Friday, April 20, 2012

Q: is for Quads

I tone my abs, they get smaller and tighter.  I tone my arms, they get stronger and leaner.  I squat or run or jump or lunge, the bigger my quads get.  No matter how much fat I shed from them, I've got some big girls holding up this bod of mine.  At times, the fight between myself and my jeans straight from the dryer can take a beating on this girl's self esteem.  Heck, sometimes I think even my jeans are crying at the end of it!  It seems no matter what I do, thanks be to Mom, I'm stuck with my thunder thighs.

After my most recent bought with my Levi's, when I was debating on giving up on all that is thigh, I came across the ad below.  I'm not a huge fan of Nike (or really any big brands that do big brand-y things).  However, I admit I must give them props for one of their more recent ads targeted towards women and the assets we struggle with most.  This one is by far my favorite and I wanted to share because I doubt I'm the only owner of these huge gals.

             "I have thunder thighs. And that's a compliment because they are strong. And toned. And muscular. 
             And though they are unwelcome in the petite section, they are cheered on in marathons. 
             Fifty years from now, I'll bounce a grandchild on my thunder thighs and then I'll go out for a run."

Upon seeing this I could only think of one phrase: A-men-Sista-Friend!  And aside from that: my thighs look damn good in those Levi's!  Nothing left to do but embrace what Mama gave!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P: is for Plyometrics

't is the season to put a little spring in your step!  Plyometrics (sometimes called "jump training" or "explosive exercises") will do just that, while adding variety to your workout, helping increase bone density, prevent injury, and improve your power, strength, and agility.  Plyometric training conditions the body with dynamic resistance exercises that rapidly stretch a muscle and then rapidly shorten it (ie: squat jumps and medicine ball slams).  It is good to do a mix of both upper and lower body exercises to get an all-over workout without tiring your muscles too much too soon in one session.  These types of exercises often imitate the body's natural movement during sports (ie: hiking, volleyball, tennis, running) and thus are often used by athletes to improve overall performance.  More recently however, plyometric training has become more widely used among the general exercise population.

Shape Magazine has an excellent plyometrics workout, suitable for beginners.  You can view the workout by clicking here

As with any exercise, if done improperly, injury can result.  Make sure to use proper form, not to overextend, and if an exercise is beyond your difficulty level, work with an experienced trainer or coach to modify the move to your ability.  As well, make sure to give your body periods of rest (1 - 2 days) between plyometric exercise sessions. 

What else can I say?  Interested in plyometrics?  Hop to it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O: is for Outdoor Dining

The boyfraaann took a mini trek to Actionville last week.  Being that I like food and he likes fire, it only made sense to kick off his visit with a romantical evening grilling out on the porch.  We both love to cook, so this was a great way for us to get creative with our meal, eat healthy, and spend quality time together on the cheap.

We decided to keep things simple with kebabs of veggies and shrimp.  I admit, we did wrap about half the shrimp in bacon as it is currently the largest part of his food pyramid.  Can you blame him?  Bacon is nature's candy...or is that fruit?  Anyway here we go:

One of the great things about this meal was being able to cook both the meat and veggies at the same time for the same amount of time over medium heat on the grill.

Veggie Kebabs
1 cup Grape Tomatoes
1 Zucchini, sliced
12 Mushrooms
1 Squash sliced
½ cup Red Bell Pepper, sliced
½ cup Orange Bell Pepper, sliced
½ cup Lawry's Herb & Garlic marinade
Marinate veggies for 30-60 minutes and skewer onto kebabs.
Reserve the remaining marinade.  Place kebabs on grill for about 10 minutes,
turning halfway through and occasionally brushing with remaining marinade.

Grilled (Bacon-Wrapped) Shrimp
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 ½ tbsp dark agave nectar
1 ½ tbsp honey bbq suace
9 slices bacon
18 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
Cut the slices of bacon in half. Partially cook the bacon over moderate heat
to render some of the fat without allowing the pieces to crisp. Stir all ingredients to
combine and add shrimp, tossing well to coat. Marinate 30-60 minutes. Remove shrimp
from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Wrap a slice of bacon around each shrimp
and skewer onto kebab, securing both ends of bacon. Place shrimp on hot grill for
4 minutes.Turn and brush shrimp with reserved marinade and grill for 4 minutes longer or
until shrimp are opaque throughout.

To cut calories and fat, omit the bacon...if you want to be crazy like that.  The marinade is enough to keep the shrimp tasting delicious without it.  Aside from bacon, it was not too bad of a meal, health-wise.  I admit when it comes to the shrimp dish, it may not be the cleanest I've ever posted here.  The veggies were easily a winner on both taste and trim calories while the shrimp definitely offered the perfect combo of sweet and spicy (much like our evening).  So even if you adapt this meal or cook something else entirely, I hope you get out and enjoy the spring evenings.  Grill with friends or loved ones and embrace the night air...before we all get attacked by heat, humidity, and mosquitos in the very near future.  :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

N: is for Never Quit

This morning, I succumbed to weakness and hit up the Chick-Fil-A drive-through for breakfast.  It didn't seem so terrible until this evening when I discovered a new roll during boot camp.  No, we're not talking carby side-dish; we're talking fat, people!  As usual, the thought in my head was "time to start over back on track".  Except I am really sick of starting over!  But this time it also occurred to me that if I am sick of starting over, then I also need to be sick of quitting.  Never quit, never start over, get fit! 

I realize that one fast food meal does not a fat roll make.  But trashy food is too regular of an occurrence for me.  I can't seem to deny myself the sodium or the "easy way out" in exchange for being lazy.  But are sodium and laziness worth the price of my once-owned six-pack?  There are also the logical reasons this is terrible (heart disease, cancer, blah blah blah) but there's no way that I can wrap my head around those serious problems in my mid-twenties.  So we'll go with something immediate, like six-pack.  Ok, and being tired in the gym. Being tired in general.  Having to start over every time I realize how much I've set myself back.

Resetting the motivation and the goals: peace out fast food, welcome back six-pack!  If I stay on track, I'll be there in no time and be able to do laundry off my very own washboard.  If I quit, I'll find myself writing this same pissed off blog in the very near future...Time to break the cycle!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M: is for Muddy

Want an easy way to take a Plain Jane 5k to the next level?  One word: Mud.  Ok, and obstacles.

Last year my sister and I both mucked it up in our first mud run, Rugged Maniac.  Since then, we've both been hooked on getting grubby.  Over the past year, we have gotten down and dirty in four of these 5ks, scaling cargo nets, forging rivers, crawling through mud under barbed wire, and leaping over fire. We typically finish with enough mud in our shorts and shoes to bury the competition...of course I run pretty slow, so my competition is pretty minimal by the end of it.  Really, I'm just there for the food (in the case of last race with the giant turkey leg).

But more than the food, it's a great way to add a bit of spice and excitement to any 5k, burn more calories, and feel like one strong BAMF by the end of it!  Wanna get dirty?  Be sure to check out a mud run near you!

L: is for Lazy Days

I love the spectacular weather we've been having.  I also love relaxing in my living room on my chaise lounge.  To get the best of both worlds, I moved brought the living room (or at lease my chaise) outdoors and I am not ashamed of the tackiness!  Mainly, because the neighbors couldn't see over my porch ledge to be any the wiser.  Secondly, because it makes a damn fine afternoon nap space...until approximately 4:30pm when the sun just brutally beats down on my porch at just the wrong angle.  But before 4:30 it's AMAZING!

One day, I will be a thousandaire who can afford legit classy furniture on my porch.  Until then, I shall merely compensate with this.  Don't hate.

Friday, April 13, 2012

K: is for Kickball

Keeping with the theme of getting exercise and playing like a kid, K: is for Kickball!  According to the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA), Kickball is America's New Favorite Pastime. Over the past decade, these adult coed leagues have been popping up all over the United States, and more recently in Europe.  It is a great way to try something new, make new friends, and get active!

For those who may have lived a sheltered childhood, kickball follows rules very similar to baseball, with one team fielding nine positions on a diamond, and the other team coming up to kick (rather than bat).  There are three strikes and four balls, home runes, pop flies, the occasional pickle or stolen base, and five innings of suspenseful fun!  Such a blasty-blast, you don't even realize you're getting a workout in!  What's not to love about that? 

Want to get outside and have a kickin' good time?  Click Here to find a league near you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

J: is for Jump Rope

Want to torch stubborn fat, sculpt your bod all over and feel like a kid again?  Then my friends, I suggest you pick up a jump rope!  And then, I suggest you jump over it repeatedly!

Jumping rope is often touted as the cardio exercise that will get you the most bang for your buck, burning 250 calories in just a 20 minute workout!**  Don't even get me started on the toned legs, sculpted arms, and whittled middle that comes along with it!

As with any exercise, it is important to keep proper form to protect your spine, knees, ankles, and to prevent attacking yourself with swinging ropes (hitting yourself is the worst).  #1: Make sure your rope is the right length: When standing with both feet on the center of the rope, the handles should reach just at your armpits.  Any shorter, get a new rope!  Any longer, tie knots in the ends.  Keep your knees soft.  Jump on the balls of your feet, only about an inch or so off the ground and refrain from the "double-bounce".  Keep your head up, gaze forward and engage your core to ensure proper spinal alignment.  When turning the rope, it's all in the wrists!  Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle at your sides, moving your hands in small circles to turn the rope.

Once you get the hang of jumping rope, you can add variety to your workout by busting some super-smooth moves.  Practice doing scissor jumps, jumping side to side or back and forth in a bell motion, criss-cross leg jumps, jump-kicks (can-can, anyone?), or double-unders (jumping once but twirling the rope under you twice)--you know, for the over-achievers.  Click here for a 20 minute jump rope workout from SELF Magazine.

I feel this is also when I should admit this is my secret talent.  It's the only exercise I'm better at than my trainer (and I remind him every chance I get).  In the second grade, I wound up on our school's jump rope team and like riding a bike, the skill has stuck with me since.  I conclude with a picture of me showcasing my mad skill (because it makes me laugh). 

On that note, feel free to take some advice some House of Pain and "Jump Around"!

**calories based on 145lb woman

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I: is for Intervals

Sorry to be tardy, my A-Z friends.  This whole "back to reality" thing after vacation is a butt kicker (much like today's topic)!

Who doesn't want to add more variety to their workout, build endurance, and burn more calories?  Ladies and gents, the secret is interval training!  Interval training breaks a workout up into periods of high intensity work and periods of rest (my favorite part).  Aside from all of the awesome advantages listed above, interval training can also be used for any style of workout!  Whether your lifting weights, running, doing cardio or body weight exercises, you can get more from the workout by adjusting the speed and intensity at which you work.

Work vs Rest periods can be defined in two different ways: measured intervals and fartleks (haha funny word).  A measured interval is based on time: one minute of high intensity work, ie: burpees, followed by 30 seconds of rest.  Fartleks (it says FART!) are based more on how the body feels.  Using this method, you would do burpees until you could burpee no more and then you would rest until your body felt recovered to begin again.   This method is fairly common with cardio sports such as running or swimming. 

As with any exercise, during interval training it is very important to maintain proper form through your movements to prevent injury.  No one burned any calories by being laid up nursing wounds!  If you cannot safely execute a movement at a certain intensity, slow down a bit.  It it much better to be safe than sorry! 

I close today with some examples of Interval Workouts.  Happy Training!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

H: is for Hiking

Yesterday, the boyfraaann and I decided to celebrate Easter outdoors with a 6.5 mile hike through the Smoky Mountains.  The weather was absolutely perfect and spring was in full bloom with beautiful flowers adding pops of color to the newly green trees and fields.  We caught amazing sights of hawks, rabbits, and even elk!  Living in Florida, I never realized how out of tune I was with seasons.  I've always only ever had two: Summer and February.  During our last mountain trek together, everything was brown and dead and I was a bit scared to come back.  Seeing everything so full of life this time around was simply amazing.

From a fitness front, hiking is apparently the way to a rock hard ass (judging by today's sore glutes). Between the buns of steel workout and the higher elevation, I definitely had trouble at times during the trek up.  Of course, I'm now considering race training in the mountains before coming back home to smoke the competition (I'm talking about you, big sister)!  The hard work definitely paid off when we reached the peak of our hike at the Jump Off and relaxed, our feet dangling over the edge into the abyss as we gazed out into mountains and valleys that seemed to go on forever.  For the journey, I am thankful for the hard work I've done to give my body the strength and ability to complete it.  For the view, I'm thankful for the one who made it and makes all things possible. 

A few Cliff bars and apples later, we decided to head back down the mountain and split the trip in half between walking and running.  I felt like a BAMF while running until I had to move over to make room for a guy actually running up the mountain.  BAMF title revoked and passed onto him immediately.  One day, I will be that awesome.  There we go!  Back to goals--I said it, I set it, you read it, therefore I must stick to it!

Ok, and I'm late for work (and late for posting H)! whoops!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

G: is for Getting High

...on ziplines!
Yesterday, the boyfraaann and I embarked on our first zipline adventure and I think it's safe to say it has us craving more of the high life! We climbed cargo nets, ran (unsteadily) over rope bridges, hung out on wobbly tree platforms, and zoomed through the trees as fast as the birds.   Both the unsteady climbing and the weight limit made me grateful for all the hard (and sometimes not so hard) work I've put in to keep this bod' of mine in shape.  Don't tell the boyfraaann, but this experience is definitely something that the mountains have over the ocean.

Bridges & Platforms:

Fancy Fashion Sense:

Boyfraaann Zips Through Life:

Wanna get high?  Click Here for a listing of zipline locations worldwide!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F: is for The Fritz!

One of my favorite things about my boyfraaann?  The Fritz!

During my C: is for Cardio blog entry, I listed several ways to incorporate cardio exercise into your day, many of which required no gym or exercise equipment.  My favorite on that list: dancing!  And for this reason I am so excited to be visiting my boo and taking in the sweet, funky sounds of his band, The Fritz in Asheville tonight!  I cannot wait to hit the dance floor and break a sweat (err, excuse me--girls don't sweat, we glisten) to great music with great people.  I'm anticipating a good 1,000 calorie burn, which may be more exciting to me than the music itself.  Mostly, I am happy that such a good workout doesn't feel like work at all thanks to the good times and awesome talent of some of the finest entertainment in the southeastern US.  I'm only slightly biased of course.  But really, if you want to go wild, get funked up and find yourself Fritzfaced, you must check out The Fritz!

/end shameless boyfraaan plug.  And now, I'm off to find my dancin' shoes!  I hope you all have a Good Friday and a very, very Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E: is for Excuses

Get rid of 'em!  If it is important to you, you will find a way; if it's not, you will find an excuse.  You only get one body. 
Treat it right! 

Studies show that 150 minutes of moderate activity per week is all you need to make a positive difference.  30 minutes a day, five days a week.  Do the math: we're talking just a measly 2% of your day!  I bet many of you spend more than that surfing channels and the web(don't lie--I'm guilty of this as well and my ass can back me up on that one).
Research has proven that a prolonged sedentary lifestyle causes long term harm to muscles, increased risk of heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.  Yet, the same cannot be said for the person who stands up and puts one foot in front of the other!  Remember, no matter how slow you go, you're still lapping the guy on the couch!  Whether you get your sweat on in the gym, on the trails, or during commercials in the living room, the point is to get it done.  At the end of the day, the only workout you will ever regret is the one you did not do.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D: is for Drive!

Road trip!  Heading to the boyfraan's house in the wilderness. It's a seven hour trek and until we came upon this living arrangement last year, I never realized how much I could enjoy such a long trip alone.  The thoughts in my head just sort of come and go as they please and by the time it's over, I feel like I've gotten a lot accomplished in this brain of mine!  Throw in a good podcast and jam session or two and it makes for an amazing time, really. 

Even more exciting is that once I arrive there's five days of dancing, bike riding, and ziplining adventures to look forward to!  Oh yeah, and I get to see my boo, as well.  That part's pretty awesome, too, I suppose. :) Basically, I cannot wait. Packing my things and hitting the road!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C: is for Cardio

Ok, maybe there's not going to be a zombie apocalypse in the very near future, but who am I to just take my chances?  In the mean time, I'll hide my true motives for regular cardio sessions (zombies!) with much more widely accepted reasoning: health. 

Cardio has about a bajillion positive effects on your overall health.  It improves your ticker (of which most people only ever get one), strengthens your muscles and bone density, ups your energy, improves your sleep, beats the bulge, and is the best freakin' free therapy around! 

Experts suggest 150 minutes of cardio per week (30 minutes a day, five days) to get the most from its amazing benefits.  Know what's even better?  You don't have to set foot into the gym or succumb to a schedule to complete it!  Studies show that 30 minutes broken up into small spurts throughout the day provide just as much benefit.  It could be as easy as 10 minutes when you get out of bed in the morning, a 10 minute walk after lunch, and jumping jacks in between 2 commercial breaks during your favorite prime-time tv show in the evening!  Other suggestions:
  • Go for a jog or bike ride through the neighborhood. 
  • Pump up your favorite tunes and have a dance party in your living room.  
  • Chores! Raking leaves and vacuuming work just as well.  
  • Make sweet, sweet love!
  • Play like a kid outside: rollerskating, softball, H-O-R-S-E
  • Swimming
  • Hike along trails
  • Lunges or squats during phonecalls or 
  • Jumping jacks or situps during tv commercials
The possibilities are endless when it comes to fitting in that heart-pumping goodness into your day.  We weren't meant to always be sedentary.  Don't just stand there, bust a move!  And in the event that I'm right and we do encounter a zombie attack, you'll be ahead of the game!

Monday, April 2, 2012

B: is fo Buffalo Chicken Dinner!

In February, I found myself battling an insane buffalo chicken craving for weeks (thanks, Superbowl).  Sadly, just looking at the nutrition facts for a meal at my local wing joints made the my zippers want to bust.  I decided if I was going to satisfy my craving while keeping my diet in check I needed to get a little creative.  So I decided to make my own!  Equally delicious and coming in at 1,000 calories less than your average meal at Hooters, what's not to love?!  Not gonna lie, I even cooked while wearing orange shorts!

This might be one of the most basic recipes I've ever posted.

For the chicken:
I opted for drumsticks instead in an effort to prevent myself from overindulging on a zillion wings.  It's easy to blow through 10 before I've realized I've overdone it.  Two drumsticks was the perfect amount to fill my belly and not blow the calories out of the water.  I marinated them in a ziplock for an hour in regular buffalo wing sauce, flipping ever 15 minutes--could've flipped less and even marinated longer, I just get antsy when I'm marinating!

For the fries (because you canNOT have buffalo chicken without fries!):
I sliced a potato to fry-size, placed on a baking sheet in one layer, spritzed with a bit of olive oil and gave two shakes of seasoned salts.  Much fancier than (and just as crispy) frying.

Both the chicken and the fries went into the oven together at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Halfway through, I removed both from the oven to flip (we can't burn our goodies!) and placed them back in.

As proper chicken wing cravings cannot be fully satisfied without something proper to dip them in, I decided to go for ranch dressing.  Regular ranch tends to pack on a ton of calories and fat for days in just two tablespoons.  For only 80 calories and 0% fat, I instead mixed Greek Yogurt with Ranch dip powder. Let me tell you, it tastes just like the real deal!

As soon as my timer went off, there was nothing left for me to do but serve up a plate and dig right in!  Knowing there's nothing to feel guilty about only added to the yummy factor.  So go on, do it!  You will thank me.

And a month and a half later, I am once again craving buffalo chicken.  Thank you, self.

A: Accomplishing Goals (or Not)

I'm a wee bit late finding out about this A - Z Blog Challenge but I'm interested in giving it a go!  Starting at the top, we're at the Letter A which fits quite well with something that's been on my mind lately: accomplishing my goals.

Last night I scanned old entries in my journal and found a pattern of the same things: "I want to save money, I want to eat/drink healthier, I want to kick ass at boot camp every time I want to be motivated at work every day".  I'm almost ashamed to say this has been going on for over two years!  And yet, my pants are still too tight, I often enjoy more wine than water after 5pm, the piggy bank's empty, and I spent waaay too much time on gossip columns instead of financial reports at the office. Why is it that I'm really good at writing my goals out and terrible at achieving them?

My boo and I exchanged goals last summer to hold each other accountable.  We'd check in about once a week and he'd get onto me when I faltered.  But hey, when you're living 450 miles apart, it gets pretty easy to say, "oh, I ate plenty of vegetables today, boo! [onmypizza]"

As of tonight, I've finished off the last of the pizza and made a goal to eat only food I find in my kitchen, rather than spending money to eat out. In theory, this should prevent me from eating any more crap.  Strange, but for some reason, the one goal I typically can accomplish is keeping bad-for-you food out of my grocery cart.  Of course, it is useless when I find myself too lazy to pack a lunch or cook a breakfast and hitting up the drive-thru instead.  But if it works, it could make my ass smaller, my wallet bigger, and my energy levels higher.  Not going to lie, folks--that would be awesome.

So this is where I'm open to suggestions.  How do you stay on track to achieve your goals?  How do you replace your terrible habits with good ones?  How do you decide that the impossible is, in fact, possible? And am I the only one who finds this stuff extremely difficult?!