Sunday, August 29, 2010

Food Philosophy & Fitness Ponderings

This trophy goes to the 437 people who commented on my blog Flab to Fab!!!! I wish I could send each of you a goodie and respond to your remarks personally, but time does not permit that. I am busy cleaning out my email at this time! For those of you who sent me friend requests, I am honored, so honored that you would add me as a friend. I try to take the time to go to the page of someone who has friended me and get to know a little bit about them before I add them as a friend. And, again, because I have received so many requests lately, I am unable to quickly respond to them. I have said this before to some of my friends and I will say it here, now, this network of friends on Spark have been a vital part of my continued success, I consider it an honor when someone adds me as a friend. I have been so blessed by sooooo many wonderful, powerful, encouraging, supportive, inspiration and motivation people here on Spark. I wish I could give you a list of some of the most inspiring people I know, but that list would be huge. Just huge.

Some of the emails I have received have asked me about my 'diet' and my fitness routine. First, I really do not 'diet'. I believe that is why I have been successful this time. I don't believe in 'diet' foods. You know, the foods you make yourself eat even though you don't like them, just because some 'diet' said it was good for you. I don't do it. I refuse to eat foods that I don't love. I pack my cooler every day with all the good healthy foods I need to take me through 9 hours at work and a workout at the gym. I look forward to each meal that I eat and never dread HAVING to eat something. Food is delicious. A fear of food is not a healthy place to be for me. I have changed my 'eating style' along the way, to match the season and my taste.

June 16 - August 23, 2009 - The only changes I made were to cut back my portions, not get soda or fries if we stopped at a fast food restaurant.

August 24 - December 31, 2009 - I used the Flat Belly Diet by the editors of Prevention Magazine. I love the foods on this 'plan' . All my favorites and things that were in season in August especially. Lots of tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, fish, chicken breast, dark chocolate, veggies. This is still the basis of my eating. In January I had to add more calories than this plan provided. However, I stuck to the food basics of this plan.

January 1 - May 24, 2010 - I was training for a half marathon and needed more calories than I was getting and I needed to challenge myself in different ways, so I started reading Clean Eating Magazine and following some of the recipes from Tosca Reno's Recharged Clean Eating book. I love this eating style and it combines very nicely with the things I had already incorporated as 'my plan'.

At this point I had lost 88 lbs. Each time I hit a plateau I either tweaked my diet or my exercise program. I was wearing a size 14 that was just a little lose, but could not fit into a 12. I got to a point that though I was not dissatisfied with my progress, I just wanted to see what would happen if I were to really go for it. What does all out look like? What does that feel like? Is it realistic? Is is sustainable?

I was not looking for quick fixes or pie in the sky promises. I followed the blogs of a couple workout divas who had made some remarkable transformations and I thought if they can do it, I can. But, I did not trust myself at this point to tweak my diet properly and I wanted to be sure I was eating enough. I asked a friend who is a nutritionist to take a look at my food logs and my workout logs. I knew I was close to the macro nutrient breakdown I needed for my body, just missing the mark somewhere. He did take a look and did make some suggestions that ended up being very valuable to me. The nutrition skills I learned from that consultation are life long skills I will be able to use over and over again.

However, the work was mine. I believe that nutrition is 80% of the fitness equation. I need my nutrition to be appropriate for the workout load I am requiring of my body. If my nutrition is not fueling my workout properly, my workout results will suffer, my form will not be what it should be and I'm not fully in the game. This may not seem important to your workout, but to my runner friends, they know that a night of crap eating leads to a rough run which can lead to muscle strains and pains throughout the week and slow recovery time.

Once I learned to fuel my body properly, muscle mass started increasing, performance improved and my recovery time was very short. I felt like I could go forever.

Not everyone can afford or needs a nutritionist. I understand that. I didn't need one at 100 lbs. overweight. There were other things to learn at that stage of the game. I've heard a little negative vibe because I used a nutritionist. Like that somehow negates the efforts made or the validity of the results, like I somehow cheated. I'm sorry if you feel that way. There are wonderful tools available for free right here on Spark. Portion control alone no longer work for me and I need to stay away from some of my trigger foods that make me crave more of empty calorie foods.

My favorite fitness workout involves my basketball and my driveway. I take my dog for a one mile walk to warm up my legs. Then I shoot a couple lay ups and a couple foul line shoots. My driveway is long enough for two mid sized vehicles to be parked back to back. Holding the basketball in my hands, I start at one end and do long stride walking lunges with a deep dip in the center and a walk through without touching down in between strides. So, from the lunge position, I push up with the front leg, swing through the back leg without it touching and bring it into the front leg position. Oh, and as I lunge forward I twist at the waist with the ball in my hands toward the forward leg. At the end of my driveway, I reverse and do backward walking lunges. Much more difficult. These require a lot more core and glute strength to push up backwards out of a lunge. I do this set twice. Then I shoot a few more hoops. Next I do a side squat shuffle down my drive way and back, holding the basketball. I sit back into a wide squat, go up on the balls of my feet and then as quick as I can and staying as low into a squat as I can I shuffle to the end of my driveway and shuffle back. Then I shoot a few more hoops. Next I do a set of 20 squat jumps. Holding the basketball, feet out wide, I squat down touch the ball to the driveway and then spring up from the squat and jump like I'm making a basket, arms up, full thrust, immediately back into squat. Then I shoot some more hoops to bring my heart rate back down. Next up are calf muscles. Holding the ball in my hands up over my head, I go up on my tiptoes like I'm trying to touch the ball to the rim. Then I shoot some more hoops. Last up is the side squat single leg lift. I start out in a squat, holding the basketball, as I come up out of the squat I lift one leg out to the side using the abductor muscles on the outside of my hip and I lift the ball over my head at the same time. As I come back down into a squat I place that foot on the ground, do a full deep squat and as I raise up I lift the other leg. I continue alternating legs for a total of 20 reps. You will feel these. This is my favorite lower body workout. Anyone can do these and anyone can get results. Need it harder, add a weighted medicine ball. Need it easier, doing standing squats and lunges instead. These are basic moves that most anyone can do with minimal equipment.

My favorite Full body circuit and core workout also involves no equipment. I also involves quite a bit of cardio. I walk to warm up, at lease 10 minutes. Then I run the width of a basketball court. When I hit the sideline, I drop to the floor and do 10 push ups. Jump up. Run back across the court. Drop to the floor do 10 crunches. Jump up. Run back across the court. Drop to the floor do 10 burpees (or squat thrusts). Jump up. Run back across the court. Drop to the floor and hold a plank position for 1 minute. Jump up. Run back across the court. Drop to the floor and do 10 more push ups. Jump up. No time to rest. Drop to the floor. 10 mountain climbers. Jump up. Run back across the court. Drop to the floor in plank position. Do a one arm side plank. Come back into full plank. Do the other arm side plank. Jump up. Run to the other side. Drop to the floor for oblique crunches. You can do this! You are tough! Give it all you got!

There are muscle groups I feel I need to go to the gym to hit properly, since I don't have any equipment at home. I am blessed to have free access to the University gym and it's facilities. When the weather is nice the world is my gym and if I had to pay for a gym it would be a waste in the summer time. I only hit the gym twice a week. But I work out 5 - 6 days a week. When I go to the gym I love to do arms, back and shoulders. I love the wide range of weights they have and the cable cross machines. During the winter months I use the gym more.

This is me, this is my workout, this is what keeps me fired up! What lights your fire?!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Working Out Like a Mother II

This is probably the most rewarding subject I have ever written about. I love being a mother, I've been a foster parent to special needs children, I've taught preschool and I have two grown sons of my own. There were times when things were hectic and I would feel stressed out and irritated. But when I would stop and reflect on why I was irritated it was usually the over commitment things I had gotten involved in that got in the way of the quality of my family relationships. Then I learned this little notion that for every time I said YES to one thing, I am saying NO to another. So, if I said "Yes, I will volunteer to help with that project." I was saying "No, I don't have time to relax with my family". Or if I said "Yes, son, I'd love to go hiking with you today." Then I'm saying "No, I don't have time to do the laundry right now."

That is an over simplification of the notion, but you get the gist of it. You have to pick what adds quality to your life or the life you want to build for yourself and your family. I learned that by looking at it this way, it made it easier to say no to all the 'worthy' causes and helped me to choose quality over quantity. So many moms of elementary aged students seem to running in 100 and 1 directions. To put is mildly they seem frazzled and fried. If this is you, I want to encourage you to exhale. No one has ever died from being less than perfect. Enjoy this day and all the little adventures it may bring.

In this phase of motherhood, you youngest has entered kindergarten and you have a little more free time. Whether you are a stay at home mom or you work outside of the home, you child is now more independent and can take care of some of their own physical needs. Encourage them to do so. Let them help pick out which vegetables you buy at the grocery store. Let them look through the Clean Eating Magazine or cookbooks to find things that appeal to them. Ask them what they would like to do and maybe offer some options. "Would you like to go for a bike ride with me or go to the park to play". If they choose park, make sure you play like a kid at the park! It is fun to play like no one is looking or like you don't care what others think of an adult on the swings. Have fun! Kids are happy. Active kids are healthy. Doesn't make sense that you would be happier and healthier if you played at the park?

Elementary aged children are great at physical challenges and are up for just about anything. During a walk or a play time at the park, challenge them to see how many times they can hop on one foot. You do the same! Now spread your feet apart, squat down to touch the ground and then jump up as high as you can (almost like a leap frog movement or a squat thrust). This is a fun age to workout with. This is my favorite age to do yoga with. Teach them upward facing dog and downward facing dog.

If you are blessed enough to be a stay at home mom and have that time alone while they are at school, now is the time you can invest a little more time into you fitness goals. Take up running (check out the Couch to 5k program). Take up kickboxing or Zumba. Challenge yourself with Crossfit workouts.

Elementary can be a picky food time. They are so drawn in by the commercial products and what their friends have. They are also more social at this age and are eating at friends house. Although we can't control what they eat at the home of others, we can provide healthy choices for them at home and in their lunchbox.

What's in the lunchbox? Start them out as young as possible with whole wheat breads and they will love them. There are these great whole wheat wraps called Flat Outs. You can use theses a couple dozen different ways. Here is one of my favorites. Spread natural peanut butter on the flat wrap, spread a layer of all fruit jam slice a banana in half lengthwise and roll in up in the wrap. Delicious! So, you just got your whole wheat, protein, and fruit serving at the same time. Add a little crunch to their lunch by learning how to make homemade sweet potato 'chips'. And to get another yummy veggie in their tummies, slice a red bell pepper. Red bell peppers are so high in vitamin C and they taste so sweet and crunchy. To add a little calcium to their lunchbox put in a small container of plain yogurt. If they prefer, you could add some chopped fruit (strawberries, cantaloupe is delicious in yogurt and is very high in potassium).

It's the end of a long busy school day and you both need a night time ritual to help you transition to sleep. My ritual is a warm epsom salt bath, a chocolate protein shake and I climb into bed to read for about thirty minutes before I plan to be asleep.

Whether you are a mother or not and no matter what ages your children may be. The bottom line is find what works with the phase of life that you are in now. Find out what your priority are now. Don't wait until everything is perfect, it never will be. Today is your time. What are you going to do today to work towards your goals, dreams, passions and desire.

My goal is to inspire you to live a life full of passion and dreams and that you will inspire your children and others to do the same. Life really is delicious!

Live beautifully!

P.S. My youngest is 21. Two weeks ago, he and his fiancee joined me in the 100 push up challenge. They have been very diligent in their training. Tonight they started the Couch to 5k training program and have decided to run three days a week and do push-ups and strength training three days a week. You should see the smile on this mommy's face!!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Working it Out Like a Mother

Being a mom can be tough! I know it! I've lived is through 24 years now. As our children move through different stages of life and we move through our own ages and stages of life, the demands, energy and resources change. It is important for moms of all ages to assess their situation and come up with a plan that meets their unique situation.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with some of my favorite family members. In this group is my son's fiance, age 21 and my niece, age 29. Almost three decades of powerful women in one group (I'm 44). Each of us are in a different stage of our lives. Tori is a college student, she is engaged and doesn't have children. Michelle is a college graduate, married with two very young children and I have two grown children ages 21 and 23.

This was a celebration day for me, of sorts. It was the first time I wore my bikini in public. Man, doing all those bikini blogs really paid off. I have learned to be more confident and accepting of my body and I think that shows.
 Feeling a little sassy here!

I'm so proud of my niece, she has lost over 25 lbs. and has a goal of losing another 50. I really applaud that commitment. When we got to to the lake area and I pulled off my sundress, Michelle said "Man, Aunt Carolyn, I'd love to have your body." I don't take these type of comments lightly. First they are flattering, but they do recognize the amount of work and dedication it has taken for me to get this far. Second, I know the struggle it can be for those who are in a different stage of life than me to feel like it is a possibility for them.

We had a fabulous chat about how she was working her goals into the stage that her family was in at this time. So, I thought I would share a little bit of that here with you over a couple blogs.

When your children are very young, infant to preschool age, it is the most demanding time as far as energy and time goes. It is important to focus 80% of your fitness goals on your nutrition. Learning how to eat a balanced diet that is packed with nutrients and avoiding over processed boxed and prepared meals will not only benefit your health, but will be the best investment you can make in your childrens health. Obesity and diabetes go hand and hand. I am saddened when I hear the statistics of childhood obesity.

I understand that feed a family healthy foods can seem expensive, indulgent or unreasonable. Stick with me here. Food manufacturers make the processed foods sooooo cheap, which makes them very enticing to mommies trying to fill up a table full of little tummies. It is a very hard thing for a mommy to feel like her children are going hungry or that they can't provide for their nutritional needs. Here is the thing, those processes foods, that are so cheap, have very little nutrition. That is why the little ones seem to have a hollow leg and you can't fill up their tummies. Their bodies are hungry for nutrition. Eating processed foods also increases the likely hood of obesity and trains you and your children's appetites to desire more. The money that you 'save' on your grocery bill, you will spend in the doctors office.

The basic nutrition that is good for you is what is best for your children as well. Oatmeal for breakfast with a little bit of fresh fruit or unsweetened applesauce and 2tbs of peanut butter (for adults, some parents avoid nut butters for young children. Try sunflower seed butter. ) This is a yummy treat for any age. I like mine with an apple chopped up in it. Strawberries are also good. Oatmeal is not expensive. I like steel cut oats and they can be a little more expensive, but the old fashion quaker oats work just fine. Stay away from the instant, it is pricier and trains your palate to crave sugars. Opt for those fresh fruit sugars with breakfast. At lunch, a whole wheat flat wrap with 2oz of your favorite protein. I like grilled chicken. Try to stay away from deli meats, they are higher in sodium and preservatives. Spread a little Omega Heart Smart Mayo on the wrap (or an olive oil based mayo). Add fresh spinach leaves, onion, peppers, tomatoes (whatever is your favorite, is the cheapest or is in season). Almost forgot your snack times. You should have two. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Keep it small and simple. 6 almonds and some plain yogurt. You can buy the plain yogurt in the store brand pretty inexpensively. By using plain yogurt you save calories, sugars and money. Chop up your almonds and put them in. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like. Be creative. Moms are good at that.

Dinner time. Switch your family to a whole wheat pasta or a high protein pasta. I know these are a little pricier. Here is the deal though, teach your children to eat a serving size. You are giving them proper nutrition. Their bodies will require a lower quantity, when they are getting a better quality. Steam some broccoli. Bake a Chicken. 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta with chopped baked chicken and broccoli florets and grate 1 oz. fresh Parmesan on top! If your family likes tomatoes, use a can of diced stewed tomatoes (this is the one processed food I do keep on hand and use frequently. I keep canned beans on hand as well. They are good fillers and have excellent nutritional value).

Okay! Let's exercise!!!!! Time is at a premium and your energy is low! You want quality time with your family and you want quality time in your exercise. While your little ones are napping, you may need to nap as well. A tired mommy, is not a healthy mommy. Don't give up your rest time to exercise unless that is what you want to do and it works best for you. Plan on getting your cardio in while playing with your children. Babies and very small children can ride in strollers while you take your walk or jog. Strength training at this stage of your life does not need to mean an hour at the gym. Join the 100 push up challenge. Focus on large muscle groups. Squats and lunges can be done with no equipment and you can do those while you are watching your children play in the backyard. Crunches can be done anywhere. Suma Squats while holding your little one is better than any medicine ball and your baby will have a blast doing them with you . . . they think it is a game to be lifting into the air!

The key point here is that this is not the stage of life to make exercise THE focus of your life. Keep in perspective. Keep your family healthy and fit and you will be happier and healthier. This stage will pass and you will be ready to transition into a new stage of your life as well.

And when your four year old goes running up a sand dune, run up with him! The view is beautiful from the top and you both will enjoy the adventure. When your niece chases her four year old up the dune, follow! Fitness does not have an age limit or requirement!

Live beautifully!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Menus, Marathon and Muscle

Okay, technically I'm not giving you menus, but the word recipe did not fit the alliteration! Over the weekend I batch cook to save myself time during the week. If you do not currently do this, I highly recommend it. It take just a couple hours at the most and I have one time mess up and one time clean up of my kitchen. Everything else is just heat and eat for the week.

I make enough of this casserole for 4 dinners for myself. The recipe is a single serving.

4 oz. ground turkey cooked
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
tsp. Jalapeno
1 TBSP each fresh cilantro and chopped red onion
1 crushed garlic clove
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 a large zucchini (chopped)
1 oz. mexican cheese mix

In a casserole dish mix all the ingredients together, except the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the casserole. Cover with foil to keep cheese from getting crunchy and hard. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.

Originally this recipe was for a stuffed bell pepper with grilled zucchini on the side. But, I was out of bell peppers one night and I had jarred roasted red bell peppers. I like the creation so well, I have been making it like this every since. This reheats wonderfully.

The other dish I made was a baked egg white and soy sausage casserole. This is not complicated at all and saves me tons of time.

I usually have 4 egg whites and one whole egg every morning with 2 oz. or soy sausage. I use Morning Star Sausage Crumbles. Would love to show you a picture, but again, picture issues. I make enough of this casserole for 4 breakfasts.

16 egg whites
8 oz. of sausage crumbles

Yep, that is it. Mix them together. Pour into a baking dish that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray and bake for approx. 8 minutes and then stir with a fork and then bake for another 8 - 10 minutes. I like for mine to resemble scrambled eggs and sausage. Sometimes I add a cup of chopped spinach to this mixture. When I come in from a run, I put 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potato into a bowl (cubed or diced), 1 serving of this mixer on top of the sweet potato and then I heat it in the microwave. While it is heating I make one whole egg over easy and put on the very top. Chop it up and mix it all together! The yoke makes a creamy sauce all over the sweet potato and is so yummy!!!! I actually crave this dish!

My marathon training is going really well. My long run this week will be 11 miles and it doesn't feel hard. I'm able to run four days a week this time. When I trained for my half marathon I could only run three days a week without feeling tired and run down all the time. This time I am feeling more fit and strong and my body is holding up well. One thing I have found to be true, is that my days of rest and recovery are a vital part of training. I have been kinda over doing it these past two weeks with the Zumba 3 nights a week, running 4 times a week and weight lifting 3 times a week. I started having little pesky cold symptoms and feeling run down. These are classic signs of over training. This happened in the last month of my half marathon training and I ended up with pleurisy and bronchitis. Luckily I recovered quickly and continued with my training. Since I still have 7 weeks of training before my half marathon and another 4 weeks after that until my marathon, it is important that I head the signs of over training and take some things out of my activity and put some things in.

I will not be taking Zumba on a regular basis while I am training. I will drop in on a class as time and energy allow. I will be adding more rest and recovery time. Additionally, I am focusing very diligently on my nutrition and hydration.

Although I love running and my training is going great, I have decided that this will be my only marathon experience. The training required makes it hard for me to focus on my muscle development. Since I do not have the healthiest knees, my running future is limited, but I could continue to lift weights until the day I die. I have a more muscular build and don't really see myself as a runner. I consider myself a weight lifter who runs.

As long as my body will allow me, I will keep running, but my distances will be shorter and my over all weekly miles will be smaller.

I just realize today, that when I run my next half marathon, it will mark the one year anniversary of me starting the Couch to 5K running program! In just over a year since starting running, I will have ran two half marathons and one full marathon. Wow! What a difference a year makes.

I wanted to include some new bikini pictures this week. I am feeling so much better about them this week. We are going to The Dunes in Michigan City, IN this weekend and I am wearing my bikini in public!!!! I am so excited! It's not that I think I have a killer body, but I am confident in how I feel in my bikini and find it quite liberating to be comfortable in my own skin!

I know this one is blurry, but I love that my muscles are starting to show in my back!

I have purposely not posted any 'before' weeks comparison pictures at this time. Each week my body is changing. Each week how I relate to food, exercise and my body change. I cannot continue to compare myself to past weeks pictures any more than I would want to compare my body to the body of another woman. This is me today. I feel good in my new swimsuit and I like the way my body is looking and feeling today. In a couple weeks, I may do a twelve week split screen picture.

I am so ready for the beach!