What I Ate Wednesday

I’ve dedicated a lot of time to talking about fitness on this blog, but so far haven’t really touched on nutrition. The reality is, overall health and wellness requires revamping both your physical fitness and your diet. Even if you’re working out for two hours every day, if you continue to eat poorly, you won’t see the results you want.

I don’t follow any crazy strict diet. I like carbs. I like to indulge in a glass of wine when I’ve had a crazy day at the office. I think red meat is fantastic, and I can’t imagine a world without the rare ice cream treat. The key, for me, has been finding balance.

I strive for an 85/15 balance. If I eat clean 85% of the time, then I still have 15% of my diet for treats. This doesn’t mean demolishing a plate of nachos at the bar during a Sunday football game — but it does mean I can have that glass of wine with dinner or treat myself to an ice cream cone after an afternoon of kayaking.

I’ll talk more about clean eating in a later post – there’s a lot of information out there and it can definitely be taken to extremes. I’ll clarify the approach that I take, which has worked for me thus far.

Today, I wanted to share a typical day of meals. I work at a desk job from 9-5, so I’m fairly sedentary during the day. I do my T25 workout in the morning before I leave for the office, and I usually take a class or two after work as well. I usually aim for 1400-1700 calories/day.

I track my meals using My Fitness Pal. My diary is visible to friends on the site, so if you’re interested in getting a broader sense of my nutrition, you can view it here. If you wish to add me as a friend on MFP, please click here. Full disclosure, I actually documented everything I ate yesterday, but “What I Ate Tuesday” doesn’t have the same ring to it!

8am – Breakfast – Chocolate Vegan Shakeology – 350 calories

Chocolate Shakeology

I always have my Shakeology for breakfast. I will have a glass of water when I first wake up, before I do T25 for the morning, and then I make my shake before I leave for work and sip it during my commute and my morning email catch up. Today, I blended a banana, one cup of unsweetened coconut milk, and two scoops of PB2 to make a filling breakfast that came in at 350 calories. My recipes can vary but I always aim for 250-350 calories to make sure I’m starting my day with a filling meal.

11 am – Morning Snack – Iced green tea, green grapes, & hard boiled egg – 175 calories

Morning Snack

Every morning, as soon as I get to work, I brew a glass of green tea and stick it in the fridge. By 11am, it’s ready to drink over ice; I add a splash of lemon juice for flavor. I’ve stopped drinking coffee since I added Shakeology into my daily meal routine, but I like the small caffeine boost I get from the green tea. There’s a lot of debate over the health benefits of green tea, but I like the taste and the caffeine, so it’s a nice addition to my morning. I like grapes because they’re easy to snack on while I work, and the hard boiled egg has enough protein to fill me up until my lunch break. This snack comes in at 175 calories, which is just about right for a snack.

12:30 pm – Lunch – Apple, 2 slices sprouted grain bread, natural peanut butter – 400 calories

Lunch

Not the most exciting lunch in the world, but one that is filling and will carry me through my day. I love Food for Life Cinnamon Raisin 7 Sprouted Grains bread – you can find it in the freezer section of your local grocery store (I know that Whole Foods, Hannaford’s, and Stop & Shop all stock it in my area). I love buying frozen bread because it’s more economical; when I buy fresh bread I end up tossing more than half the loaf because it goes stale before I can use it up. I toast the bread and then top it with all natural peanut butter – I like to buy the freshly ground variety available in the Whole Foods bulk section. Lately I’ve been going with the honey roasted variety, but the unsalted peanut and the almond butter varieties are also both great options! Lastly, I’m in love with this apple variety, also from Whole Foods – Envy Apples. They taste AMAZING! I prefer to buy local apples when I can but it’s not quite apple season yet, so I’m indulging in these until fall gets here. The meal comes in at about 400 calories, which is great for lunch.

3pm – Afternoon Snack – Iced green tea or water and Krave beef jerky – 80 calories

Krave jerky

Danielle, the amazing owner of Studio Poise, turned me on to Krave jerky. HOLY COW IS IT DELICIOUS. The company makes a variety of jerky flavors, and produces pork, beef, and turkey jerky varieties. I picked up the Five Peppercorn beef jerky when I was shopping at Whole Foods last night and I’m addicted. It is REALLY TEMPTING to just keep dipping into the bag, so the next time I buy this, I’ll portion it out at home into the appropriate sizes. One ounce of the jerky comes in at 80 calories and gives a nice protein boost to carry me through the end of the afternoon. The sodium content in this brand of jerky isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other brands on the market, but jerky is a salty food, so make sure to keep up with water intake alongside this snack.

7pm – Dinner – Skinny Huevos Rancheros – 500-550 calories

skinny huevos rancheros recipe

This is my FAVORITE go-to dinner after a workout! Confession time: when I was first starting out on my fitness journey, I would occasionally rationalize to myself that by going all-out in Zumba, I had earned the right to stop at Chipotle on my way home. I was sabotaging myself! I love Mexican food, and it is possible to make a meal at home that doesn’t destroy your diet, as long as you’re smart about your ingredients. This meal feels like a real indulgence, but it comes in at about 500 calories! I topped mine with two eggs tonight because I was hungry after taking two classes at the studio. I listen to my body — if I wasn’t as hungry, I’d probably only make one tortilla. This is also a great recipe to share with someone; just add a nice green salad to round out the meal.

 

What are some of your favorite healthy go-to meals? Where do you go to find healthy recipes? Let me know in the comments!

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Beat the Monday Blues

Mondays are THE WORST. Most of the time, I need every little boost that I can get to help me start my week on the right foot.

Today was one of those days when everything should have been working in my favor. I was excited to kick off my Focused & Fit for Fall T25 challenge, and I am looking forward to seeing some great friends this weekend for a wedding. I’m feeling good about my own T25 efforts and I’m looking forward to a great yoga class at Studio Poise tonight. All good things, right?

But on the flip side, I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping this weekend, so I had to scramble to pull together a healthy “clean eats” lunch to bring with me to work. I got in my car and noticed that the maintenance light was on, and I definitely don’t have time to deal with that this week. I got to the office and the first email I read made my stress levels spike and I’m still fuming over it.

I’m working on focusing on the positives and trying to ignore the annoyances, but Monday really isn’t making it easy!

This brings me to my latest #MusicMonday. I pay $10/month for Spotify premium access, so that I can use the service on my phone, in the car, at work… you name it, I’m using it. It’s the best $10 I spend every month. Lately I’ve been trying to branch out more to find new music, and I’ve  fallen in love with some of Spotify’s curated playlists. Today, I noticed this “Mood Booster” playlist and decided to give it a try. I listened to this playlist on my commute to the office, and it’s still playing through my headphones now. And you know what? I think it’s working! The playlist is delivering on it’s name, and sure enough, my mood does feel lifted.

Do you have any tips or tricks for overcoming a gloomy Monday? Do you have any songs that you find especially uplifting? Share your favorites in the comments!

Tech support

With so many options on the market, how do you know what products are right for you?

With so many options on the market, how do you know what products are right for you?   [Bottom right image reused from Flickr user laughingboyottawa under the terms of the Creative Commons license. The image has been cropped for the purposes of this post.]

I get asked all the time about the tools and technologies that I rely on to help me track my progress and evaluate my performance during my workouts. There are so many products out there, and a bevy of internet reviews to accompany them. I’d like to share the apps, trackers, and websites that I rely on regularly to keep myself accountable. I wouldn’t be where I am in my journey without these tools!

Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor [Amazon, $60]

In my opinion, if you purchase only one tech accessory to help you achieve your fitness goals, a heart rate monitor should be the top priority. This is a low-frills product; you can spend a lot more on a fancier model, but I find that the FT4 does the job for me. You wear a chest strap and a watch when working out; the chest strap monitors your heart rate and communicates data to the watch. This is a significantly more accurate way to gauge your calorie burn when working out, because it actually assesses your exertion and calculates the effort you’re putting into your workout. Compare the output to online calorie calculators or to the calories burned output on cardio equipment at the gym, and you might be surprised at the dramatic differences in data! If you have been tracking calories using an online tool like My Fitness Pal but aren’t seeing results, chances are you think you’re burning more calories than you actually are. Since I started using my heart rate monitor and tracking the data myself, I’ve been better able to adjust my diet and have seen improved results.

FitBit Flex [FitBit Online Store, $100]

The Flex is actually my second FitBit. I first purchased the FitBit One, but I didn’t stick with it. I would forget to transfer the pedometer from my office clothes to my workout pants, or leave it on my workout pants after changing and forget to retrieve it before work the next day. I upgraded to the Flex in fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back. It’s water resistant so while I have to remove it before swimming, I can leave it on when I shower — so I basically leave it on 24/7, except for when it needs to charge. The battery life is fantastic, and I usually only need to charge it once a week, overnight. I find that wearing the tracker on my wrist helps me to be mindful of my activity. I work at a sedentary desk job during the day, and glancing down at my wrist reminds me to regularly stand up and move around my office. I aim for 10,000 steps or ~5 miles daily, and I’ve found that my activity has increased since I bought the tracker. It’s also a great conversation starter! So many other people use similar wristband trackers and it’s a great way to break the ice when you meet new people.

Map My Run [Website | Apple App | Android App]

Map My Run syncs up with Facebook, so you can easily find friends and share your accomplishments. This is great for motivation! The interface not only uses GPS to track your route, it also provides your pace and splits in real time. The app voiceover will play over your music during the run at each mile to let you know how you’re doing – which is great encouragement and helps to self-adjust without needing to pause and look at a screen. I’ve had a seamless experience using this app alongside either my iTunes music catalog or Spotify playlists, whereas other training apps seemed to have problems playing nice with other apps on my phone. There is a paid “MVP” option, but I stick with the free features. If and when I begin training for a more serious rate, I might consider upgrading, but as a casual runner, the free app works just fine for my needs.

Map Pedometer [Website]

While Map My Run is great for areas where you are already familiar with the terrain, sometimes it’s helpful to have a route in mind before you head out. If you’re training for a marathon and need to hit a certain distance, sketching out a route in advance is key. That’s where Map Pedometer comes in. It uses Google Maps and has a very user-friendly, bare bones interface. You can key in your starting location and use the map to plan out your route, and you can save routes for future reference. I love using this website when I’m traveling and want to have an idea of where I’m going before I leave my hotel, but I also use it close to home to plan for distance runs.

My Fitness Pal [Website]

This is my go-to for meal tracking and for recording my workouts. I prefer to use the website version; I have the app on my phone for entering meals on the go, but the app doesn’t include the community forum features of the main site. My Fitness Pal can sync up with your Facebook account to find friends, and I’ve also found a fantastic support network of people I’ve met on the forums. It’s easy to find community members also trying the same at home DVD program as you, for instance, and these people are such a great source of motivation and support. I’ve found the food tracking to be pretty accurate, and I love the updated recipe entry feature, which allows you to input recipes from links online and lets the site do the ingredient matching from its extensive database. I would caution against relying on the calorie counts programmed into the site, though. I track my workouts but manually enter my calorie burn as reported by my trusty FT4. As a sample, MFP says I should burn 655 calories in an hour Zumba class; my actual burn ranges from 375-500 depending on how hard I work on any given day (and depending on how evil the instructor is feeling at the beginning of class…) I’m always looking for new friends on the site – feel free to add me as a friend!

So, there you have it – these are the tools and resources that I absolutely couldn’t live without.

What technology helps you to track your workouts and monitor your fitness progress? Disagree with anything I wrote here? Did I leave out your favorite tool? Let me know in the comments!

Web Workouts Poll

There are so many amazing resources available FOR FREE, courtesy of ye olde interwebs. I have an extensive collection of links that I refer to frequently. Sometimes I’m looking to spend a little more time on a particular body part – maybe I didn’t work my triceps enough that day. Other times, I’m traveling and don’t have access to my studio classes or my DVDs, so I turn to these links to put together a workout that I can do from a hotel room.

I’m working behind the scenes to organize these links on my Web Workouts page. I’m trying to decide the best way to organize the links, but I have several options, so I’m asking you for help!

Any other suggestions as to what you would find helpful on the Web Workouts page? Let me know in the comments!

Steady 130 Mixes

It’s time for another #MusicMonday! I started running about a year ago, using the Couch to 5K app. I’ve since run a few 5Ks, I’m currently training for my first obstacle run, and I have a long term goal of running my first half marathon in 2015. All of this might make it sound like I really love running… and that would be an incorrect assumption. I run because it’s a convenient way to get cardio in when I’m traveling, and because it is something I can do with friends and family members who aren’t able to join me at the studio for classes.

One thing I’ve learned over the past year: your playlist can make or break my running experience. When the music isn’t setting the right tone, my pace suffers, I can’t distract myself from any aches and pains I might be feeling, and the run feels like it’s taking twice as long. When the music is spot on, though, all of that disappears and it’s just me and the road and the music — and that’s pretty awesome.

Enter today’s Music Monday feature: Steady 130 Mixes.

There’s a lot of research out there about the ideal BPM, or beats per minute, for music to accompany your workout. In summary: you want to aim for anywhere between 120-150 BPM. The New York Times covered this back in 2008, and Women’s Running recently published an interview with the same scientist profiled in the NYTimes feature, again emphasizing the connection between music and running.  If you’re interested in learning more about heart rates and the corresponding exertions, I recommend this handy chart from Running for Fitness. Generally speaking, though, 130 BPM translates to a 12 minute mile, so a playlist at that tempo is great for new runners or to use for longer, slower training runs.

Steady 130 offers free downloadable custom mixes, all of which average 130 BPM. They really cover the entire spectrum, so no matter what your taste in music, you can probably find something that will appeal to you. The mixes range from 30 minutes to over an hour, so you can also find a mix that will suit your training needs. Best of all, there’s no interruption — it’s a continuous mix that keeps you going for the duration of your run, without waiting for your iTunes to decide on its next shuffled track.

I’m featuring my current favorite, a new 80s throwback remix that features the soundtracks from some of the great movies of my youth, for this week’s #MusicMonday, but I strongly encourage you to check out the whole site and take advantage of their archives. There’s truly something for anyone, and I promise it will rev up your workout!

What music really gets you moving during a workout? Do you prefer to make your own playlists, or do you appreciate the ease of a curated remix? Let me know in the comments! 

Focus T25 STATurday: Week 2 (Take 2)

You may recall that last week didn’t get off to the strongest start for me as far as the Focus T25 challenge goes. To be honest, the week sort of hovered there. I got the workouts in, but I didn’t feel like I gave them my all. I wasn’t feeling well, and I let that translate into a less-than-100% performance.

So, I decided to repeat Week 2 this week, rather than move on to Week 3. The scheduling of the workouts gets progressively harder, and I wanted to make sure I was pushing myself and living up to Shaun T’s expectations. Because OBVIOUSLY he can see me in my living room sweating like a pig and trying to keep up with him on my TV screen. OBVIOUSLY.

This is one of the things I love about at home workout series – you really can make them work for you. The calendar serves as a great guide, and I was able to evaluate my performance and my progress, and decide to take some extra time before moving forward. I may ultimately decide to repeat the Alpha cycle before moving on to Beta — I would ideally like to be doing at least 85% of each workout full out, without needing to modify, before advancing to the more difficult series of routines. I’ll have to see how I feel after this cycle is over! I give this advice to anyone in my challenge groups as well – just because the calendar tells you to advance doesn’t mean that it’s the right move for you! Regularly check in with your progress, see how you feel, and decide whether you are ready to take the next step.

I decided to do quick recaps each day for this week. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you might have seen some of this content already… #SorryNotSorry.

Monday: Cardio 

I LOVE kicking the week off with Cardio! I pushed myself harder today and didn’t need to follow Tania for modifications as much as I have when attempting this workout in the past. I have a feeling this workout might stay in my repertoire even after I’ve completed the cycle; it’s a great go-to quick workout with a fantastic calorie burn payoff.

Tuesday: Total Body Circuit

I decided that I’ll be ready to advance to Beta cycle when I can do Total Body Circuit without a) cursing at Shaun T on the screen, b) needing to hit pause to take water / mop up the sweat that I’m slipping on when attempting the pike moves, and c) don’t feel the urge to crawl directly back into bed for a nap after completing the workout. This workout is not messing around. I still find myself getting tripped up at points – I need to pause in my workout to figure out what the heck Shaun is asking us to do, because I haven’t quite mastered the lingo for this workout just yet. I am assuming that this will come with more practice… but I like to pretend that I’ll never have to do TBC ever again every time I finish it, because it kicks my butt every single time.

Wednesday: Speed 1.0

Is it okay to play favorites? Because this is my favorite workout in the Alpha cycle, hands down. I really like the balance between cardio, strength, stability, and stretching. I could easily see myself keeping this around as a go-to routine long after this challenge is in the bag.

Thursday: Cardio

Wait, didn’t I do this already? There’s a method to Shaun T’s madness, that’s for sure. Doubling up on Cardio this week, and stacking it with Speed 1.0, and I’m definitely feeling it. I am also feeling the after effects of last night’s book club meeting, but that’s neither here nor there.

Friday DOUBLE SESSION: Lower Focus & Ab Intervals

I took today off from work and had planned to go kayaking with my mom, and stacking this double on top of an hour on the lake definitely put my core to the challenge. As I write this post Friday night, I am FEELING IT. I liked this double, though – stacking Cardio on top of Lower Focus in Week 1 really left me drained, whereas this combination tested my body without leaving me dead on my mat.

Okay, but on to the important part… how are my stats looking?

STATurday Week 3

Guys, I gotta say… I’ve seen the before and after photos that Beachbody uses to promote these DVDs, I’ve heard the stories from friends and colleagues who have done the program, but I guess I didn’t really expect to see numbers like these. I am TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY.

The individual numbers tallied in the graphic above show my loss between Week 1 of STATurday results and today. In weeks 2 and 3, I lost another 5.25 inches. I was thrilled to see my arms come down after no movement in the first set of results, and I am super excited by the loss in my hips. I’m halfway there, and I’ve already lost 11.25 inches overall. THAT. IS. CRAZY.

I’ve got three weeks to go. Since I repeated Week 2, I will be taking 6 weeks total for Alpha cycle. I’ll report back again in two weeks, just in time for the friends’ wedding that inspired this challenge. I can only hope that things will keep progressing as well as they have been thus far!

GET IT DONE: IN  25 MINUTES A DAY!

Again, I do just want to add this disclaimer: I am still very much in the during portion of my journey. I currently wear dress size 12/14, so these numbers are reasonable for someone of my size and height (5’9″). Adjust your expectations proportionally to where you’re starting from, and remember that results will vary based on individual body composition.