Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite Salad

Getting back into the swing of things here. Did 20 minutes of cardio at the gym followed by 20 minutes of weights and another 20 minutes of cardio after that. Got out of there feeling as if I could eat a triple decker veggie burger. (Now, now. No salivating over that image, ha ha.)What I did? I made myself my favorite salad.

Here's what I use:

Romaine Lettuce (a lot of people prefer field greens, but I always think that unless it's coated in dressing, it tastes like pond muck.)
Canned Mandarin Oranges
Feta Cheese (I prefer Mediterranean herbs in mine)
Sliced Almonds, roasted (I LOVE the brand Almond Accents in cracked pepper flavor)
Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (my personal favorite if I'm too lazy to make my own which means I always use it for this recipe.)

This comes with a story, lucky you.

Years ago, my husband I went on our honeymoon. We are both very practical people and did not want to start out our married lives in debt, so we sent our honeymoon driving around New England, visiting museums. BEST vacation ever. In Rhode Island, we stopped at a restaurant called The Red Parrot. (

I was always very careful about my diet. If I was going to eat a lot of food, it would at least be chock full of vitamins and come from the ground. So I ordered a Caribbean salad. Can I just say that each bite I took was ecstasy? Sure, I loved visiting the Vanderbilt Mansion and entering Mark Twain's abode, but that salad? Still remember it vividly. Since then I've found similar ones at local restaurants, Chili's being one of them, but nothing holds a candle to that first taste of the real deal in Newport, R.I.

I've tried to recreate the salad, and I have to admit, mine can't compare either. Still, it's a pretty darn good try.

And slipping a few Hershey's kisses afterward doesn't hurt, either.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When a Cold Derails Your Fitness Plans

I know you've probably heard it before...exercising in moderation while ill is A-okay. And I've jumped on the treadmill while nursing a runny nose. But when there is coughing, sneezing, and a dripping tissue poking from your waistband, that is not acceptable in a public venue such as the public gym. Can you say YUCK? Because no one lifting 50-pound weights wants to leave there with someone's mucous on their bodies, okay?

Stay home and work-out, or give yourself the day (or week) off.

Now that I have that out of the way...I have been sick for almost a week now, and not exercising, natch. Part of the reason? Although I am on the mend, my children are just getting into the swing of things with their colds. (Read: my cold that I gave them.)

I am not practicing what I preach. I have not lifted cans of soup , or the weights stored somewhere in the closet. I am not running in place. I'm not even crawling around on the floor vacuuming beneath the couches (a fantastic workout, to be truthful). No. I am running up and down stairs feeding the quarantined child. I am trying in vain to keep child with pink eye (who would be quarantines if he were older and would stay in his room) from locating child with hacking cough and exchanging illnesses like they were spectacular presents.

At the end of the day, because I am still sick and coughing myself, I drag myself to bed. No workout. I know I will regret this when I get on the elliptical next week. But what can I do? I can't get to the gym during the day because I can't take the kids out of the house.

So for anyone who is going through this, or has gone through this, I get it. Don't kick yourself in the muscled tush. (And if you're flexible enough to do that, no worries!) Just get back to your workout schedule as soon as possible. I will let you know what that is...

After I put my son with the hacking cough back in his bedroom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finding Time to Exercise

The biggest excuse for not exercising has merit: "I don't have time."

At the risk of annoying millions of readers (tongue-in-cheek), if you don't have time, than getting exercise is not a priority for you. Plain and simple. If you want to change that, excellent! I have some pointers you might be able to use.

I am giving this advice because I have used these techniques myself. I'm not going to ask you to do something impossible. (Example: work out videos at home. Great if you have a studio to work out in. Not so good for those of us who own heavy furniture.) I want you to remember something...most of my working life I either had 2-3 jobs or went to school full-time with 1-2 jobs. Talk about a time crunch. Still, I found time to get exercise. Now? Despite the inconvenience, I exercise 3 times a week at the gym. Inconvenient because I must drag my son's bookbag, my packed duffel, and a towel bag with me as well because I shower there. I just can't shrug the idea that showering at home with a three-year-old loose in the house would be a Bad Idea. On Fridays I also carry my Yoga brick and mat with me.

Not sure why my son always wants to be picked up when I'm burdened like a pack mule, but yes, occasionally he's in my arms, too. You'd think that would be enough workout, taking him and our gear into the Y where he attends preschool...but then I bike for twenty minutes and spend 50 more in painful yoga.

Okay, so enough about me, on to tips to keep active when you're busy:

On weekends-

1)Go to dance clubs and drink water (not beer) while dancing. (This is what I did in more more youthful, childless days.)

2)If you have kids, take them to the playground and swing with them or do chin-ups on the monkey bars. Climb and slide with them, unless, of course, they have those tunnel slides and you are either claustrophobic like me, or you are afraid someone will have to pour olive oil inside it to release you from being stuck (a truly understandable fear).

3)Cold and snowy? Help the kids make snow forts and start snowball wars. (Rule must be that no one throws snowballs at people's heads. We aren't looking for head injuries here, folks!) No kids? Any neighbor will let you borrow theirs, as long as you aren't creepy guy at the end of the road.

4)Housework can be great exercise! Get some music pumping and clean to the beat.

On weekdays-

1)During lunch break, eat some lean protein and walk around the building (unless you work for a company like Xerox that has a building with seemingly no end. It only took me one time to realize some buildings seem a lot smaller inside than they are on the outside).

2)Watch television at night? Jog in place. Use soup cans as weights and do some arm lifts. Rest during the commercials, or do ab work on the floor. Do not, I repeat, do not consume an entire bag of potato chips directly after. If it makes you hungry, a small piece of cheese and a few nuts should fill you, plus give you protein for those muscles you'll be developing!

3)If you need a second income, try working in a store stockroom if you can handle heavy lifting. You will make money and increase muscle mass.

4)Have a dog that needs walking? Try going on a sprint/walk. Alternate running and walking. You might frustrate your pooch at first, but eventually he or she will get the hint. No dog? If you have ten minutes, take the time to start this good habit. You'll be glad you did!

Like I said, these are all techniques I've used, and I've kept fit most of my life. The times I gained weight? When I didn't exercise at all. But that's a story for another post.

If you want exercising to be a priority, you will find the time to do it. Ten minutes a day is better than none. Sneak in moments where you'd rather be relaxing and get that blood pumping by walking around your office or living room. Get some stretches in if you have a job where you're on your feet a lot, such as being a nurse, a waiter, or a retail salesperson. Start small, but do it often. It only takes a short while for it to become a habit.

No excuses, okay? You can do it. I know, because I have.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It's almost the end of the year, folks. If you made a lifestyle change for the better as a New Year's Resolution last year, did you achieve your goal? Did you lose weight? Did you exercise regularly? Did you eat more fruits and vegetables?

Are you planning on making the promise to do better next year?

What do you plan to do for your health in 2012? I plan to continue working out 3-4 times a week, eat more fruits and vegetables, less cookies. Hm. This is beginning to sound unattainable already.

But I will let you know how it goes. Please let me know how you are doing as well!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Weight Gain

The dreaded holiday blahs.

Do you get that, too? You know what I mean...the rich, fattening food, the colder weather, the lack of motivation. And yet now is the time we need to keep most active. Most people I know gain weight during the winter season, and most of it happens during the holidays.

First, there's the Halloween candy that is still being consumed. Plan of attack? Use it on those gingerbread houses your kids want to decorate. Let dust collect on it. Candy looks less appealing all dusty.

Second, there's the turkey and trimming leftovers, including pumpkin pie. Do not feel guilty saving a slice for later and THROWING OUT THE REMAINDER. Do not keep it around. It will go bad fairly quickly for one thing. For another, I have never met a delicious pumpkin pie that likes people to be a healthy weight. All you need is a taste to satisfy the need for creamy, pumpkiny goodness.

Third, if you work outside the home, you can bet everyone else will be pawning off their delectables on their co-workers so they don't have to fight their cravings alone in front of their television while watching The Biggest Loser. Who can resist free treats? Not many.

And fourth, December brings Christmas cookies for Santa, delicious meals during Kwanzaa, and irresistible cakes for Hanukkah. Soon afterward, New Years Eve gives us greasy finger foods and champagne bloat. Not to mention all the carbs, sugar, and salt that goes into the otherwise healthy vegetable dishes prepared for these occasions.

I am not a person who likes to deprive myself, but I have been known to turn down anything that isn't merely unhealthy, but downright cholesterol laden. Fried mozzarella? Nope. Potato chips? Not likely, unless they're baked. Cake heavy on the frosting? I will take half the frosting off my slice.

But I will enjoy a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie (or two if they aren't huge). But here's the thing: I work it off.

This isn't as hard as it sounds. Sure, I go to the gym regularly, but if there's a calorie-heavy meal I know I'll be noshing on, I try to extend my workouts that week. Instead of a half-hour cardio, I'll do an hour. Maybe more. Or I'll go on a run during one of my non-workout days. Or, and I know this sounds strange, I will do heavy housework. Vacuum the stairs. Move the furniture and vacuum underneath. Rearrange my closets. As long as you are moving, you are burning calories.

The best time to increase housework is during the holidays anyway, since it's common to have guests visit.

So my advice during this trying time:

1) Avoid snacking when you aren't hungry. That means no going into the employee breakroom to sneak a doughnut simply because you know it's there!
2) Extend any and all workouts when you know you will be consuming more calories that week
3) Avoid the foods that are the worst for you. Try to fill up on raw veggies and water, save the greasier foods for your "reward," which will be when you're not as hungry so you won't eat as much of it.
4) Try to consume only one or two alcoholic beverages during the parties you attend. If you are uncomfortable without a drink in your hand, juice with a splash of carbonated water is a good alternative.
5) Get out the sponges, the dust cloths, and the vacuum and clean to the beat of your favorite songs.

Hopefully this will help you get through the next couple of months with little to no pain on your part. Happy eating!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yoga...Part 2 second shot at active yoga. She was much easier on us, maybe only half my muscles will ache this time? But let me explain how this session worked.

She had us sit cross-legged on the floor on top of our blocks, hands on knees, palm up. She made that Ohm sound you hear about. Boy, was she good at it! It reverberated through my body. I had to check to make sure it wasn't coming from a CD. Nope. It was her. Very on-key. But I digress. Our job was to empty our minds and concentrate on each breath we inhaled and exhaled. At least, that's what I gathered. The acoustics are still lousy in the gym, and I'm still half-deaf. Okay, so I sat there, back straight, listening to the Ohms and half-wondered where she learned to make that sound the way she did...and then I stopped myself.

I was supposed to empty my mind, remember.

So I stared at the mat-covered walls of the gym and wondered what would happen if we had an earthquake. Where would I run? Was it safer to stand next to the wall? Never mind that I live in an area that doesn't get many earthquakes, and when there is an earthquake it's barely noticeable. Still, I remembered reading somewhere never to stand in a doorway, so I knew better than to hide there should the earth tremble and shake.

Then I remembered I was supposed to empty my mind.

But time was up, and all I had to show for it was a mental note to google earthquake evacuation when I returned home.

After we bent our limbs in unnatural positions for another 45 minutes, we returned to the state of emptying our minds, this time laying down on our mats, facing the ceiling. Relax, was the mantra. Relax and feel your breath go in and out...

Straight above me was the long, metal rod that held the curtain partition, which was now in the open position. I mused about the possibility that if the chains holding the rod in place were to break, it would come down and split my body in two.

This yoga stuff was not at all relaxing.

Finally, we were released back into the world. I stood, dusted myself off, and was ever grateful that sore muscles would be the only damage I'd end up with during my workout. So I suppose, in a way, I can't complain if I ache for a few days.

As if a mother could actually empty her mind. Right.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding the Time

Hello, all! Darryl, here with my 1st post!

Welcome to life in the 21st century, where many of us struggle to find the time to do many of the necessary things in life, let alone engage in "me-time". For many of us, that me-time may be engaging in exercise and we don't allow the time for it. If we're to overcome this, we have to change the way we think about exercise and instead of looking at it as a luxury, need to look at it as a necessity.

Part of the problem for many is that it is looked at as something we must set about 2 hours aside for to see substantial benefit and can be instantly turned off by such a daunting length of time, particularly if already fatigued or pushed for time. But I'm here to tell you that simply isn't true. Here is some advise for people with time constraints due to work, travel, school or family commitments:

1.) Pick a time that will work for you. If your energy level is at it's peak at one particular point of the day, pencil that in as the time you will exercise. For some, it may be an hour before you go to work in the morning. For others, you may catch a little time between work and school, or be able to take a walk pushing your child in a stroller. Maybe it is some combination of morning and evening.

2.) Be creative. Exercise can be as simply as wearing a pedometer and counting the steps you take at work or throughout your day. Shoot for a total of 10,000 steps (about 5 miles). What you don't catch during the routine of your day, top off with a long walk at the end of your day. Even in bad weather, a treadmill works nicely or even going to the mall to walk it is an option.

3.) Find something you enjoy and will stick with. I can't stress this enough. Too many people bite of more than they can chew or try to prep themselves to compete in American Gladiators and burn themselves out, become discouraged or sucuumb to the injury bug. Unless you're training for a specific purpose, you can pick and choose. All that is required to maintain a baseline of fitness is 20-30 minutes of continuous cardiovascular activity at least 60% of your maximum heart rate (your age minus 220= maximum heart rate; for a 40 year old, that would be 180 beats per minute. 60% of that would be 108 BPM).

4.) Do body-weight exercises. You don't need to belong to a gym and pay extra money to have some muscle tone. Push-ups a great for of upper-body exercise (you can do these on your knees if too difficult). You can perform squats with your own body weight for your legs and there are a host of abdomenal exercises that can be done without equipment.

5.) Multitasking. Need to study for that exam? Got a good book you want to finish? No problem. A lot of these things can be worked into your routine. There are many books available for download that can be played on MP3 or IPod while walking or using a piece of exercise apparatus. I've seen many people (myself included) reading on a recumbent or upright bike, walking on a treadmill or using a stair-stepper. I've done pushups while watching a movie or read a book in between sets. When my children were small, I used to have them lie on my back while I did pushups or run around the yard or ran with them while they rode their bikes or scooters and can incorporate family time into the equation.

Most of all, be safe! Burning the candle at too many ends will lead to burnout not just in exercise, but in life as well. Your mental health is what is going to allow you to take advantage of your physical health. I truly believe you can't have the second one without the first one!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Today's workout was 25 minutes of the bike (dang Achilles heel pain still bugging me), followed by 55 minutes of what I call "painful yoga."

The last time I did yoga? Hm. Five years ago? Six? Painful then, too, if I recall. Why? Because if you aren't used to twisting like a pretzel, you're in for some major burn. The last time I took the class, an obese woman taught the class. (She was at least three-hundred pounds, I am not exaggerating). She had the agility of a cat. Balance on one leg while bringing the other one up to the ear? She could do that. Not me. Never me. Apparently weight has nothing to do with ability. Boy, I envied her.

Our instructor this time was much thinner than the last one, and although she didn't move as fluidly (I have yet to meet an individual who does), she was very good. Corrected me twice. That's okay, I can take being corrected. Except she had to repeat herself two or three times because I have horrible hearing and the acoustics in the gymnasium were so bad I never once fully understood a sentence she uttered. So I blinked, looked stupid until she coupled her words with body language. Maybe she figured I was an exchange student from South Dumbodia or something.

Anyhow, I have to say I love Child's Pose. I could fall asleep in Child's Pose. I was close to it a few times, since I ran my writer's group last night and chatted much too late into the night and still had to get the kids up for school the next morning. So Child's Pose was almost too comfy.

I highly recommend yoga--at least I do right now, we'll see how my muscles feel tomorrow--because it really gives your body a good stretch. Stretching makes you more flexible. You walk taller. Your muscles become leaner and stronger. It's relaxing as long as you aren't standing perpendicular to the floor on one leg, extending all limbs in various directions. But even when you balance yourself all crazy-like, afterwards your body feels better. There's a mood shift, and you may feel a little, well, giddy.

This will now become part of my weekly fitness plan. Maybe you'll want to try it, too? Doesn't matter if you weigh ninety pounds or three hundred. If I can do it, so can you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Check Out This Site for Calorie Count

My friend Arnold wanted to know how he can tell how many calories are burned in a workout. Fantastic question! I responded that it depends on the type of workout, the duration of the workout, one's weight, and the level of exertion used. Of course, that wasn't the most helpful answer. I may as well have told him, "Got no clue, buddy!" So I did a little research and found a helpful site:

Using their database, you can plug in your weight and the length of time to specific exercises and get an estimate for calories burned. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but then again, even the machines at the gym aren't 100% reliable. But it can give one an idea of what exercises are the best calorie burners.

So thanks, Arnold, for asking this question. Now go out and burn off some calories!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Still Here!

I know, I know. I've been behind. I have many projects I'm working on...mostly writing projects, though my children can be seen as works in progress as well, and getting them on track takes oodles of time, as all parents know. Still, I have made time to exercise, and I'm proud of that.

Because I am also a college student, I have to squeeze homework into my day, so I've discovered working out/showering/reading the required literature needs to fit into the 2 1/2 hours I have to myself while the youngest is in preschool. I usually give exercising a good hours worth of that time and feel dreadfully guilty not keeping up the extra 1/2 hour I used to do. Plus, I've been using the bike machine since I've been having Achilles tendon problems. That means I am working out precisely 400 calories less every other day. That equals 1,200 less calories a week. What does that mean for me? That I'd better not consume as much food as I would during a week of working out more. Easy? I think not. As I posted before, we get into habits.

I will tell you one thing: I never skip breakfast and I pretty much stick to two bowls of Cheerios with (sweetened) vanilla flavored almond milk. I could do better by going without the sweetened almond milk. But I like it, and I don't miss the sugary cereals as much. In fact, because Cheerios only has 1 gram of sugar, now if I consume a sweeter cereal like, say, honey-nut Cheerios, it's often too sweet for my taste.

Anyhow, now I've been biking 20-40 minutes (depending on the day), and hoping my heels will heal. I want to get back to the other machines, the real calorie burners that make me sweat within ten minutes of using them. But biking has been challenging, and people seem to enjoy it. The machines are all usually in use.

Today I also did free weights. I've been watching people's strategies. How much weight they use. What exercises they employ. And when they aren't around to watch me copy them, I follow their example. Being observant helps, folks. Don't be afraid to see what everyone else is doing and try it out yourself.

Meantime, I am happily burning 250 calories on the bike, hoping I will fit into my jeans tomorrow. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Truth Behind Losing Weight

Lately I've been reading all over the web about the Dancing with the Stars participants. How many of them have lost weight. The most recent is Ricki Lake. The (arguably) most celebrated celebrity is Kirstie Alley.

Anyone who keeps up on this sort of thing (like me) knows both these women have gained and lost weight over the years (also considered "yo-yo dieting"). In other words, they may be famous, but they're just like everyone else. Their bodies respond to what they eat and the exercising they do (or don't do).

I'm not surprised they're losing weight quickly. Dancing is physically demanding. If you do it eight hours a day for weeks on end, you're going to lose a lot of weight, and need to eat more calories to compensate.

Here is the problem for most of these celebrities once they are no longer participating in the DWTS show: when they stop dancing, the weight is likely to return. Why? Because they will be used to eating the same amount of calories they consumed while on a physically grueling schedule, but they will have stopped the hours they've spent dancing.

This is why it's best not to go too gung-ho when beginning an exercise routine. If you start off exercising two hours a day five times a week, you may find yourself increasing your calorie intake. Bodies love carbs and protein to keep them running. But when you taper off exercising (and this is more likely the case then not), you might not taper off in your calorie intake. Why? Because your body becomes used to the calorie intake.

My advice? First of all, attempt to snack on healthier fare such as bananas and blueberries when you start out exercising. Slowly increase your workouts from 30 minutes to 2 hours so your body can adequately adjust. If you are starving after a workout, fill up with lettuce sprinkled with feta cheese and a small amount of vinaigrette. Do not think you can go for the double cheeseburger at Mickey D's. You may have burned off 300 calories, but why consume 400 or more afterward?

Get your body used to the workouts, and have a healthy snack with a little protein afterward to help muscles recuperate. But don't think you can eat more because you are working out. In fact, try to keep your calories at or below where they were before you began an exercising routine. (This is if you are looking to shed pounds, not maintain the weight you are at.) Don't overdo the workouts. You aren't trying to starve yourself. Hungry people grab whatever is available to them with no regard to calories or fat grams. I speak from experience!

Good luck, and drop me a line if you end up on Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's in Your Pantry Part 2

I'm on a healthy eating kick. Why? Because I'm getting plump in the rump these days, and I think it's because I'm consuming a lot of junk. Granted, my choice of junk food would be health food to people who gulp down handfuls of potato chips and Ho-Hos. I mean, my junk food is dried fruit and nuts, Chex Mix (the dark chocolate kind is my favorite!), and pretzels or whole grain tortilla chips. But the truth is, no matter how I spin it, it's still causing me weight gain and moodiness.

I don't believe in getting rid of my favorite junk food and crunching on celery and carrot sticks the rest of my life. Granted, that would be a Best Case Scenario, but I would really miss my chocolate Chex Mix to the point where I might go off the deep end and start stuffing my face with candy bars and cereal just to get my "fix." Seventeen-hundred and twenty-three calories later I would realize a handful of Chex Mix (chocolate!) would have set me back a mere 200 calories. And a ton less fat.

Here's what you should not have in your cupboard. These items are horrid to your body and skin:

*Potato chips (greasy oily goodness, I know, but the salt alone can give you hypertension!)
*Any ready-made cookies or cakes (No more Little Debbies for you.)
*Cereals with a lot of sugar (by a lot, no more than 6 grams per serving...and I'm being lenient here.)
*High calorie bread (2 slices could add a whopping 230 calories to your sandwich. Check out this site to see where the calories fall in your favorite breads:
*Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos (I'm sensing a pattern here...) All those crunchy, salty foods that taste so salty, you can't stop eating them.

A little story here, because I love telling stories. Years ago I worked with a woman my age (at that time, early thirties) who was probably a good thirty pounds heavier than I was. She used to lament about this, noting my eating habits weren't all that different from her own. (I had an occasional slice of pie or a cafeteria sandwich.) The biggest difference between us was that she didn't exercise and I did, and every day she bought herself a snack-size bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I'll admit...those are delicious. If you have one, you want to entire bag. But if you eat that entire bag, you will have consumed 250 calories. Imagine how that adds up when you have one every. Single. Day. (1,250 calories in a five-day workweek.)

In general, One pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories, according to several sites I've visited. You can imagine how eating an extra bag of Doritos every. Single. Day. can affect how much weight you add to your body.

Vincent Iannelli, M.D. notes:

"...if you eat an extra 350 calories of food a day, which is about equal to a large piece of cake or a medium milk shake, you would gain an extra pound every 10 days (350x10). Or you would gain a pound in about 20 days if you eat or drank an extra 175 calories a day (175x20)" (

If my friend had stopped eating those Doritos and kept her diet otherwise the same, eventually she's lose a few pounds over the course of a couple months. If she added exercise as well, she'd lose even more. So if you are trying to lose several pounds, consider taking away a part of your diet you don't that bag of cookies you're chowing down right now. What? You think because I'm on this side of the computer I can't see what you're doing?

So take a look at your pantries, my friends. Is there anything you can stop eating today? Maybe exchange it for a handful of grapes or some apple slices with a teensy-weensy dab of fat-free caramel sauce? I challenge you to try it. And now that I've polished off seven reduced fat Ritz crackers, a decaf coffee, and a small piece of cheese, I'm good until dinner. How about you?

Going Strong Again on Monday

I'm back on track, now that my son is in preschool at the YMCA...I exercise while he's there, then take a shower (wearing flip-flops so I don't catch athlete's foot or worse in the public shower...forgot to bring them the first two times. Yikes.), semi-dry my hair, do my homework (i is a kollege student!), pick up my child, go home and have lunch. Today's healthy lunch for my new "healthier living" diet: salad with a tiny bit of ranch dressing, and an apple with fat-free caramel sauce (again, just a dab per apple slice.) Water for my drink (and a little leftover ice tea from yesterday). Later I will have some cheese and crackers...I know I was told to go for the protein after my workout, and I didn't this time. Normally I'll have tuna fish or peanut butter as my protein.

Yes! Back on track baby, and loving it...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

So I made it to my workout on Wednesday. I did an hour of cardio, expending over 700 calories (according to the machine's estimate). I hate starting over...even missing 2 weeks of exercise makes a huge difference. (I know, I know...I did bike and run a little in between, but being on a regular schedule makes a huge difference.)

Once something becomes a habit, such as regularly exercising and shunning fried foods, it becomes easier to continue that habit. But once you stop...even for 2 short weeks, it's soooo hard to get back into the habit again. It's so much easier NOT to workout. After all, I have to get into my workout clothes, beg, plead and bribe my children to leave whatever toy they're engrossed with, drive to the gym, exercise, then grab the kids, drive us home, shower and get dressed. A two hour ordeal that could've been a nice time sitting around on the floor playing games with the kids or completing housework.

But knowing my health is on the line, how many more hours would I be around to play with the kids or keep up the house if I don't take care of me first? So every hour invested in exercise is an hour invested in the family. And that is why I need to step up and get back into the habit.

How about you?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

>Cough< Been Sick

Sometimes I can exercise when I'm sick. This was not one of those times. I don't care who you are, blowing snot into a tissue is not a welcome sight at the gym. Especially when you're doing it every three minutes and your nose is swelling up to resemble Mount St. Helen's. Add the sneezing and coughing and, well, let's just say some people would rather be next to Mount St. Helen's, even knowing it will explode. Because there may be time to get away from the lava. Not so much when there are germs involved.

Okay. I exaggerate. Nobody wants to be in the path of molten rock by any means. But let's get real. Colds should stay home. At least, the nasty ones. A sniffle? No problem. But when you're miserable, why go out and spread the misery?

So I ended up not exercising this past week. BUT I went out today for a quick run in my brand new Five Fingers shoes. I will post about these fab sneakers later. You don't want to miss my rave review. ( don't, right?)

Later on, I went on a bike ride, toting my kids along in their wheeled contraption attached to my bike. 4 miles. Two to the playground and 2 back. I feel like I'm getting into the swing of things again. And my youngest will be attending preschool next week, thus allowing me to exercise my 3 times a week at the long as he starts remembering to use the potty. Several mishaps this week have not jolted my confidence. (The one at the playground today especially worried me.)

So you will watch as I go from sick lazy person to hard-working gal. You know. Starting next week.

But aren't you glad I didn't work out next to you at the gym this week?

Friday, September 2, 2011

This Week...Under My Goal

This hasn't been a great week for working out. I went for a 4-mile run on Sunday. Tuesday I did my thing at the gym. And then it was all downhill from there. Why? Because I started college (going for my Masters), my kids will be starting school soon, so I tried to fit in play dates and fun, and I'm finishing last minute school preparations. Bad excuses, I know. But you know what? I give myself a break. I've been on target since last October...almost a full year of regular exercise. (I started out 2 days a week at the gym, over the last three months I've gone 3 days a week, for the most part.)

It's important to understand, we're not machines. We have lives that are often complicated and busy. If we let a week slide where we haven't accomplished much in our health goals, whether it be not exercising or consuming too much ice cream, we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. Sunday is a new week. We can shoulder on from there.

Today I did an hour of cardio, and a half hour of weights. But I was tired. Not into it. But I did it. So in all, this week wasn't one of my better ones. But you know what? That's okay.

Giving ourselves permission to slack off is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. As long as we're motivated the rest of the time. And I am. I truly am. Next week, I will power through.

Meantime, tonight I might go enjoy an ice cream cone.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday's Workout-New Structure

Today, after my ten minutes of warm-up, I went through the usual drill of machine weights (including my fave, the leg abductor/adductor), all the arm machines were in use. I figured today was as good a day as any to try out the free weights.

Here's what I hate about free weights: they are usually found in a room with very muscular men and women who look like they are training for a weightlifting competition. The good part? All the 3 and 5 pound weights are free for use. (Another play on the term "free weights," perhaps?) I grabbed a 5-pounder and tried to look like I knew what I was doing.

First, I stood feet shoulder width apart (it seems all exercises begin like this, so I figured it seemed correct), and extended my arms out so they were in line with my shoulders. I then lifted my arms up and down slowly ten times. Then I used a weight bench and placed one knee on it, and one arm with my palm flat against it (as if leaning over the bench) and I pulled my arm back to work my triceps. Then I did curls. I have to say...these worked my arms much more than the weight machines. I found a site that has fairly simple yet effective arm exercises:

These are perfect for slipping in during lunch breaks. They don't take a lot of time, yet they will sculpt you like nobody's business!

Anyhow, after the weights and some ab work (of which I could use more of), I went onto the Precor and did a good 45-minute workout. I became too hungry to polish off another 15-minutes, so I went home and ate a bagel with spicy-flavored tuna fish, a tiny bit of mayo, and celery. I was told to eat protein after a workout, remember. So I try to do just that.

I think I will incorporate free weights into my routine once a week for the time being. I'm still a little intimidated by them...and by the brawny men and women who use them regularly. But they were a nice challenge, something to keep me from being bored. And when working out regularly, that's very important!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rule #3-Deprivation Is Thy Enemy

Okay, I hear you about one thing: you want your sweets, your brownies, your creamy whipped toppings. Got it. But you can't lose weight and have your cake, too. (I really did come up with that catchy slogan on my own!)

Here's the thing: that ice cold Coca-Cola you've been thinking about since I divulged Rule #1? You know, the one you can't get out of your head now that you've gone soda-free for a week and a half now?

You can have it.


But only once. Then try to forget about it for awhile.

So why am I giving you permission all of the sudden after touting how terrible it is for your waistline? Because if there is anything I've learned, it's that we need to feed our cravings once in a while.

What do I mean? Here's an example: Picture this. A young woman, recently discovering she has high cholesterol and watching her cousin die from causes related to weight, decides to try the new fad diet: The Atkins. Armed with literature, she realizes she must not devour carbs of any kind. However, she doesn't care for meat (except the piggy kind), so she goes her own way and more or less chews on a few lettuce leaves.

By 3 in the afternoon, all she can think about is a gigantic bowl of cookie dough. But no, it is not on the list of okay foods, according to her Atkins books. She must resist. She WILL resist.

By five, she is feeling weak. Sick, even. She cannot hold out one. Second. Longer.

She whips up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and stuffs handful after handful down her throat. Her knees stop knocking. Her heart rejoices. Energy returns. But she has just consumed over a thousand calories, 75% of it from fat.

That young woman, dear readers, was me. And the bowl? Empty.

Here's the lesson. When we deprive ourselves, we obsess over it until we can't see straight. And instead of taking maybe five bites of the "bad" food, we eat it until we are in a sugar-induced haze of happiness. So my rule #3 is to give in once in a while. That does not mean every day. It means once every two weeks you can enjoy a hot fudge sundae. But the rest of the time, eat healthy.

Otherwise you too may end up with an empty bowl and a stomachache. Because honestly? Very few of us have that kind of willpower. So have that soda if it helps keep you on track. It's the complete deprivation that will have you guzzling a six-pack in no time.

Wednesday's Workout-Success and Then...

No injuries. No starvation or deprived muscles. Ah...bliss.

I spent an hour on the Precor, then 20 minutes on the treadmill. Burned approximately 900 calories in all. Came home to a dinner laden with fat thanks to my husband who figured he'd buy me something yummy and since I worked out, that would be okay.

Uh...loved the food, not too happy about the calories and especially the fat. I always avoid the pulled pork (though I love it) and anything fried (another no-no that he purchased for me this time around). Next time I need to be a little more obvious about what I want for dinner. Something that won't make my cholesterol zoom to the moon, thank you very much.

He tries, my husband, but sometimes he doesn't understand my goals. Makes me think back to a poster who commented that her husband always offered her unhealthy food. Perhaps we need to be more clear that although, yes, we'd love to eat fried yumminess. But no thank you, we are trying to make better health-conscious choices.

So I ate half the meal, left the rest for today. The weekend will be devoted to lower fat fare. That's the way to roll sometimes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

This is the recipe I use when I bake from scratch. It's originally from the Butter Flavor Crisco Cookie Collection, my favorite cookie cookbook. I tweaked it to incorporate more fiber.

3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use about 1/2 cup to cut some of the calories)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream Crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Blend in egg. Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough about 3-inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about ten minutes or until slightly browned.

Welcome Darryl

My friend, Darryl, who I have known for over twenty years (Yikes! We're old.), will be contributing to this blog. I met him when we both worked at Sears, and he's been big on fitness since the day I met him.

I consider him a bit of a fitness expert. He's also a strong writer and an author.

Thanks, Darryl, for offering to blog with me!

Rule #2--What's in Your Pantry? Part I

My #2 rule for preventing weight gain is simple. Do not keep ready-made cookies or cake in your cupboard.

It's too easy to grab a handful as you sneak off to the TV or, in my case, to my computer. Instead, keep bananas, peaches, plums, something sweet but healthy on the ready.

If I want cookies...really, really, want them...I have to make them. From scratch. (I do have mixes for when the kids have friends over. But even that is better than ready-made.) This way a) I have to have time to make them and b) they don't have all those chemicals and preservatives that my body doesn't need.

When you don't have time to make the cookies, or don't feel like getting out all the ingredients and mixing the dough...not to mention cleaning everything up don't eat the cookies. If the craving won't go away, you make them and enjoy them. Go ahead. Everything in moderation. Just be sure there are plenty of people around who will eat whatever cookies are left over. Do not leave them lying around or you will eat them for days. 500 calories at a time. Don't say I didn't warn you.

At any rate, keep fresh fruit on hand, which often keeps cravings for sweets at bay, and for God's sake, get rid of those packaged cookies, Twinkies, Little Debbie snacks, etc. They aren't doing you any good. If you need a cookie, really need one (and if you're like me, you do), go to the trouble to make them.

It will make a huge difference in your diet.

Mondays Workout--Back in the Saddle Again

One of the most important things about committing oneself to exercising is dedication. So many people skip a workout or two and give up completely.

Don't be one of those people.

Sure, I hurt my foot and needed to give it a rest. But five days later, I jumped right back into my workout, the foot much better and my muscles no weaker than they were when last I used them.

Truth be told, I did arm exercises while my foot healed. And that's another thing to consider. Even if you have an injury, you can work on an uninjured body part.

Anyhow, so I did 30 minutes on the elliptical, went through all my usual machine weight exercises, incorporating the newly discovered conductive row and being careful to avoid back injury this time. Then I used the Precor (thanks, Darryl, for pointing out the name of the machine I've been using), stretched, and called it a day. Approximately 800 calories burned.

I'm back, baby.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yeow! When Accidents Happen

So I was using the weight machines yesterday, feeling pretty good about working up to 20 reps and doing pretty well at it, when I went to use the leg curl machine and messed up big time.

This machine was a toughie because I'm short and the people who use it are usually a good eight inches taller than I am. So I have to yank the heel rest out in order to fit my legs properly. Usually this takes a lot of pulling and tugging because the thing is stuck in there pretty tight. The last time I did this it seemed like a workout unto itself.

This time, unbeknownst to me, they greased the machine.

I pulled with all my might, as usual, and the dang thing slid right out and BAM! landed on my left foot. The heavy, metal part of it. Not the soft, cushiony heel rest, natch. I was hoping the pain would go away, but as I did my thigh exercises (suffice to say I did not continue to use the leg curl machine--the traitor!) I realized the pain was intensifying.

I reported it to the member on staff, but no accident report was filed...though I should have insisted on it I now realize...and then I went home to ice my aching foot.

It still hurts. But one of the cardinal exercise rules I live by is that if something hurts DO NOT CONTINUE TO USE IT. Let it rest. Obviously, I'm still walking. But my weekend run is out of the question. Monday I'll see if I can exercise again.

Let this be a lesson to everyone--do not assume that exercising equipment is not dangerous! Be cautious with it. If metal battles bone, metal will always win.

And then ice and rest the injury for a few days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ugh. Sore Shoulders for Me. Stretches for You.

I was right. I pulled something on the Conductive Row. Or maybe I didn't stretch enough. Or the right way. Here is the stretch I didn't do, but probably should have:

This site has ten basic stretches to do after your workout. Had I read these before trying the conductive row, I may not be as achy now. Live and learn, I guess.And according to, I should've warmed up my back before attempting to use those muscles. Arm circles are a good warm-up.

Hopefully my pain is your gain. Warm-up before exercise, do the correct stretches afterward.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday's Exercise-Morning Energy

Because my son was having a friend over in the afternoon, I exercised in the morning. Child watch doesn't open until nine, so I didn't go as early as i would've liked, but beggars can't be choosers and all that.

We got there at 9:30 (anyone who has a three-year-old will understand why we didn't get there at the designated time), and the place was packed. Apparently this is exercise prime time. I usually get there after three. One day there was only one person on the machines. Three is the time to go if you want to be sure to get a machine with a working headphone plug-in. At nine-thirty you're lucky to get a machine at all.

I didn't do my ten-minute warm-up. Instead I went right to the machines for my arms. I did 20 sets of 50 pounds. Had it been 3:00, I would've done less. But at nine-thirty, I was rearing to go. I hadn't used up my energy cleaning the house or scolding the kids. I'd eaten a high carb breakfast ( morning staple). The cofee was kicking in.

Morning might be a better time to get a work-out done. At least for me.

I ended up spending about a half-hour or more on weights-arms only today, incorporating a new machine to my routine. It was a row machine. I felt the muscles in my back pinch and remembered, too late, that I have a bad back and should be taking it slow. (I was intelligent enough to start off with a low weight.) Hopefully I won't be sore tomorrow.

Here's the amazing part of my visit, though. I am a people-watcher, and I love to observe the people working out. Today I saw a woman in fantastic shape...her arms were much leaner and more sculpted than my own. She wore pants, so I couldn't tell if her legs were toned as well. But overall she appeared very lean and fit. From behind, if you didn't notice her hair-do, you would have thought she was thirty, thirty-five years old. It was only once you saw her face that you realized she was much older. Maybe mid-sixties to seventy, if I had to guess.

Some guy there struck up a conversation with her. Like he was hitting on her. She mentioned her husband, so the chit-chat was cut short, but all I could think of was Man! This is how I want to look when I'm seventy.

In all, I burned over 750 calories. I made it up eating chocolate while writing this. But it's worth it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday's Workout-Should've Eaten My Wheaties

Okay, let me first explain...I have been dedicated to keeping myself fit and healthy since my mother had a heart attack, and I learned we both had high cholesterol. Lately, I've been keeping my cholesterol down with Lipitor and exercise. I'm very dedicated.

For breakfast I made myself two pancakes with blueberries and almonds (and light syrup, natch.) Then I whisked my older son and his buddy to a cooking class. Slipped off to grocery shop, my younger son in tow. Sped home to put away the refrigerated groceries. Took off to pick up my son and his friend from cooking class. Balanced various items of food in two hands while shoving the young group back into the car. Made them all lunch at my house. Ate a bowl of granola cereal with almond milk. Worked on an article for another blog. Stopped dangerous situations from occurring as the three boys battled imaginary creatures. Added another stray child off the street somehow. Four children now needed a snack. I forgot to eat my snack. Said bye to stray child, toted son's friend back home, dashed off to the gym with my kids, forgot their socks but the YMCA is awesome and supplied them with some.

Whew. Tired yet? I was. I did my warm-up and weight routine. Then I started on the elliptical

Poof. Energy gone. Why? Because all I had to eat was a coupla fluffy pancakes and a freakin' bowl of cereal. Usually I'll suck down some yogurt or have cheese and crackers before I start expending all sorts of energy. But in remembering to grab sandwich meat and orange juice from the supermarket, it knocked eating snacks and stocking socks right out of my memory bank. A mother's brain can only hold so much, after all.

If anything is to be learned here it is: make sure you feed yourself before doing any strenuous activity! Do not go hungry, or you will not accomplish your exercising goals.

And then remember your children's socks, for goodness sakes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rainbow Salsa

Thanks to my friend Lisa C. for supplying me with this recipe. I've tweaked it to make it even more visually appealing, thus the name Rainbow Salsa.


(You can use any vegetables you prefer, but these tend to hold up the best in this recipe.)

1/2 red onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 cucumber
1 can Shoepeg corn
1 can blackeyed peas
1/4 cup agave nectar (in place of 1/2 cup sugar)
1/4 cup canola oil (I use the Crisco with Omega-3)
2 Tbs. Tiger Sauce (found in the condiment section of the store. It's a small bottle and you may have to search for this, but it is the "secret ingredient" and it makes the recipe!)

Mix the agave syrup (or sugar, if you prefer), the canola oil, and the Tiger sauce together in a large bowl. Drain the corn and blackeyed peas. Add them to the liquid. Chop the vegetables into small pieces (a food processor makes this a snap!). Add these to the mix. Stir well and refrigerate for at least an hour. For tortilla chips, I usually cut corn tortillas into triangles. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then I brush olive oil onto the triangles and coat lightly with sea salt. I bake them until they become crispy and darken slightly. (Roughly 10-15 minutes, I believe.) Better than the store bought kind, and better for you, fat-wise.

Wednesday's Workout

Yes, I'm posting this on Thursday, but my days are busy and sometimes getting to the computer is near to impossible!

I do want to say that I was happy to discover my body fat percentage is good. At the YMCA they will do a body fat analysis for you, and I discovered mine is at 20%. Excellent! He told me that training athletes are often at 19% or lower. So I am doing things right.

Here was his advice for me so I could burn fat more efficiently:

1) Do ten minutes of warm-up (I did it on a treadmill).

2) 40 minutes of weights-I should be using just enough weight to make me tired, but not over exert myself, and I should be doing 3 sets of 15-20 reps. I have been doing 3 sets of 12 reps, so I upped it to 15 to start with. My personal rule of thumb: it's better to do too little than too much.

3) Then do your cardio. For me, I usually do an hour. Usually on an elliptical of some type. But I may cut down to 45 minutes on my "using weights" days.

4) Free weights are important to incorporate into the routine.

5) You should do weight training 2-3 times a week. Using weights before a cardio workout burns more fat.

I did my routine yesterday, thrilled my body fat hadn't gone haywire. Let's see if I can become more toned and fit using his suggestions. More soon!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Today's Workout

Dropped the kids off at Child Watch at the YMCA and did my thing. This is pretty usual for my routine, though I vary the length of time:

1) I'm not sure what this machine is called, but it's similar to an elliptical, except you can force a short or long stride as you go. I did 55 minutes on that, burning (according to the machine, which may or not be accurate) about 575 calories.

2) I did three leg machines that strengthen calves, hamstrings, and glutes.

3) The machines for arms were full, so I used another elliptical-type machine that works out the glutes and thighs. 10 minutes, about 75 calories burned.

4) Finally, a machine to work out the arms opened up. I was able to use two different machines, "lifting" 55 pounds each.

5) With the third machine for arms in constant use by a group using a personal trainer, I set my goals on another leg weight machine that strengthens the inner and outer thighs. I used 65 pounds on the inner thighs, 125 pounds on the outer.

6) Finished off my workout with stretching.

In all, I spent my usual 1 1/2 hours working out. I also set up an appointment to get my body fat tested. I have a scale at home that gives you a percentage of your body fat, but it varies between 25 and 37% for me...sometimes in the same day. I asked about that, and the trainer told me that it depends on how hydrated one is for complete accuracy. Ah.

The reason I want to know my body fat percentage is that since I've been working out 4 days a week instead of 2, I've put on nearly four pounds. Is it fat, or muscle though? Am I at a healthy body fat weight? (Please don't tell me I have to give up my cookies and ice cream! Okay. I'll cut down if I must...)

I am finding the heel of my left foot is achy. Could it be my brand new sneakers? I suppose I should try using a different pair the rest of the week and see if it helps. If not, I may have to use a different type of machine for awhile.

First rule of thumb: if something aches, your body is telling you there is a problem.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rule #1-Soda In Moderation, If At All

It's no surprise that cutting out soda or other high calorie drinks will lead to losing weight! According to, a 12 oz. Coca-Cola has 140 calories. That's 39 grams of sugar.An 8 oz. Snapple ice tea is 100 calories, 23 grams of sugar, a slightly better choice. One of these a day probably won't do much harm. But if you're sucking down three cans of soda a day, you're looking at adding on 420 calories of something with no nutritional value at all. And I'm not even going to go into the sodium count (bloated bellies, anyone?)

A medium iced coffee from McDonalds, according to the McDonald's menu, has 190 calories. A small coffee Coolata from Duncan Donuts, according to the Duncan Donuts site, is 400 calories. (A medium is 600, a large is 800.)

So what happens if you stick with water or unsweetened tea and coffee? You instantly take away at least 100 calories every day. If you usually drink an iced coffee or Coolatas every day, you could end up saving 200 or more calories a day. That adds up, folks. And just by changing what you drink you can lose weight over a period of a month.

What I drink every day: a cup of tea with a 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar, and a cup of coffee from my Keurig with 1/3 teaspoon sugar and some powdered creamer, which generally adds 50 calories to my drink. Some days I go without the creamer. After that I drink water or iced tea flavored with either lemon or a little agave nectar. (Thanks to my friend Katie W. for introducing me to agave nectar!) I rarely drink soda or juice, although sometimes I use juice in recipes or smoothies.

Try going without your usual sugary drinks for a month. Let me know what happens. Tell me how many pounds you lose. I'll bet you'll surprise yourself!

Today's Run

Today I ran 3 miles...humidity was high and I looked like one of those fountains you find in garden stores, the woman carrying a vase that pours water down her back. That was me. Minus the vase. Here was today's run/workout:

1) Run with arms bent at 45 degree angle to warm up.
2) Thrust arms diagonally across body while running to workout abs.
3) Run with knees high, landing on ball of foot and pushing off on ball of foot. No heels usage.
4) Repeat #2, then go into #1 to cool down.
5) After three mile run is over, I walk it out until my heart rate has slowed, then I stretch and shower.

I usually like to put in 4 miles, but because of the heat and humidity I thought it prudent to stick to 3. That is rule number 1 of running: Use caution. Do not overdo a workout, even if you think you're up for it. Sure, you want to push yourself, but you don't want to pass out, become dehydrated, or throw up. If you feel sick or "not right" cease running and walk instead. Sip water as soon as possible.

*Remember to consult a doctor before beginning any fitness routine. I get a yearly physical, as well.

Introduction to My Blog

Welcome, and thanks for visiting! My goal is to focus on fitness, whether it be articles I've recently read or goals I'm attempting to attain. I want to reach as many people as possible, providing motivation and encouragement to those who want to become healthier.

Every week I will touch on my fitness "rules." And just so you know, I love carbs, don't deny myself sweets, and force myself to eat better and get exercise. You will see my struggles and my victories, and I encourage you to share yours as well.