Friday, May 31, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Fridays. I promise this entire post won't be a cliche, but Fridays just feel fantastic. And given that next week is our last Friday of the school year, I really can't figure out what's not to celebrate.

Running. For some reason, whenever I participate in a Best Body Boot Camp, I take a break from running long distances. I'll hit the road for maybe a three- or four-mile trek, but usually it's more HIIT and interval training. This month, however, I set the goal to complete a six-mile run before June. I thought I wrote about it, but apparently it was just a mental goal. So I knew it had to get done today, and I hauled myself out of bed at 4:30 to do it.

The run felt pretty great overall. Even at 5 am, the morning air felt cool but not too chilly, and the streets still hadn't woken up. We chatted as we ran and kept a steady 6 mph pace. I absolutely would have stopped at 5ish miles, when we neared the end of our loop, but Terry pushed me to keep going. I believe his words were, "I'm going to get you to those six miles!" How adorable and amazing is my husband? We knocked out that last mile - 6 miles at 6 mph before 6 am!

New recipes. Last night, I threw together a simple, fresh, summery pasta dish. I simply sauteed sme pancetta, zucchini, butter, garlic, and white wine, then tossed it all with diced tomatoes and whole wheat spaghetti, plus some Parmesan. So simple and perfect for leftovers today!

Planning ahead. I get so excited thinking about future trips, adventures, friends' weddings, life changes. Terry and I will celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary on July 9, so I look forward to whatever we decide to do to celebrate!

Creativity in the gym--or outdoors. At the delta last weekend, I was in charge of a workout for everyone, so I designed a quick full-body circuit. You can do it two or three times through and tack on some cardio for a full workout.

Learning to unwind. Forever a journey, but one I'm working to figure out. Off to enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WIAW: Three Meals

Ironically, this month's WIAW theme is "Sensible Snacking"--it's ironic because I'm trying out three meals a day this week. I've read recently that some folks feel better just eating three meals per day, instead of the small meals throughout the day. I thought I'd give it a try for the week. I'm only on day two, but so far I feel a lot fuller after each meal and feel the same amount of hunger between meals, so no complaints. Meanwhile, here's what I ate today:

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Breakfast: a fried egg, a piece of toast, and about a cup of melon and raspberries, plus tea and a banana (the banana was after I got to school, so perhaps that doesn't count as only three meals, but oh well)

Lunch: Greek yogurt with almond butter; tuna salad on a Brioche Toast from TJs, and leftover Greek quinoa salad (I ended up saving half the tuna for tomorrow because I was stuffed!)

Sparkling water with raspberries and a squeeze of lemon

Dinner: zucchini fajitas (onion, bell pepper, zucchini, black beans, avocado, and sour cream on a tortilla, plus a Stella for good measure

I actually like the three meals idea, especially because I get to eat more at each meal. It's such a difference to actually feel full at lunch instead of just eating enough to get me to the next snack. It prevents me from feeling the need to eat my own arm after school.

My workout today was a long walk to Whole Foods to pick up a few ingredients. I agreed to make some quick breads for our school's upcoming participation in the Every 15 Minutes program. Some students are selected for an overnight retreat, so I'm donating these loaves for their breakfast.

Two pumpkin, one zucchini

And the rest of the night has been a glorious break from grading. I finally finished up with some term papers, so I'm celebrating by...preparing to grade more papers. Ah, the life of an English teacher.

Do you eat three meals per day? A bunch of mini meals? Or just roll with it? I would love to be that person who just eats when I'm hungry and stops when I'm full, but I have terrible willpower. So I have always brought lots of small snacks to school. We'll see how this change turns out!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Scenes from Memorial Day Weekend

Terry and I woke up at 3 am on Saturday morning to drive up to the delta, where I also spent last Memorial Day

We even saw the sunrise! (Blurry photo, sorry)

We arrived around 9 am and spent the day relaxing, reading, catching up. Terry even skied once, but the rest of us deemed the water too choppy. 

I made blondies for the group

One of my favorite parts of the delta: the 8:38 stretch! The local news channel stops the news at 8:38 on weekends for everyone to stretch, and they show all the writers, production staff, and anchors stretching. It's hilarious!

Yes, that guy is doing a pretzel at his desk.

We also got to play with the dogs!

Achilles loved his pool, as always.

And Tango swam in the water--practically a first for him (he's a lab, but he doesn't act like one near water). 

Tonight we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to enjoy a run together. We had planned on only a few miles--three or four--but we ended up covering over five miles! We definitely walked at least a mile of that distance, but it felt great to run. 

Since Best Body Boot Camp is officially over (you can sign up for the next round here!), I'm on my own again for workouts. Running, yoga, hopefully some classes with Jenn, and plenty of strength training--it's all in the works for beginning-of-summer fitness over here! If you have any workouts you love, please share!

Tonight I whipped up a quick meal: Greek quinoa salad and grilled chicken breast, plus some sparkling water.

Simple, quick, and delicious! Perfect for a warm almost-summer weekend, especially after a weekend of indulgence. 

Any fun stories from the weekend? Any good workouts I should try this week?

Friday, May 24, 2013

After-Dinner Workout and Luau Muffins

Tonight's post comes at you in hopes of offering a unique workout and a delicious treat. Hopefully you can find a way to work one or the other--or both!--into your Memorial Day weekend.

I felt inspired on Wednesday night to create an after-dinner workout. Most of the time, my workouts require a fairly empty stomach (I feel heavy and cramp up easily if I eat within an hour of working out). But on Wednesday, I went to a light happy hour with my coworkers and still wanted to work out afterward. I wanted to avoid jumping and high intensity movements, so I created a timed workout that actually made me work hard without cramping up! And in just 25 minutes--not bad.

The workout mimics a Tabata workout--20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest--but it's not technically Tabata because the moves aren't designed to get your heart rate up high. Still, the format runs like this:

  • In Group 1, complete the first exercise for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete the second exercise in Group 1 for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat this format, remaining in Group 1, for three more rounds (total of four rounds, four minutes).
  • Then move to Group 2 and start all over again, proceeding to the other four groups after that.

Form cues:
To round out your workout, consider a brisk walk around the neighborhood, especially now that the sun is out longer for summer!

Speaking of summer, I think these muffins will be fantastic for summer. We still have half a batch left and I'm already eager to make more. These guys include healthy ingredients and taste like a tropical vacation. Hey, if you can't actually be in Maui, just pretend. It's all about denial and daydreaming.

Luau Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Recipe adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple (frozen would likely work; just thaw it ahead of time)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, mash the bananas and stir in the other wet ingredients (pineapple through vanilla). I mashed the pineapple in a little but mostly left chunks. If you prefer less texture, chop your pineapple more finely. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and stir just until combined (don't over mix). Finally, stir in the macadamia nuts.

Distribute the batter in the prepared muffin tin. I like to use a large ice cream scoop to ensure more equal muffin sizes. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

These muffins were so good we ate them for dessert! And with the fruit, whole grains, and healthy fat from the nuts, you're getting some terrific nutritional value. Hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finally Hit the Treadmill

I loved reading your comments on your people-watching stories at the gym! You guys are hilarious, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

This week hasn't been fantastic in Workout World. I just felt no motivation. So today, I tried all day to get myself psyched up for a sweaty treadmill session. By the time I got home, I finally felt at least a little excited to get to the gym. And it was...awesome! I plugged in my iPod and rocked out, lip syncing like a champ. I made it about four miles in 38 minutes--definitely not bad for me!

After that fantastic workout (finally!), we had a busy evening, including a delicious dinner of grilled chicken and Greek salad.

I also tried a new recipe after dinner: banana-pineapple-macadamia nut muffins!

Hoooooly smokes, these guys tasted phenomenal! Terry and I both loved them, so the recipe will be coming at you this weekend!

Tomorrow morning we're hoping to wake up early for a pre-work workout. I'm thinking of switching things up and completing my Full-Body Timed Circuit--we'll see how I'm feeling at 5 am!

Meanwhile, we're packing and getting ready for a weekend of water skiing, playing games, and hanging out with family. I'm excited to get up there and relax, though the weather is supposed to be rather gloomy. Oh least we'll enjoy some good quality time!

Any Memorial Day weekend plans? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WIAW: Teacher Appreciation Week

It should really be called "Teachers Get to Eat a Lot Week," because I feel as though I've eaten my weight's worth in goodies over the last few days. We sure are spoiled at my school!

I made sure to start the morning with a healthy breakfast: whole wheat toast, peanut butter, and sliced strawberries.

The rest of the day was all about indulging!

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The parents at our school have been bringing in delicious breakfasts, and today they provided lunch as well. For breakfast, I helped myself to way too many banana mini-muffins, but I was proud that I avoided the donuts. The chocolate old-fashioned looked TOO delicious, so I stuck with the delicious muffins instead. And no regrets, because lunch was just around the corner!

For lunch: multiple platters of sandwiches, Cold Stone ice cream cakes, pasta salad, potato salad, homemade desserts, salads, and more!

After work, a few of my coworkers and I felt even more spoiled, because a local medical clinic offered free facials for teachers! It was so fun to feel pampered after a day at work. I've only had one other facial, so it was quite refreshing and delightful!

Then my coworkers and I grabbed a light dinner at a local restaurant.

A terrific end to a delicious day!

Do you get special treats at your job? Any big perks? Make us jealous!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

People-Watching at the Gym

Today I hit the gym a little later than usual, around 5:30 pm. This timing seems ideal for some excellent people-watching (or, as my dad recently dubbed it, "people-judging"--and let's be honest, that's what we're doing). My tiny apartment complex gym (one elliptical, one bike, two treadmills, a cable exercise set, and a set of dumbbells) invites some fantastic characters:
  • There's the guy who has done the exact same workout every time I've seen him. He chooses 40-pound dumbbells, sets them carefully on the ground, gets himself all psyched up, does a few squats with LOUD grunting noises, then goes outside to do calf raises on the stairs. Repeat a few times. Done.
  • There's the girl who seems brilliantly athletic and hits the treadmill pretty hard--but who leaves the treadmill TV on when she's done. I don't get it.
  • There's the woman who brings her personal trainer to the gym with her. And sometimes he brings his little kid. Did I mention how small this gym is?
  • There's the couple who clearly have a fantastic way of making sure they stay healthy. They almost always work out together, even though they don't always do the same thing. It's so cute!
  • My favorite: The woman who comes to the gym to sit on the bike and watch the TV. She doesn't ride the bike. She doesn't use earphones to listen to the TV. She just watches. And usually she watches a sitcom, like King of Queens. It's hilarious.
Of course, anyone making it to the gym in any capacity is rocking it, and my "people-judging" is all in good fun, I promise. But at least the people-watching makes my time in the gym all the more entertaining. I've mentioned before that Terry would complete his workouts in silence if I didn't badger him with questions (What do you think of the workout? What muscles do you feel you're working? How are you feeling? What do you want to eat for breakfast? What should we do this weekend? Should we carpool today? <--I'm delightful).

So checking out the folks around me certainly helps the time pass quickly. I'm sure they also enjoy my antics: falling all over the place trying to do split squats on the stability ball, sweating like a maniac during HIIT workouts, lip-synching to my favorite songs.

Perhaps I should just work out in the apartment. With my cat. So he can judge me.

Do you people-watch at the gym? Any good stories?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shoulders, Triceps, & Chest Drop-Sets

Before diving in to the usual blog business, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to those affected by the terrible storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma. Stay safe out there!

This week started with a delicious treat:

Usually starting the work week feels rough, of course, so I thought it might be fun to mix things up and enjoy a fancy breakfast before heading off to work. I topped my French toast with peanut butter, sliced almonds, sliced strawberries, and maple syrup. It kept me plenty full while the students tested and I plowed through some grading. These testing days move so quickly; I have a feeling the week will feel super short.

And no complaints here! Memorial Day weekend means the summer is officially here, even though I'll still have a few more weeks of work. Good thing, too, because we have another act of Romeo and Juliet to read in my ninth grade class!

Switching gears a bit, I thought I'd share a new hypertrophy workout that I created for Terry. Usually, Terry and I do the same stuff in the gym, but lately I've wanted to create some different options for him because he wants to focus on increased strength and muscle mass. That's where hypertrophy comes in; this type of training aims for maximum muscle size.

If you're looking to increase muscle size, want a challenging workout, or want to challenge your muscles in a new way, give it a try and let me know what you think!

For dinner tonight I whipped up a quick stir-fry with onion, bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, pineapple, brown rice, and soy sauce. So simple, so delicious. I also roasted some broccoli and dipped it in hummus--my favorite healthy snack lately!

Let's hope the rest of the week moves along without incident!

What's your favorite healthy snack lately?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Scenes from the Weekend

We had a great time enjoying campus and fellow alumni at UCLA Alumni Day yesterday. I'll recap more of the events later, but I was particularly impressed with the food! Everywhere we turned, more food appeared: desserts, fruit cups, granola parfaits, hot dogs, nachos, sandwiches, salads, smoothies...

That evening we headed out for an impromptu date. We had a gift card to Rock Sugar and free movie tickets, but the movie ended up being sold out (almost always our luck). So dinner it was!

Hello, handsome.

But dinner was fun: yummy summer cocktails, Asian fusion foods we hadn't tried before, and a fairly quiet outdoor patio to enjoy the weather.

This morning, after a run, a trip to the farmer's market, and some errands, we met up with Terry's parents for lunch and to check out the Griffith Observatory. Lunch at The Trails Cafe was delicious--a small but mighty menu and really unique pastries.

Scones, pie, and a pastry-wrapped hot dog. So random, but all great.

My sandwich: avocado, tomato, sprouts, red onion, and cheddar cheese.

The museum was definitely enjoyable, but my favorite parts were the show in the planetarium and the views from around the observatory. Even on a bit of a smoggy day, the city looked incredible!

And now we're back into a busy week of work (only four more weeks for me--yikes!) before the long weekend. I'm hoping to improve on my morning workouts this week!

What was the highlight of your weekend?
As always, my highlight was spending time with my awesome husband. He's been back and forth to San Diego for work lately, and I'm thrilled with any time we get together!