Exercise: The Not-So-Scary Daily Commitment

21 02 2011

You already know by now that I workout everyday. There are exceptions of course — if I get really sick, my day is so jammed there’s zero time, if I’m injured, etc. But for the most part, my daily workout is something I strictly adhere to.

People are always amazed at the huge time commitment I devote to exercise. They ask me how I do it, how I motivate myself, how I find the time. And to be honest, I never really think about it. It’s just something I do. Every single day. It’s part of my life and my day-to-day bustle.

What I recommend is to think of your workout as a true commitment. No different than a meeting, or class, or that important phone call you have to make. When you think of exercising as a natural part of daily life, you’ll stop ditching workouts. You wouldn’t cancel your important meeting with your boss, right? So why would you skip the thing that’s most vital to your well being?

When I tell people that I “have” to workout, they always give me a hard time. My friends say it’s not something I “have” to do. While this is true, it is a conscious decision of mine to workout daily, it doesn’t make it any less of a commitment for me. I wouldn’t miss getting coffee with them or ditch plans to watch a movie, so I am not going to cancel my planned workout!

Try scheduling your workout in, if you keep a daily planner. Think about exercise in advance–maybe the night before, plan your day out. When do you have an hour long break or more? Pencil in a workout. Bring your tennis shoes out with you, dress in workout clothes in the morning. Just do what you need to do to get your butt to the gym!

Here’s a challenge: Try working out for 7 days in a row. That’s it! Just 7 days. Write down how you feel each day after exercising. Do you feel relaxed, fit, tired, energized? Jot it down, and when the week is over look at your notes. This should give you some motivation — because I know you’ll be feeling great. 🙂


The Best Butt-Lifters

21 02 2011

We all want a nice rear-end, yeah? Honestly, it’s one of my most important “target” areas when I exercise. I want a firm, lifted behind, and so I try and work my lower body 2-3 days a week (aside from cardio, yoga, kickboxing, etc. which all work your lower body, too).

Here are some of the best lower body exercises — you can use weights (I do), you can use no weights if you’re new to weightlifting. The best part is, though, if you don’t have access to weights, these exercises are still extremely effective. I’ll be doing them in California next week!


Squat -- Photo by exerciseabout.com

Bulgarian Lunge

Bulgarian Lunge -- photo by exerciseabout.com










Squat with Calf Raise: When rising to the top, add a calf raise. I like to use 10 pound weights with this exercise.

Bulgarian Lunge: Lunge with leg on chair. Make sure your knee doesn’t come out over your toe when you lunge.

Wall Sit

Wall Sit -- photo by exerciseabout.com

Wall Sits: Everyone hates them, but they are the best for getting a svelte lower body. Do them for about a minute. You can make things harder by doing one-legged wall sits or weighted wall sits.

Walking Lunge: I use 10 pounds weights.

One-legged Deadlift: No weights are necessary here.

Do all of these exercises for 20 repetitions (and one minute for the wall sit), and repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times.

*Make sure you don’t work the same muscles 2 days in a row. If you work legs on Monday, do not work them on Tuesday! (By “working” them, I mean an intense weightlifting session targeted directly at that area). Your muscles need a day to rest after weightlifting to repair and grow.

Also, as an added bonus, I use the StairMaster a few times a week. Great butt-lifter!

The Breakfast Smoothie

19 02 2011

I make a smoothie about 4 days a week for breakfast. I think they’re delicious, I pack them with nutrients, and they keep me satisfied until lunch time. Just like your workout, it’s important to switch up smoothie ingredients to prevent boredom.


Blackberry Banana Smoothie

Check out this post from “No Meat Athlete” on the perfect smoothie formula. There are lots of great ideas.

Here are some of my favorite combinations:

Peanut Butter Banana: 1/2 cup light soy milk, 1 banana, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter, 1 tbsp. chocolate soy protein powder, pinch of wheat bran or natural oats, ice

Blackberry Banana: 1/2 drinkable pro-biotic strawberry yogurt, banana, handful of blackberries, 10 almonds, ice

Blueberry Vanilla: 1/2 vanilla Greek yogurt, handful of blueberries, tbsp. honey, pinch of oats, splash of water, ice

Chocolate Banana: 1/2 cup light soy milk, 1 banana, 2 tbsp. chocolate soy protein powder, wheat bran, ice

Switch it up! Be adventurous with your fruit–try mango or melon. You can also keep a stash of frozen berries that you can add to a smoothie if you are out of fresh fruit. Make sure you have some protein in your smoothie (Greek yogurt, almonds, protein powder) to counteract the sugar of yogurt and fruit. Enjoy!

My Favorite Workout DVDs

18 02 2011

You know those days when it’s cold and rainy outside and leaving your house to head to the gym sounds miserable? Or when you’re in a time crunch and only have less than an hour to squeeze a workout in? Or when you’re traveling and don’t have somewhere you can exercise? Well, instead of just calling my workout off under these circumstances, I turn to at-home exercise DVDs.

There’s A LOT of crap out there. There are thousands of DVDs to sort through when ordering online, and frankly, most of them suck. Here are some of my favorites (aside from P90X)– the ones I think are the best workout.

Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat Boost Metabolism — This is about a 40 minute cardio & strength DVD that doesn’t require any extra equipment. You really sweat and get a whole body workout. Jillian is one of my favorite trainers, and I think this is her best DVD.

Jackie Warner: One-On-One Training With Jackie — This video uses free weights & body training to work your upper body, lower body and core in segments. She’s tough and also one of my faves!

Rodney Yee: Power Yoga Total Body — Yoga classes are really pricey, so it’s nice to have a good yoga DVD you can use at home. This 65 minute workout is tough, but still calming. You only need a yoga mat.

Keli Roberts: Fat Burning Kickboxing Workout for Dummies — I burn about 700 calories with this video–which is a ton. I love kickboxing and how it just sheds fat off your entire body. It’s about 40 minutes.

These are some of my favorites. I think it’s really important to have DVDs on hand. For instance, next week I am going to California and will bring some exercise videos with me so I can alternate between running, hiking and using DVDs to get a good workout in. Also, just a note, if you have Comcast with On Demand, there are about a hundred free workout videos under the “Sports & Fitness” section. I use them all the time!

The Trials & Tribulations of a Non-Swimmer

18 02 2011

When it comes to exercising, not much sounds worse to me than taking my workout to a cold, chlorinated pool. And that is precisely why I force myself to hit the lap pool about once a week.

You see, I have a motto: the things you like to do the least are usually precisely the things you should incorporate into your exercise regimen. We don’t like things because they’re hard. Maybe they’re foreign to us. So we stick with what we know – maybe the elliptical? Hitting the pavement outside? But I cannot stress enough the importance of variety. Our muscles get used to our workouts, and that’s when we stop seeing the benefits of exercise.

Only variety, variety, variety can combat this dilemma.

And this is why you’ll find me – never a swimmer, never even close to a swimmer – in the lap pool at the YMCA once a week.

Swimming is great for your body. In fact, I started swimming laps when I had injuries from exercise. I needed a break from high impact workouts, and so I took my cardio sessions to the pool.

I’ll admit, when I first started swimming, I had no idea what to do. How many laps should I swim? What stroke should I use? How often should I breathe?

I’m still definitely not an expert. Sometimes I even dread my swimming days. But once I go and get in the pool, I never regret my decision. Actually, I feel amazing afterward. Here is what I do, and I think it’s a good swimming workout for beginners. So just take the leap (or should I say the dive..har har) and go burn some calories in the pool!

My Typical Swimming Workout:

I’m an obsessive lap counter. I can’t help it, I just like to keep track. So, to break things up and make the workout fly by, I count in increments of 10 [lengths, not laps]. I swim 6 lengths of the forward crawl, then I do 2 lengths of sprinting the forward crawl. –Refer to my previous post on intervals, this alternating between regular and fast paced exercise even works in the pool. Then, I swim 2 lengths of breaststroke to calm my breathing down from the sprints.

I repeat this 10 length cycle usually about 7 times. In my pool at the YMCA this is a mile. It takes me around 35 minutes or so.

*Just a note: I belong to the YMCA, but the UofM IM building has a pool–check the hours of operation here.

Ditch the Elliptical & Try Something New

16 02 2011

I hate the stereotype girls get at the gym.

You know, wears her hair down, texts on her cell phone, reads Cosmopolitan, barely sweats on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes and then she heads home.

While that stereotype may be in place for a reason – there are a good number of girls who do this – I really don’t approve. Mainly, I have a problem with girls’ obsession with the elliptical. To me, it just seems like an easy way out. Hop on, don’t work too hard, and call it a “workout.” Not my style. And you may argue that you can still get a good, sweaty workout from the elliptical–but come on, you know you’re choosing it because it’s easier than other cardio workouts at the gym.


Photo by itsaboutellipticaltrainers.com

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely shunning the elliptical. It can be great if you have an injury because it is low impact. It is also okay to use every once in a while, or if you’re feeling beat from weightlifting or just not feeling great. For instance, sometimes I’ll use an elliptical machine if I have a cold. But usually you should opt for a harder cardio session.

So what do I suggest?

Well, I am a big fan of interval training. Studies have shown that alternating between fast and slow paced exercise [ex: sprinting for 2 minutes then walking at a fast pace for 2 minutes] can improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat. Experts have even gone so far as to say interval training is the best workout you can do.

So, here’s a few workout ideas.

Workout #1: Hop on the treadmill. Warm up for 2 minutes, walking. Sprint at about 6.5-7.0 for one minute. Walk at 4.0 for one minute. Repeat this 30 minutes.

Workout #2: Get on the StairMaster. Choose the interval training button. The levels usually go from about 1-20. Make sure you choose at LEAST level 10. I usually try around level 13.

Workout #3: Variety. Sprint on the treadmill for 3 minutes. Get on the StairMaster for 3 minutes. Alternate back and forth for about 30 minutes.

You should be dripping sweat and tired from all of these workouts! I usually aim for around 45 minutes of cardio, but 30 minutes works well if you’re weightlifting in addition to your cardio session.

My Tuesday Food Diary

15 02 2011

As promised, here is my food diary from today. It was a really weird day, and this is not a perfect food diary. I will be in the library for about ten hours straight, so I had to eat kind of makeshift meals today. I brought my lunch and had to buy something from the library. Not ideal, but I did what I could under intense stress!

Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled. 1 Morningstar vegetarian sausage. 1/2 tbsp. ketchup. Handful of blackberries.

Calories: 245, Fat: 12g, Protein: 22g

Morning Snack: Banana

Calories: 105, Fat: 0g, Protein: 1g

Lunch: 2 slices of whole-wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of jiff natural peanut butter, 1 tablespoon raspberry preserves. Chobani strawberry banana Greek yogurt.

Calories: 505, Fat: 14g, Protein: 25.5g

Dinner: Vegetarian sushi roll. Dove milk chocolate miniature.

Calories: 520, Fat: 10g, Protein: 15g

Library Snack: Sweet N’ Salty Nature Valley Almond Granola Bar

Calories: 160, Fat: 7g, Protein: 3g

Totals: Calories: 1535 (right around my goal of 1500), Fat: 44g (under recommended amount-good!), Protein: 67g (almost double recommended amount-great!)

So again, this was a weird day for me. It’s not normal or easy to adhere to my eating goals when I am on campus all day studying. I did what I could, though. On a regular day, I would include many more vegetables into my diet. I also probably would have traded my “carb” based library snack for something with more nutritional value–maybe a grapefruit and a slice of cheese or some carrots with hummus.

But what’s important to remember is that you can still eat decently well even under stress and when you have a really busy day. Try and bring food from home when you can, and opt for the healthiest choices if you’re buying out. Just because I’m on campus doesn’t mean I have to run to the nearest pizza or sub joint!