Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Breakfast Obsession

I am obsessed with my new-ish breakfast treat!  I used to be l about the peanut butter and egg, but now its more about the peanut butter and avocodo.  

1 slice sprouted or Ancient Grain bread
1 egg (scrambled, no butter!)
1/2 avocado

Toast the bread and top with avocado and the evg.  Sprinkle with pepper and just a little sea salt to flavor.  

To save the other half of the avocodo: leave the seed in, sprinkle the avocodo with lemon juice & put it in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy later today or no later than tomorrow.

*This morning I picked up an extra cycle class, so I doubled tge recipe above, knowing I needed the extra energy and nutrients.

Friday, December 5, 2014

6 great gifts under $15 (seriously!)

If you are anything like me, you have a million "small" gifts to buy, and all those can make quite a dent in your holiday budget.  Magazines this time of year are filled with gift guides.  You know the ones I am talking about - for that "office mate that has it all", they recommend a $90 cashmere scarf.  I don't know about you, but that just isn't realistic in my budget.

I am a believer that small, meaningful gifts are best - if you are buying just to buy, that often comes across as insincere.  Gift cards are often popular but I, personally, am not a fan for holiday gift-giving.

Here are a few small gifts that I've found this year.  I often buy these type of gifts and they are usually well received and appreciated.  And while it might not be something the person would buy for themselves, it will be something they can enjoy.

1.  Your fanatic Words with Friends friend.  How about a personalized Scrabble® Mug?  ($10 + free shipping with order - limited letters available when you follow that link)

2.  The co-worker who can't go without their morning Starbucks run?  How about this cute logo mug ($6.95) and these VIA® Ready Blend Holiday Brew.  (only $5.21 through Sunday, December 7) 

3.  The regulars that keep your beauty in check and your body happy (Your hairdresser, masseuse, aesthetician, personal trainer, etc.)?   Right now Philosophy® has their full size bath gels on sale 3/$33 dollars when you use the promo code cheers That's 3 gifts, done and done!   (but the sale ends TODAY!)  They are also offering a variety of holiday gifts that can be split, including this Holiday Spice Rack Trio for $27.  That's less than $10 a person!  Score!  These can also work for those hard to buy for friends that love to experiment with their beauty routines and love all things scented and good to your skin.

4.  Your aunt and uncle that have EVERYTHING!  Do they drink coffee or tea?  A small, thoughtful gift is very well received from these types of family members (who, if anything like ours will say "please don't get me anything".   For our aunts and uncles we put together a nice gift with assorted holiday coffee or tea samples, like the ones linked by Harry & David.  There are a variety of price points, starting at $25. This is also where I use the "split the gift basket" approach.    We have also gifted them a pound of a seasonal coffee with the same spread the love philosophy.

5. The wine drinker.    Well all know one.  I have been giving this combo pack for years and it's always surprisingly enjoyed by all of my wine drinking friends...and it's so affordable!  It's not available online, but I suggest you either find somewhere that has it or get your tail to World Market and buy a few bottles...it says prices vary, but I've always paid around $5 each, but don't let the price scare you off.  These are a great Mediterranean Red and Mediterranean White

6.  The biking enthusiast.  Whether they prefer indoor or out, this Bike Chain Bottle Opener is the perfect gift for the cycling superstar on your list and it's only $10.

Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Ways to Survive the Holiday Season

If your holiday season is anything like mine (and I can almost guarantee it is) it can be a challenge to stay on track for the last month of the year.

Potlucks. Dinners. Parties. Baking. Sweet Potato Casserole. Candied Yams. Pumpkin Pie. Pecan Pie. Champagne. Specialty Cocktails. Travel.  House guests.

The list is endless, and the temptations are plenty.  

Use a few of the hints below to help you stay on track this holiday season.

Share your sweets.

Did you get a special delivery from the goody man? Can’t imagine the holidays without baking?

Put 4 or 5 pieces in an airtight container on the counter, freeze half of what’s left and give away the other half. Split your piece of pie with a friend. 

Focus on your food.

Sit down while you eat or use a plate. Don’t grab while standing at a get together or while wrapping your gifts.  

When you are mindful of what you are eating you can keep track and enjoy!

Focus on the texture and the smell – most people often find they don’t, or don’t have to, eat as much when they take time to enjoy what they are eating.

Don’t cut back the week (or days) before so you can splurge.

Many people restrict themselves in the week leading up to a holiday or event, reasoning that this will give them permission to “splurge”.   And then they go overboard and binge.

Don’t deprive yourself in the days leading up to a party, but instead focus on eating healthy.

Eat a small nutrition bar or shake about 45 – 60 minutes before the party.

This will help keep you from overeating by taking the edge off of your appetite.

Alternate each glass of alcohol with a glass of water or club soda with lime. 

It will help shave calories and sugar and might just help you save a little face at the company party.  Remember Dan from last year...what ever happened to him anyways?!
Wear comfortable yet form fitting clothes.

The snug fit will keep you from eating too much. Remember Joey’s “Turkey eating pants” on Friends?  That's what you don't want to wear.

Buy a fabulous new holiday outfit, one that you know makes you look good; solid colors and clean lines are the most flattering – for men and women.

Move your workout time to morning or lunch.

This will give you less time to get caught up in holiday errands and blow off your workout. NO excuses!
Have you heard the saying "Workout in the morning - before your body can figure out what you're doing".  Well, it's kinda good advice, especially during holiday season.

Get your routine down NOW.

That ways it’s about habit, not forcing yourself to workout.  Thanksgiving might be only days away, but if you start new on Monday you have a full 3 weeks to create a new habit.

Start a new family tradition.

Some families play football in the backyard, some go one an early morning hike, some enjoy a bike ride, some run or walk the local Turkey Trot.

Why not start your own annual tradition and get some fresh air and some activity before the football games and eating begin?

Don’t use travel as an excuse.
Long drive ahead? Staying with the in-laws out in the country, with no gym in sight? Pack your tennis shoes and go for a walk.

Take a 10 minute walk on rest stops, get up early and explore a place you’ve never been to or have been missing back home.

Remember, being active doesn’t mean going to the gym, being active means finding a way – no matter where you are.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold Weather Running

With temperatures well below normal all over the country (well, maybe not in Arizona!) and the increase in runners around Little Rock in training for the marathon it's time to bust out the tights and dress for the cold weather.

If you are anything like me, running on the treadmill can be categorized as torture.  To maximize your training and train safely it is important to dress appropriately - you don't want to overheat, but you don't want to risk body temperatures dropping too low either.

My standard rule of thumb is: Dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer that it is. If it’s 35 out, I ask myself, “What would I wear to be comfortable in 55 degree weather?” and go from there. Not scientific, but it’s a piece of advice I read when the outdoors first became my gym and it’s really stuck with me.

While there are no definitive standards for when it is considered “too cold for outdoor exercise” (just think about the marathoners in the North and South Poles at -40 or -50 degrees!), the following precautions will also help to make your workout even more enjoyable:

1. Dress in Layered Clothing. Several thin layers are warmer than one heavy layer. Layers are also easier to remove (or add), better regulating your core temperature. The goal is to keep the body warm and minimize shivering.

2. Cover your Head.  As much as 50% of total heat lost exits from the  head and neck; invest in a toboggan designed for activity - they will be lined with moisture-wicking fabrics that will keep you dry while also keeping heat from escaping.

3. Cover your Mouth. This is especially important if breathing cold air causes chest pain or if you are prone to upper respiratory problems.  To warm the air before you breathe it, use a scarf or mask. 

4. Stay Dry. W et, damp clothing, whether from perspiration or precipitation, significantly increases body-heat loss. The same moisture-wicking clothing you used in the summer make a great base layer in the winter.

5. Keep your Feet Dry. Use a fabric that will wick perspiration away from the skin. Polypropylene, wool or other fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin and retain insulating properties keep the body warm when wet.

6. Stay Hydrated.  Dehydration affects your body's ability to regulate body heat and increases the risk of frostbite. Fluids, especially water, are as important in cold weather as in the heat. Avoid consuming alcohol or beverages containing caffeine, because these items are dehydrating.

7. Avoid Alcohol.   Yes, you read that correctly.  Alcohol dilates blood vessels and increases heat loss so the odds of experiencing a hypothermic event increase. Alcohol can also impair judgment to the extent that you may not make the best or brightest decisions in a cold weather emergency. It's best to leave the alcohol behind when you head out into the cold.

8. Know your Limits.  Everyone has their own idea of the perfect exercising weather. You might love the summer heat that makes you sweat like you're in a sauna. Your friend might still be wearing shorts when it's 35 degrees outside. When in doubt, do what's best for your body. That way, you can be sure to focus on the exercises, not the weather.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Build A Green Smoothie

I am a huge fan of a healthy, protein-packed smoothie - as a meal replacement, as a workout recovery, sometimes even as a snack (fruit and veggies only). I always feel great when I have one, and we often have them for meals when we travel. 
That's right - smoothies aren't just for breakfast anymore!  They are a great "fast food" option for lunch or dinner. Whether I get one on the go or make it myself, it takes less than 5 minutes. 
For 28 days (November 3rd - 30th) I'll be replacing one meal a day with a smoothie. You should try it – for a week, for a month, for 2 days – for however long you’d like. There are many benefits to a smoothie a day, especially when first making the transition to a healthier lifestyle and diet. 

Benefits of Healthy Smoothies
1. More nutrition packed in a smaller package.   We're talking size and calories here.  Research tells us we should be getting up to 2 cups of fruit per day and up to 3 cups of vegetables - but the majority of Americans (more than 65%) are not getting the recommended servings. Most fruits & vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. Adding a smoothie made with 2 cups of vegetables and a handful of green leafy greens tastes good and gives you added nutrients that you need and (probably) are not getting. 
2. More time for family and important-to-you tasks. As I mentioned above, creating a smoothies takes very little time when compared to making a full meal and has relatively little clean up. All you really need is a blender. This frees you up to spend time on other important things without sacrificing your health (and most likely improving it). 
3. Improved digestion. The food has already been broken down, which means less work for your digestive system to do later. Good-bye upset belly, gas and indigestion, hello happy tummy (and happy me!).
4. Increased energy & focus. You'll be giving your body (and brain) the vitamins and minerals that it needs, in the freshest way possible. This will help eliminate the foggy feeling and shoudl eliminate blood sugar spikes that often accompany processed and fast foods that are often filled with sugars, sodium and other fillers. 
5. Weight loss. Because fruits and veggies are lower in calories and higher in dietary fiber than most foods, a smoothie will help keep you fuller, longer and often with less calories.  This may also, in turn, keep you from reaching for that mid-afternoon snack. 
6.  Healthier immune system.  Flu season is here and fruits are packed with Vitamin C, which is essential for the growth and repair of all body tissues. Ditch the supplement and get your vit C the natural way! 

5 steps to a healthy smoothie (in under 5 minutes)
(bulleted points are examples only & my favorites, experiment with what you enjoy! - and share if you find a recipe you like!)
Step 1: Pick your liquid (10 - 12 oz.) - I choose water, but if you'd like something a little denser go for UNSWEETENED:
  • Almond Milk
  • Soy Milk
  • Coconut Milk
Step 2: Throw in a handful of greens (I love the pre-package Simple Truth Brand at Kroger)
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Power Green Mix
Step 3: Choose 1-2 cups of fruit (fresh or frozen) .. the combinations and varieties are endless
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Banana (I peel & cut these in 1/4s before freezing)
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
Step 4: Add some extras (as much or as little as you want, but watch the calorie count with these)
  • 1 serving protein powder
  • 1-2 TBSP peanut butter (try the PB2 I mentioned here)
  • 1 TBSP ground flax or chia seeds
  • 2 TBSP avocado (sprinkle the leftover with fresh lemon juice and save the rest to have as a snack or with dinner!)
  • 1 TBSP raw, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 TBSP vanilla, peppermint or any other all natural extract (not artificial)
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 TBSP walnuts or almonds
Step 5:  Blend it all together!  You can even add some ice if desired. 
Tip:  When making a smoothie for later, I use a mason jar for easy transport.
If you'd like to add something a little sweet to your smoothie, add an optional Step 6: 
  • 1 packet or tsp Stevia
  • 1 tsp raw honey or raw agave
  • 2-3 medjool dates

Monday, October 20, 2014

Death by Chocolate Chip Smoothie

I may get my coffee at Starbucks but I get my smoothies at home.  

1 serving chocolate whey protein powder (I use USANA's Nutrimeal)
1 TBSP raw cocoa powder
16 dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa)
Handful of ice
10 oz water

Throw it all in a blender and there you have it!  Clocks in at around 375 calories.

I had a workshop last night from 6:30-7:30, where I knew we'd have veggies but not a meal or protein.  

This satisfied me without making me full and uncomfortable and kept me from pigging out when I got home at 8:00!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Got ahead, order that cup o' joe!

As I sit here glaring into my coffee cup - thinking it's been too long since I've blogged but trying to determine what I'd like to share today - it hit me.  Coffee and how to keep it as a part of your daily healthy lifestyle.


1. Drink a big glass of water first thing.
It's simple fact that our body is made up of mostly water - 60% of it as a matter of fact. A hydrated body is a happy, efficient body. You might think that cup of coffee is what gets your juices flowing in the morning, but you will be much better served by starting your day with water. This can be a cool glass from the refrigerator or a nice warm mug of water with lemon (or maybe even a little Apple Cider Vinegar).

2. Opt for full-fat creamer or milk..
Non-dairy & flavored creamers are a big no-no if you're looking for healthy coffee options. Besides containing uber processed ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides and sodium caseinate) most brands also contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which is very high in trans fat.

3. Use stevia to sweeten.
Everywhere I turn, people are opening packets of sugar or other artificial sweeteners and dumping them in their coffee cups. Sugar, which has a high amount of fructose, leads to diseases like obesity and diabetes. While no controlled studies have been completed, it has been observed that those using Artificial Sweeteners had the same increased risk as those using sugar. Avoid both - turn to Stevia, a healthy, natural sweetener which also has 0 calories.

4. Add cinnamon or cocoa powder.
Both add flavor and have surprising health benefits. Cinnamon has been linked to lowering blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetics. Cocoa powder (raw, unsweetened) is full of antioxidants and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

5. Refrain from your 2:00 coffee break.   
I know a lot of us enjoy a cup of coffee in the afternoon or after a meal. Cutting this habit (and kicking all caffeine after 2:00) will help you sleep better at night and keep you from having the crash that follows the high that often accompanies an influx in caffeine. Instead of reaching for the coffee pot during an afternoon slump, take a walk around the building or the neighborhood.

Me? I enjoy my coffee black. No added flavors, no cream, no sweetener. I started drinking coffee because I loved the smell, and then the taste, of it. 

If you are adding all those extras to mask the taste, though, maybe it’s time to switch to a new morning brew.   Some of my best at-home coffee cost $7 a pound – some of the worst has cost $20.  Like anything else, you have to shop around to find what you like. 

And if all that taste testing still leaves you eager to cover up the taste, you might just want to look into finding a new morning beverage.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar in the morning

For years people have been touting the benefits of apple cider vinegar. I first starting using it one winter when I had the flu - and I was immediately hooked when I realized it did much more than open my nasal passages and ease my headaches.

Here are a few reasons to add raw, unfiltered ACV to your grocery list (I like Bragg's).

Detoxification: ACV is rich in natural minerals, enzymes and vitamins, making it a great detoxifier. The acid binds to toxins and help the body elimate them more effectively, which also improves immune response. ACV also improves circulation, breaks up mucus in the body and cleanses the lymph nodes.

Promotes weight loss: ...when accompanied by a healthy diet. What it's really doing is helping balance blood sugar for longer periods of time, helping to control appetite and cravings caused by blood sugar crashes.

Helps with digestion: Probably the biggest claim to fame! IT can help with indigestion adn gastrointestinal discomfort and I have one friend who swears up and down that her acid reflux is completely cured since she started the practice of a glass to start her day! I

Helps ward of sickness: As mentioned above, ACV rids the body of mucas, making it my go-to when I have a sinus infection approaching. But the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes make this an item that can ward of common illnesses. In addition, ACV has antimicrobial and anitceptic properties.

When applied topically it can help alleviate skin problems & makes your locks soft and shiny:

When used as an astringent for acne prone skin, ACV has been said to help clear up and balance skin.

Diluting 1/3 cup ACV with 4 cups water and pouring over your hair after shampooing will remove buildup of styling products & conditioners, as well as balance pH levels, kill bacteria and cure dandruff. NOTE: due to the acidic properties of vinegar, daily use of the rise is not recommended.

Add Bragg's ACV to your shopping list and start your day tomorrow with a nice cup of warm water and 1-3 TBSP of ACV. After 7 days, let me know the results you see! I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Start Them Out Young

Almost 6 months ago my dear friends had a new baby and shared this adorable picture with me.  Of course I immediately asked permission to share it...and then waited 6 months to do so.

Look at her...showing her tiny little guns on day 5.  I was so proud that she was already showing signs of healthy and active living!

Photo courtesy of J. McClosky - thank you for allowing me to share!

Starting kids on a path to healthy eating and activity is more crucial now than ever.  Here is a graphic I ran across with some startling information - it's not as cute as that first photo but it sure is an eye-opener.

So, what can we do to fight childhood obesity?

1.  Pack your child's lunch - and not a lunchable.  Toss in an organic PB & J on whole wheat bread and some apple slices or baby carrots.  Want to give them a treat?   How about a homemade oatmeal cookie?    Or these easy no-bake cookies I found on Pinterest last week - sugar-free doesn't always mean Splenda & Sucralose!

2.  Better yet - have them pack their own lunch and make it a game....who can get the most colors in their lunch today?  The loser has to pack their siblings lunch the next day!  Love a little fun competition before bedtime.

3.  Get moving!   If you are lucky enough to live in Arkansas, state parks abound and are trail and river rich - how about a hike or some kayaking?  There are so many ways to incorporate activity and fun into your family - and start a new Sunday Funday tradition.

4.  Plan dinner a week in advance.   Planning your meals is as important for your health as it is for your sanity.   Having a plan in place for dinner (hello slow cooker) and stop ordering pizza and going out - where you'll eat twice as many calories as if you cook at home.

5.  Stop using the excuse "Ah, they're just kids, they'll burn it off."  Because the reality is, they aren't! Only about 1/3 of all adolescents get the recommended daily activity - and teaching them young means better habits when they are older.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Betty Crocker's Drop Biscuits (circa 1950)

Ingredients & Recipe
Preheat oven to 450.

Sift together:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder

Cut in:
1/4 cup palm oil

Stir in:
1 cup organic 2% milk

Knead lightly in large bowl until mixture is soft.  Drop from a spoon into lightly greased muffin tins.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 20 biscuits.

Vanilla Almond Granola

Vanilla Almond Granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup raw almonds (whole)
2 TBSP peanut oil -- i actually think coconut oil would be amazing here!
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine 1st 5 ingredients & set aside.
Combine last 3 ingredients in glass bowl or measuring cup & microwave for 1 minute.
Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and mix until well coated.
Spread into a cookie sheet & bake for 8 minutes.  
Stir and spread again, baking an additional 6-7 minutes.

YUM!  It can stay up to a month in the pantry in an air-tight canister.  In our house it lasts about 10 days!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Did you know that exercise can help you.....

Manage your weight?  The more you exercise, the easier it is to keep you weight under control.  Cutting calories will help you lose the initial weight – maintaining an exercise program helps keep the weight off.  Dieting changes your weight – exercising changes your body!

Sleep Better?  A drop in body temperature signals to the body it’s time for sleep.  Exercise raises your core body temperature for 4-5 hours, and then it drops lower than it would had you not exercise letting your brain know “Hey, I’m tired!”

Increase focus and concentration?  When you get a good night’s sleep, you are more productive and concentration improves. 

Have more FUN?  Take your dog for a walk, push your kids on the swing set, sign up for that salsa class you’ve been eyeing.  Fitness doesn’t have to be boring and doesn’t have to mean going to the gym.

Improve your Mood?  Exercise stimulates chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and relaxed.  It can also help with anxiety, depression and make you feel better about yourself.

Lower blood pressure?  Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger.  A stronger heart pumps more blood with less effort.  Less effort means less force on your arteries, which mean lower blood pressure.  **1-3 months to see the effect and it only stays down if you continue to exercise**

Lower blood glucose levels? When your muscles contract during activity, it stimulates another mechanism that is completely separate of insulin. This mechanism allows your cells to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not.  And when you are active on a regular basis, it can also lower your eAG (estimated Average Glucose). 

Lower bad cholesterol & raise good cholesterol?  Exercise lowers LDL by helping stimulate the enzymes that carry the LDL to the liver, where it is processed for excretion.  It raises HDL by increasing the size of the protein particles so they can’t squeeze through the lining of the heart & blood vessels and create a home there.  (Source:  Exercise to lower cholesterol, WebMD Medical Reference, Reviewed by:  Dr. Rob Hicks)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Schools back in session....

...and so am I!

I've taken the last 2 weeks off from blogging to get my life in order:  get organized, get a new schedule down, celebrate my 35th birthday and, oh yeah, follow my dreams!

Here's my story -- and proof that you should always ask for the things that you want!

What started as a personal exercise habit morphed into a lifestyle change and eventually (hopefully) a career.    A little over 2 years ago I took my love of fitness and earned my certified to teach group fitness classes.   I started a bootcamp in my neighborhood.  Then I started teaching classes at an employee gym and a corporate gym in Little Rock.

Chugging along, working full time in higher education, I started to feel that pull.  The slight tug towards heath and wellness, towards helping people understand what getting healthy means.  I wanted to help them on a journey, but through education and training, not just exercise prescriptions and fitness classes.

But how do I get there?  I asked myself this question often.  

Additional education was the most obvious.  I researched and found a program at my alma mater -- one year, full-time, online, ranked in the top 5.   But something had to give if I was going to go for this.  I was working 40 hours, teaching 8-10 classes a week, presenting when I could and trying to stay on top of the blog, Facebook, Instagram.......

It didn't seem like much sense to give up the classes or the bootcamp or the newsletter.....

So I did the only thing I could do if I had a chance of making this work.  I called up the director of the Employee Wellness division of a large corporation here in Little Rock and asked for a part time job.

A few meetings later, I had myself a 20-hour a week gig and enough money to pay the bills.

So, on August 1st I stepped away from a 12-year career in higher education to go back to school and work as a Corporate Consultant in Employee Wellness.  

I have a one-year contract, I pay out-of-pocket for insurance and benefits, I am enrolled in Master's in Exercise Science and Health Promotion.  I have no idea what will happen next July 31st when my contract is up and my program is over - but I've never felt happier or less stressed.

I know this is where I am meant to be.  It will all work out in the end.

Thanks for following along!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cranberry Maple Oatmeal

To celebrate the fall-like temps this morning I decided to try something fall-like with my oatmeal this morning.  

The result was a delicious Cranberry Maple Oatmeal.

3/4 cup rolled oats (NOT instant)
1/3 - 1/2 cup of frozen cranberries
Pure Grade Maple Syrup
1 TBSP Crushed pecans - or nut of your choice (optional)

1. Combine oats and 1 cup of water and cook on low-med for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add cranberries and cook to a light simmer, stirring occassionally.  
3. Reduce heat to low.
4. Using a wooden spoon "pop" cranberries and stir.
5.  Scoop into bowl & drizzle with maple syrup to sweeten.
6.  Add pecans and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Go Where You Look!

Go Where You Look!

Today is my Monday and what a pleasant surprise when I had this video in my inbox to watch.  So inspiring, I just had to share it with you.  If you aren't familiar with Hillary, she is an amazing athlete who has completed over 60 Ironmans.  But her path wasn't necessarily an easy one.


Click on the picture above to link to the video on MBG.com - please make 15 minutes to listen to what she had to say.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A few of my favorite things!

I'm not even going to lie to you.  I struggled this week.  I haven't posted in 10 days -- 10 full days!  And my mind has been racing....

What do I want to share?  What questions have I been hearing lately?  What do my readers want to know about?  What am I most excited about this week?  Ding ding ding! We have a winner!  There are so many things to be happy and thankful for this week - why not share some of those.

1)  “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.  I read it every day for 2 weeks on my lunch break.  I laughed A LOT.  I highlighted A LOT.  I learned A LOT.  Whether you are looking to reinvent yourself, start a new journey or just need a good laugh, this woman will help you out.  Some of my favorite quotes include:
All this is to say it's not your fault that you're f***ed up.  It's your fault if you stay f***ed up.
Self-perception is a zoo.

You aren't a better person for feeling guilty or bad about yourself, just a sadder one.

You are responsible for what you say and do.  You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.
And finally, my favorite: 
Love yourself more than you love your drama.
2)  Powdered Peanut Butter I think I actually let out a little squeal when I ran across this at Target.  If you know me at all you know how much I love peanut butter – in everything.  I add it to the pre-portioned Chocolate Nutrimeal I carry in my blender bottle for a quick shake between classes.  Just add 8-10oz of water and it’s transformed into Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cup goodness.  (I have also seen it in the organic section at Kroger & at a Smoothie King in Tennessee.) 

3) Going back to school.  Yes, I did it.  I bit the proverbial bullet.  I am officially enrolled as a full-time student and started classes on July 14, 2014.  If all goes as planned, I will graduate next summer with a Master’s in Exercise Science and Health Promotion.

4) Waterproof mascara.  BOOYAH!…no more raccoon eyes after class!  And it works!  I picked this particular tube up at ULTA for $6.00.  Sad to say it was the last one in the Rock – I was hoping to buy 2.

5) Lime Sparkling Water.  One sip was all it took – had one on Saturday when visiting our family in Louisiana and Sunday I ran to Kroger and bought an 8 pack.  It's refreshing, it's delicious and it beats soda every day of the week.  Yes, the best thing for you is water with a fresh slice of lime.  But for me, this is ok, too.  Just watch the ingredients – all sparkling water is not created equal. 

Have a happy, active weekend everyone!

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Steps to Efficient Muscle Recovery

Last week was crazy to say the least - after a three-a-day Tuesday and a 4-peat on Wednesday I was worried my body might have had about all that it can handle. But, surprisingly even to me, I was able to complete our normal Thursday 4.6 mile run at an easy 9:38 pace and even managed a 14-mile bike ride with the family later that morning.

How does my body press on through all that activity? It's not luck, it is partly conditioning but it's all proper recovery.

So many things we do (in and out of the gym) impact our bodies ability to recover properly by:
reducing the risk of over training
reducing the risk of injury
Resulting in:
enhanced performance
increased quality and quantity of training.

It is important to understand that each persons rate of recovery will vary. Adapting these habits does not mean that 2-a-days are the right answer for everyone.  These habits, however, will give you the ability to work a little harder, recover a little quicker, and see results a little sooner.

Here are the 5 things I do to make sure I am adequately prepared for days when classes pop-up unexpectedly or a planned 12-mile run accidentally turns into 17 when I get lost (yes, it's happened).

5 Steps to Efficient Muscle Recovery.

1. Sleep!

I can't stress this enough to you - sleep has a profound effect on physical well-being and muscle growth. While asleep your body alternates between two forms of sleep: rapid eye movement, or REM, and non-REM sleep. This cycle repeats several times throughout the night. While REM sleep provides the energy to the brain that supports it during waking hours and is necessary for restoring the mind, stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep, are essential for restoring the body (organs, tissues, muscles) . 

You are considered sleep deprived if you get less that 4 hours of sleep - the National Sleep Foundations recommends 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night. Find your optimal and get there more often than you don't.


2. Drink plenty of water.

We hear it over and over - drink more water, drink more water - and yet, nearly 50% of Americans don't get enough. Our muscles are 75% water, so when you are more active you need even more water - it's crucial to muscle development and keeping water retention to a minimum. 

I shoot for 1/2 my body weight in ounces, and for every hour of exercise I refuel with 16-20 oz (or more) of water to replenish what I've lost. This is in addition to the 16-24oz I drink during my workout. 

There is a reason we can survive 30 days without food but only 4-10 without water. 

Fit it in.


3. Massage.

According to a recent study, massage not only makes you feel better, it helps speed up muscle recovery. Whether it's via foam roller, tennis balls or a massage therapist, regular massage reduces stiffness and inflammation, removes knots (adhesions), scar tissue and restrictions in the fascia (the tissue that wraps around larger muscle bundles, such as biceps or quads).

I used to be against the monthly membership options out there - who wants a massage to become a chore that they have to schedule in? After going almost a year without a massage and wondering whether or not I'd even get a good one when I got around to finding a place, I caved and joined the monthly membership. 

Probably the best fitness decision I've ever made! I feel great all the time, and have someone who really knows my body and works with me on my most troubled spots, without having to spend the first 10 minutes of the hour in a getting to know you session.

4. Reduce Stress.

I know - exercise to reduce stress...but too much stress isn't good for exercise? What is going on here?!

Many of us react to a stressful situation with our muscular system. Our shoulder muscles tense, our necks get tense -- whether we are mindful of it or not, our bodies are going into "flight or fight" mode. And each time a muscle is tensed it takes 20 minutes for it to fully relax again. If you have 75 moments of mini-stressors throughout the day (I haven't finished that report, I lost my keys, I forgot to call my mom.....) your body never full relaxes and your muscles never fully recover.

This is a hard one for some people - external stress is often beyond our control. But what we can control is the way we react to it. It takes time, but it can be done. For example: get in the habit of always putting your keys in the same spot. Create your own internal deadline and hold yourself to it.

One investment that I made was the Simply Being meditation app - if I'm having a stressful moment or day, I either close my office door or go out to my car on my lunch break, close out the world and tune into my breathing and my body. It's give me a new calm and I often come back with a new perspective on the situation. Even if I only have time for 10 minutes, it makes a huge difference in the rest of my day.

5. Cool down & Stretch

Easily the most underrated part of a workout. If you don't have time to cool down properly, schedule it into your workout time.

A 5-15 minute cool down/stretch post-workout will not only get your heart rate and core body temperatures back to normal slowly, it will allow the blood to properly move through your heart and body, giving your muscles time to get oxygen and blood flowing back through them. 

Not giving the blood time to properly redistribute can lead to more than just dizziness and nausea (the most common side effects) - it can also lead to blood pooling around the muscles in your legs and inflammation.

You can do this by slowly jogging, marching or walking in place. Static stretching is also a necessary final step, helping eliminate muscle soreness and fatigue.

A good rule of thumb: the harder your workout, the longer the cool down and stretch should be.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Daily Affirmations

Almost every day the VP of my department sends us an affirmation and words of encouragement. Today's was worthy of a share.

This particular affirmation was especially meaningful when I saw it come across.  Today is the 45th day of a personal 90-day challenge to clean up my diet & build my self-control around all things cake and potato (and also for some research).

Whether you are working on a new fitness program, a better diet or a promotion, you can't allow one set back to negatively affect your plans, your journey or your goal. We should never strive for perfection - it doesn't exist!

I am officially halfway & feeling great! But it hasn't been easy - I've had a number of hiccups along the way. Bad choices, whether by lack of willpower or lack of planning, have surfaced. But I have not - CAN NOT - allow those bad choices to slow me down.

Wasn't it Thomas Edison who said "I failed my way to success."?

So, how do I keep going despite the setbacks?

Be prepared.  For EVERYTHING.
I've stumbled and fallen more times that I'd like to admit -- 6 times to be exact. And I can tell you about each one -- the unhealthy item, the date, and the circumstance.   And the reason.

5 of the 6 times I wasn't prepared for my day.  Plain and simple.  The 6th time, well, I just wanted potato salad at Jack's BBQ.

Being healthy isn't easy, but you can be prepared for both the unexpected and the expected (see #5) by doing the following:
  1. Carry a small snack (raw almonds, a nutrition bar) with you at all times.
    1. Meetings run over, "snacks provided" sometimes mean candy bars and hershey kisses.
  2. Pack a water bottle for long car rides. 
  3. Don't forget your pre-workout snack/post-workout recovery meal if you go straight from the gym to work or work to gym. 
    1. Or buy a week's worth of snacks on your weekend grocery trip and stock your desk Monday morning.
  4. Look at your calendar the night before and plan for the next day accordingly.
    1. Lunch meeting? Browse the restaurant menu online before heading out. 
    2. Working late? Plan a crock pot meal or make arrangements for someone else to take over the cooking tonight. 
  5. Offer to bring dessert. Banana "Ice Cream" anyone? 
    1. 3 frozen bananas, 1/2 cup 2% organic milk - blend together in high-powered blender or food processor. Bring along fresh fruit, raw nuts or seeds and honey for toppings. 
Remember how GREAT the great days feel. 
When I felt myself reaching for that 2nd helping of chips and queso at Chuy's (on June 3rd, at a birthday dinner) I thought of how great I'd been feeling all week....

Was that 2nd basket of chips really worth giving up this feeling? I decided no, it certainly was not - and have continued to say no by using that same thought process almost daily.

Channel your healthier self before you sabotage your entire day or give up entirely.

My goal is not to reach a certain number on a scale or minimize inches on my waist - though I am certainly excited to see these changes along the way - I just want to feel better, be stronger, have more energy and be (generally) less cranky and lethargic feeling.

So far the effects are better than what I've hoped for - and I felt them almost immediately. No upset belly at the end of the day (or when I get out of bed), I no longer get that 2:30 feeling in the afternoon, my workouts rock and other people have noticed my good mood.

I will NOT ruin all those accomplishments by continuing on a downward spiral spiked by a minor misjudgment.  That's my mantra and it works.

Change your thinking -- and shake the guilt.
Women especially get into a "well, I blew that plan by eating that cupcake, so I might as well just eat bad the rest of the day/week/month!" mentality. STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY.  Feast or famine is not how healthy choices are made.

We tend to internalize and dwell on small one-off choices that don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. This happens with our home lives as well as our diets. Do I think you should eat a cupcake every day? Well, no, of course I don't. (That's an example of a small choice that can have disastrous results).

Do I think that if you are at a retirement party it's ok to treat yourself during that one-time celebration? Of course I do. And I think you should stop feeling so bad about it.

REWARD your bad behavior by doing something good for your body. 
When you do eat a cupcake (or a side of fries), apologize to your body through your actions.  Grandma always told me "Actions speak louder than words."

Nosh on raw veggies and hummus for your afternoon snack. Better yet, log an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill. Your body, and your brain, will appreciate the extra surge of endorphins - that "feel good" chemical we all hear about so often.

When our bodies move into an anaerobic state we get a rush of endorphins to make up for oxygen depletion to our muscles and that's when the "high" kicks in - I know it, I've felt it and if you haven't I encourage you to ASAP!

Realize there is a healthier option...and make it.  
It might not be your ideal option, but it's there waiting for you. Remember my post about Grief Eating -- cold cuts might not be high on my healthy list, but choosing a turkey and mozzarella roll up instead of salami on white bread let me stay within my challenge rules and still enjoy lunch.

Sometime you just can't convince the family that it's not a good idea to order pizza for a quick and easy meal for 10....what you can do is ask them to tack a salad onto that order or make yourself your own fun dinner with what's left in the fridge.

Write down your mistakes...and then forget them and move on.
I've tracked each "oops" along the way. This gets it out of my brain and serves as a tiny reminder that "Hey - I wasn't perfect on this journey, but that's OK".

I refuse to let those tiny little minuscule setbacks let me lose focus of the end result - a healthy, happier me!

Stop Making Excuses
And just do it.  There is no ideal time, things happen, unexpected things.  The trick is that when I hear an excuse coming on I know that I am getting ready to cave and I fight it with every ounce of my being.  Is summer an ideal time to cut out sweets and desserts and (gulp, 30 days of alcohol)?  NO!  But I had to start some time!  

Your body (your life) will thank you for your dedication and stress-free approach to a healthier lifestyle!

And in case you are interested.....here's the challenge
  • NO white bread/white pasta 
  • NO milk chocolate (70%+ pure dark is allowed) 
  • NO donuts/muffins/danishes/pastries 
  • NO cupcakes/pies/cake/desserts 
  • NO candy 
  • NO soda or black tea 
  • NO chips/pretzels 
  • NO fast food 
  • NO ice cream/frozen yogurt 
  • Days 60-90 only - NO alcohol 
The results (pictures, weight, measurements) will all be shared after I am done!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer is here (yay!)...

...and you know what that means -- extended daylight for your outdoor runs and workouts, afternoons by the pool, ball games, family picnics...the list goes on and on.

Even with all the benefits, more outdoor activities mean more exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays and an increased risk of malignant melanoma.

But did you know the risk for malignant melanoma is even higher in runners and those who workout outdoors? It's not just the additional exposure to the sun's rays. Intense training can also suppress the immune system, leaving your skin more vulnerable to damage.

So, what do we do? Lather on the sunscreen and pop a couple of fish oil supplements daily?

So glad you asked because the answer is: YES! That's exactly what we do!

According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition fish oil supplements help protect against the suppression of the skin's immune system in response to sun overexposure.

In addition to contributing to brain development, cellular function, joint, and cardiovascular health, taking a high-quality, pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement, like USANA's BiOmega, can help you strengthen your skin - from the inside out.

(Source: Runner's World)

To order BiOmega or any USANA products, click here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Cost of Eating Healthy

Recently it seems like everyone around me is saying:  "but it's so expensive to eat healthy all the time".

Before firing off my usual but it's worth it!!! or No, it's not! I got online and found a recent study (Dec. 2013) that found healthy eating does, indeed, cost more.

About $1.50 a day more, to be exact.

I say that $1.50 buys you a lot more than just healthier eats.  You're also getting an extra boost in energy, an improved mood - your HEALTH!  Among many things, eating healthy offers you a leaner frame, a reduced risk of heart attack and diabetes, lower blood pressure and less stress.  On the outside you'll also notice a healthier smile and better skin.

To give you an idea of how much it costs to eat healthy, I've tracked and recorded my day in review for you.

I do my grocery shopping at Kroger and buy my shakes and nutrition bars through USANA

Pre-workout Snack  
1 slice sprouted grain bread $0.17
1/2 banana $0.13
1 TBSP natural, creamy peanut butter $0.11

Post-workout Recovery
1 USANA Nutrimeal Shake ($3.33)
1/2 banana ($0.13)

Mid- morning snack
1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt ($0.63)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries ($.75)
5 small strawberries ($.85)

White Bean Tuna Salad ($1.36/serving)

Mid-afternoon snack
USANA Fudge Delight Nutrition Bar ($1.93)

Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Shrimp ($2.58/serving)

Total spent for the day:  $11.97
*If you don't need the post-workout recovery, you're down to $8.51*

Some people spend that much daily on medicine for high blood pressure, insulin, etc.

Diet plays a big role in current and future health issues.  Why not take control & spend a little more now to better your health in the future?

If you want to see whats on my weekly shopping list, click here to see my prior post "What's on my shopping list"

***October 30, 2015 Update:  A recent pole showed that the Average American spends $15.50 per day eating out.  If you are one of those you won't just be saving calories, you'll be saving dough.

Monday, June 9, 2014

How do I calculate calories burned?

Calculating calories burned isn't easily found by using an easy equation, there are many factors that go into the number of calories burned -- weight, gender, age, resting heart rate & intensity level.

If you are looking for an accurate calorie burn, using the monitors on indoor bikes, treadmills and other equipment is not your the best - they are gross generalizations and can be off by up to 20%.  Some equipment is advanced enough to take into account age and weight, but factors such as gender, heart rate and intensity level are still unknowns (hey, a 6.0 might be a killer for me on the treadmill, but for the guy next to me it's just another walk in the park).

The most effective way to manually calculate calorie burn is to invest in a heart-rate monitor and use one of the formulas below.

  • Male: ((-55.0969 + (0.6309 x HR) + (0.1988 x W) + (0.2017 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T
  • Female: ((-20.4022 + (0.4472 x HR) - (0.1263 x W) + (0.074 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T
HR = Heart rate (in beats/minute)
W = Weight (in kilograms)
A = Age (in years)
T = Exercise duration time (in hours)

Or you can go to Shape Sense to plug in the numbers like I do!  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grief Eating - How to Avoid it!

The past 2 months have been a bit of a roller coaster, but I have been determined to keep myself on track.

If you have ever lost someone close to you, you know how hard staying on track with your healthy eating habits can be during the immediate days afterward - your schedule is all over the place, people are delivering food (mostly in the form of comfort or dessert), and quick meals at odd times are often your only choices.

In early April, I let my guard down and spent days eating muffins for breakfast, fried chicken and cold cut sandwiches for lunch and leftovers for dinner. And let's not forget the berry and apple pies that called my name at least once a day. Most of my energy in those days was focused on battling an upset belly, being overly tired & cranky and in addition to the emotional stress I just felt UGH.

Last week I found myself in the same situation and vowed that I would NOT put my body (or my family) through any more chaos than it needed.

Here are the 5 easy steps that kept me on track while dealing with my grief.

1. Volunteer to do the grocery shopping. When I walked in that first night, the refrigerator was void of milk, there was only white bread in the pantry and a tray of muffins was sitting proud on the counter. I got up early the next morning and went on a shopping spree that included whole grain bread, rolled oats (NOT instant), fresh strawberries & blueberries, Kind bars, organic 2% milk, natural peanut butter, a case of water.....

2. Bring along healthy snacks and water. You are going to be at the funeral home during odd and extended hours - over lunch, over dinner, until 8:00 at night. Throw a handful of almonds and a nutrition bar (or 2) or a banana in your bag and plan to snack small. Resist the urge to overeat prior to going, as that will just spike blood sugar levels and leave you with that uncomfortable feeling. If the funeral home doesn't have a water cooler, pack a few bottles in your bag as well.  Take extras so you can help keep your entire family turning into the Kranks at the first signs of hunger or thirst.

3. Eat light when you eat late.  Going to dinner at 9 p.m. is almost a given at least once, but this is where those snacks you packed come in handy.  Get a light salad (strawberry spinach with slivered almonds) or cup of broth-based soup (chicken noodle) for you late night dinner.  Your body will need the fuel, but this will be light and healthy(ish). 

4.  Make breakfast for everyone.  On the morning of the funeral I woke up about an hour before everyone and started the coffee...and the rolled oats.  The grocery store I went to did not have steel cut oats, so I settled for the old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant!) and made huge batch for the family. I also put out some honey, strawberries, blueberries and brown sugar (for my not-so-healthy little brother)  to make prep easy.  Everyone enjoyed the treat, avoided the 2 dozen donuts someone dropped off the night before, and appreciated not having to think about breakfast.  

5.  Choose the healthiest option, always.  So, you've hit the wall here, it's time for the wake and it's veggie trays and meat & cheese trays and pie galore.  Not to mention all the diet soda - ugh!  Remember that whole grain bread you bought earlier in the week?  Time to grab that loaf and make your sandwich.  Choose turkey over salami and mozzarella over cheddar. Dress your sandwich with a tomato, lettuce and mustard.  Skip the ranch dressing on those veggies.  Pass right by that pie and grab a bowl full of strawberries to snack on instead.  This time of year they are juicy and full of flavor!  

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