Monday, March 11, 2013
I've heard so many people who are not where they want to be in their fitness journey worry about what others in the gym will think about them. I get this- I have been not fit and afraid to go to the gym, not fit and going to the gym, fit going to the gym, and a trainer who works IN the gym. Basically, all sides of the equation.
And so, based on not only my own personal experience but from what I have polled other people of all categories, here is what people of various points in their fitness journeys are thinking when they see a very overweight and out of shape person in the gym:
- The person not fit and afraid to go to the gym sees you walking into the gym and is envious that you have the guts to go in there. As a bonus, you may have unwittingly inspired them to try it, too.
- The person not-fit and going to the gym is thinking the same thing you are, of course. Which is something along the lines of "Oh, look! Someone like me!". You help to make them feel like they belong.
- The fit person going to the gym... well.... no offense, but they aren't thinking about you much at all. They actually are so focused on and/or worn out from their own workout that they don't have the energy to think of you. Their primary thought is "Dear God, please let me survive this workout." But if they do have a fleeting thought about you it is "Good for them! They are just where they need to be!"
- And the Personal Trainers in the gym are thinking several things, depending on their situation. If they are with a client they probably aren't paying any attention to you- They are focused on their client. If they aren't with a client, they are thinking the same thing the fit person working out in the gym is thinking- That you are just where you need to be, although probably with a bit more pride in you being there, since Trainers are schooled in how hard it is for someone who is not in stellar shape to even get themselves through the door.
Another thing the trainer might be thinking is that they wish you would ask them for help if you have a quick question. The fact is that we see people execute a lot of moves incorrectly and so very want to straiten them out, but we don't. This is because we have learned that 9 times out of 10 people don't appreciate it and look at us as judgmental, even though we were truly trying to help. So we learn to bite our tongues and wish that someone would ask "If you have a minute, could you please show me how to do this?". Just don't ask us when we are with a client- They are paying for us to pay 100% attention to them.
It's your workout, it's your business. Do it because it is good for you, not because of what anyone else thinks. Odds are it's not nearly as bad as you are imagining, anyhow.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I really suck at making brown rice on the stove. White rice? I'm a pro. But Brown rice? The long-cook kind? Just about every time it comes out crunchy.
I knew about rice cookers (Who doesn't know about rice cookers?), but I thought it would wind up being just another appliance that was more trouble than it was worth and after two frustrating attempts it'd wind up in a garage sale. That is, until I posted another whiney status update on Facebook saying that I, once again, broke the brown rice. That prompted someone (may have been Carolyn, who told me to suck it up and get a coffee grinder for my flaxseed: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=5260240 ) to tell me that rice cookers do a great job at making brown rice the way it should be (non-crunchy), and that they aren't hard to use OR hard to clean, which were my biggest concerns.
So I asked for a rice cooker for my birthday, and my husband gave me one. I told him to please not get me the kind that vacuums the carpets and does taxes. I just wanted the most basic model possible, because I never use the extra stuff on appliances. He was obedient and got me the basic model by Aroma:
It comes with a steamer insert thingy, so that you can cook veggies on top (It has yet to be put into action. See? I don't use extra stuff), and a measuring cup. The inside is non-stick and the inside of the top of the lid pops off for super-easy cleanup:
The process for making rice with this thing couldn't be simpler- Toss the rice and water in there, close the lid down tight, plug it in, and turn it on. It somehow senses when the rice is done and moves it to the "keep warm" setting for several hours. No watching for water to boil, cleaning up of boil-overs on my stove, or scrubbing burnt rice of of the bottom of a pan because I accidentally cooked it too long. Additionally, I can set it off to the side and all my burners are still free for anything else I might be cooking. As an added bonus, it's ready in about half the time it takes to make rice on the stove.
The ratio of water to rice are different for brown rice than white, so I still have to look it up in the manual each time I use it, but let me tell ya something; this thing couldn't be easier to use. And the rice has never once turned out anything other than wonderful! Sometimes I use chicken broth instead of water, for some extra flavor. I almost always cook up more than we need and store the leftover in the fridge to use as a healthy carb over the next few days. (Did you know that cold brown rice makes a wonderful addition to salads?)
As is always the case, though, I started thinking: I usually have oatmeal for breakfast, which I cook in my Micro Steamer (blogged about it here: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=4305785 ). But I've wanted to try steel cut oats. The thing is, they take so blessed long to cook that I only tried them once. I'm just too hungry in the mornings to wait that long to eat, plus I had to keep stirring them because they threatened to burn to the bottom of my pot. Since the cooking method for steel-cut oats is very similar to rice, I started wondering if I could cook them in the rice cooker. I did a quick Google search and, sure enough, you can. One part oats and three parts water, but don't fill the cooker more than half full, because oats like to foam up when they cook. This is REALLY cool, because I can jump out of bed, dump the oats and water in the rice cooker, then run off to the bedroom to make the bed, brush my teeth, and do my normal morning "stuff". When I get to the kitchen, the oats are pretty much done. I just give them a quick stir because there is water on top, then close the lid back down and let it absorb a bit while I get my vitamins together, feed the dog, and make my eggs or mix up a protein shake.
So there 'ya have it- My third and final gadget blog. (To link my first one, click here: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=5258932 The link to the second one is above in the coffee grinder link.) Useful things I use regularly and make my life a lot easier AND healthier. Let me know what you think! (And tell me what you use YOUR rice cooker for- I'm always looking for new ideas!)
Friday, February 22, 2013
Yep. I said coffee grinder. And it's all Carolyn's fault.
My friend Carolyn, of Fabulous Fitness fame, read me whining one day about having to buy ground flaxseeds in such large quantity that I feared they were losing their nutrients before I could use them. See, flaxseeds are wonderful little nutritional powerhouses, but you can't get absorb their nutrients in the whole form. They have to be ground. Here's where the problem comes in: They start to lose their nutrients fairly quickly (within a week or two after grinding). A bag of ground flaxseeds lasts a VERY long time when you are only using a tablespoon most days.
So I whined about it, and Carolyn told me to get one of those mini coffee grinders to grind them as I use them. She said it cost about ten dollars at WalMart. Go get one, already, and stop your whining! (Okay, she didn't say it JUST like that, but it makes for a more interesting story.)
Anyhow, I went to WalMart and got one, and Carolyn was wrong: It wasn't ten dollars- It was thirteen. (Carolyn- you own me three bucks.)
Anyway, I took it home, read the directions (yes, I am one of THOSE people), dropped some whole flaxseed into it that I purchased in the bulk section at United Market Street for about sixty-eight cents (I wasn't going to buy a whole bag just to find out it didn't work), pressed the little button and..... viola! Ground flaxseed, nutrients intact. That was pretty cool! (Can you tell I am easily amused?)
The only caveat is that once you start grinding flaxseeds with the coffee grinder, you do NOT want to grind coffee with it. Or so I've heard. The microscopic bits of flaxseed kinda cling to the inside of the grinder. It's very hard to clean completely. I'm going to make a guess that flax coffee is probably not so tasty.
So me and my little coffee grinder lived in harmony with the flaxseeds. Then one day I started hearing about oat flour. And then I found a recipe I wanted to try with oat flour in it. (Chocolate PB Protein Brownies by Julie Lohre: teamfitbody.com/699/ ) I didn't want to buy an entire container of oat flour for a recipe that calls for just a cup. So I started thinking.... and Googling (what DID we do before Google?)........
Upon investigation, I found out that oat flour is simply finely ground oatmeal. The recommendation was to grind it in a blender. This sounded dusty to me. I hate dust. And then my eye fell on my little coffee grinder. I thought "I wonder?", and dropped some oats in there. A whirl or two later, and I found myself staring in amazement at oat flour! And, to make matters better, when I poured the oat flour out of the grinder, the thing was clean as a whistle. Double benefit. Yay!
The recipe was good, by the way, but, of course, I altered it to my own taste. Here's a link to my version: allrecipes.com/personalrecipe/634901
And there you have it- More information than you ever wanted about mini coffee grinders. But if you are a flaxseed eater, I'd highly recommend one. Cheap, easy, and takes up almost no space. How much better does a gadget get?
For Gadget Blog #1, click here: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
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.
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!
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