Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ignore That Scale (Somewhat)

Simply put a scale is a horribly inaccurate way of judging your fitness level.

Example: According to the scale I weigh 7 lbs less that I did 9 months ago.

Yet, I went from a size 16 to a size 10-12. Huh?

This is why I rely on 5 different tools to determine if I'm moving toward my fitness goals. Each has it's flaws and benefits, but using them all together, I can make a educated decision.

The 5 Best Tools To Determine Fitness Progress


As I've already mentioned, the scale is a poor indicator of fitness progress. It doesn't differentiate between water, fat, and muscle weight. But it's still worth tracking. I weight myself once a week. Weight charts are also deeply flawed, so I use the recommendations as a target, not an absolute.

Height & Weight Charts

BMI Index (Body Mass Index)

Again, this measurement is flawed because it does not account for fat vs. muscle weight, but it's still useful to consider.

BMI Calculator

WHR (Waist to Hip Ratio)

Studies have shown that having more fat around your waist can increase your likeliness of heart disease. (Repeat this with me: I REFUSE TO GET HEART DISEASE.)

WHR Instructions

Body Measurements & Clothing Fit

The most basic measurements are: chest, waist and hips. Whip out your measuring tape and track these over time. How are your clothes fitting? If they are starting to get looser, you are progressing.

Sometimes it's hard to do the measurements yourself, the tape slides up, your not quite sure where to put it, etc. Find out if your gym or community center does free measurements/body fat testing and get the most accurate results.

Honesty & Happiness

This one involves zero mathematical calculations. Just some honesty.

1. Have you hit every fitness goal you had for the week? (If not, figure out why and address it.)

2. Do you think you are "working hard" enough? (You need to challenge your body in order to re-shape it.)

3. How do you feel? (If you feel crappy, something needs to be adjusted.)

Once a month, I look through all the measurements I've been tracking. I compare them to my goals, and see if I am progressing. I'm in it for the long haul, so I'm not looking for huge changes quickly. But if I see no change, it's time to make things (things=exercise) harder or re-examine what I've been eating.

Slow and steady wins the race (of life).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Build More Muscle

I've been exercising & eating consciously for about 9 months now. And I am almost up to the levels I was able to do before my back surgery. Which means of course, it's time to change things up. The major change will be changing from two 45 minute weight lifting sessions a week to three. Muscle burns fat, supports your body, increases bone strength and makes you look amazing. So I want to make more of it.

I've also mixed up the exercises a bit, taking some from what my trainer has suggested, what my physical therapist has suggested, and what I read about ab muscles.

So my routine, starting March 1, 2010:

60 minutes cardio 3x week

*Outdoor walking hill routine
*Various heart pumping exercise DVDS
*Treadmill program
*Walking with friend

45 minutes weight lifting/cardio 3x week

15 reps Lunge w/ bicep curl & shoulder press (8.5 lbs)
15 Side step up on bench w/ squat (8.5 lbs)
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

15 reps One arm row (8.5 lbs)
15 Chest Press (8.5 lbs)
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

20 Triceps Dips
5 Push Ups
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

30 seconds hold Plank
30 seconds hold Side Plank
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

15 Crunches
15 Bicycle Crunches
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

15 Medicine Ball Mini Twists (6 lbs)
10 Superman
Repeat each set 1x

*2 minutes of cardio: jumping jacks, running in place etc.

The End

My ab and back exercises are not at the levels I'd like them to be, but I'm not willing to hurt myself, so I will take it slow and add more as I get stronger.

Eventually I will repeat each set 3x.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Use What's On Hand

Friends and family often bring us treats from their travels and sometimes we just stop eating certain foods. So, as I've been cleaning and organizing the pantry, I made a list of items we needed to use. Each week I try to find a way to use an item up. It's helped my creativity and my desire to not be wasteful.

Whole Wheat Couscous

I've decided that it tastes like air, so I have no desire to buy anymore of it. But rather than tossing the 1/3 of a cup I had left, I made breakfast out of it.

Steep couscous in boiling water (it should be a 1:1 ratio) for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, add a splash of milk, 4 pecans and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Peppermint Drinking Chocolate

Peppermint Chocolate Smoothie
1.5 TB Peppermint Mix
93g Frozen Banana
113g Non Fat Yogurt
101g Soy Milk

About 275 Calories and 44 Carbohydrates

Peppermint Chai Concentrate

Peppermint Smoothie
1/2 cup frozen Concentrate
93g Frozen Banana
113g Non Fat Yogurt
101g Soy Milk

About 280 Calories and 45 Carbohydrates

Huckleberry BBQ Sauce

BBQ Chicken Pizza

First follow Mark Bittman's recipe for Easy Whole Grain Pizza, then top with BBQ sauce, grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, and sliced peppers.

Being cheap tastes really good!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get Fit On The Cheap

As I walked up and down and up and down and up and down my stairs yesterday I realized how very low tech my exercise regimen is. While I do go to the gym 3x a week to use the treadmill (Price: $5), a lot of what I do is at home.

Here are some photos:

My Stair Machine:

(Price: Free!)

My State of the Art Music System:

(MP3 player: $40, Very old computer speakers: Free.)

My Weight Room:

(TV, weights, bench, ball, mat, etc.=$150 in total--all now at least 5 years old. The exercise DVDs are "free" from

Getting fit is not about the fancy equipment. It's really about making the choice to get fit, and sticking to it. And that is free for the taking.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Go Back To Fraggle Rock

Dance your cares away
Worries for another day
Let the music play
Down at Fraggle Rock

I watched Fraggle Rock as a child, and the other day I found it again on Netflix (live streaming). I watched a few episodes, filled my heart with childhood nostalgia, and realized what an extraordinary show Fraggle Rock is. I've watched quite a few of the present day kids shows, and FR blows them out of the water. It has at least 2 original songs per episode, teaches fundamental skills and the expressiveness of the puppets is just amazing.

I think Fraggle Rock is a high quality kids show and you should consider letting yours watch it. (Obviously, before letting your kids watch, you should watch an episode first.) And if you happen to live near Atlanta, Georgia, you can go see the actual Fraggle Puppets at the Center For Puppetry Arts.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kick Up Your Heels

Heels. Sure. You know them. The front and the end piece of the bread that no one ever wants to eat. At least in my house. Well, rather then throwing them out, composting them, or feeding them to wild life, I've been saving them in the freezer. Soon enough I had about 2 1/2 loaves of bread (all heels) and I needed to do something with them. So I made bread pudding.

Maple-Pecan Bread Pudding

I augmented a recipe I got from the "Everyday Food" Magazine
I used 18 slices of my bread (instead of a new baguette)
Did not butter the pan (used spray instead)
Doubled everything
Used about 1/2 of the maple syrup called for
And did not top the finished product with any extra maple syrup or whipped cream.

It turned out pretty well. It basically tasted like pancakes. I brought it to book club, and half the pan was gone by the end of the night. I will add more half & half next time, but it was fun to experiment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blend It. Blend It Good!

I've been eating fruit with yogurt (or cottage cheese) and a whole wheat English muffin (or Flax waffle or Trader Joe's Six Seed Almond bars) for breakfast pretty much every day for the past 8 months. As it turned to Winter, I started microwaving frozen fruit, but I could never get it quite right. So I decided I would try my hand at smoothies. And now, I am obsessed. They are a great way to use frozen fruit, are extremely portable, and let you be creative.

My dear friend Kristine, lent me her Super Smoothies book, and while I haven't done any of the recipes in it (I don't want to add fruit juice or sweeteners) it has given me food combination inspiration.

*WARNING* I don't like super sweet smoothies, so you may need to augment the recipes to your taste.

I put the blender on a food scale, and weigh each item one by one, so the ingredients are listed in grams. This saves time and clean-up.

My three favorite smoothies of the moment:

Pumpkin Smoothie

130g Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix (Measure it in to paper cups and freeze.)
113g Non-Fat Yogurt
101g Soy Milk
Splash of Ground Flax seed Oil
Heavy Dusting of Pumpkin Pie Spice
5 Ice Cubes

About 295 Calories, and 40 Carbohydrates (Check your ingredients for actual data.)

Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie

140g Frozen Strawberries
113g Non Fat Yogurt
202g Lite Chocolate Soy Milk
Splash of Ground Flax Seed Oil

About 260 Calories and 40 Carbohydrates (Check your ingredients for actual data.)


140g Frozen Strawberries
16g Peanut Butter
101g Soy Milk
93g Banana

About 270 Calories and 35 Carbohydrates. (Check your ingredients for actual data.)

Enjoy, and please remember the first rule of Smoothie making: Always wash out the blender immediately after use!