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.