Monday, November 4, 2013

Cooking for One and the Elliptical

Well, we all survived Monday. I know it's already November, but part of me feels like the month is dragging a bit. I assume my husband's absence has something to do with that.

Speaking of which, here are some of the meals I've cooked for myself and how I've used the leftovers to avoid having the same meal eight days a week.

Base proteins:

Crock pot chicken: I threw two (very large) chicken breasts (seasoned with salt and pepper, but you could get fancier) in the crock pot with about 3/4 cup of chicken broth. Then I set the cooker on low for about 6 hours until the chicken was fully cooked. I used the chicken throughout the week to make:

  • a wrap with shredded chicken, Havarti cheese, spinach, and hummus on a whole wheat tortilla (also did this one stuffed into a pita and added avocado)
  • a grilled wrap with shredded chicken, pepper jack cheese, guacamole, and a whole wheat tortilla

    • chicken salad, made pretty much the same way I make my tuna salad, on whole wheat bread
    • chicken enchiladas or mini-enchilada casserole (I didn't make these, but they would be a great option)
    • chicken quesadillas (made these tonight to bring to work tomorrow)
    Ground turkey: I browned a pound of ground turkey on the stove and added half a chopped onion and a whole chopped bell pepper. I kept my seasonings to just salt and pepper for the base.

    • turkey chili (I briefly explained the recipe last week) on a baked sweet potato with avocado, plain Greek yogurt, and pepper jack cheese

    • a ground turkey burrito with Terry's spice mix, topped with spinach, jack cheese, Greek yogurt, guacamole
    • simple pasta with wilted spinach, some marinara sauce from a jar, ground turkey, and whole wheat noodles
    • a turkey omelet with ground turkey, extra bell pepper, two eggs, and shredded cheese
    I'm honestly pretty impressed with myself for being able to come up with a decent range of ways to use those proteins. And this way, I didn't have to cook from scratch every time I made a new meal; instead, I just added to the base and built around it. I can see a ton of benefits here:
    • Fewer dishes to wash. Once the meat is cooked at the beginning of the week, I pretty much only need one more pot or pan to create the rest of the meal and/or reheat the protein. 
    • Variety, but no boredom. I'm eating the same two bases each day, but in such varied forms that I don't really notice. 
    • Less brainpower to create meal ideas. Silly as it sounds, sometimes I just can't think of what to make for dinner. By knowing that I have to start with either chicken or ground turkey, I limit myself (but in a good way), and I narrowed down my options so that I can just create something from there.
    In other news, my workout today: 2 rounds of Courtney's Timed Stability Ball Circuit Workout plus 100 walking lunges (4 rounds of 25). It was quick and I was able to finish it inside--perfect for the time change.

    And finally, a loyal reader asked me today about the elliptical machine. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of the elliptical, because I find the motion awkward. But the truth is, it can be a great option for anyone looking for low impact cardio options at the gym. Specifically, my reader said he's been hearing that the elliptical might be "bad" in some way. After some research and reading a few articles that do suggest the elliptical is "bad," I have to say I disagree with that claim. Here's why:
    • Any exercise is better than none (with few exceptions). If you like the elliptical and it gets you to work out, do it.
    • While it's not the single most effective piece of workout equipment, I would argue that it does what a workout machine should do: gets your heart rate up (though perhaps not as high as a treadmill can), works large muscle groups, and offers options for increasing and decreasing intensity. 
    • Used correctly, an elliptical is an excellent option for low impact exercise, especially for anyone with lower body injuries.
    • An elliptical is a fine option for HIIT workouts or long, slow cardio days.
    And, because I feel it's worth repeating, I believe the ideal exercise routine combines a variety of workout methods, including:
    • long, slow cardio (a long walk, a long slow jog, a hike, long distance swim, long bike ride, etc.) where you can keep up a conversation and maintain a brisk pace for an extended period of time
    • high intensity intervals (30-60 seconds of high intensity, then recover for 30-60 seconds, repeat) for 15-30 minutes
    • resistance/strength training (using bodyweight, free weights, barbells, resistance machines, resistance bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, etc.)--studies are suggesting that this form of exercise may be the most important aspect of a workout routine to boost metabolism and encourage fat loss
    • flexibility (yoga, stretching, foam rolling)
    • REST (we have to let our muscles recover and heal!)
    What are your thoughts on the elliptical? Do you have a favorite form of exercise? I almost always prefer some sort of circuit training over a machine. I love the versatility of circuits; it's nearly impossible to get bored!


    1. i do love the elliptical for low impact cardio!

    2. When I first started working out years ago, the elliptical was IT! Now I rarely use it, unless all the treadmills and bikes are taken. But I still think it's a decent workout!

    3. i definitely cringed when i read that huffington post article that called the elliptical "bad". that is just what we need...society telling people who are moving and getting active that the way they move and get active is not worth even doing! that is NEVER true. i have definitely seen people using the elliptical inefficiently at my gym. they pedal around with no resistance - this is probably just the same if not less effective as walking on the treadmill. but i also see people kick ass on the elliptical. i used it last night when i wanted to do a little movement after a weights workout but not necessarily go balls to the wall. but if i had wanted to go crazy on it, i sure could've! like with any workout or machine it takes education to learn how to use it effectively but i surely don't think people should be calling it a bad or stupid machine. it's how you use it, not the machine itself, that makes a difference.

    4. I totally think the elliptical has its place in the gym. I don't use it often, but on days I want some mindless cardio to get my heart rate up, while taking it easy on my legs (low impact!) it is my go to machine!

    5. Not an elliptical fan here. I did try one at my gym a couple of times and like that I could change the angle so it worked different leg muscles.

    6. i had tried this dish.. my family loved it!!