Thursday, February 21, 2013
Do you ever look at a kitchen gadget or tool and think "I wonder if I'd use that?". Yeah.... me too.
So I thought I would do a series on three gadgets I would have normally thought were a big, fat waste of money and kitchen space, yet have wound up becoming indispensable to me in my never ending quest to eat healthier.
The first "gadget" (although it's really more of an appliance) I am going to herald the value of is my bread machine:
My first bread machine was given to me 13 years ago, I believe it was, by my then-mother-in-law. I remember opening it and thinking "Oh, yeesh! Some big thing I'll never use and have to find a place in my already-too-small kitchen for." Suffice it to say, I was less than thrilled.
But, because she had paid good money for the thing and couldn't stop talking about hers, I dutifully read the instructions and put the ingredients for a loaf of bread in it. I thought it would be inedible and I'd never use it again. Instead it kneaded, let rise, kneaded again, let rise again and then baked a loaf of bread just as delicious as any I'd made the hard way (read: tons and tons of kneading) in the past. It was shaped tall instead of long, which made a rather funny looking loaf. But to get a homemade loaf of bread for almost no effort, what did I care how it looked? We were just going to eat it, anyhow.
Here is a picture of the inside, so you can see how the pan is shaped. This should explain why the loaf is tall instead of the traditional long shape:
And that started my love of bread machines.
I finally used that old bread machine to death. Literally. It died mid-loaf one day when it just stopped kneading. I replaced it promptly with the Corner Bakery brand bread machine pictured above.
Then I started on a quest to improve my health and the bread machine turned into a towel hanger for a long period of time.
One day I found myself with an overwhelming amount of ground flaxseed. There was no way I could use it all up before it went bad. The bread machine caught my eye. I'd been developing recipes of my own and thought "I wonder.......?????". As I Googled whole wheat flax breads I started to figure out the basic principles of how to bake with flaxseed. So on a wing and a prayer I tossed what I believed to be the correct ingredients into my beloved bread machine. Sure enough, out came a delicious and chewy whole wheat bread to rival anything else I'd ever tasted.
It was official: My bread machine and I were dating again.
Since then, not only have I regularly used it for a variety of whole wheat breads (one of our favorites is an Italian Herb Bread recipe I created), but I have also used it on the "dough" setting for whole wheat rolls AND (I saved the best for last!) a wonderful whole-wheat pizza dough that I developed a recipe for. Topped with my grandma's pizza sauce, part-skim mozzarella, fresh-grated Parmesan, lean meats, and sliced fresh veggies...... it's hard to top a home-made, delicious, and healthy pizza.
And let me tell ya, the bread machine makes the whole process a LOT easier! Just toss the ingredients in, put it on "dough" setting, and let it do the hard part. When your machine screams at you that it's done, take the pan out, punch the risen dough down, cover it, and stick it in the fridge until ready to use. Being cold makes it a little easier to handle and gives the crust a nice texture when you bake it.
Double bonus? My teenage daughter, who would rather skip breakfast, will gladly eat leftover pizza for breakfast the next morning. It's a healthy breakfast chock-full of whole grains, good fats, proteins, and even a few veggies to fuel her pretty little head for school.
I love knowing what is in the foods that my family is eating. By using the bread machine, I am able to avoid any chemicals or "what is that?" type ingredients that I often find on packaged breads, doughs, and crusts. And, of course, fresh-baked always tastes better.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Last year I did a blog titled Ever Wondered How the Most Muscular Guy in the Gym Lifts? www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=5026723 I've always felt a follow-up blog about some of the daily habits of this same man would perhaps help someone else looking to make the most of their physique. While the weight lifting is obviously what has put all of that muscle on Ivory, what he does day-in and day-out contributes heavily to his health and appearance, as well. It really is a whole package if you want to get results as impressive as his.
*********NOTE***** I am not implying that anyone else should adopt ALL of these habits! Even Ivory didn't take them all on at once. Like anyone else who has made lasting lifestyle changes, he implement these bit by bit over the course of years.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the things I have observed and/or wrangled out of Ivory about what it is he does on a day-to-day basis:
- Never drinks soda. Unsweet tea? Yes. The occasional sugar-free Rock Star before a workout? Unfortunately, yes. (This makes me batty!) But carbonated beverages? In three years I've never seen him ingest one.
- Never drinks alcohol. No kidding.
- Rarely ingests sugar. I mean, hardly ever. Around the holidays he may have a piece of sweet potato pie or banana pudding, but sugar for the most part is not in his diet.
- Keeps white flour to a bare minimum. Maybe once every week or two he'll have pancakes (with sugar-free syrup) right after a workout, but almost every other starch Ivory eats is either potatoes or whole grain.
- Not afraid of carbs, but eats plenty of protein. Protein is the center of most of his meals, but he always has some kind of a starch and usually either veggies or fruit along with it.
- Keeps fruit consumption fairly low- perhaps a piece of fruit a day.
- Eats an extremely wide variety of foods.
- Stops eating when he is full. He'll leave half a plate of food because "I'm full"
- And, because everyone wonders this: Doesn't go anywhere near steroids or other stuff purported to help you gain muscle. Tried Creatine once, but it dehydrated him so bad that he wound up in the ER. About the only thing supplemental he takes is the occasional scoop of protein powder and a multivitamin when he remembers it. Really. (I made him pinky swear on this one.)
- Cardio is short (usually 20-30 minutes) but very intense. I'm tellin' ya, the guy is positively raining sweat when he gets done with a cardio session.
- Changes set/rep scheme and the exercises he does frequently.
- Hits every muscle group once a week.
- Takes more time to train shoulders than any other body part.
- Takes 1 day a week as rest day from gym. He typically lifts weights Mon-Fri and does cardio Mon, Fri, and Sat. Sometimes Tuesday.
- Gives full rest between sets. This way, he's able to put maximum effort into all of his lifting.
- Asks for a spotter when he goes super-heavy. If there is no one around to spot, he doesn't go heavy that day and does more reps.
- Does abbreviated movements on big lifts- stays in the tension.
- Always keeps good form. If he can't keep proper form, he lowers the weight.
Life in General:
- Keeps a relaxed attitude- What some would call stressful, he just accepts as life and rolls with it.
- Is hardly ever in a hurry. For as fast as this guy moves during cardio, he kinda ambles around the rest of the time.
- Prioritizes taking time to do things he enjoys (coaching football, playing softball, going to his kids sporting events, fishing)
- Invests time in friendships.
- Keeps current on fitness information and is always willing to learn and try new things.
- Makes an effort to stand up strait- excellent posture.
- Sleeps all he can. He is a night worker, so sleep is usually very broken up, but he does the best he can given the circumstances.
- Lost weight when he needed to. Ivory told me that at 6'2" he weighed 330, if I remember correctly, for quite a while. It was affecting his health. The doctor gave him what-for, Ivory listened and started eating better and adding cardio to his exercise routine (he'd been lifting all along). He lost 50 pounds and the weight has stayed off. Gotta respect that.
Lastly, I feel compelled to point out that it has taken years of doing these same things, day in and day out, to get to where he is now. Genetically Ivory is indeed gifted, but the mounds of thick and well-defined muscle would not be there if he didn't work hard and stay consistent in his habits. So if you aren't getting the results you want in a few weeks or months, remember that it takes sticking to doing the right things over and over for many years on end to be able to carry this kind of a look well into your 40's (Ivory is 45), and beyond.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
One of the big buzzes in the fitness world today is HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. What this means is working at super-high intensities for a short period, then at a lower recovery intensity for a short period, over and over, again for about 20 minutes or so.
There are several advantages to this, but here are my three favorites:
1. It helps to develop your system to be able to do longer, steady-state cardio at a higher intensity, therefore increasing your heart strength. This has the domino effect of burning more of calories during ALL of your cardio sessions, even the longer, steady-state ones.
2. According to studies, it keeps you burning calories longer AFTER the workout than regular steady-state cardio does. (This "after burn", by the way, is referred to EPOC. For the life of me, I can never remember what that acronym stands for.)
3. It gets the misery over quicker.
A good way to get started with HIIT sessions is to do a 3 minute warm-up, then move on to 15 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 1 minute and 45 seconds of a recovery jog pace. Repeat this 2-minute cycle (15 seconds fast, 1:45 jog) until you get to the 20 minute mark, then do a 2-minute cool down.
Over time you can increase the work phase by 15 seconds and decrease the jog phase by 15 seconds, until you get to a minute of each. This is very effective. It also starts to get boring.
So here is a HIIT plan I adapted from something I read in one of my fitness publications. The beauty of it is that as your strength increases, your pace will, too. It grows with you. I'll post it like you are on a bike, but you can adapt this for any piece of cardio equipment:
- Start through 3:00- Warmup
- For each minute through 8:00, increase the intensity by 1-2 levels, keeping your RPM's between 60 and 70. By the time you get to minute 8:00, you should be struggling to keep your RPM's in the target range of 60-70.
- 8:00-10:00 Lower the resistance to your warm-up level and free wheel at a recovery jog pace.
- 10:00-11:00, move the level up to what your highest level was in the first round (minute 7:00-8:00) and pedal as fast as you can. (This should be REALLY hard by the end of the minute- Push through!)
- 11:00-12:00, back to recovery jog level/pace
- Repeat those two minutes (1 minute hard as possible at highest level with 1 minute recovery) four more times. This should bring you to 20:00 on your timer.
- 20:00-22:00 cool down.
At this point, you should be dripping in sweat and more than ready for the blessed cardio session to end already. If you aren't, you didn't work hard enough.
And if you were able to keep up with an episode of "I didn't know I was pregnant" while doing this routine, you weren't working hard enough, either. :-D
I'd recommend giving at least 48 hours between HIIT sessions. Especially to start. Or at least switch machines frequently. Just like any other exercise strategy, mixing it up is always the safest thing for the body. While it's a wonderful form of cardio, I've found HIIT can be pretty taxing on the system and injuries are more likely if there is not adequate rest between sessions.
Let me know what you think!
Friday, December 28, 2012
"I want your abs!".
I get this comment a lot. While I know it's meant as a compliment, some of the people who say this are seriously trying to get abs just like mine. They will write me telling me they've eaten what I eat, exercised like I exercise, and done their level best to emulate me. And still they don't have my abs. They want to know what they are doing wrong.
And here is my answer: Nothing. They are doing nothing wrong.
See, other people doing what I do to get my abs is the equivalent of me doing what Figure Pro Erin Stern does to get her legs. Try as I might, I'll never have Erin's legs, because I am not Erin.
My lower half will always be my weak point, the place where I will always wish I could improve. There are broken veins and even at 10% body fat, when they are looking the best they can, there is always at least a little cellulite. To add insult to injury, at body fat that low there's also saggy skin right under my glutes.
So what's a bottom-heavy girl to do? I capitalize on my abs, arms, shoulders, and back (I have awesome back muscles!). I show these parts off. I hide my legs as much as I need to so that they don't take away from the beauty of my upper body.
This doesn't mean I don't work on my lower body, because I do. I work REALLY hard on it- Not only do I want to see improvement there, but those big muscles also burn the most fat. And I need to keep my fat levels low for the sake of my health. For me it's about more way more than appearance- It's about being healthy and balanced.
But I have accepted that my legs and glutes will never be my strong suit. And you may need to accept that your abs will never be yours. Or whatever body part makes you crazy.
There are parts of your physique you can reshape: My shoulders are naturally very slight. I have worked to build muscle on them to help balance my wide hips. I've built up my back for the same reason. I've added muscle, and therefore definition, to my arms.
But some things (like wide waists, big calves, and bubble butts) can't be changed with diet and exercise. You might be very lean and still have a waist measurement almost the same as your hips, a bust line that is more than generous, or muscular calves that will never fit into a pair of skinny jeans. Like me, you might have to get down to an unsustainable and unhealthy body fat level to get true symmetry to your physique. The sooner you accept that the healthiest thing may for you may not be the most asthetically pleasing, the sooner you will be content with your body.
Change what you can, accept what you can't, aim for health over all, and celebrate the uniqueness of YOU!
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