Friday, August 23, 2013

Fit Friday: Butt, Back, Arms, Abs

This week's Fit Friday workout focuses more on muscle toning rather than cardio. It's a good sequence to do the day after a long run for recovery, while still getting a great pilates-focused workout in.

These videos work a lot of muscles that runners tend to forget to focus on: namely the glutes and hamstrings. Plus you'll feel long and lean with great posture after the back and abs exercises.

40-Minute Workout for the Butt, Back, Arms, and Abs 
All of the videos are from FitSugar (one of my favorite fitness sites!)

1. 10-Minute Inner Thigh & Triceps Workout (not technically Pilates but it's a good start to get your heart rate up a bit)
2. 10-Minute Pilates Butt Workout (you will be shaking by the end, I promise!)
3. 10-Minute Yoga Workout  (deep burn while you pulse in yoga poses; Jennifer Aniston's trainer instructs!)
4. 10-Minute Flat Belly Workout (focuses on the abs and back but also great stretching)

If you're using this as a recovery workout, I highly recommend investing in my new favorite workout accessory...

a Foam Roller!

(See the picture above for what mine looks like.)

Foam rolling is a self-massaging technique that loosens your muscles and is great to do after workouts to prevent soreness and stiff muscles. I've really noticed a difference, especially in loosening up my hips after a long run. Click here for some great foam roller exercises from FitSugar to try!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GuiltLESS Pleasures: Not-so Nachos & Good-for-you Grilled Cheese

One thing I'm loving this month? The new Cooking Light issue! This week I've made two recipes from their newest issue for "healthified" comfort food.

This is one of John's busiest times at work, so I've been focused on making meals that are quick yet hearty and comforting. When John saw the array of nachos recipes as I was reading Cooking Light Sunday night he was very excited to try one out this week. (See picture below!)

Here was his nachos pick (that earned a 10 out of 10!):

Huevos Nachos
Inspired by Cooking Light

The original Cooking Light recipe is pretty simple, but I made some tweaks to it, and it was still a big success! (For dairy free and gluten free eaters like myself, I still broiled my chips, I just didn't add cheese to my half. I also use corn chips so they're gluten free.)

1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese  (optional if you're dairy free)
4 ounces tortilla chips
3/4 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (I kept seeds in so it was spicy)
Juice from 1/2 lime
3 small spicy chicken sausages (I used Trader Joe's spicy jalapeno and roasted red pepper all natural chicken sausage)
4 eggs

  1. Preheat broiler. 
  2. Mix together beans, onion, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice.
  3. Heat sausage in a pan for 7-9 minutes, or until heated through completely. Remove from pan and cut into small pieces. Stir into bean mixture.
  4. Scramble the four eggs in the pan. Remove from heat when done.
  5. Arrange chips on a baking sheet and top with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes or until cheese melts.
  6. Add the bean and sausage mixture to the chips and top with eggs. 
The second recipe that I've made this week is:

Again, I made some changes to make it both faster to prepare and with a gluten/dairy free option. I used hummus instead of cheese for mine and made them on gluten free bread. This was another recipe winner!


Grilled Cheese
1-2 cups chopped kale (depending on how much you want)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
Ground pepper and sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (Cooking Light calls for this, but I forgot to add it in and it was fine!)
8 slices bread
2 Tbsp. hummus (optional)
Cooking spray
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Jalapeno Tomato Soup
2 tomatoes, halved
3 large garlic cloves, halved
3 shallots, halved
1 seeded red bell pepper, halved
1 jalapeno pepper, halved (I kept seeds in for spiciness)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth

Preparation: I am writing it in the order that I prepared everything since it went quickest this way.
  1. For soup: Preheat broiler. Place tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and peppers on jelly roll pan. Toss with canola oil. Broil for 10 minutes or until blackened.
  2. For sandwich: While vegetables for the soup cook, heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil to pan. Add in onion and cook for 10 minutes or until it's tender and browned. Add in kale, salt, and pepper until kale wilts. Remove from heat. Add in vinegar.
  3. For soup: Remove vegetables from broiler once they're browned. Coarsely chop them and add to a large pot. Add in the canned tomatoes and chicken broth. Use an immersion blender to blend everything together until it is a chunky broth. Let simmer, covered, over low heat while you finish the sandwiches.
  4. For sandwiches: Lower oven heat to 300 degrees. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add in bread slices, and when they start to brown, flip them over for another 1 1/2 minutes. Repeat this with all of the bread slices and reapply cooking spray when needed. 
  5. For sandwiches: Arrange 4 bread slices on a baking sheet. Top each with kale and onion mixture then add cheese to top. (For dairy free option, spread hummus on bread instead of using cheese.) Top with the other 4 bread slices to make a sandwich. Bake sandwiches for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. 
PS The next day, I took the soup with me as lunch on the go and ate it cold. It was still delicious and tasted like gazpacho!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to live to be 100

In the August issue of Real Simple, there is a feature section on the secrets to aging gracefully. It was fascinating to read snippets of how seven centenarians made it to 100. One of the general principles was to continually learn. 
The article stated, "You need to keep learning throughout your life. Ideally, says Devi, you should engage a part of your mind that you don't rely on. 'There's this interesting concept of learned nonuse, which basically means that if a part of the brain isn't used, it becomes less adapt.'" 
The article suggests to "diversify your cognitive portfolio" by trying skills you don't typically use. So if you're a writer, build a model airplane. If you're an athlete, learn an instrument. If you like numbers, take a painting class. 

The basic premise here is something that I've written about both on BeEmbraced and the Student Launch Pad blog. It comes down to intentionally trying something that you might fail at in order to force yourself into an uncomfortable situation, all in the pursuit of growth.

According to author and researcher Joshua Foer, we need to push beyond the "OK Plateau," where we learn a skill and become "good enough" to get by. Rather than going on autopilot, Foer says that experts in their field remain alert and keep learning to "operate outside their comfort zone and study themselves failing."
Real Simple, August 2013
So ultimately,
"If we want to cultivate expertise, or 'genius,' or whatever you want to call it, we need to be able to step outside of ourselves, observe how we are operating, reflect on what could be better, theorize how we could change it, and then test out a solution. The problem is: This is very, very hard for most people."
Which brings me to my main point of writing this blog post: How can you intentionally begin to learn something new and out of your comfort zone?

I've definitely experienced growth from these type of situations: Learning to cook when living by myself for a semester in Chicago; immersing myself in Italian by doing a home-stay study abroad program; and teaching myself WordPress website development by putting my Student Launch Pad curriculum online.

If I hadn't been in these situations, I would never have learned these specific skills or stretched my mind in new ways, whether creative or technical.

Yet I realized that most of what I learned took place from necessity or specific goals I wanted to accomplish. So, I'm currently thinking, what do I want to intentionally dive into next? I've always loved writing poetry but haven't set aside time for it lately, so this is one area that I'm intentionally working into my schedule.

But what about you: 

  • Do you have any good ideas of new things I can try or learn? 
  • What do you plan on intentionally learning about?

If you enjoy this topic, here are other articles that may be of interest:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wisdom from Narnia on Difficult Decisions

John and I are currently reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. They were a childhood favorite of mine, but the stories are even more powerful reading them as an adult because of the spiritual imagery and analogies that you don't pick up on cognitively as a kid.

There's a scene that I love in the sixth book, The Silver Chair, that depicts difficult and scary decisions that we all face. (Warning: spoiler alert ahead.) 

Reading in the park together

The main characters Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum find themselves alone with a Knight who is under an enchantment. They are told that he will turn into a dangerous serpent and must be bound every night, but as they watch, the Knight suddenly shouts, "Quick! I am sane now. Every night I am sane. If only I could get out of this enchanted chair it would last. I should be a man again. But every night they bind me, and so every night my chance is gone."

Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum hold strong and refuse to believe the Knight's pleas until he says, "I adjure you to set me free... by the great Lion, by Aslan himself..." 

And then suddenly, they face the dilemma of who to believe. 

"What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? ...Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone - even a lunatic - who asked it in his name?"

Finally Puddleglum comments that Aslan had told them what to do when his name was called upon, not what would happen. Whatever the result would be didn't matter: "That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign."

I won't spoil what happens next, but isn't this the decision that all of us make? 

We want to know what the results will be and what will be required of us before we decide to act. But we are told to follow where God is calling us no matter the results. 

And so we must trust that the correct decision is the one with the right motive of truly seeking to follow what God has called you to do.

Yet it's often difficult to discern the right choice in situations that are very complicated, such as issues of homelessness, addictions, and co-dependency. Oftentimes it's easier to continually "wait and see" and therefore do nothing because it seems like no best choice can be made. The risk of making the wrong choice appears too great, as in the case with The Silver Chair

But God honors our intentions and gives us wisdom and discernment when we are truly seeking it. Yet so frequently we, myself included, look for the best decision for ourselves and our own comfort. We give money away because it's uncomfortable to say no, even if it will fuel another's addiction. Or we don't give money away because it will be financially uncomfortable for us.

These decisions can't be made in a vacuum, and each scenario requires intentional listening to God and dialogue with community. As in The Silver Chair, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum all discussed the situation and decided together what action they would take.

So in whatever difficult decisions you need to make this week, check your motives and truly be willing to listen to the direction that God has placed on your heart. Even when it's uncomfortable.