runs, I instantly start worrying about speed and it just makes for a grueling workout. Oh well.

I suppose that's enough of a fitness update for now. I think I'll leave you with some of the songs that came up while I was spinning today. I really should think about becoming an instructor; my music kicks so much more ass than the usual stuff they play...

Yeah, that would be the best spin class ever.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Relationships and Roasting.

Ah, love and cooking; with time, patience and the desire to improve (and impress), the collision of these two worlds can be a beautiful thing. When Doug and I first started dating almost 5 years ago, his kitchen skills were far more advanced than mine. I could certainly make more than toast, but didn't shy away from pre-mixed boxed or frozen entrees. Doug on the other hand was already an avid Alton Brown fan who grew up in a family of cooks. I was pretty intimidated by him when it came to cooking meals together because there were a lot of basic skills I lacked and flavors I hadn't experienced.

After years of learning from Doug, watching a shitload Food Network and taking my palate out of its comfort zone, my appreciation for the world of cuisine has changed dramatically. Cooking together has really become a deeply ingrained facet of our relationship; instead of feeling intimidated, I now feel totally comfortable collaborating with Doug on meals and rarely question whether or not the results will taste ok. Last night's dinner was one of those successful collaborations that ended with lots of "Mmmm!"s and a high-five.

We started with a roasted beet & spinach salad:

Topped with orange segments, roasted walnuts, reduced-fat bleu cheese and Doug's orange vinaigrette dressing.

The main course involved some hot foil bag action and yielded tender, delicious results:

(I know, I need to find more appealing plates than these blue ones my grandma gave me years ago. Someday.)

Pork chops and red onions slathered in orange marmalade and BBQ sauce, wrapped in a foil pouch and baked until cooked through; diced potatoes, olive oil and a couple of garlic cloves baked using the same method.

Once the pork and potatoes were cooked through, I opened the foil and cooked them both under the broiler to add some nice crunch along the edges.

Not pictured is a loaf of sourdough bread that was marked down to 59 cents (!!!). Toasted a few slices and rubbed with the roasted garlic cloves from the potatoes. The mix of textures in this meal was spot-on. Great way to end the weekend!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Black Forest Breakfast and Bowls of Buffalo.

Seems like it's been a while since I posted about food, so how about some tasty catching-up?

My 28th birthday was this past Tuesday and I decided to create a nice lil' treat for myself before starting the day. I present to you, Black Forest Birthday Breakfast:

In a bowl, I combined:
  • 1/2 cup 0% Fage yogurt
  • Splenda (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1/3 cup No Sugar Added Cherry Pie Filling
  • 1 Deep Chocolate Vitatop, warmed in the microwave 
  • Mash everything together and enjoy.

Dessert for breakfast! So, so good (and under 200 calories). Thanks to the large amount of left over pie filling, I repeated this combo for breakfast this morning and will probably have it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day... Why? Because I'm Team Cake.

Side note: I'm really glad Costco started selling Vitatops- MUCH more affordable this way. Another budget-friendly option is to  buy the mix on Amazon and make your own!

Now, time to switch gears from sweet to spicy. A few weeks ago, I came across a Ready Set Eat recipe for Buffalo Chicken Chili. Doug made his version, all nice and pur-dy:

Garnished with bleu cheese and celery greens. We used white beans instead of black; the creamier texture of the white beans just seemed to be a better fit. Our version also used chicken breasts (instead of thighs), carrots, onions, extra tomatoes, extra wing sauce, chicken broth and reduced-fat bleu cheese. If you're craving chicken wings, but still want to keep things healthy, you really can't go wrong with this dish! Tofu could be used as well, for a great meatless option.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Plyo Challenge Update.

So, I stayed true to my word and busted out the Plyo Challenge Workout I posted about last week.

Verdict? GREAT workout!

It was definitely an ass-kicker, but not so hard that I couldn't finish. I actually thought it was really fun! Maybe I was just in a good mood that morning, but I genuinely enjoyed that routine. I think I was starting to get bored with my usual cardio and this combination of exercises woke my body UP!

Including a 5 minute warm-up, I finished the whole workout in about 50 minutes and burned a little over 450 cals! Considering there were quite a few body-resistance moves mixed in throughout, I think that's a pretty good burn for that amount of time. Speaking of time, it went by fast! That definitely motivated me to keep going until the end.

There's still some lingering soreness in my upper body, but nothing debilitating. As for equipment, the main things I didn't use were the barbell, bosu ball and stability ball. I tried to do the stability ball move in the last round, but my core couldn't hack it, haha. It was kind of pathetic. Oh well. Something to work toward!

Completing this workout really reminded me how important variety is when sticking to a regular fitness routine. I'm prone to being a creature of habit, so I'm going to make it a point to try a new workout each week, be it a new DVD, online video or a custom routine of my own.

How do you keep your fitness routine fresh and challenging? What types of resources to you use? Do you often find yourself getting stuck in a workout rut?

While I'm enjoying new workouts, my love for running is currently on a downswing. Kind of regret signing up for the 5K next month, but I'll stick it out, I suppose.

Other than that, I've just been trying to tone up and lose some of last year's regained weight (currently down 8 out of 20 pounds!) and studying for the ACE exam. Moving through the first couple of chapters pretty smoothly, but probably won't schedule my exam for a another few weeks.

Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Plyo Challenge, Anyone?

I came across a good-looking plyometric workout by Candice Keene on the Fitness RX for Women website and thought I would share it with my readers in case any of you were looking for a cardio-toning challenge. Since the key word is "challenge," this workout looks like it would be best for intermediate or advanced fitness levels. Also, avoid if you have joint issues; plyometrics=jump training and is therefore very high impact.

I drafted a text-version of the workout below, but please watch the video (about 11 minutes long) for examples of proper form and equipment:

Speaking of equipment, Candice uses an aerobic step (both standard and high versions), a bosu ball (don't worry, I don't have one either) and a stability ball. However, this workout can be done without equipment with some smart modifications. I made notes for non-equipment modifications, thanks to moves I've been using during my Nike NTC workouts and Bob Harper's Inside Out DVDs.

Summary: 4 giant sets, 3+ exercises per set, 15-20 reps per exercise (unless otherwise noted). Complete each set 3 times with a 60 sec break between each set. Entire workout could last about an hour.

1st set:
-15 box jumps (*or tuck jumps if you don't have a box)
-10 burpees
-Bear walks across the room and back
-30 mountain climbers

2nd set:
-25 jump squats
-15 (each leg) split jump lunges
-20 deep plie squats
-Walking lunges w/ back leg lifts AND upper body rotation with barbell bar resting on back of neck/shoulders (*if no bar, could hold light weights in each hand or simply no weight at all and just rotate).

3rd set (No rest between sets on this round):
-30 hop overs (*If you don't have a jump box or high step, try using the seat of a sturdy chair to support your hands/arms and pretend you're hopping over an object OR simply stand upright and hop from side to side.)
-15 high knees (*bosu ball used in video, could be done without)
-5 (each side, 10 total) high knees from side to side with added knee lift before jumping to other side. (*also done w/ bosu ball in video, but can be done without).

4th set (Complete this round 2 times only):
-10 (each side, 20 total) side jump-ups and step downs using high step or jump box. (*If no step or box, try 180 jumps or single-leg hops from side to side.)
-15 (each side) regular step-ups with added back leg lift (*If you have a staircase, you could step-up on the steps or replace the step-up with a front lunge and add alternating back leg lifts).
-40 toe taps using a step with added risers; if no step, try high knees and drive the bottoms of your feet up and inward, kinda like you're bouncing an imaginary soccer ball back & forth/side-to-side with your feet.
-6 scorpion push-ups, driving knee up toward elbow on same side. (*No bosu ball necessary.)
-6 squat jack push-ups (*again, no bosu required).
-15 (each side) forward-bending knee crunches (don't drop foot to the floor; rely on core for balance).
-Plank position with feet on stability ball, use abs to roll butt into the air and back down. (*If no ball, get into plank position w/ your forearms & elbows resting on the ground; drive your hips/glutes up & down.)

So, that all said, anyone want to try this workout with me? I'm gonna give it a go sometime between tomorrow and the weekend and will report back with my review next week. If you try it before I do, let me know how you did in the comments!