Pick your battles

I’ve tried a lot of fitness-y things over the past 3-4 years. One of my personal philosophies in life is that I’ll try anything twice, because one time is just not enough to conclusively decide that you hate something. It’s that second, third, and fourth attempt that pushes you further outside of your comfort zone, past the initial gut reaction to a place where you can actually assess if this is something you might grow to love. (For the record, I feel this way about pretty much everything in life – food, books, travel destinations. That first-time reaction only tells a very small part of the story, and you need to give everything at least a second shot before making a final decision.)

Sometimes this philosophy helps me out. For one example, consider my GHD panic, documented in my last post. I went from actual tears-in-my-eyes panic over the machine, to grudging respect, to now actually loving the equipment. I had a similar moment with handstands last night at Crossfit.

The Crossfit box I go to (Crossfit Iron Spider in Salem, MA – not remotely convenient to where I live or work, but I absolutely adore the coaches and the members, so I’m hooked and I tolerate the traffic. Seriously, it’s that good.) posts the WODs on their website the night before, and on Monday night, I saw that handstands were on the menu for Tuesday’s workout. Bear in mind this was my first day back at the gym after eight days off, so I was already a little skeptical about how the workout would go. Throw in handstands, and I started talking myself out of the workout before it had even started.

Turns out handstands aren’t terrible. Now, I didn’t actually manage a real handstand. I did the modified wall walk-up, which isn’t nearly as awful as it sounds, aside from the fact that I was walking up a whiteboard wall which doesn’t exactly have traction or grip. The problem, though, is that my upper body is my weakest area, and I’m not exactly a petite individual. Supporting my weight on my arms? It’s a tricky situation. I really struggled with getting my body up to near-vertical against the wall, because while I could walk my legs up without any trouble, when the time came to move my hands in closer, I just couldn’t do it. It’s partially a strength issue and partially a mental block – I’m convinced that the second I try to move one hand closer, thereby shifting all my weight to the other hand, I’m going to come crashing down face-first onto the floor. It needs work – a LOT of work. But I’m excited to keep working on it. I expected to hate everything about the handstands, but instead it has become another item to conquer as I keep working out at the box.

Every coin has a flip side, though, and that brings me to the item that I think I need to break up with once and for all: running.

Here’s the thing – when I say I hate running, it’s not because I’m slow, or because I’m not good at it. I genuinely hate everything about it. Nothing causes more knee pain than running. Last night’s WOD incorporated 100ft jogs in between activities, so I probably ran just around a quarter of a mile total over the course of the workout – and today I brought an ice pack to work to keep on my knees because they’re so angry with me. I also just can’t find the mental peace, the “runner’s high,” that so many people claim exists. Most of the time I find workouts almost therapeutic. I zone out, I find peace, I finally shut up all the voices in my head. Yoga class, spin class, alone at the squat rack – you name it, I will find it calming. Except for running. The entire time I’m running, the voices in my head scream at me. “We HATE this. This is TERRIBLE. This HURTS. WHY are you doing this?”

There’s this sense that everyone who wants to be fit should also be a runner. I caved to the pressure, too – witness the great half marathon debacle of 2015. I felt like distance running was something I HAD to do if I was going to legitimately call myself someone who’s interested in fitness.

Guess what? That’s just not true. I could put my running sneakers away and never touch them again and still be fit. I actually GAINED weight while I was training for my half marathon, because running left my body so sore and beat-up that I didn’t have the stamina to cross-train or do any of the things I really loved to do. Give me a Soul Cycle class where I’m actually enjoying pushing myself to improve. Throw me on an erg and let me row a 5K. I’ll happily do incline intervals on the treadmill as long as I don’t have to go over 3mph, and I’ll hike in the great outdoors all day long, as long as you give me a map and some bug spray. But running? Nah. I’m good.

So sorry, running, I’m just not that into you. I’ll have to check in with you from time to time when you end up in a WOD, but I’m not going to seek you out anytime soon. Life’s too short to waste time on something I hate, and there are too many other opportunities that I haven’t tried yet.

Conquering my GHD panic

One of the tools I’ve been using to stay positive over the past few weeks has been celebrating every improvement I can mark in my workouts. Whenever I feel like quitting or giving up during an especially intense session, I force those weaker voices to shut up, and instead I repeat to myself, “You couldn’t do this a year ago. You are getting stronger every day. You are improving and changing and that is awesome. Keep moving forward.”

It’s working. I haven’t quit on a workout. I’ve pushed myself and I’ve tried things. It’s pretty awesome. And in light of that, I’m going to try to be better about documenting these successes in blog format.

That brings me to today’s post. Meet the GHD:

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This piece of equipment, the Glute & Ham Developer (hence, GHD) was my nemesis. We use it for two things at Crossfit: sit ups and back extensions. The GHD sit up is pretty straightforward. You face the ceiling, with your feet in the foot rests, and your hips on the larger pads, and you extend as far back as you can. People with better core strength and back flexibility than I possess are able to extend all the way back and touch the floor before hinging up into a sit up. Right now, I’m just past parallel, but hoping to get better. The sit ups aren’t bad – they’re actually kind of fun once you get used to them! – and they really do get at your abs. We did 5 sets of 15 in Thursday’s WOD, and between that and Friday morning’s Soul Cycle class, it still hurts to laugh today.

Back extensions, however, are a WHOLE other story.

To do a back extension, you flip over. Feet are still in the grips, hips are still on the pads, but you’re facing the floor. You actually want your hip joins to be just past the pads, so that you can freely hinge down until your body is perpendicular to the GHD, and then you use your back muscles to pull yourself back up to parallel.

It. Is. Terrifying.

The first time we had GHD back extensions in a WOD, about 2 months ago, I had a full blown panic attack. I got onto the equipment, I looked down at the floor, and I literally felt all of the air leave my chest. I refused to let go of the handles and got off the machine as quickly as I could, while trying to hold back the tears that were threatening. I didn’t trust the equipment to hold me; over and over in my head I saw a loop of my face hitting the floor in some spectacular collapse. Logically I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I couldn’t get past that irrational fear. I begged the coach for a modification and I avoided looking directly at the equipment for weeks afterwards.

Saturday, after practicing snatches for the majority of the beginners’ olympic lifting course – a mandatory element to the beginners’ Crossfit program at my box, and one that I really appreciate, as it teaches form and ensures we don’t hurt ourselves in the WODs – there was one line of instructions on the board:

“Back extension, 3×10”

“Maybe there’s some other way of doing back extensions,” I thought. “It doesn’t say GHD… it must mean something else.” I ignored it as long as possible, but come the last 10 minutes of class, I had to face my fears. It was time. I needed to get on that equipment and force myself through those sets.

Turns out it’s not all that bad – it’s actually kind of fun once you get going. I’m not going to lie, it’s still a little freaky when I first get on the stupid thing, but I’ve gotten better at telling the voices in my head to STFU while I get through my workout. I was so stinking proud of myself after banging out those three sets, with nary a tear or a panic attack in sight.

Progress takes a lot of forms. This week, my progress came in the form of conquering that stupid equipment torture device.

Now, if only I could make the jump rope my bitch…

Week in Review: 10-day Refresh & New SP Class

In the interest of staying on track with my goals, I’m going to start posting a week in review every Friday, reflecting back on my progress for the week.

Workouts

Monday – Nada. Driving home from a mini-vacation in the Hamptons wiped me out and I needed a breather!
Tuesday – T-BarRe-Xtreme at Studio Poise. A combination of cardio, barre, and TRX strength exercises – an awesome cross-training class. I belly flopped out of a TRX plank at one point… guess I need to practice those.
Wednesday – Pound & Flow, the newest addition to the SP schedule! 20 minutes of Pound to get your heart rate up, followed by 40 minutes of power flow vinyasa yoga. My shoulders have been really tight lately (I was in a car accident a few weeks ago and the seat belt really did a number on me) so I really needed to spend some quality time in down dog to start loosening them up!
Thursday – Nothing But Leg, again at SP. This is my FAVORITE strength class to help build up the muscles I use in running, and man, Alison put me through the paces yesterday. I’m going to miss this when it changes to a new, earlier time slot next month!
Friday – Pilates Reformer at Oceanside Pilates. I have fallen in love with the reformer to help me stretch and loosen up. It has helped my hip more than anything else. Unfortunately this class is ending after Labor Day, so I’ll need to find another reformer studio near me that doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg – any suggestions?!

You may have noticed a lack of running on here. Tomorrow morning’s 4 miler is going to be the first time I’ve laced up my sneakers since my injury six weeks ago. I’m going to take it slow, and will probably end up run/walking the entire route. The good news is that my BostonFIT coach picked an out-and-back route so if I really feel like 4 miles is too much, it’s easy enough for me to turn around sooner than scheduled.

Nutrition

Come to me, micheladas. I will drink ALL of you. It's made with tomatillos so that's practically a salad, right?!

Come to me, micheladas. I will drink ALL of you. It’s made with tomatillos so that’s practically a salad, right?!

I spent last weekend in the Hamptons with some awesome friends, and while it was a blast, it was definitely not the healthiest of weekends. Beer for breakfast, anyone? I’m also going to be jetting off to San Francisco next weekend for Outside Lands, and while that trip will also feature some SoulCycle classes for #balance, I also plan on drinking as many micheladas as I can get my hands on (WHY IS THAT NOT A THING ON THE EAST COAST?!). I had exactly ten days between the trips, so I preordered the Advocare Herbal Refresh before leaving for the Hamptons, and it was waiting for me when I got home.

I started it on Tuesday, and it’s a really simple program to follow. Eat as clean as possible (and while I’ve been great during the day, I have definitely slipped up at dinner a few times this week… oops) and follow the program. The program contains daily supplements – a probiotic that you take in the morning, and an herbal cleanse that you take in the evening. It also comes with a powdered fiber drink that you mix with water and consume immediately prior to breakfast.

The fiber drink has definitely helped me to feel more full throughout the day. I’ve upped my fruit and veggie intake and am also trying to drink a gallon of water every day during this process. I was feeling rough earlier in the week (see “TRX plank belly flop,” above) because of all wear and tear I had put on my body over the weekend. Too much beer, not enough sleep, and I was not feeling great. Today, though, I’m really noticing a difference. It’s been four days and I feel like my energy levels are better, my focus has improved, and best of all, I’m down two pounds (woo!). The refresh is only supposed to be used every 90 days, and I’m not sure I’d make it a regular thing, but for times like this when I really need to hit the reset button on my body during a jam-packed month, it seems like it’s a good tool to keep in my back pocket.

Weekend Plans

I’m gearing up for the weekend and aiming for balance. I’ve got my four mile run tomorrow morning, and then some friends are joining me for a beach day and a dinner party at my house. I love entertaining so I’m really excited to cook delicious food and catch up with these folks, some of whom I haven’t seen in far too long. Sunday, I’ve got a beach yoga class scheduled in the morning at Carson Beach in South Boston, and I’m planning to take a kayak out on the ocean afterwards if it’s not too hot. There’s a Boating in Boston location right at Carson Beach, and I have a season membership that I’ve yet to use, so I need to get in lots of paddling time before fall!

What are your plans for the weekend? 

Web Roundup 2

It gets hard to blog about fitness when you’re buried under snow drifts and feel like the world is ending. Did you guys know that Boston is buried under unprecedented amounts of snow right now, with more in the forecast? Yeah, that’s a thing. My workouts lately have consisted of shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling. Lifting and tossing shovels of snow onto snow piles that are taller than you is a killer abs and oblique workout, in case you were wondering. I’ve been taking lots of personal days to take advantage of the snow, and have to say that the skiing this year is fantastic, so as long as I focus on that I don’t get too cranky. I’m heading out to Stratton this weekend for a few more days, and I’ll be packing lots of technical base layers, because the projected high for Sunday is negative 24 degrees with wind chill. That’s… I don’t even know. I don’t think those are real numbers. I can’t process it.

Anyway, sorry again for the lack of blogging. On top of the weather nightmare, which has resulted in lots of fitness class cancellations, I had to have another series of biopsies this week after seeing my dermatologist. She took samples from two spots on my neck – one possible basal cell, another showing possible signs of melanoma – and the positioning of the spots meant that wearing any bra, let alone a sports bra, was pretty much impossible. Without a reliable way to rein in the girls, there wouldn’t be any cardio for me for a few days while the biopsies heal. Luckily, I got the results back (in record time – props to the dermatology lab at Brigham & Womens!) and both spots are benign, so I have that good news to carry me into the weekend.

Since I don’t have much original content to share, I want to instead point you to some of the awesome things floating around out there on the interwebs these past few weeks. Without further ado, here’s my latest installment of the best of the web!

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What’s the true cost of industrialized meat production? The New York Times published an investigation into research practices overseen by the Department of Agriculture. Warning: this article is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it does expose some truly repulsive practices in pursuit of maximizing profits. Just another argument in favor of seeking out humane sources for meat- investigate your local farms!

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I really, really can’t stand the term “diet.” I haven’t written much about it on this blog, but anytime I’ve tried to hold myself to a restrictive diet – the Jenny Craig program, Atkins, Paleo, whatever – it hasn’t ended well. Imposing too many rules ends up really messing with my head and I find that I set myself up for failure, and I’ve had much more success just seeking for balance and overall healthier choices in my eating and in my activities. Dr. Linda Shanti over at Eating Disorders Blogs tackled this subject last year; a friend of mine shared the link on Facebook and I wanted to pass it along. Dr. Shanti writes about how diets contribute to disordered eating, and I personally found her writing to be a helpful perspective that resonated strongly with my own experiences.

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I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am still very much an aspiring runner. I’ve done a few races, and I’ve committed to running a half marathon in October 2015, but I’m still getting the hang of the right way to train. Amanda Brooks recently shared some tips for post-run stretching over at her blog, Run to the Finish, and I bookmarked it as a handy resource. I all to often feel tempted to skip the post-run aftercare, but as I start training for longer distances I know that it’s going to be more important than ever to take care of my body and take the necessary steps to keep everything in working order. This post focuses on IT bands and hips, which is where I’ve had tightness and soreness in the past after races, so it’s a good thing for me to understand!

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Breakfast is the most challenging meal of the day for me. I’m always in a rush to get out the door. Smoothies are a go-to in warmer months, but with the winter tundra greeting me every morning, the last thing I want is to be holding a frozen beverage as I’m heading to work. The MyFitnessPal blog recently shared a post with fifteen healthy breakfast options for on-the-go people, and it instantly became a Pinterest staple. There’s a great variety represented in this post – sweet and savory, eggs, oatmeals, yogurt options, you name it. I know that when I fall into a rut of having the same thing every day, I’m more likely to feel tempted to splurge on a bagel or muffin from the coffee shop when I start to feel bored. Make sure to switch up your meals often so that you keep a rotation of fresh, healthy foods in your diet!

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Did I mention that I live in Boston? Specifically in the band along the coast that keeps getting hit hardest in all of these storms? I’ve been working from home a lot, and my local fitness studios have been forced to cancel classes, so that has meant a lot of at-home workouts. Shoveling has provided the bulk of my cardio, but a girl needs some variety. I have a lot of DVDs to choose from but sometimes I like to add something new into the mix! This FitSugar video is a forty-minute follow along bodyweight workout that doesn’t require any equipment and doesn’t take up a ton of space. It’s definitely getting added to my rotation of hotel workouts for when I’m traveling, too!

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How do you stay active when you’re snowed in? Any tips for surviving the winter storm blues? 

Introducing: Web Roundups

I’m super excited to roll out this new biweekly feature on Being Your Change. I spend a lot of time on the internet, and I’m constantly saving things that I find interesting. The problem is, I save them all over the place! I retweet fitness and health related tweets, I pin interesting recipes and posts, and I use Bloglovin’ to save things that I don’t share elsewhere. I have the best intentions of eventually sharing them with you all, but without a dedicated post to do just that, they often end up getting lost!

So, every other week, I’ll share some of the posts that I found and enjoyed. I’ll try to keep them current, but I do often stumble on older articles or resources when I’m killing time on ye olde interwebs, so there may be a golden oldie in here from time to time.

So, without further ado, here they are – the links I’m digging this week!

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The Power of Dinner Templates, from The Kitchn: This post is from a relatively new series on The Kitchn, “Loving Food While Losing Weight,” authored by Joy Manning. I highly recommend reading through all of Joy’s posts, as the content is really wonderful. This particular post resonated with me because it’s such a realistic way to meal plan. Joy’s “dinner template” idea is just what it sounds like – a very basic guideline to use that keeps grocery shopping and cooking fairly simple. My favorite template? A rice bowl – brown rice with some sort of protein (chicken, tofu, beef), whatever veggies I have on hand (either a stir fry, or roasted veggies leftover from another meal, etc) and a healthy fat (sometimes I make a greek yogurt sauce; other times I add avocado).

24 nutrition-based infographics, shared by Pulptastic: Thanks to Buzzfeed, there’s a crazy proliferation of listicle-based sites floating around. I had never heard of Pulptastic until this week, when a friend on Facebook shared this list of infographics. Each image alone is worth saving, and the collection taken as a whole is super valuable. Definitely worth checking this out and pinning your favorites! Many of the images are reposted from health and fitness websites or magazines, so they’re from reliable sources.

30 minute total body circuit workout from Housewife Glamour: Heather’s blog is one of my favorites to follow, and this circuit workout has all the signs of a soon-to-be-favorite for me! It requires dumbbells or a resistance band, and it’s the perfect length for sneaking in a workout over my lunch hour. The building that houses my office opened a very basic gym that’s free for anyone who works here, and this is just the type of routine that will work well in that space. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might add some cardio to this to extend the workout a bit, but it’s also great as written. Best of all, Heather’s a personal trainer, and she provides great explanation on how to do each move, how to modify if need be, and demonstrates form. There’s nothing worse than finding a great workout printable only to realize you’re not sure how to do some of the steps!

Crock pot steel cut oatmeal, from Carrots ‘n Cake: Where has this recipe been all my life?! I love oatmeal but I hate the instant packets, and I don’t have time to make it on the stove in the morning. Since I started making steel cut oats in my crock pot, though, my breakfast has been on pointThis recipe, from Tina’s blog (another one of my fitness faves!), is a really basic starting point. I mix it up a little, using half almond milk and half water instead of all water, but the basic ratios and timing is about the same. These come out super thick and delicious! I also like adding some vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg while they’re cooking; not only does it taste great, but your house will smell amazing.

A Race to the Front Row, from the New York Times: I’ve never been to a Soul Cycle class, so this article came as a total surprise to me – and frankly, turned me off of the studio. This article, discussing the competition to get coveted front row spots at some fitness classes and what the position signifies, made me feel even more grateful for the awesome fitness communities I’m a part of. I will admit that I prefer to stand in the front row for my favorite Zumba classes, but it’s not out of some twisted sense of superiority – frankly I like that it’s close to a fan and it’s easier to dash across the front of the room to the bathroom if nature calls in the middle of a Pitbull song! Have any of you ever experienced this sort of front row madness?

What types of links would you like me to feature in future round ups? Any favorite blogs or websites that I should add to my list of regularly visited sites? Let me know in the comments!

Studio Review: Vital Cycle, Saugus, MA

I love spinning, but I’ve struggled with finding a studio that is conveniently located and close to home. For a few years I kept my membership at Boston Sports Club to take advantage of their spin classes, but I didn’t really love the instructors and over time I realized that I preferred small, locally owned studios instead of the large chain gym experience. I’ve bounced around to a few studios scattered across the North Shore of Massachusetts but either found that they were too far away to be convenient or that they were too expensive to stick with for the long term.

Luckily, I recently discovered Vital Cycle, located on Route 1 South in Saugus, MA. This location is super convenient to my house, and also only about 10 minutes away from my home-away-from-home, Studio Poise. The studio is tucked out of sight and doesn’t have prominent signage, so I didn’t notice it when it first opened. For locals, it’s in the same building as Roller World – you can’t really see the studio from the highway, but it’s very easy to spot once you pull into the parking lot.

Vital Cycle logo, from the Vital Cycle website

 

I’ve taken a handful of classes at the studio, so it felt like a good time to share a review.

The pros…

  • Large, roomy studio space. I cannot stand when spinning studios try to cram too many bikes into a small room. There’s nothing I hate more than being too close to my neighbors when I’m trying to get my sweat on – I really value my personal space! The spinning studio here is a large space and there’s plenty of room between bikes. I can stretch my arms out between rides without worrying that I’m going to smack a neighbor. There’s a mirror that runs the width of the room so you can check your form, which I appreciate, and the lighting is great – instructors have the ability to change the lighting levels through the class and there are specialty colored lights to help keep the energy levels up.
  • Ability to reserve a specific bike. When you go for your first ride, the instructor helps to get your bike set up for you and notes your settings on a small client card. For future visits, you reserve a specific bike and the Vital Cycle staff has the bike set up and ready to go when you get there for class. This is such a great perk! I like being able to reserve placement in the class (let’s be real, we all have our favorite spots!) and I appreciate that the bike is ready to go for me in case I hit traffic or am running late.
  • New bikes. Vital Cycle uses the Spinner Blade ION bikes. Each bike is outfitted with a monitor that tells your your RPM and your power, which brings me to my next point…
  • SpinPower system. Vital Cycle tracks SpinPower throughout the class and shows the group’s output on monitors at the front of the room. The instructors use these monitors throughout the class to make sure the group is hitting the appropriate RPM and pushing hard enough. The monitors can also show how each individual ranks against the rest of the class, a feature that I first experienced when I took a class at Flywheel. I’m a super competitive individual, so I love that extra incentive to push harder and beat the rest of the class. Vital Cycle also sends you an email at the end of each class with your stats, and you can log into your account on their website to track your progress over time.
  • Excellent promotional offerings. Vital Cycle currently offers the first week of rides free to new customers, which is a great way to try out the studio risk-free. The studio also offers free rides when you bring a friend to try a class, so I’ve been coaxing my friends into fit dates with me! They also are currently offering a Groupon deal, but I’m not sure how long that will last, so snap it up now – it’s an excellent price! I bought the 5 class option because I hadn’t yet tried the studio, and now I’m kicking myself for not getting the 10 class option instead.
  • Fun themed rides and special offerings. Periodically the studio offers special classes. I took a 90s themed ride which was a blast, and I also loved the Thanksgiving morning class offerings. It’s an extra little bonus that helps to keep customers engaged.

The cons…

  • Limited class options. There are anywhere from 2 to 4 classes offered on any given day. There aren’t a ton of early morning classes, so I haven’t been able to fit in a class before work. I’ve stuck mostly with evening classes, but I do wish there were more late evening options. At present, the latest class begins at 6:30. Since the studio is still so new, I’m hoping their class offerings expand as classes get busier.
  • Parking can be tricky in the evenings. As I mentioned, the studio shares a parking lot with the Roller World facility next door. Depending on what’s happening at the rink, parking can be a little bit nuts.
  • Water for purchase only. I have gotten really spoiled by studios that have water filters so that clients can refill their reusable water bottles with cold, filtered water. Vital Cycle does have water for purchase, but I try not to drink bottled water, so I’d love to see them invest in a filter at some point.
  • No monthly class options. At present, Vital Cycle only offers a pay-by-ride system. Since spinning is a supplementary workout for me, this isn’t really a huge negative for me, but the current pricing wouldn’t be sustainable for me personally if I wanted to make this studio my primary workout location.
  • Still working out the technology kinks. My first class at the studio, there were recurring problems with the SpinPower displays at the front of the class. The displays would periodically lose connection to our bikes and stop displaying statistics, and the owner ended up coming into the studio to try to sort out the issue while the instructor continued teaching the class. It was really distracting! Since then, the displays have faltered one or two other times, but not to the same extent as I experienced in my first class, so they do seem to be working out the problems.

Overall, I’m really glad I found Vital Cycle. It’s still a relatively new studio, so I can overlook some of the cons listed above – I trust that as this studio grows and more people learn about it, they’ll continue to make improvements. The location really can’t be beat, and I’m so grateful to finally have an affordable spinning option that’s conveniently located to both my home and my office. I hope more people discover this studio so that it can continue to succeed!

Friday Favorites: 11/7

Is anyone else feeling like this week deserves an extra-special celebration just for getting through to Friday? I don’t know if it’s because of the time change or just an exceptionally crazy time at work, but this week has been rough. I am looking forward to the weekend, even if it is jam-packed. Without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s roundup!

Favorite Fall Recipe: Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Image courtesy of PopSugar – click through for recipe.

I never really loved squash when I was a kid, but I’ve come around as an adult, and now I look forward to autumn because it means the return of tasty squash-based dishes! Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite fall recipes, but it can be deceivingly high in calories if you add heavy cream to thicken it. FitSugar shared this dairy-free slow cooker recipe earlier this week, and I made it yesterday. It made six 2-cup servings (I love these Ziploc containers for soup – they seal really well so I don’t have to worry about lunch bag leaks, and they hold a perfect 2 cup serving). Each serving comes in under 300 calories. I’ll likely eat the full two cups for a filling lunch, or have half a serving alongside a salad or sandwich. I love the idea of using white beans in place of dairy to cut calories while retaining the richness of the soup! I will say that this recipe, as provided by FitSugar, is a bit on the bland side. I used 4 cups vegetable stock and 2 cups chicken stock which helped, and next time I will bump up the spices – salt alone is not enough! This time around, I’ll likely add salt & pepper, and possibly a bit of hot sauce, to my servings when heating them up to kick up the flavor.

Favorite Fall Resolution: Use the Office Basement Gym!

Arms day in the office gym!

Earlier this year, my office building opened a new gym in the basement, which is free for all employees to use. It’s a small space and is pretty basic, but does have everything you need to fit in a decent workout. I find that between running, at-home DVDs and my studio classes, I’m getting plenty of cardio, but I could use more weight training in my life. Body Pump has filled that need at home, but I don’t always feel like waking up early to do a DVD. I made a resolution to begin using the work gym more often, and to help with this commitment, a friend and I set up biweekly gym appointments in our Outlook calendar. I love having someone to help keep me accountable, and I’m using this time to focus more on weights and on strength exercises. On Tuesday I tried out these resistance band exercises with mixed results – my legs were so sore the next day but I didn’t love the core or arms offerings, so I’m on the hunt for more types of band exercises to try (please leave recommendations in the comments if you’ve got any that you really love!) And yesterday, I focused on arms. I did Body Pump Pump & Burn at home before work, but that 35-minute DVD focuses on legs, core, and back. I didn’t want to neglect my arms, and this printable workout was perfect. I started with 10lb weights and hope to build up from there!

Favorite Shopping Find: Ebates!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Okay, maybe I am really behind the times here, but a friend recently told me about Ebates and I am totally jazzed about the site. Retailers pay Ebates a fee for referring shoppers to their sites. When you make a purchase, those retailers pay Ebates – and Ebates returns a percentage of that income to you! The homepage features sales and deals, and they also have promotions for double or triple cash back. Earlier this week Nordstrom was 9% back in combination with their clearance sale, so my first Ebates purchase earned me almost $15 cash back! I’m not getting paid to advertise this site, I just think it’s a really smart way to get some money back if you’re already a high volume online shopper. Check it out and sign up today! (Disclaimer – while I’m not being paid for this, the link above is an affiliate link — I do get a bonus if you sign up using my link. Thank you for your support!)

Housewife Glamour

You may have noticed that the title this week changed from “Friday Roundup” to “Friday Favorites.” I’m linking up with Housewife Glamour, Running4Cupcakes and Fitting it All In for their Friday Favorites series! Check her out and click around to some of the other bloggers sharing their favorite things from this week. Have a great weekend!