Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A new partner in crime...

Hope everyone had a safe & fun weekend! Things were a little busy at our house, but for good reason; we finally got a dog!!!

His name is Randal (a nod to the movie "Clerks"), he's one and a half years old and so far, he's the best beagle ever. Sure, he's misbehaved a few times, but I mean, look at that face! We're quick to forgive him once he goes back to being a goofy sweetheart.

I've been looking at dogs for over 3 years now and Randal is proof that patience is a virtue. The local Humane Society was having a really good deal on dogs over the holiday weekend, so I twisted Doug's arm to go look after I left work on Friday. I figured if we didn't see/meet any that we liked, we could leave, but I think I knew better; visiting a shelter is pretty heartbreaking, so leaving empty-handed is a challenge.

I saw Randal on the website earlier in the day and he was definitely one of my top choices. He was a stray who had already been there a week; can't believe he lasted that long! He had just been neutered, had a clean bill of health and no behavioral problems. When we went to a visitation room to meet him, he immediately went to Doug and put his paw's on Doug's knees. It's almost as if Randal planned that move, since Doug was being really resistant to the idea of getting a dog that day and I was already won over from the beginning.

About an hour after the visit, we were new dog parents and taking Randal to his new home. It's been like the Summer of Love ever since, but without the psychoactive drugs and, y'know, hippies. For $100, his adoption included getting neutered, shots, license tags, a free first vet visit, microchip and a free month of pet insurance. He was originally $200, so aside from being the coolest dog ever, his adoption process was a pretty rad value too.

But not everyone was happy about Randal joining our family...

This is my sister's Shih-Tzu, Chato. Chato has stayed at our house a few times in the past and was kind of a "practice" dog for me and Doug. He's usually cheerful and energetic, but when he stayed the night this weekend with Randal, he quickly became super-jealous and would go into our bedroom by himself because he thought he'd been replaced. He's not used to being around other dogs, but hopefully he'll eventually warm up to his new cousin.

So that was this weekend's excitement! Once Randal heals up from his neuter surgery, we're looking forward to taking him hiking and to the dog park. He's already a bit spoiled and I expect that will only get worse as time goes on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boot camp, baby!

It's been a while since I've blabbed about a fitness DVD, but I couldn't seem to go another day without praising my new favorite: Jeanette Jenkins' Bikini Boot Camp!

I first learned about Jeanette through the Nike Training Club App after unlocking her bonus ab workout. After that, I got curious and started to browse her DVD releases. After reading some reviews, I decided to give Bikini Boot Camp a try.

First, I'll cut to the chase and say: This workout is NOT for beginners! In fact, I think even intermediate and advanced exercisers will find this one tough to keep up with.

The basic format of the workout is a warm-up, a cardio camp (about 27 minutes), a strength/toning camp (about 25 minutes), an ab camp (about 10 minutes) and finally, stretching & cool down. You can do each camp individually or all together.

Don't let the girlishness of the word "bikini" fool you- the cardio camp is no joke! It's very athlete-driven, starting with some basic moves (jumping jacks, high knees, etc.), but then quickly transitions ("quickly" being a key word here) to kick boxing, plyometrics and sport drills one might do in volleyball, basketball and football (shuffling, overhead spikes, mixed jump rope routines, etc.)

While the cardio camp is under 30 minutes, Jeanette does not let up for a single second; there are 5 circuits, all of them repeated about 2-3 times with no breaks. While her cuing and pace are both steady, she doesn't really pause to show you how to perform the move, so it's up to the viewer to really pay attention and keep up. None of the moves are terribly complicated, but if you're expecting a lot of explanation beforehand, it simply isn't there.

The strength/toning camp moves at a slightly slower pace with a couple of breaks, but because most of the moves are compound exercises (working more than one muscle group at the same time), your heart rate will stay up and you'll definitely start to feel the burn all over.

This routine starts off with push-ups and plank exercises and then moves on to using dumbbells with lots of variations on lunges, squats, arm curls and extensions. One move that was new to me was plie squats performed while standing on the tips of the toes- hello calf muscles! Many of the moves also involve balancing on one leg, which I found really challenged my core muscles.

Finally, there's the ab camp. Nothing particularly spectacular here; just a lot of crunches (with the added weight from a dumbbell), bicyles and leg raises that will set your stomach on fire for almost 10 minutes. Y'know, the usual.

I've done this DVD twice now and I think I may be addicted, despite how incredibly tough it is. The first time, I did the entire DVD, all of the camps in order. This morning, I skipped the ab camp and changed up the order, doing the strength camp first, then the cardio camp. I'm sure it depends on the person, but I found doing the strength camp first was a little bit easier to get through. The cardio is just so tough that trying to get through resistance training immediately afterward was a little too much of an ass-kicker for me. Plus, I think my form was better in the strength camp since my muscles were still fresh and not completely spent from all of the plyometric work in cardio camp.

This DVD was a little pricier than what I usually spend on fitness DVDs (Collage Video actually has the cheaper price; Amazon wants almost $40- yeah right!), but so far, it's proven to be worth every penny. It's provided the type of muscle confusion I've needed lately and goes by pretty fast. Plus, the only equipment you need is some dumbbells (I used a set of 5's and a set of 8's). If you're looking for a great total body workout, Bikini Boot Camp delivers a solid challenge that will leave you soaked and sore (in a good way, of course). You've got a new fan, Jeanette!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tae Bo with Billy Blanks!

As a long-time fan of Tae-Bo, I was pretty damn thrilled to meet and workout with the master himself, Billy Blanks!!!

Last Friday, I found out that Billy had done a workout at a local gym (my old-old former Planet Fitness gym, Westside Fitness) at 10 am. Totally missed it! I was pretty bummed. I started using the Tae Bo tapes back in my early college days, all the way through to my current fitness routine. It's one of those workouts that I can always depend on because it never feels like "work," it's just fun and empowering. And it always leaves me drenched in sweat, as depicted above, heh.

Anyway, as I searched the web for re-caps of the awesome workout I missed, I found out that Billy was doing a SECOND workout at 5 pm! There was hope! I still had a chance to live out one of my fitness dreams and workout with Billy in person!

I called the gym to see if there was any spots left and there were! Granted, the cost to get in was $30, but the workout and meet/greet was open to non-gym members, so I decided to dash home, change and get my kickboxing on.

Working out with Billy was incredible! Definitely one of the biggest challenges I've done to date. Part of what made it so challenging (aside from the non-stop kicking, punching and resistance band routine) was Billy walking around the room, calling us out to correct our form and holding up his padded gloves to make sure we were counting and punching and kicking on the beat.

When we were going through a punching routine, Billy came up to me and held up his gloves- just like in the videos! He yelled at me over the music to "look in the mirror!" so I could see myself and my form, but I was totally starstruck and had a hard time looking in the mirror when a fitness legend was by my side, haha.

He also held the gloves up to me when we were doing front and back kicks. There was so much burning going on in my muscles at that point, but I pushed through it. He said "Good!" after monitoring my kicks for a bit and I was walking on air from that point on.

After the workout, we all sat down and listened to Billy talk and answer questions:

He said that he was dyslexic and didn't read his first book until 20 years ago. I never knew that about him, so it was inspiring to hear how taking up boxing and Tae Kwan Do helped him eventually work through those issues.

I personally couldn't think of anything to ask because I was still in shock over the fact that we just worked out together, so I just listened. He of course got asked about food and diet and I was pleased with his answer. He basically said that diet books and trends probably work well for the people that designed them, but they more than likely won't work for you 100%. He recommended taking bits and pieces from different plans and customizing something that works for you, which I totally agree with. He didn't talk about calories or superfoods, he just advised healthy choices and avoiding extremes. I think some people were disappointed with his answer because they were probably ready to follow "The Billy Blanks Diet," but I think he responded well.

Someone asked if he lifted weights and I surprised to learn that he doesn't. He said the only resistance training he does is in the Tae Bo workouts, like the resistance bands and bars. We did a routine with the bands toward the end of the workout and it was no joke! At one point, we were performing squat jumps with a military press at the top and I was about ready to die right then and there.

All in all, it was a really cool experience! I'm glad I was able to make it, despite limping out of bed the next morning, haha. Billy is a great instructor, a true motivator and one of my all-time favorite fitness idols. Now I just need to hunt down Jillian Michaels, Jackie Warner and Jari Love and I'll be good to go, haha.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetable Curry, New Belgium-Style.

Yesterday's Meatless Monday dish combined two things that I enjoy: Curry and beer. But last night was the first time I enjoyed the two together. It was quite the tasty experiment.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a stipend to purchase New Belgium Brewery products and ingredients for a meal made with and/or paired with the beer.

I chose the Trippel Belgian Style Ale.

Since the main spice is coriander, Doug suggested a curry of some sort.

And so, New Belgium Vegetable Curry was born:

  • 1 bottle of New Belgium Trippel style beer
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 or 15 oz, I believe)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 bag of frozen peas & carrots (12 oz)
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1-2 tsp of garam masala
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup basmati rice, uncooked

Add the oil to a large pot, set to medium heat. Add the onions and allow them to sweat for about 10-15 minutes. You're not trying to caramelize them, but rather slowly sweat and tenderize them. Add curry powder and stir for a minute or two.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in tomatoes, salt then the beer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the base is simmering, prepare the basmati rice according to the package instructions (to save some time, we did the microwave option; place rice in a 2 quart microwaveable dish, add 2 cups water, cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove, stir and microwave for an additional 15 minutes on 50% power. Let sit for 5 minutes.)

Add the cayenne (if using) and additional salt, if necessary to the base. Stir in cauliflower and peas/carrots. Cover and continue to simmer until cauliflower is tender, about another 10 minutes or so. Add garam masala during the last few minutes of cooking. Serve with rice.

Great, flavorful dish. We sipped the beer by itself in between bites and aside from cooling down the effect of the cayenne, it also had a crisp finish and a smooth aftertaste, thanks to the coriander and the complementing spices in the curry.

Living in Colorado, I've been familiar with New Belgium Brewery for quite some time and have had a few of their beers in the past, but never really considered myself a huge fan. It wasn't until this Foodbuzz opportunity that I decided to give New Belgium another shot. I was pleased to discover how much I enjoyed the Tripple variety and even more impressed with how well it worked with our recipe. Warm curry, cold beer… What more could I ask for on a Monday night?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Life Time Fitness Winners!

Well, the winners for the two 7-day passes are pretty much everyone who entered, haha. Congrats Bre, Amy, Claudia and Joel!

Please send an e-mail to stretchjean@gmail.com with your current mailing address and I'll get your passes mailed out a.s.a.p.!

Thanks for entering and enjoy your visit to Life Time!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Life Time Fitness Grand Opening- and a Giveaway!

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of going to the opening party for a new health center in town, Life Time Fitness. Prior to my invitation last week, I must admit, I had never heard of the place and hence, had no idea what to expect.

As I pulled up to the center and saw the insane amount of people and traffic, it became clear that Life Time Fitness isn't your typical gym.

I thought "This is crazy! What is it about this place that would attract thousands of people?" Well, after meeting up with one of LTF's reps, I went on a full tour and quickly became impressed, overwhelmed and excited. I'm not sure where to start with my photos, so let's just dive in, shall we?

Gorgeous indoor (and outdoor!) pool & sauna facilities:

Full spa and salon (you mean I can get my hair cut AND attend a spin class in the same building?):

The Life Cafe & Shop:

HUGE menu with healthy options for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a quick snack. And of course, everything on the menu is health-conscious and includes nutritional info. Their Kids menu even includes *baked* chicken strips! From the Life Cafe menu: "We're delighted to serve artisan bread made with unbleached flour and dressings and sauces made from scratch with all-natural ingredients... No artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or trans fats."

Meeting all of your supplement needs!

[Multiple!] Tennis Courts:

Pilates (Mat Pilates is also offered):

Indoor Rock Climbing:

Full Basketball Court:

Boxing, Kickboxing and Mixed-Martial Arts (for adults and kids!):

[Insane amount of] Latest Cardio Equipment & Fully-Stocked Weight Room:

(not sure what this is, but I'm dying to try it- looks like a cross between an elliptical and a stair master!)

In addition to offering just about every piece of equipment you can imagine, they also include popular classes (Zumba, Spinning, Vinyasa Yoga, etc.), so your fitness routine will never get stale.

Life Time is also very much family-oriented, so of course there's a children's center with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep them occupied while parents get their workout on.

And as if all of the above wasn't enough, Life Time kicks things up another notch and offers metabolic testing and other fitness assessments at their LifeLab, to help you better reach your health goals:

The cherry on top: Great view of Pikes Peak:

Now back to that whole "Giveaway" bit...

The folks at Life Time Fitness have given me several 7-Day passes to share with my readers, so you can experience the awesomeness for yourself. Four winners will receive two passes each (each pass is good for an individual, a couple or a family living at the same residence). The passes are valid at the new Colorado Springs location only and can be used anytime between now and May 2012.

To enter: Leave a comment on this post telling me what you're most excited to try at Life Time Fitness. Winners will be selected at random next Monday (May 9) at 9 am MST.

NOTE: You must be at least 21 years of age and a first-time visitor of Life Time in order to redeem the trial pass.

Good luck!

Life Time Fitness is located at 4410 Royal Pine Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80920