Friday, June 21, 2013

Cardio Strength Intervals / The time John left me in a 5k

Tomorrow John and I are racing in A Dancer's Heart 5k. Our friend started this nonprofit to support, inspire, and help youth succeed. We participated in the first annual 5k last year, and this was the race that John promised he'd run with me.

We woke up at 5am last year to help set up for the event as volunteers. Before we left, I asked John about 5 times whether or not I needed to bring my iPod so I could have music while I ran. He said no and that he promised he'd run with me. 

Well, we don't even get 5 minutes into the race and John turns to me (while he begins sprinting) and says, "I think I can win this thing!" And he takes off! So I ran the 3 miles alone and without music. 

The worst part? He DID win! His 1st place plaque is in his office since I wouldn't let him display that memory in our house... at least it makes for a good story now!

I'll let you know how the race goes tomorrow, but I'll bringing my iPod regardless... :) 

On another note, today's Fit Friday post was inspired by Blonde Ponytail's Out of the Box workout. I am doing Jess's Summer Shape Up workouts and no, I'm not just doing it because I too have a blonde ponytail! (...a sweaty blonde ponytail after the end of today's workout!) I am at the end of Week 1 and trust me, it's challenging and you'll feel a good sore after each workout. 

Sweaty blonde ponytail after today's workout!
The workout below mixes up running (or any form of cardio you want) with strength exercises to ensure you get your heart rate up and feel the burn! I did everything outside so I used the sidewalk curb and a park bench, but you could easily take this workout inside to avoid the summer heat.

My sweaty tank in the picture above is an indication of the workout's intensity... plus it was about 90 degrees and humid in Atlanta when I did it. Enjoy!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What the Shack's are eating lately

Yesterday, I recapped what John and I were up to last weekend, and today I'm talking about what we've been eating lately. Read on for quick, yummy (and healthy of course!) recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND dessert.

Chocolate "Frosty" Smoothie

Coffee and Chocolate... perfect start to the day
This smoothie was so creamy that I ate it with a spoon. It reminded me of a frosty, so it was obviously quite a delicious way to start the morning. The key here is to use everything frozen so it's thick.

Serves 1 / Instructions: Blend together 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup frozen, chopped spinach, 3 Tbsp. chocolate hemp protein powder (I use this one), and enough almond milk to get everything blended together (probably about 3/4 cup). 

5 Minute Pasta

I used gluten free pasta but any will work for this dish. I also had the pasta already pre-cooked from dinner the night before (see next recipe!) and reheated it, making this come together quickly.

Serves 1 / Instructions: Cook one serving of pasta. While pasta cooks, combine 5 halved grape tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. chopped sun dried tomatoes, 2 tsp capers, 1 tsp fresh thyme. When pasta is finished, drain and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with combined veggies.

Italian Shrimp Pasta

Since John and I eat different types of pasta (i.e. he doesn't eat gluten free), I made spaghetti noodles for him and gluten free mushroom pasta for me (see 5 Minute Pasta picture above).

Serves 2 / Instructions
  1. Preheat pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and half of a white onion, chopped. Caramelize onion (about 15 minutes).
  2. While onion cooks, thaw shrimp. Quarter 10 grape tomatoes, halve 1/2 cup of green olives, and chop 1/2 cup of portabella mushrooms. 
  3. Add in mushrooms and two cloves of chopped garlic to onions. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Season shrimp with dried oregano and add shrimp, tomatoes, olives, and 1 Tbsp. capers to pan. 
  5. Cook until shrimp is pink and done cooking. 
  6. Toss everything with pasta, drizzle with olive oil, and top with fresh basil, sage, thyme, and ground pepper. 

Dessert- saving the best for last!
No Bake Chocolate Cookies

I got the urge to bake late last night and decided to make some gluten free, vegan cookies. They're not exactly healthy but not as bad as most cookies either! Plus, they definitely passed John's taste test!

The key is to use coconut oil to get a "coconutty" flavor (but you can use butter if you don't have it) and quality cocoa powder. Obviously Trader Joe's was my selection of choice:

2 dozen cookies / Instructions: Combine 1 mashed banana, 4 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (or substitute peanut or almond butter) in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it starts to boil, take pan off heat and stir in 3 1/2 cups gluten free (or quick cooking) oats. 

Spoon out about a tablespoon of the mixture and place in balls on parchment paper (or in Tupperware like I did). Stick in fridge to harden.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What the Shack's are up to lately

Last week I was in Orlando, working on an exciting new project for Student Launch Pad to develop an online platform for my curriculum. It was a change for me to be the one traveling instead of John!

After working long hours and having meetings, I got to enjoy time with my parents, including delicious meals that my Dad made, like this one:

I love learning cooking techniques from him! 

Dad (wearing my apron!) and I cooking together last time he visited
My flight was delayed coming home Thursday night because of bad storms in the Atlanta area. Like the last time when John and I flew home from Chicago, I boarded the plane, we were ready to go, and then had to get off the plane and wait several hours. I'm glad we waited though, because this is the picture of Atlanta's sky that my friend Heather sent me:

While I waited, I wanted to enjoy my dinner (as much as you can enjoy airport food). One small problem: as soon as I sat down to eat, everyone around me started watching a mouse that was running around our seats! That definitely took my appetite away. As I was gathering my belongings to change seats, the man next to me started laughing that I would move because of a mouse. Yes I would!

After finally returning home, I was able to meet up with Heather (remember this girl's wedding?!) for breakfast before she left from her business trip. I always love reconnecting with friends in person!

On Saturday, John and I had our weekly coffee date (a part of us keeping our marriage adventurous) at a new place for us: Revolution Doughnuts! The donuts here were amazing, including a nutella cream filled one and a caramel donut topped with bacon. I opted for their gluten free almond, chocolate, and coconut one, which was delicious!

That afternoon, we "braved" the heat at the Braves game. We took the seventeen-year-old son of the family that John lived with during his internship in Atlanta, and it was a great afternoon and evening spending time with him. By baseball standards, the game was even exciting for me to watch as the Braves took the win in the last inning!

On Sunday we met up with friends to play tennis, and on Monday night we had friends over for dinner. A full and wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beach Body Burn

I am currently in Orlando having some business meetings and planning time for Student Launch Pad. It's a quick trip but always nice to see my family even if I'm working!

With the extremely humid weather making it difficult to run and then the afternoon rain showers, I decided to move my workout inside. Remember my parents' leopard print carpet in the movie room from my last trip home?

Always fun to workout on!

Here's the 30-minute super sweaty Beach Body Burn I did:

These three 10-minute videos from FitSugar work the whole body and include similar exercises so that your legs, abs, and arms will feel the burn by the end of the last video. Yet because each video is only 10-minutes you won't get bored doing a same circuit over and over. Instead it's fast-paced with three different instructors, keeping things exciting!

All you'll need is a set of 5 pound weights.

Time to burn it out (Just click the links to the videos to get going)!

1. Includes a warmup and gets the heart rate up: 10-Minute Full Body Bikini Workout 
2. Up the intensity with strength and cardio: 10-Minute Strength Workout with Cardio Bursts 
3. Pump it up and get your heart beating: Jeanette Jenkins 10-Minute Bikini Boot Camp 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Run don't walk: Part II

After last week's post You don't get better at running hills by walking them, I had some readers reach out to me with specific, and very good, questions. I decided to address them in this followup post since hopefully it'll help you apply more perseverance in your life as well.

But first, if you missed it, check out the first post here.

1. What is grit?

As I was discussing my thoughts for this followup post with John, he commented that the human struggle has always been one of instant versus delayed gratification. And this is essentially what "grit" comes down to.

Are you able to metaphorically endure the burn as you run up life's hills for the delayed gratification of making it to the top?

According to Angela Duckworth, the foremost researcher in "grit," it involves two qualities:
"(1) The tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something because of novelty. Not 'looking for a change.'  
(2) The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness." 
So grit requires that you understand the big picture goal that you are going for and that you focus on this goal no matter what stands in your way along the way.

Holding on despite the waves

2. Are some people just naturally born with this trait or can you develop grittiness? 

Studies on grit haven't yet proved if this trait can be cultivated or if you're born with it. But I am in the self-development camp and believe you can always grow and stretch yourself. It's about practice. The first time you push yourself will be very uncomfortable, but you must remember that you don't grow unless you're outside of your comfort zone. As this 99U article states:
"Experts tend to operate outside their comfort zone and study themselves failing. This ability to tolerate, and even embrace, uncomfortableness may well be the 'X factor' that underpins outstanding achievement. Self-control, grit, self-analysis... these are not comfortable qualities. But, as renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic... has said: 'Nobody ever changes when they do things they like.'"

3. I am more motivated by rewards than goals. What advice do you have for someone who struggles to get the hard things done first?

First of all, I write about topics that I want to grow and develop in too. So I definitely don't have perseverance or grit all figured out. 
  • Understand the link between how the small step you accomplish now is getting you closer to your end result. To persevere through obstacles, you need to articulate what it is you are striving for, write it out, and tell others.  
  • Connect what you want to do to why you want to do it. Understanding why something is important ties in the emotional aspect, not just the logical side. (See this post for quick ideas on how to daily remind yourself of the why.) We'll never convince ourselves to do what's hard if it's purely factual. You need to fully feel the importance of what you're trying to do. Why is this an important goal in the first place? Or why is it important for you to keep stretching yourself? 
  • Just start. Often it's hard to start doing the hard things because you know how important your end result is to you- whether it's a goal a week from now or five years down the road. Instead of dreading the task you need to complete as step one to your goal, just tackle a piece of it. Once you get going, it will be much easier to continue. 
  • Tell someone what you're trying to accomplish. Oftentimes we can't drum up the necessary motivation for ourselves. But if someone else knows what you are trying to accomplish, they can help hold you accountable and keep you motivated by reminding you of the big picture.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

You don't get better at running hills by walking them

I read this saying the other day on one of the fitness blogs that I keep up with, and the goal-oriented person that I am, I keep repeating it to myself as I run the hills of my neighborhood a few times a week.

On a literal level, it's true: If you want to run up a hill, you have to practice running it. Even though it's so tempting to walk, if your goal is to run you need to start moving your feet faster.

As I've been getting back into running, I remind myself that the momentary burn in my legs, my shaky muscles, beating heart, and gasping breath is just that - momentary. I remind myself of when I studied abroad in Siena, Italy and practiced every week running up a huge cobblestone hill on the way back to the apartment. And by the end of the summer, I conquered the hill. I might have garnered strange looks from the locals, unsure why a blonde American was trying to make it up the hill, but I returned home still fit even in the land of pasta and gelato. And besides that, I'd accomplished my goal. (Did I mention that I'm goal-oriented?!)

But aside from running, this mantra applies to life too.

Hurdles are temporary. And the momentary effort you'll need to get over them is just that- momentary.

In life, you don't get over setbacks by walking. You need to go full force, take a risk, and not let them slow you down.

This determination, or grit, is the number one factor to success.

I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth that outlines her study on grit. In her terms, after studying West Point students, National Spelling Bee qualifiers, and rookie teachers in the inner city, "one characteristic emerged as the predictor of success: grit." She defines grit as a "passion and perseverance for long-term goals," aka stamina.

A article describing these studies on grit states:

"Not surprisingly, those with grit are more single-minded about their goals – they tend to get obsessed with certain activities – and also more likely to persist in the face of struggle and failure. Woody Allen famously declared that “Eighty percent of success is showing up." Grit is what allows you to show up again and again." 

So both a long-term and short-term view are needed to run up the hills in life. First, you must know why it's worth it to climb the hill. Secondly, you need to remind yourself that there will be moments that are difficult but they won't last forever. And it's getting over these hills that will give you the strength to ultimately reach the top.

Don't give up on your dreams. But put forward the necessary effort and give it your best.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Motivation Monday

Monday's have been an early start for me during the past year because I do talent and culture development consulting on Monday mornings for an organization in the suburbs. This means that I have to wake up at 6am (at the latest), eat breakfast and get ready in 40 minutes, and head out the door.

Once the meeting that I lead ends at 9am (it starts at 7:15!), my Monday already feels like it's off to a productive start. This momentum typically carries throughout the day.

So to inspire your Monday and give you motivation for the week, here are some ways to be productive and efficient today:

1. Make your action plan. What do you want to accomplish this week? What does that mean for what you must get done today? Write it out and schedule it in your calendar.

2. Take a few minutes to remind yourself why you are working today (or why you are in school, at home, volunteering etc.). Last week I took some of my favorite quotes (found on Pinterest of course) and wrote out an inspirational Bible verse. I made it into a collage using the InstaCollage app and saved it as the background to my computer. This whole process probably took about 30 minutes, but the daily inspiration and reminders that it provides makes me more productive in the long run.

This is the collage I made that is now my computer background.

3. Plan out your meals for the week. Planning out your meals for the week takes a little investment on the front end, but it saves a lot of stress during the week. Knowing in advance what I need to buy from the grocery store also saves money (no wasted food) and time (not having to make multiple trips to the store). Plus, you can consciously make the decision to eat healthy. For quick, healthy meals that I've made lately, check out this post from last week.

4. Fit in some exercise. Working up a little bit of a sweat and getting your body moving actually makes you more energetic. Even if you get home from work and are feeling sluggish, getting active will reawaken you, meaning you don't need that cup of coffee mid-afternoon that will keep you up all night. And you don't have to spend a lot of time working out either. You can burn a lot of calories in 10 minutes. My favorite is FitSugar's 10-Minute Videos.

Or, try this at-home CrossFit circuit that I did recently. If you're unfamiliar with CrossFit you can read about it here and get some sample workouts that beginners can do. The circuit that I created was inspired by this one from Carrots 'N' Cake, but since it was a bit challenging for me I modified it below:

This link shows you how to complete each exercise, and the weights that I listed are what I used. If you're curious, I completed 4 rounds in 11:46. Try to beat me ;)

Happy Monday!