Tag Archives: health

Remember to Wag Your Tail: Finding Inspiration from (wo)Man’s Best Friend

There’s nothing better than coming home after another trying day of life itself, only to be greeted by a wagging tail and sloppy kisses the minute you cross over the threshold.  When the rest of the world seems out of place and cruel, it’s nice to know you can come home to an animal that passes no judgement and doesn’t care if your hair looks awful, your clothes don’t fit or you’re just having a total bitchy day.  While any other human in the world might think you’re a hot mess, dogs will forever think you’re the most wonderful person on the face of the planet.

My Running Buddy, Dixie

My dog, Dixie, is no different.  Although there are times when she chews my socks or the corners of our throw pillows, ultimately she never fails at turning my frown upside down.  For a long time, I couldn’t get over her energy.  Being an English Pointer, she’s born to hunt and run for miles and miles on end.  Tiring her out is nearly impossible.  Don’t get me wrong, she can be a bigger couch potato than my husband and I put together, but when she has pent up energy…look out!

Since I’ve taken up running, I wanted to find a way to include her.  In the past, I had tried holding the leash, but running isn’t enjoyable when you’re arm is being tugged out of it’s socket because you’re dog wants to go faster and you are in no where near as good of shape as your pet (sad to admit it).  I would get so frustrated trying to keep her from dragging me down the street.  I tried harnesses, I tried gentle leaders, I tried it all.  Finally, I got frustrated and called it a day and went for my runs solo.

Then I found this lovely device called a hands-free leash.  Basically, it’s a belt that goes around your waist and allows the dog’s leash to attach to it.  This allows you to pump your arms or change the song on your ipod without having to putz around with a leash in your hand.  Also, you have more leverage if your dog does decide to yank you down the street. There are many types online and range from $20-30 dollars on average.  Some have bungee cord-like attachments to further prevent pulling.  Mine hooks up to my retractable leash and I use a no-pull harness which seems to be a perfect combination, along with the belt.

My Hands-Free Leash

This makes running with my dog a breeze and I’m now enjoying her company and learning from her in ways I could never have imagined.  Watching her prance down the sidewalk and stopping only momentarily to look at the occasional squirrel or goose in the parks; I see her in her element and I remember all of the reasons I began to run.

Of course, I want to be in shape, but there’s a freeing quality about hitting the pavement.  There’s a connection being built between myself, the dog and the world around me.  I’m not thinking about what I need to do tomorrow or the next day.  I’m not concerned with homework or housework, bills or paychecks.  My mind is dedicated to the moment itself.

When I come home and I am not in the mood for a run, I see my dog laying on the couch looking at me with eyes that are begging to go sniff some random patch of grass and stretch her long, gangily legs.  Suddenly, I’m motivated to lace up my shoes.  These are usually the days when I forgive myself if I’m not reaching any kind of PR or going quite as hard as I planned.  I remember to relax and in the end I find another reason to run…because I love it as much as my dog does.

To find out if you’re dog is a natural born runner or which dogs make the best companions for your running lifestyle, check out the article on Runner’s World.  According to this, my dog is capable of runs over 10 miles which isn’t surprising for anyone who has seen this dog run free.

Top Running Dogs according to Runner’s World

Other Reasons to Make Your Dog Your Running Partner

Diet Soda May Hurt Your Diet

Somehow, I have a feeling this post will strike an unpleasant chord with many readers, as I know people who take their diet soda very seriously. I am not one who has ever been a soda addict, caffeine addict or sugar addict (at least not in drink form).  Ideally, I would try to stick to water, but I find myself drinking ice tea or low-fat chocolate milk (post-workout) and even the occasional coffee.  I try to stay as far away from soda as I possibly can for countless reasons.  Mainly, I don’t get any satisfaction from drinking the bubbly, sugary drink with artificial colors and flavors.  If anything I feel more sluggish and my stomach is upset from the carbonation.  I end up more thirsty than I was before indulging in the beverage and since my stomach is filled with so much air, eventually I’m back to being hungry too.

The main complaint I have with diet soda is their claim that it makes you think it is somehow “healthy” because the word “diet” comes before it.  The fact is diet soda still has artificial sweeteners which, although haven’t been proven to be harmful, are still best avoided.  Just because the FDA hasn’t stepped in doesn’t mean the product is a good one!  Saccharine was banned in Canada and other countries because lab tests with animals found that it was linked to bladder cancer; the FDA has chosen to remove warning labels due to inconclusive evidence as to the effect it has on humans.  Aspartame is a high profile, artificial sweetener that is highly controversial.  Aspartame was discovered as a sweetener while researching anti-ulcer drugs.  The scientist spilled some on his hands and realized it had a sweet flavor, so now it’s in many diet drinks, water packets and other sugar-free items.  There are many, many names for aspartame and claims have been made that it contributes to anything from cancer to psychiatric problems in humans.  The jury is still out on this one as well, but in my opinion it isn’t worth the risk.

Another point to be made is studies have found that people who drink diet soda are not healthier in any way.  Reducing the food energy intake of sugar in soda doesn’t imply that person will have a lower food intake overall or lead to weight loss.  An independent study also found that 48% of the 9,000 people in their test group were at higher risk for weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.  The diet soda merely increased the person’s desire for sweet foods.

 

Homemade Sparkling Water Spritzer

Overall, I think it is best to avoid soda in general.  If you have to have it every once in a while that’s fine and dandy, but don’t justify your indulgence by telling yourself it is “healthy” and do your best to try and limit your intake as much as possible.

 

Best idea for soda drinkers?  Create your own soda!  Combine sparkling water (not club soda-too much sodium) and your favorite 100% fruit juice.  This is a great way to wean you off of the artificial crap and still get a taste of the bubbly stuff.  Sparkling water is hydrating and the NYTimes reported it can help keep calcium in your bones.

For a drink like this, pour glass half full with 100% juice of your choice and half full of sparkling water.

To make things more fun or fancy, try using frozen berries or fruit instead of ice cubes!!

Fancy Schmancy Fruit Cubes


Eat, Pray, Run

Run Like the Wind

Run Like the Wind

I have always hated running.  In high school, I yelled at my gym teacher during the dreaded (and mandatory) one-mile run – the one and only time I got in trouble in school.  I love the idea of being a runner.  I love the freedom running gives you and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a workout.  Still, I could never get over the feeling of not being able to breathe.  I was never comfortable with that initial lack of oxygen that kicked in after I ran a block or two.  Nevertheless, I have been determined to become a runner and hell I’m still stubborn enough to hold myself to that goal.

I recently began running on the treadmill at school (not the same as being outside – but it’s a freakin arctic tundra out there!).  I decided to hold off setting any mileage goals because I was completely unaware of my own capability.  Instead, I told myself I was going to go for at least 20 minutes regardless of the distance or the pace.

I made it about 2 miles in 20 minutes, which isn’t very fast and not a record breaking distance.  What-ev! I still was proud that I got myself to do it anways!  I’ve been averaging about the same time this whole week.  I’m hoping to push myself farther and faster next week.  I don’t feel physically dead by the end of the 2 miles, but mentally I can’t seem to convince myself that I’m able to go father.

Once I go as long as I can with the running, I switch to the recumbant bike and ride that for about 20 minutes at a medium level.

I feel much more comfortable being out of breath than I did in the past.  I attribute this to my P90x exercises and plan on to still keep those videos in my workout rotation.  My legs are much stronger from doing the program before and it seems to have kept them from aching while I run.

My goal?  To run a 5-K by this summer.  I know physically I’m totally capable.  I could probably do it now, although I wouldn’t be nearly fast enough.  So I have plenty of time to train and get myself prepared mentally and physicaly.

Why am I so determined to run?

1. To prove to myself that I can.

Born to Run

Born to Run

2. I saw this book called, Born to Run which is about a man’s quest to find the world’s “superathletes” which leads him to a tribe which runs for miles upon miles in the mountains…barefoot.

3. Runner’s World Magazine – just reading it makes me want to push myself harder.  Hearing other people’s stories lights a fire under my butt.

4. My husband – he has always told me I have the build for running and is always supportive.

5. Food - I like to eat and running is a great way to burn off those extra calories that comes along with a passion for food.

For anyone who is also interested in running, there are some great sites that can help you get started – as well as some amazing tools to keep you on track!

Map My Run – this website is great if you want to plan a run through your community.  Other runners map out their favorite runs that you can use or you can map out your own favorite spots!  Tells you how far you’ll end up going, etc.

Cool Running – fantastic site with lots of helpful tips and plans to get you from your couch to running a 5-K in no time. Tons of helpful info including gear, safety, nutrition, injury prevention and training plans. Even great for experienced runners and marathoners.

Run the Planet – another great website for finding routes, proper shoes, upcoming races and much, much more.

Healthy Dinner Southwestern Goulash

Last night, I was excited to make a meal I knew would be healthy and fast.  It literally took at the most a half hour to prepare and make.  There aren’t very many ingredients required for the recipe, but I did tweak a few things which is of course optional.  We had extra for leftovers and they still were good the next day, so you’ll have something for a healthy lunch too!

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked macaroni noodles (I used whole wheat for added health benefits)
1 lb. lean ground beef (I chose to use ground turkey and my husband didn’t know the difference)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained (I like Rotel with the added chilies)
2/3 cup frozen corn
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro
Optional:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
salsa
cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. 

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or soup pot, cook beef or turkey with the onion until meat is no longer pink, then drain the liquid remaining.  Stir in the tomatoes, corn, tomato sauce, chilies, cumin, pepper and salt.  This is where you would add about a half cup of salsa, black beans and the cayenne pepper as well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 3-4 minutes.

Noodles cooking, beef mixture simmering

2. Drain macaroni, add to meat mixture.  Stir in cilantro and heat through.

This was such a breeze to make.  I got the recipe from my Taste of Home cookbook, which I LOVE!  There is a section devoted to healthy, 30 minute meals and the nutrition information is included (see below).  Now, before you serve the dish, taste it to see if there it’s missing something.  You might prefer it on the spicier side or vice versa.  This is very versatile so you couldn’t go wrong adding to it.  I find it to be perfect for busy, hectic evenings and it will definitely remain on my recipe rotation!  Enjoy!

The nutrition facts for this particular recipe (without my optional ingredients) are:

Serving: 1 1/3 cups = 224 calories, 6 grams fat (2 saturated), 24 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, 19 grams protein

This may look sketchy, but I promise it's tasty!

Help! I’m a diet slacker!

Argh, I am so bad with blogging.  I feel like I never have time to just sit and pump out a good post!  I haven’t had a whole lot to write about as I haven’t been as strict with my workouts as I was a few weeks ago.  Nick is working and involved in a ton of campus activities and I’m still trying to get into a schedule.  We have been eating out a lot because we’re at school from 2-8:30 on some nights and by the time we get home it’s 9 and I’m definitely not in the mood to cook.  I know I need to start cooking meals or prepping them in the morning so they’re done or ready to go by the time we get home.  I know this is what I need to do and yet I haven’t practiced what I preach and just do it already!

Tomorrow night this will all change.  I’m going grocery shopping and stocking the house with healthy lunch materials that can be taken on the go as well as quick dinner fix-ins.  I am researching our campus gym so I can’t let school get in the way of my working out.  It’s about $50 or so per semester which isn’t bad.  They just tack the cost onto your tuition, so you don’t have to pay up front if you don’t want to.

All in all, I’ll be getting back on track here in no time.

As if one blog wasn’t enough for me to keep up with, I’ve decided to add another blog.  It’s called, My Life as a Disaster.  This will be a humorous personal project where I’ll write about the daily happenings of life in general.  I’ve added the link to the top of this blog, so please check it out and hopefully it will blossom into something fun for you all to read as well!

When Hard Work Pays Off

A long awaited update to my blog, but at least this time I’m posting an actual picture of the results I’ve been seeing.

I love that I can see my abs now!

Now, my weight has remained about the same. I wasn’t really concerned with dropping pounds. I mainly wanted to get strong and toned. I can honestly say I’m happy with the results so far!

I haven’t been doing P90x alone though. I sort of got burnt out on it when classes started back up. I began doing my 30 Day Shred video and the EA Active 2 to supplement on days I just couldn’t get up early enough for P90x.

I have found EA Active 2 to be really pretty good. I don’t use the bands, I use weights usually between 5-10lbs. depending on the exercise. Also, I make sure I really go at it hard and get my heart rate up there the entire workout.

I haven’t been dieting, but I do watch what I eat and make sure not to over indulge. I don’t beat myself up if I have a scoop of ice cream, I just don’t do it everyday!

I do use protein powder drinks with breakfast (usually a bowl of oatmeal). That breakfast keeps me full well into lunch time! Be careful to read labels on your protein powder because some are better than others.

So there you have it!  I’m excited I finally got this update on here…I’ve been quite the blog slacker lately.

Does This Video Game Make My Butt Look Big?

Video games, while fun for a short time, have always seemed to promote a sort of lethargy leading to overeating, weight gain and perhaps even a loss of brain cells.  I did not grow up playing video games for hours and while I own a PlayStation 3 we use it mainly for the Blu-ray player.

My husband has been involved with a program called Rehabbing with the Troops which helps wounded veterans get back into shape using a workout video game and a lot of support.  I wanted to try it myself but I have to admit I was sort of skeptical as to how difficult the workouts would be considering I’ve tried the Wii Fit and didn’t find it to be particularly challenging.  The Wii Fit did not allow for a flow from exercise to exercise and there was no way to calculate how hard you were working.

 

EA Active 2 Setup

EA Active 2 Setup

 

 

The program they are using for the veteran’s rehabilitation is the EA Active 2 for PlayStation 3.  The game uses three sensors; one for both your arms and one for your leg.  One of the arm sensors also contains a heart rate monitor.  Included with the sensors and the game is a resistance band.

The workouts are entirely customizable, although you can choose a pre-made workout if you’d prefer.  This afternoon, I decided to test the program and see if it would get me to break any kind of a sweat.  I must say, I was surprised at the results.

My workout I designed consisted of approximately 50 minutes of workout time.  I chose to do a couple warm up exercises like shoulder rotations and knee tucks.  I added cardio to the beginning of the workout to get my heart rate up.  I chose to do mainly sprints in which you race against the computer avatars in the game.  By the end of the cardio, my heart rate was up slightly and I was ready to move on to the main body of the exercises.

I chose to do a lower body and abdominal workout.  I would perform moves like alternating jump split lunges, split lunges with high knees and squats.  After every lower body set, I would move on to an ab exercise like flutter kicks and reverse crunches.  Each set varied in reps, but I had it set to HARD so the reps were about 24 and I did two sets each.

The alternating jump split lunges and the split lunges with high knees were by far the most challenging for me.  They are plyometric in the sense that you’re getting off the ground and at the same time strengthening your body.  My legs were hurting a little, but my heart rate was in the zone and I was doing some heavy breathing.  I chose to finish off with more cardio like mountain climbers and skipping (jump rope).  I ended with a few stretches to cool down.

 

Workout

Active 2 Workout

 

At the end of the workout, my heart rate monitor said I burned 330 calories in those 50 minutes.  This isn’t huge calorie burn.  Still, it’s a much, much better workout than I was expecting.  I’m sure I could make the workout even more difficult if I wanted to burn even more calories.  My average heart rate was about 123 according to the monitor, although I peaked at about 170.

 

Heart Rate

Heart Rate Monitor Reading

 

 

Overall, this is a much, much better program than the Wii Fit and offers a wide array of workout options.  I wouldn’t necessarily replace any of my current workouts that I do, but I would definitely add this to the mix.  It’s always good to have variety and at the end of the day, this is fun and you’ll absolutely break a sweat!  This video game is not the kind that will make your butt look big.

My Diet Pit Fall…almost.

 

Apple Dip

= DELICIOUS!

 

 

I recently fell victim to a not so healthy caramel apple dip.  It’s advertised as “low-fat” and tastes great!  But unfortunately the calories are 150 per tablespoon.  For someone who slathers her apples in the dip, I need something that allows for a little more wiggle room in terms of calories.  I probably have that one tablespoon after eating only two apple chunks.  This would have been a diet disaster if I hadn’t caught that on the nutrition label! Yikes!

A healthy alternative which I have been munching on is made with either non-fat yogurt or reduced-fat cottage cheese.

Directions:

Take about 1/3 cup of either the yogurt or cottage cheese

Add 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

Add cinnamon to taste.  Also could add nutmeg if you like that extra flavor.

Now, I am not positive about what this equals in terms of calories per serving.  I just stumbled across this recipe on a random website and decided to give it a whirl.  I know for sure that even if the calories are similar to that of the caramel dip I am replacing, there are a ton of added health benefits that you get from eating the non-fat yogurt like calcium and protein.  The same can be said for the reduced fat cottage cheese.  Also, the light brown sugar is about 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.  So if you add two table spoons, that would be 8 grams of sugar.  Still not too bad, especially if you don’t eat the whole thing of dip at one time or all to yourself!  Most yogurts that advertise having “fruit” in them also contain a ton of sugar anyways, so this is still not as much as you would be having otherwise.

Most importantly!! You are eating a healthy fruit full of fiber! Leave the skin on the apple for added nutrients.  This is actually a filling snack and will keep you from munching on crap the rest of the day.  I even eat this for dessert after dinner if I’m craving something sweet.

My Favorite P90x Moves

It took me forever to finally break down and buy the P90x system.  The price was the absolute biggest factor.  I couldn’t get myself to pay $120 dollars for a workout dvd.  Then I realized that most people pay at least that much going to a gym, so I found it to be more of an investment that anything.  Plus, even if I wasn’t the perfect P90x-er, I was still going to get a great workout.  In the end, I went on Amazon.com and found the system for $80 used.  I couldn’t say no to that price!

So I’m going to share with you my favorite moves from the workout dvd’s.  Now you can try these at home or at your gym and see if they work for you.  At the very least, you’ll see what I’ve been doing these past few weeks! I’ll try to explain them as best as possible. I’d much rather demonstrate them, but I supplied pictures to help you see what I am saying in my description of each move.

Here are my Top 5 Exercises

5) Balance Lunges

Balance Lunges

Balance Lunge

This move belongs to the Legs and Back series of exercises.  I love this move and was doing them even before P90x.

Place top of foot (or tiptoes) on chair. Lunge outward with other leg. Be sure to keep knee over ankle.  Dip down without allowing your knee to move past ankle. If necessary, modify by placing top of foot on chair. To intensify: Add light weights and increase range of motion.

4) Dive Bombers

Dive Bomber

Dive Bomber

The dive bomber is awesome.  I can usually only do 8-10 because my arms literally collapse.  This is part of the Chest and Back workout.

Begin in a “downward facing dog”-like position but with wider feet and arms.

Lower your head to the ground as you arch your bad – pretend there is a fence and you are going to go underneath it.  Stay on your toes as you do this move.

Finish by pushing yourself upwards.  Your back will be arched.  Your chest should be up with straight arms – this is like an “upward dog” pose in yoga.  You should still be kind of on your toes, your knees shouldn’t be touching the ground.

To go into the next move, either push back into a downward dog or do the move in reverse by lowering back into the second part of the exercise and again back into the downward facing position.  Either will work, but doing the move in reverse will be harder.

3) Right Angle Pose and Extended Right Angle Pose

 

Extended Right Angle Pose

Extended Right Angle Pose

This one is kind of tricky to explain, but I’ll do my best.  This is my favorite move from the Yoga series.  Begin in a deep lunge, don’t allow your knee to extend over your ankle in the process.  Next, raise your arm over your head.  Your other hand can balance on the ground nearest your front foot for now.

Next, bring your raised arm back behind you.  Use the other arm to reach under your front thigh and grab your wrist.  Hold this pose for 30 seconds or so.  Then do the other side with the opposite leg in front and the opposite arm reaching behind and underneath you.

2) Jump Knee Tuck

 

Jump Knee Tuck

Jump Knee Tuck

This is fairly straight forward.  The jump knee tuck exercise is part of the Plyometrics workout.  Basically, you’ll want comfortable shoes for this one and a cushy mat under you.  You’re going to spring off the ground and tuck your knees into your chest then land on your toes.  Try to make sure you don’t come booming down to the ground – you should land relatively quietly if you’re landing on the balls of your feet.  Do this multiple times for at least 30 seconds.  The last 10 seconds, pick up the pace and do as many as you can very fast.

1) The Push-Up

 

Push Up

Push Up

Surprise!  Anyone who has read through my blog knows I am a stickler for push-ups.  They really are the best exercise that hits all the best places on your body.  You’ll work your chest, butt, arms and abs.  No more saggy anything with this move.  Heck, if it’s good enough for those tough army soldiers, it’s good enough for me!

Now, start in the plank position.  Lower yourself, keeping your back straight (not saggy and don’t allow your butt to stick out in the air).  Keep lowering your body until your arms form a 90 degree angle.

Next push back up onto your hands, keeping proper form and then repeat the exercise.

Your wrists may hurt, so try getting the push up bars as these will keep your wrists from straining and will also extend your range of motion.

So there is just a taste of my daily burn.  I’ll post more exercises as I go.  I hope this helped anyone who was curious as to what the P90x program entails.  Obviously there is a LOT more exercises, these are just my favorites that I look forward to sweating through.

P90x Update Part 2

So it’s been a while since I posted an update, but after the holidays I decided to sort of start the program over. I had missed too many days and I didn’t feel like I was doing myself any favors by pretending my slacking wouldn’t matter.

This time I’m not using the same recipes that is recommended in the P90x nutrition manual; however, I am cooking healthy meals for myself. I am mainly using my Taste of Home cookbook, which has a whole section dedicated to 30 minute healthy meals. I haven’t had a flop yet and even my husband agrees that they taste delicious. The P90x meal plan was fine, but it required a lot of random ingredients that may only be used for one recipe. Overall though, their nutrition plan is probably good, but I find my healthy cookbooks and allrecipes.com to be my personal favorites.

I’ve been strict on getting my workout in every morning. I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the easier it is to wake up and do it again. My body is sore the next day, but I’m sure that’s because of the long holiday hiatus I embarked upon and will get better as I go.

The good news is I have lost 3-4 pounds and it is staying off. I weigh myself consistently first thing in the morning and before breakfast. This makes it more accurate of a measurement of my progress.

I will post a before and after picture for all in the next couple days!