Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yo-Yo's: Closing Out the Year

Happy Holidays again, to you all! I hope everyone has caught up on their sleep deficit, relaxed and destressed with family and friends (or after coming home from family and friends as the case may be), and that you're ready for a fresh start.

It's hard to believe that 2009 is coming to a close tomorrow, so expect a New Years Resolution post from me tomorrow or Friday! For now, I want to talk about something that we all consider to be a negative: holiday weight gain.

It's no secret that we gain weight during the holidays--tis the season of overindulgence, after all. I've read various reports that, on average, an American gains anywhere between 5 and 7 pounds from Halloween to New Years. Yikes!

It's gotten me thinking. I thought about why, if we know it's coming, we find ourselves shaking our heads on Jan. 1, dusting off our running shorts and gym memberships, and vowing "this year will be different." But will it really be different?

I'm having a hard time articulating what I mean, so allow me to use myself as an example.

Remember when I told you about the private blog that my dear friend and I are keeping to stay accountable? We recently had a conversation about sticktoitiveness (it's a word now, just keep reading) and what happens when you start to crumble.

I am an embarrassing yo-yo health person. For being an instructor and having a blog, I'm pretty ashamed to admit this. Chadd could probably regale you with the number of times I've come in after 3 weeks of solid working out and a healthy eating habit and say "I feel so good being thin and in my healthy weight range. I'm going to stick to it!" And then something happens. Friends come into town, I fit into tiny jeans and feel entitled, I go on vacation and it suddenly all goes to hell and I'm bloated and irritable and the cycle begins. Chadd is kind enough to at least pretend to believe me that "this time, I'm going to keep it up."

You see, I follow this pattern:
Week 0: Planning phase. I pick out recipes, make gym schedules, tell everyone I know that I'm losing x number of pounds.
Week 1: Beginning of the workout. I'm embarrassed with how much my athletic prowess has suffered, but I SWEAR I feel like a new person by day 2.
Week 2: Slight changes in my body. This keeps me going.
Week 3: More significant changes in my body, this is where Chadd starts noticing a difference, my yoga pants aren't skin tight, and my right out of the dryer jeans only require a deep breath in rather than a few jumps around the room.
Week 4: Doom.

My co-blogger recently hit Week 4, for what I believe is the first time, though she can feel free to correct me. This is that point where the realizations of what a lifestyle change is kick in. We will always be watching calories, fat, carbs, in restaurant meals where they cut corners on making delicious health food to make delicious, faster to make, fatty food. We will never be able to really truly let loose and we'll likely look at the menu online before going out with friends and be "that girl" at the table who has about a billion special requests. This is a choice, at least if we wish to never yo-yo again, we have to stick by.

It feels like a loss. I could point to articles about why we emotionally eat or how the happy chemical dopamine is created by digesting chocolate, but it would only tell you why and, to some people, marginalize how this point in a lifestyle change feels.

It's a scary decision. It's ONE MORE THING to think about, and on long days (and short days, too), that's a tall order. It's also hard socially. We are a polite society--whether you're trying to lose 5 pounds or 50, we're never going to tell our friend who announces this fact "good for you! I agree with that decision and I support you," because it's sounds like saying "you're right. you did need to lose weight" (even if it's true). Instead we say "really? You definitely don't need to!" It's usually a lie (sorry Miss Manners). At dinner we say "are you serious? Just enjoy yourself, one night won't hurt" but it does. Because 1+1+1+1...rapidly adds up. Do me a favor and stop saying this to your friends at dinner. Be an uplifting supporter in a better way. "Wow good for you! I admire that" sticks with that person a lot more than a dismissive/permissive comment does. We are a difficult society to live in to become healthy.

Doesn't that sound odd? It seems like there is a gym on every corner, hotel, office, right next to the Starbucks. Almost every magazine has some sort of health related tip about losing weight and we obsess over it on a daily basis. It's like Chadd's analogy to money--we're all obsessed with it, but we're too "polite to talk about it."

We are also sharers of guilt. If you and your best friend are out at dinner and she orders something health conscious but you were really eye-ing the creamy luscious pasta...inevitably one of two things happen--you try to convince her to fall with you, or you go the healthy route. Unless your friend has a will power of steel, I'll let you guess what normally happens.

Just socially, there's a lot against you. Don't even start with me on what lies ahead of you when your own willpower begins to fade and a snickers bar sounds good.

This is where as your weight is following the downslide of the yo-yo, your morale is running right along side. It's what happens to me at least 3 times a year and every single time, I tell myself it won't happen again. I've heard that the percentage of people who quit smoking drops with every attempt they have. If you go that route, then quit, and find yourself down the same path again, it becomes well worn and familiar. It's why people who quit quit quit the first time are so much more successful.

Do you see what I mean about the whole New Years Resolution thing? Is this year REALLY going to be any different? Are you going to get to Feb 1 and crap out?

Please don't mistake what I'm saying. What I'm asking of you is something that will change, hopefully, how you go about achieving your health resolution in 2010. I am not saying that you cannot or that the odds are against you, instead, I'm asking you for the next....let's say 48 hours, to really really contemplate what it is that you want to achieve. Making your resolution list should take more than 10 minutes. Put some thought into it and make the decision that you will follow through. Don't let this be a yo-yo year for you--weight or resolutions.

I made it through Thanksgiving to Christmas losing 8 pounds, stayed solid the week I was home with my family, and am back on track to keep losing down to my goal weight just before my February birthday. How am I going to beat the yo-yo?

I acknowledged the yo-yo in my life.
I confronted it and banished it and Promised myself (remember the 2 P's) it would not return.
I made a pact with my co-blogger that will not likely be broken because I found someone who will hold me accountable and who understands/is battling the yo-yo with me.

What were your resolutions last year? Did you achieve them? Yes or no--how did you achieve them or what made you stumble?

Stay tuned for a Resolution post!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hello loyal blog readers. I apologize for my lack of posting--I've been at home enjoying much needed family time and vacation.

I'll keep the message brief today--Merry Christmas to everyone! I'm currently surrounded by new fitness clothes, low fat cook books, a beautiful set of knives, and my new favorite gismo....the body bugg from 24 hour fitness that monitors calories burned! EEE!

Expect a full review shortly, but for now, Merry Christmas to you and yours and I'll be back to blogging in the next couple of days!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Live Blogging - Cooking Locally Root Vegetables and Pork Loin

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you...the first live blogging event of this blog!
Today's cooking locally menu comes to you through precarious events! Your brave blogger attempted to trudge through the snowpacolypse 2009, the blizarrd that snowed in all of DC (even the gov't has Monday off due to the snow!)

This morning I suited up in long underwear, snowboard pants, long sleeves, a fleece, and a ski jacket, ski gloves and my boots. I got all the way to the gym to find it closed. I called and no one picked up, so this should have been a sign, but I didn't want to let my class down if they did show up.

On the way over, I glanced towards where the market is and didn't see the tents, so, I walked to the gym, dejected. I was so looking forward to finally getting to the market. When I saw the sign on the door, I turned around, looking a little like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story. Coming back, I took the long way due to a huge bank of snow, and saw a familar sign "Farmer's Market Open" and ran my little fluffy pants over there.
There were 8 very brave farmers there this morning. I'm sure their journey from PA, WV, VA, MD, was in no way easy, but boy was I glad they showed.
Here's what I purchased. Remember the rules:
- I will bring $30 in cash. That's it.
- I will be cooking for 2 people.
- I can only use items from the market, unless it's spices or dairy
- I will create my own menu/recipes (though I know I'll start out using the interwebs as a cheat sheet)

1.42 lbs of Pork Loin
- Cedarbrook Farm, Kearneysville, WV (78 miles)
- $15.84

Butternut Squash Ravioli
- Smith Meadows Kitchen, Berryville, VA (66 miles)
- $7.00

Cherry Tomatos:
- The Farm at Sunnyside, Rappahannock County, Virginia (70 miles)
- $4.00
Brocolli, Radishes (1 white, 1 red), 1/4lb. salad mix
- Tree & Leaf, Waterford, VA (47 miles)
- $7.00

I know, I know, I went 2 dollars over. Truth be told, the hardest part of shopping was determined what to make tonight. I read some advice in an article I'll try to track down that my mom sent to me about buying at the market--the advice was "don't go with a shopping list." So, I didn't. I picked up what looked good! I am having to fudge the garlic as they didn't sell any there. I'm stepping into the full cooking locally thing slowly, so for now, main ingredients will have to do.

On the menu tonight:
Mesculin Salad with Grape Tomatos
Porkloin with garlic vinegarette
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Roasted Winter Veggies
It'll probably be a bit overkill, my goal is to have leftovers tomorrow and kind of a tasting menu tonight. Fingers to roast some veggies.

So, I made the mistake of putting the pork chops in too soon, but I did roast a head of garlic, make a baslamic garlic sauce for the pork, roasting veggies, and currently boiling water for the ravioli. I really failed on timing my meal correctly, but it's okay, Chadd's pretty forgiving.

Final review:
Pork was a bit tough, but I think that's my fault. The taste of the pork was very good, even when I overcooked it, it was flavorful with just salt and pepper. Also, the pork was very very lean. Loin cut, the guy from the market told me, doesn't have a lot of fat between the muscle fibers.

Turnips: easily my favorite part of the dinner. I tossed them in my cast iron skillet with some oil, paprika, chili powder, and salt, I baked it in the over for about 30 minutes, turning every so often. They were like a more fibrious potatoe. Hard to explain, but cooking the turnips makes them less "spicy."

Brocolli: OH MAN. Delicious. There was an amazing freshness to the brocolli. Lurv to the brocolli.
Ravioli: Without sauce, they get draw, but definately delicious. I recommend adding butter, maybe a very light sauce, oil based.

All together, successful. Next time, I need to be a bit better about timing. But so far, so good. I can definately tell the difference between store bought and locally grown.

What are your favorite winter picks at the market? Your favorite recipe? What should I have done better this time around? (aside from the timing?)

The Snowpacolypse

Wow. If you've been watching the news or live in the greater DC area, you are aware of the great snowpacolypse, also known as "snOwMG."

It was crazy--we had snow falling for at least 24 hours and had up to 2 feet in snow. After I went to pick up Chadd on Friday night, we were glad to have no plans for the weekend. We went to bed late, then got up late to see at least a foot on the ground already.

After a breakfast of biscuits and gravy (I know, I know....), we went for a walk around the neighborhood, then up towards the zoo to see Rock Creek Park covered. A group had gathered with sleds, make shift sleds, and beers to go sledding down the steep slope.

We grabbed a cardboard piece with garbage bags wrapped around it. It actually worked pretty well. We'd rush down the hill and then trudge back up a steep slope, slipping a few times in the process.

All in all, we were probably outside for about 2 hours. And let me tell you--that wasn't 2 hours of easy walking. I have no idea how many calories I burned, but despite not working out Friday or Saturday, I think Saturday's 2 hours of playing in the snow count. My heart rate was up while I was chasing Chadd through the snow that had been plowed onto the sidewalk from one of the more major roads.

Which leads me to my thesis of today:
Look for exercise in places where you won't call it exercise.

I probably burned a couple hundred calories yesterday, just playing in the snow and climbing the sledding hill. You can burn calories doing your laundry--I pack all our laundry in an ikea bag, climb the stairs to the top and work my way down with the laundry in the bag, getting lighter.

You can take the long walk back from the grocery story carrying groceries, etc.

Exercise doesn't have to take place in the gym. So when your gym is closed due to incliment weather, take it as a cue to enjoy the storm.

As a PS....don't be one of those crazy runners who were out yesterday. I worried that each of them were going to sprain an ankle or twist a knee.

Pps--look tonight for my first cooking locally experiment! I've got locally raised pork loin, radishes, salad greens, grape tomatos, and locally made pasta. It's going to be delicious!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things I've Been Missing - Yoga

If you know me in my personal life, then you have probably heard my say on more than one occasion "yeah, I'm just not a yoga person. I'm more like...'ommmmm.....what's for dinner....oommmm...oh crap, I forgot to feed the cat...'"

Until last night.

I was at one of the many office holiday parties I had to attend and after an unsuccessful attempt to help my team build a gingerbread house (mine collapsed after I finished the pez tile roof), a co worker of mine, who I ran into at my gym earlier this week, said she was headed out and that she was going to try and make the 7:30 yoga class at our gym.

I had been whining to anyone who would listen that I would likely crap out once I got back from the party and not to go the gym, but that I had wanted to go. This was all the motivation I needed. Do I like yoga? No. Did that occur to me when I asked if I could join her? Not really.

I'm going to sound like a real snot for a moment, so bear with me. Here are the reason I've never liked yoga:

- I do not like the yoga culture. I want to. But I just don't. I don't like having to be enlightened and superior in that enlightment. It's incredible exhausting to me.

- I feel like yoga is the club to which I was never invited. I am terrified to go to a class because, truthfully, I have no balance. Chadd can attest. I don't want to be that moron in the back of the class who starts the domino effect. And all the superior yogis will break out of their floating trance and look at me like some unenlightened twit (which I am). This is a serious fear of mine.

- I like having my heart rate high when I am working out. I am a product of Americanism. I like things fast. I do things fast. When forced to sit still at a desk for 8 hours, I have at least 4 tabs opened on a browser. I make lists upon lists of things I.Must.Do.ASAP. And this translates entirely to my workouts. Heart rate up, sweat pouring down, which is why I'm a runner.

- I like being the best. Look. I'm an instructor. I teach. I am typically the best one in my class when I'm not teaching because I'm damn good at it. Call me cocky (I am), but when in a group setting, aka, group fitness, I have to do it right. I don't know the first thing about yoga. I will not be the best, or even close to it. See domino effect fear above. I recognize it takes practice, but you can usually pass as "good" at step after 4 classes. That happens in yoga in like...4 years.

- I can't find a good starting point. I've been to beginning yoga (I lay on my back and thought about birds or something.) And then I've been to other yoga classes where, when they ask who is 10 classes or less into yoga, and I raise my hands, the instructor furrows their brow and goes "this might be a reach class for you." I'm sure this is bad timing on my part and I fully admit I haven't gone out of my way to try yoga, but it hasn't exactly welcomed me with open arms.

- My feet cramp up. Any suggestions on beating this one?

But, all those aside, I went because I wanted to go to the gym and for whatever reason, yoga sounded like a good idea.

And it was! I loved it. I had the best time sweating my butt off, exhausting my muscles, and truly feeling my body. I didn't have the ability to think beyond what I was doing, which is different that most yoga classes I have attended. I was neither bored, nor overwhelmed.

I enjoyed challenging myself. I was totally unaware of the people around me (aside from the woman who farted and the glistening specimen of the male species, shirtless across from me). But mostly, if I noticed someone, it was because I was just looking in their direction. I never felt scruitinized, I never felt intimidated. Instead, I felt like I got a great workout and a great stretch all in one.

It didn't hurt that the instructor was very funny, forgiving, and not at all militant like some yogis I have known. He played caribbean christmas music (steel drums!) and the grinch's song. People asked questions through class, murmured to each other occasionally. It really was a relaxing, but good workout.

I managed to do a full "wheel" pose, also known as a back bend, and for about 3 seconds, some sort of thing where my knees were on my forearms and I was standing on my hands. Accomplishment!

I'm glad I went last night because this morning I had agreed to meet my morning gym buddy at 6:30. Let me tell you. Without class last night, I would have fallen right back into the pattern I've been in. It wasn't that it wasn't a good class, it was, it just wasn't as friendly as the night before.

Of course, this is because it's apparently a level 2-3 class (this is not on the schedule, mind you). It was also held in the spa...steam room doors open, sauna doors opened (also not on the schedule). Almost bikram yoga (again, not on the schedule). All of this alone would have scared me away from the class.

Thankfully, the instructor picked up on the fact that we were not enlightened yogis, so she described a lot of the movements. But, people, is it just me, or are all the real words for yoga poses almost impossible to distinguish from each other? The one for childs pose and lie on your back are astonishingly familiar to my very untrained ear. She asked if we were ready for garubaisghvarish and, face down on my mat, sweat driping down my back, I was terrified to ask what that meant. Turns out, it mean lie on your back and doze off.

I think this is a new thing for me. I want to keep it up. I may not stick to having Niagra Falls of sweat running down my back on Thursday mornings, but Wednesday nights I can do.

What's your exercise aversion/fear? I encourage you to try it out, it might not be as bad as you think.

(Don't forget to give me 20!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Time of Year

This time of year, two things are on our mind: food and the consequences of food (average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years is 5 pounds). At least, these are two of the many things on our minds along with gifts, decorating, family, parties, etc.

Please also keep in mind that there are others who go cold and hungry through this time of year which should be filled with love and celebration.

Today I joined the Pound for Pound Challenge, sponsored by The Biggest Loser and their affiliates.

I pledged 10 pounds, meaning that 14 cents per pound I have pledged will go towards food at my local food bank.

It's not a lot, but it is some. Also, consider taking that $5 you found in your coat pocket from last winter and putting it in a salvation army can, or writing a check to your local food cause. Personally, I'm a big fan of So Others Might Eat (SOME).

No one deserves to be hungry, even if they've made choices that put them in that situation. Now is the season for compassion. So skip that third piece of pie and share the Christmas spirit with someone who really needs it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I'm out in Pentagon City tonight for an appointment and I had to walk through the food court to get to the side of the mall I needed to go to. Oh man.

Let me tell you about my Achilles Heel. Pretzels. Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Those things, as bad as they are (and they're not even that good sometimes), they're one of my biggest failures. I think it's probably because I always go to the mall at a bizarre time, am in a rush, and don't want to eat fast food. What do I wind up doing? Pretzel! A buttery, slightly chewy, warm pretzel and a diet coke. Man that goes a long way with me...

News flash:

A pretzel from Auntie Anne's is 340 calories.

Take that in and then consider my lunch today:
4oz. salmon, pan cooked: 233 cal
1 serving instant brown rice: 150 cal
1 Apple: 55 cal
Total: 438

For a little less than an 100 calories, I could have a billion times the food...but yet the pretzel calls.

I'm also not in a place where I can get some water, so one of my tricks is unavailable. If I can get home, I can make it to the kitchen, hopefully bypass all of the chex mix I have sitting around from the party (note to self: send left overs with Chadd to work), and make some quick stir fry, with a ton of veggies and a little bit of pasta.

Time to calculate that...
1/2 Bell Pepper: 15 cal
1/2 Zuchinni: 20 cal
1/2 Onion: 14 cal
1/2 serving linguine: 100 cal
1/2 cup grilled chicken: 115
4 tbps soy sauce: 40 cal

Total: 304....which will probably leave me room for a small nibble of chex mix and a 4oz glass of red wine (95 calories).

Just gotta make it past the pretzel...

Don't forget to give me 20 this week! If you can't do the push ups, try doing wall push ups, at least for half of them, or down on your knees. Another option is to do 2 sets of 10 push ups/sit ups. That way, your body has a little time to rest. It's 20 situps/push ups every day this week and next!

What is your Achilles Heel?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Pact

A good friend of mine and I have a similar goal. It's a number of pounds. We are different people with different lifestyles and eating habits, but we both like to cook, have significant others, and enjoy a love/hate relationship with running. We decided to embark on something we call the Pact.

The Pact is kind of a social experiment for both of us--a combination of social media and gym-buddying. We have different schedules and live too far away to be reliable gym buddies, so we began a blog only visible to ourselves where we:
- Update daily the amount of calories we've eaten
- Update daily our workout
- Update Sundays our weight
- Update win/fails
- Post recipes we'd otherwise have to email to each other.

The beauty of social media!

We have agreed to keep the blog internal between us since sensitive information (such as numbers...eek) are post on there, but I will be cross posting only my own updates that are interesting enough for the larger general public.

I have had a hard time with one or the other--just a gym buddy or just technology. I've kept blogs, I've used online calorie counting software, hell I've even built my own spreadsheet that tracked things for me. The problem that I have with them is burn out. I obsess from between 2-8 weeks and then have one day where I don't get around to it and boom. Three weeks go by and I havent' touched my calorie intake.

Also, my blog or my tracker sheets don't call me at 6 am to remind me that I need to go to the gym or slap my hand when I'm about to eat pizza. They just chug along and do exactly as I tell them. And let's be honest, who doesn't lie from time to time? I mean, really, is anyone's driver's license accurate under "Weight." It might as well say "My Ideal."

I've been through an unreal number of gym buddies...and usually the problem is that we're on different fitness levels or interests. K, for example, hates the treadmill. While I don't love it, I don't hate it to the point of avoidance. Also, I enjoy going to the gym to talk to her. Not to work out. Additionally, my morning gym buddy is a good friend of mine and since we no longer work in the same area, our morning coffee walk is out of the question, so I am yet again eager to chat with her while I walk for a half hour. I should get real. If I'm going to get up at 6am, I'd better damn well be ready to run, not to chat.

So, hopefully this will give me the independence to keep up the gym routine that I need to have while getting the support of my gym buddy.

Results to come!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We'll be eating leftovers

Our Have Yourself a Merry Little Cocktail party was a huge hit. It was such a hit in fact that it didn't wind down until almost 3am. That being said....there was no getting up for the market this morning. The rain didn't help either. I promise--eating locally starts next weekend!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Finally Friday (and it's FREEZING)

I only have about 20 minutes until I need to leave the office to commence awesome Christmas shopping time with my gym buddy and have wine and dinner and a jolly good time, so I'll keep it brief.

I decided last night that before I could get my nails done and my eyebrows waxed (let's talk about a mess), I had to go to the gym or go for a run. Since I had a full hour of toning on Wednesday night, I was due for some good old fashioned cardio. I was all pumped, getting ready to leave my office, to throw on my running pants, a long sleeved shirt and a zip up and get out there.

The winter gods punched me in the face when I walked out of my office and into the metro. I didn't even go outside! Sucker punched by the frigid weather. No thanks.

By the time I got home, I was at least 30% ice and really in the mood for my favorite nails place (Dupont Nails on 20th, FYI), to rub my hands. But I made that promise (one of the P's) and I had to go through with it. Logical choice says go to the gym where it's warm. But for whatever reason I was really craving a good run up to the zoo (about 2.5 miles round trip).

Despite my better judgement, I suited just running tights, a long sleeve shirt and a fleece, complete with my pink and white skulls bandana and went out for a run. Great googily moogily, as my mom would say. FREEZING.

I did get the whole way there and back with pretty good time (despite a few ill timed stop lights) and got back in time to dethaw before hypothermia set in. It was that cold. A good run didnt' help me warm up. Then the winter side effect that I had forgotten about set in: coughing.

I spent the next 30 minutes coughing my lungs up, my chest burning. I need to do the research on why this happens--so prepare for an update. Suffice to say, I let my friend know who is doing the Jingle All the Way 10k this weekend to wear a bandana over her mouth to keep some of that air going in a bit warmer and not ice pick cold.

Don't forget to give me 10! Next week, starting Monday, we're going up 10!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Cooking Locally Project

Last night I had a stroke of genius. There are two things that I really love in life: fitness and food.

This is seemingly a contradictory love know, having to lie to one about your whereabouts when the other calls to ask where you are.

For example. Last night, I taught at good ol gdubs and it hit me that I had three beautiful cuts of salmon in the freezer from this weekend. I took one out and left it close in the microwave to defrost.

While at the gym, I thought about how I'd poach the salmon, put a little bit of lemon juice and dill over it with some spinach with a tiny spritz of apple cider vinegar. Food was calling and leaving voicemails on my cell phone while I was in the middle of lunges and bicep curls. It was saying "buuutttteeeeerr."

I got home, browned a bit of butter, threw in the beautifully thawed salmon, dusted with sea salt, black pepper, and dill weed. Perfect.

You can see my dilemma. Poaching salmon is too easy and boring. Browning butter and doing [what I assume is] a butter bake of the salmon is very Top Chef (which also happened to be on last night) and totally a middle finger to the hour long class I'd taught before. It didn't help that the spinach kinda sucked since it was frozen. As I was choking through spinach, I had that stroke of genius.

Now that I won't be teaching two classes on Sundays, I can go to the amazing Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sundays....and I can do what I saw featured on the marathon of Top Chef. Local cooking: Cook Locally.

A background:

One of my favorite restaurants, Founding Farmers follows this concept. Their menu revolves based on what is in season in the area (being about a 100 mile radius)--not what is flown in from Peru. Not to mention, their food is awesome. Soon to be guest-blogger Jill and I used to go there for brunch and girls nights out. Check them out and see what local food can do--great wine list as well.

And don't forget my favorite place: SweetGreen . SweetGreen is awesome to follow on Twitter, especially on Sundays where they let you know what they're picking up at the Dupont Market. Every week they have local featured items from the market, the farm they're from, and how far away it is. Step back and watch support of local organic food thrive and turn into the best salad you've ever had. You can also find me there about 3-4 nights a week.

So. As of this Sunday, provided I survive my Have Yourself a Merry Little Cocktail party on Saturday, I will be at the market in the morning.

The details:
- I will bring $30 in cash. That's it.
- I will be cooking for 2 people.
- I can only use items from the market, unless it's spices or dairy
- I will create my own menu/recipes (though I know I'll start out using the interwebs as a cheat sheet)
- I will post the results every Sunday night and give you a breakdown of where everything came from, how much it was, and how good it tasted.

In the mean time, check out Founding Farmers and SweetGreen and then give me 10!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reps and Sets

Tonight I taught a muscle pump class at GW during their finals week. I only have one more scheduled class at GW which is a bit of a bitter sweet thing. I have loved teaching there, learned a ton not only from my directors over the years, but also from the students themselves. I made some of my best friends in that studio and it will truly hold a special place in my heart.

But back to business. I promised my class that I would post today about why I almost always do 3 sets of 12-15 reps in every exercise we do.

First of all, I'm a big beliver in no-rest sets--switching between exercises one after another, then looping back around. I like to work the same area of the body, switching between antagonizing muscles to keep the heart rate up and exhausting the muscles faster. Let's admit it. Everyone wants to get out of the gym as soon as possible. For example--1 set of bicep curls, 1 set of tricep kick backs, 1 set of military presses, repeat.

So, why do I do it? It has a lot to do with a book I read in the very beginning of my teaching career: Sculpting Her Body Perfect. Brad Schoenfeld is a very very good exercise specialist. I've seen results using his techniques in myself and my students. If you're interested in technique and theory, I STRONGLY recommend this book. It's not a lot of jargon, most anyone who is familiar with a gym will understand it. It's also great for picking up new exercises as he has a great appendix of moves.

He espouses the following about reps and sets:

Note: He and I differ in one aspect, he doesn't believe in one right after another, he believes in rests, but I've combined some theories I learned in Personal Trainingn with his Toning only approach. Neither of us is wrong--it's a style thing.

"Sets: You should perform 3 sets of each exercise. This provides ample muscular stimulation without overtaxing your muscles."
My note: 3 sets is a good mental goal. It's enough to do a warm up set, a stabilization set (standing on one leg, let's say) and then a combination set...maybe bicep curls to a military press. The third round of sets is usually shorter because I like to do combination movements

"Repetitions: The target is 15-20 per set. It is essential to train with good form and apply continuous tension to your muscles during each repetition."
My note: I believe 12-15 is appropriate for a class, primarily due to lack of time, but also because I teach cardio in my classes. Schoenfeld's theory is based only on a conditioning work out. Trainers use the 3/12-15 a lot too.

So. Rule of thumb? In a group setting, 3 sets of 12-15 is appropriate. On your own or with a trainer? 3 sets of 12-15. However, what takes precedent is that you do the exercises the right way, and if that means you can't do more than 2 sets of ten, don't push it.

Don't forget to give me 10 today!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Give me 10

So while I'm sitting here watching the Biggest Loser Finale, I'm thinking about the mountains that people run across when starting a weight loss regiment. The bigger the loss needs to be, the bigger the mountain. Likewise, the longer it's been since that person went to the gym, the harder it is to go back.

Today, I'd like for everyone to give me 10. Give me 10 push ups and 10 sit ups once a day.

Really need to start out slow? Give me a wall push up. Just 10. Or start on your knees and do 10 modified pushups. Work your way up slowly to a full pushup. I would rather you do 3 right than 10 wrong.

The situps are not your high school gym class PE sit ups. Keep about a fist sized space between your chin and chest. You should lead the sit up with your chest, not your forehead. It will feel like you're being pulled towards the ceiling by a rope. 10 there. Need a challenge? Lift your legs to a table top (knees bent at 90 degrees).

Do 10 a week, slowly adding 10 more a week. Do that for 4 weeks and tell me how you feel. If you're not doing anything for yourself, do at least this during the holiday season. I'll do it with you.

Give me 10!

Monday, December 7, 2009


I grew up in the south where cold is "put a sweatshirt on until noon" and then it will have heated up enough to not be an issue.

Having been in DC long enough, I should know better and winterize properly, but I almost never do.

Think about winterizing your car. Also, something I never do but always need to. You change the oil to a lower temperature oil, you either put air in your tires or vice versa (never remember), and you keep that handy dandy heated ice scraper in your glove compartment (check!). You do these things because the cold is a little harder on your car than the summer.

Well, the same is pretty true with winter and your body. It might not seem like it. You always here about people worrying about working out in the summer (or maybe that's just the south.) You have heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, etc.

But in my experience, no one really talks about winterizing.

When it's cold outside, remember the following tips:
1) Warm up and cool down longer than normal. Your muscles will take longer to warm up and shorter to cool down. Both can cause injuries. Two examples: stretching a rubber band that's been in the freezer doesn't work very well. Likewise, if you put a hot plate into a cold freezer, you run the risk of a crack forming in that plate. A wise decision is at least 7 minutes on both ends.

2) Stay hydrated. It's hard to remember this one because your body doesn't give you the same cues it does in summer. When it's cold outside, we give off a lot of moisture. It's why your skin gets so dry in the winter. Keep a bottle of water around and try for at least 3 of them a day. 4 is your best bet. See what happens to your winter skin!

3) Related to (1), make sure you have warm gear on before and after you go out to go to the gym. Between home/car and the gym, keep sweats, jackets, hats, gloves, etc. at the ready, especially when leaving. You may have cooled down enough, but keep the benefit of the stretch that you got by keeping your muscles warm! If you're working out outside, don't just run out with shorts and a long sleeve shirt. Even if you're the type of person who gets to that point where it's too hot, please consider long running tights or a jacket you can take off and tie around your waist. Major injury prevention here!

4) Wear sunscreen. Just becasue it's cold doesn't mean there aren't UV rays out there. Protect your skin and get the added benefit of moisturizing dry winter skin. Find a good basic body lotion with an SPF of at least 15 for winter days. ESPECIALLY your face.

Finally, this isn't a winterizing tip per say, but it's important in the winter---

Don't let the cold weather and holiday season keep you way from staying active. Trust me when I tell you, you don't want to be huffing away on the treadmill Jan. 2. You'd rather be one step ahead of everyone who enjoyed the pie but didn't work it off.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plans and Promises

I've broken two of my cardinal rules again:

1) Don't go more than two days without posting
2) Don't go more than two days without working out

I posted that No Excuses link just a bit before the holiday season started (Happy Thanksgiving!) and I'm proud to say that it actually carried me through what I consider to be the hardest part of the holidays as far as staying healthy is concerned--being home.

That should speak to the quality of the time I get to spend with my family--I so enjoy hanging out and having (a few) glasses of wine with mom and talking and watching tv that the last thing I want to do is go for a run.

In good fitness news, I'm proud to announce that my mom completed her first 5k on Thanksgiving morning! She did it in just under 40 minutes, which is a huge accomplishment on top of finishing!

My brother and I also ran it, he smoked me at 23:28, but I did have a personal best of 24:28.

I can't tell you why specifically I was motivated to actually get up and go for a run twice more while I was home (I know, it wasn't much, but it was something.) I think mostly because this time while I was packing my workout clothes, I promised myself that I would get out there at least twice more on top of the 5k.

The secret to coming up against what is traditionally a hard season to stick to diets and exercises plans is two fold. Remember the two P's:

- A Plan
- A Promise

Make a REALISTIC plan. That's always my down fall--the realistic part (haha, says the Realist).

Unrealistic Plan: I will work out every day that I'm in Florida with my parents.
Realistic Plan: Out of the 6 full days that I will be home, I will exercise on three of them.

Making a plan realistic is the hardest part, especially when making the plan. A good rule is to make a goal two thirds of what your first instinct is as a goal, but have a bottom line that's half. Keep in mind that realistic during the holiday season isn't always the same as every day realistic.

Idealism: I will work out 6 days a week.
Goal: I will work out 4 days a week.
Bottom Line: I will work out 3 days a week -- no excuses.

I've pretty much sucked at keeping my act together once I got back to DC. I got in late on Monday night. Tuesday, my coworker threw a Christmas Kickoff party, and I was in no shape to work out when I got back from that. Last night, I put up our Christmas tree (which is looking kind of pathetic right now). And this morning I slept in.

To combat that, take planning to the second level.

I've read (and learned first hand) that when you sit down on the weekend and plan out the menu for the week, people eat better and save money at the grocery. I havent' done this in forever, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it. The same goes for working out. Sit down on Sunday night and plan, as best you can, your workouts. I suggest setting plans on your calendar/outlook and giving yourself an "or" option.

Goal: Work out 4x a week.

Monday: 7 pm Cycle Class
Tuesday: Morning Run AND/OR
Wednesday: Morning Run OR 7 pm Cycle Class
Thursday: 6:30 Gym with K
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 10 am 20-20-20 Class

Right there are 6 options for me to acheive my 4x a week goal. Set a few times that are required for you (make yourself a priority), but give yourself the flexibility to deal with life, because it happens.

Now for the second P. Promise yourself and mean it. Make yourself and your health a priority and promise to stick to your realistic goal. If it's not realistic, you will have a hard time making that promise. Review your goals again if you have a hard time saying the p-word.

Unrealistic promise: Every week, I will exceed my workout goal and I promise to let nothing get in the way of the gym.
Realistic Promise: I promise that I will do my bottom line number of workouts and that I will not be mad with myself if I don't go above that this holiday season.

Be kind to yourself. It's the holidays, afterall, and while we're busy trying to be nice to each other, we often forget about ourselves (and sometimes the ones we love).

For example, last night I went to Target last night to buy our first fake tree. The place was a mad house and while I was pretty blissed out and honestly enjoying obessing over the tone of the silver in a box of ornaments....a couple in the tree area was buying decorations for their first Christmas together.

I was secretly happy for them because I remember how much fun Chadd and I had last year picking out stuff for our garlands, etc. But then, the whole thing spiraled out of control. A disagreement over the type of lights caused a major meltdown.

Don't let holiday stress get to you. Don't stress yourself out trying to look like a bombshell for that holiday party. Instead, enjoy the vacation days you take, spend some time for yourself, but don't stress yourself out over giving yourself the gift of health--it's counter intuitive!