Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NBC's Spoiler Snafu

I spent all day yesterday avoiding blogs, news coverage and Facebook feeds in order to enjoy NBC's primetime Olympics coverage.  I was eagerly awaiting the swim competitions, especially Missy Franklin's 100 meter backstroke.  I had no idea what was going to happen and I watched an hour of coverage after getting home from work, waiting for her race!

Missy swam in a semifinal for a different race, then hopped into a cool-down pool waiting for her backstroke race.  "Right after the commercials, in under ten minutes!" NBC touted.  I eagerly perched on the couch.

And then NBC played the commercials, one of which showed a teaser for the moment that Missy Franklin saw her parents for the first time after WINNING her gold medal

(photo credit)

Thanks, NBC, for spoiling the race results that I managed to avoid all day just mere minutes before your own primetime showing of her race.  It was a suspenseful race, and had I not known the results I would have been biting my nails.  But thanks to NBC's inability to put that commercial on the air AFTER she won her gold medal, I watched her come from behind, already secure in the knowledge that she was obviously going to win.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Workout, July 29, 2012 (Treadmill and weights)

Workout: 3 miles (and change) on the Treadmill and a Kettlebell set

This was a fun Sunday morning workout, chosen specifically because I needed to watch the Olympics on tv!  My workout partially coincided with the U.S. v. France men's basketball game, and I also caught portions of the the women's biking race as well.

(photo credit)

I first embarked on a brisk 3 mile walk (actually slightly over 3 miles if you want to get picky), indoors on the treadmill (due to the aforementioned Olympics).  If you don't own a treadmill, because after all, if you are saving money buying a treadmill is sort of contradictory, then by all means head outside!  If you don't know how to measure a mile from your house, then you have a few options:  (A) Drive your car from your house and clock certain distances, such as 1 mile roundtrip, so you know what route to take and how long it actually is, (B) ignore the actual mileage and just focus on your time, by walking the same route but keeping track of how long it takes you to complete it, or (C) buy/find a tracking device, which I believe now you can just download on your phone.  If this is also not a feasible option (for example, you live in a bad neighborhood, the weather is very cold/very hot/pouring rain/etc., home responsibilities demand that you stay indoors), then substitute a brisk walk for something else cardio, like a HIIT routine or even dancing.

I followed my walk up with a set of the following kettlebell-oriented exercises (see this post for descriptions on these exercises):
  • Bicep curls (10 on each arm, using a 10 pound kettlebell);
  • Dead lifts (10, using a 15 pound kettlebell); and
  • Bent Rows (10, using a 10 pound kettlebell).
I repeated the above circuit three times.  I also used a move from the Zuzana Light video in this post, the squat overhead press, using an exercise band held tight for resistance.  I did 3 sets of 10 as well.  I like taking moves from videos and incorporating them into my own workouts!

Adidas Techfit Tank

Last week my husband was shoe shopping at an Adidas outlet store while I was still at work and I asked him to pick a new tank for me, entirely at his discretion.  He came home with a great top!

(Adidas - find it here)

This is the Adidas Techfit Tank, a very lightweight top with a mesh back to allow for dryness and comfort.  It is on the Adidas website for $28, but my husband paid around $22 at the outlet store (and also scored it in a bright purple color, which is not on the website).  I've already worn it twice, and it definitely excels in the comfort arena.

But even more importantly... while watching an Olympics rhythmic gymnastics promo over the weekend, a gymnast was wearing this exact tank while practicing her ribbon routine!  I recognized the tank immediately.  If that isn't proof that this is a great tank, I don't know what is!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How to Quit the Gym

My husband and I are officially gym quitters!

(photo credit)

We marched into gym services this weekend and asked to speak to a representative in order to cancel our memberships.  We were ready for a fight, a hard sell, some battle back and forth.  We are both lawyers so trust me, we were ready for it.

Surprisingly, we were in and out of the gym in about 5 minutes -- the amount of time it took to find out membership information and print the paperwork.

It feels liberating.  We are no longer slaves to automatic monthly credit card charges of over $140 for the two of us.  What could you do with an extra $140 a month?  You could buy every video that interests you, a set of kettlebells and free weights, even save up for your own spin bike or treadmill.  You can work out on your own time without worrying about finding a babysitter.  If you only have a free 30 minutes, that doesn't leave enough time to get to the gym, do anything productive, and come home -- yet you can squeeze in a HIIT workout, some Pilates core moves, and anything else you desire at home.

Workout, July 28, 2012 (ZWow and Pilates)

Workout: ZWow #25 Butt Push and Strong, Shapely Arms Pilates

Today marked my first Zuzana Light video (a link to all of her YouTube videos can be found on my free online workout links page), the Butt Push! video.  This tough routine consists of burpees (ouch), plyo flys, squat overhead presses (use a weight, a broomstick, an exercise band, or whatever else you have around the house that suits you), lateral jump touches and ab splitters.  Clocking in at under 20 minutes, this workout will challenge your muscles without taking away hours of your day.

I followed up my first Zuzana Light workout with a Pilates mat video entitled Strong Shapely Arms (remember, you have to be a member on this site to see the videos, but signing up is free and so is usage of all of the basic videos).  The month is almost over, so I suspect that in a few days this mat workout will be replaced with a new mat workout because the site rotates the free videos each month.  This workout utilizes moves that work both the arms and the core and although only 12 minutes, believe me, burn will be felt!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Free Online Workouts Coming Soon!

After much research this past week, I have several new online workout sites that I am ready to recommend!  I am going to spend part of this weekend going through a few of the free offerings myself before I post updates, so please check back...  I am excited to be able to offer my readers even more affordable ways to stay fit and healthy at home.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Honey Lips

Blame it on the sun, the wind, or your dehydration.  Blame it on just about anything... chapped lips, that is.

I have a fast and affordable remedy for chapped lips, whether you get them working up a sweat or just working the day away while behind your desk.

Step 1

Find honey and a soft toothbrush that you don't use for brushing (because toothpaste leftovers may be stuck in those bristles).

If you don't have a honey bear, you should get one! (Photo credit)
Step 2

Make sure your lips are clean and dry.

Step 3

Spread a nice layer of honey on your lips.  Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, 10-15 if possible.  Resist all urges to eat the honey from your lips.  You can make it 10 minutes, you really can!

Step 4

Dampen the soft toothbrush and gently scrub the honey from your lips.  You may need to moisten the toothbrush several times to get all of the honey off.  The honey softens your lips, and the toothbrush exfoliates the lips.

Step 5

After the honey is removed and you have gently exfoliated your lips, gently blot your lips with a tissue or towel and marvel in how smooth your lips now feel!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Workout, July 24, 2012

Workout: Kettlebell exercises and stretching
(Dead lift illustration from the Women's Health Magazine Website)

Last night I started a Bodyrock video but my sciatica was acting up, and I don't believe in pushing through a workout like that if my knees feel shot.  I decided to scale it back and did three miles on the treadmill at the highest incline possible for my knees (sadly, a 2 only), but then supplemented it with things that didn't require excessive knee usage.

I first did a round of upper-body work with my kettlebells.  I purchased the KettleWorx Six-Week Body Transformation (don't you just get a kick out of some of these DVD package names?!?!?!) and now don't need to watch the videos much, as I have learned how to do most of the exercises on my own and from memory.  I therefore tailored a workout to my specific needs of the day instead of following along with one of the DVDs.  I will do a full review of KettleWorx in a later post.

Just as with Pilates, form matters when using kettlebells.  Doing an exercise improperly can hurt your back... or worse.

Last night's workout included dead lifts, around-the-body passes, and bent rows.  The links take you to the Women's Health Magazine website which illustrates and describes each move in more detail.  I completed dead lifts and around-the-body passes with a 15 pound weight, but am still stuck at a 10 pound weight for bent rows. I also used my 10 pound kettlebell , flipped upside-down so my hand was clutching the ball part, to do bicep curls.

I then finished my workout with a satisfying round of stretching, found in Monday's Pilates post.  Stretching always helps ease my sciatica pains so it was a definite must after my workout!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Well-Rounded Pilates Weekend Workout

Pilates on Fifth is a wonderful Pilates studio located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  I used to take barre classes there, back when I worked only a few blocks away, and want to recommend that you check out Pilates on Fifth's website, especially the online workout library found here.

Sign-up is free, and signing up gives you free use of the basic package, which consists of 8 Pilates videos that you can watch for free online (or download for a small fee).  The videos rotate on a monthly basis so you don't have to worry about getting bored of the same workouts month after month.  An hour-long class at many NYC Pilates studios costs $25 and up, so I never turn down a free workout!

I used three videos this past weekend to create a full body Pilates workout for myself.  I don't even own a floor mat yet -- if you don't either, just use a beach towel to protect your back and elbows from the floor!  One of the workouts also required use of an exercise band, which you can find in just about any sporting goods store.

Note: The below links probably will not work unless you do the free sign up as mentioned above.  If you open the links and you no longer see the workout I reference, it is because the workouts rotate every month and the one I used is no longer up on the site.  Don't worry, I am sure the new workout is just as great!

I started out with the "Strong, Svelte and Savvy: Strong, Shapely Arms!" workout
 in the Specialty Workouts category.  This was a very challenging routine!  I have a decent, but not insanely impressive, amount of upper body strength, and some of the moves were very challenging.  Using your own body weight as resistance can be very effective!

I paired it with the "Strong, Svelte and Savvy: Legs & Butt!" workout in the Exercise Band category.  This workout focused on the legs and still the core by using an exercise band to provide additional resistance.  I realized that I need a longer exercise band to perform everything correctly, so if you buy a band make sure it is suitably long.  You might not be able to modify certain exercises in this video  if you don't have an exercise band yet -- you can certainly give the video a try, but I bet you will discover that you wish you had the band on hand.

I ended with the "Perfect Pilates Warm Up" workout in the Mat category.  Yes, I fully realize it would have made sense to start with the warm up video!  Regardless, I think this video makes a great cool down as well.  Lots of stretching is involved and I felt very accomplished yet rested by the end.

There you have it - a well rounded and FREE Pilates workout.  You don't need to leave home to do it.  Your instructor teaches at a well-regarded Pilates studio on Fifth Avenue.  The exercises are clearly demonstrated.  The instructor is personable.   Your kids can be 10 feet away watching Spongebob, and all you need is a bit of floor space and a computer, and a floor mat/towel and perhaps an exercise band.

Now, that being said, when it comes to Pilates, form matters.  If you have a studio near you, I highly suggest taking an introductory class or two to learn the basics, proper form, etc.  Every so often I take a live Pilates class as well, just as a refresher.

A Little Monday Morning Inspiration!

I will be posting an effective (and free!!) online pilates workout later today, but I wanted to give you some Monday inspiration as you start your week:

This was in my fortune cookie this weekend!

Side note - not all Chinese food takeout is bad.  Choose brown over white rice, and aim for things that are steamed, not fried/breaded.  My meal was a delicious bowl of eggplant with garlic sauce over brown rice.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Workout, July 21, 2012

Workout: Bodyrock HIIT video

Today was a short workout day.  My family was off to a slower than usual start and I didn't have a full hour, or even half an hour, to devote to a workout, because we needed to get out of the apartment by a certain time.  I decided that the most sensible course of action was to do a HIIT workout (high intensity interval training) in order to get the quickest results in the shortest amount of time.

I used the Bodyrock video "What Makes You Beautiful" and by the end of the first of three cycles I was definitely feeling it in my thighs.  This workout is filled with squats, burpees, jumps and mountain climbers.  I love mountain climbers, because no matter how exhausted I feel I can knock out mountain climber after mountain climber without pause.  I will definitely do a post soon on mountain climbers.  They work the upper body, core, and leg muscles, not to mention cardio benefits.

When the instructor in the video used a sandbag, I used a 10 pound kettlebell with almost no modification to the movement -- just something to keep in mind if you don't happen to have a sandbag sitting around!

(A kettlebell set - photo link)

Friday, July 20, 2012

How to do Sprint Workouts on Suburban Streets

Just a short training tip for your Friday!

I don't live in suburbia, but I have spent summers there, and therefore I developed a way to measure sprints without having to worry about calculating distance.  If you are running outside, and want to incorporate sprints (a/k/a interval training) into your routine, you might get frustrated as to determining when to sprint and how long the sprint should be.  You might wind up not sprinting as long as you think you are and as a result, shortchange yourself inadvertently.

I assume your suburbia has telephone poles, right?  Telephone poles are generally evenly spaced from one another.  Use these poles as landmarks!  Decide in advance how many telephone poles you will pass as you walk or jog, and then how many poles you will pass as you sprint.  You can keep it even, such as "jog three poles, sprint one pole," or mix it up, such as "walk one pole, jog one pole, sprint one pole" and then "walk one pole, jog two poles, sprint one pole."  If you have a watch, you can time your sprints from pole to pole and make a game of beating your prior sprint times.

Counting telephone poles does something else important -- it prevents boredom, and my guess is that boredom stops many people from completing a work out and giving 100%.  You are always counting poles and pushing yourself, often in short bursts.  Before you know it, 30 minutes will have passed and you will have completed a successful interval training!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Workout, July 19th, 2012

Workout: Bodyrock.tv video and 45 minutes on treadmill (3 incline, 3.2 mph)

Bodyrock posted a new workout today, so of course I tested it out right after dinner (a delicious and healthy Whole Foods dinner of cranberry and quinoa cakes, steamed broccoli and a cranberry, walnut and goat cheese salad).  The "Take Me For a Little Ride" workout, 12 minutes in length, incorporates some great basic moves -- lots of high knees, squats, push-ups, and plank moves.  When the instructors held sandbags or other items to add weight, I just used a 10-lb kettlebell (you can also use nothing at all and get a great workout too).

I then hopped on my treadmill, in order to catch up on some Real Housewives of Orange County, and set it to 3.2 mph.  Because of illness, I had to knock it back down to 3 mph a few days ago, so each time I am using the treadmill I add a .1 to the speed.

I should add here that I never really run, whether on a treadmill or outdoors.  As athletic as I am and strive to be, I have never been a runner.  If you also hate running, remember there are plenty of other things you can do.  Walking is great exercise too, especially if you are just starting out or the mere thought of running makes you want to die.  Look at me -- I was a recruited college athlete, a swimmer, and I literally could not break an 8-minute mile no matter how hard I tried, even at the peak of my athleticism.  I used to joke that I could probably speed-walk faster than I could run!

My New Elliptical!

I already own a treadmill, but the one reason I maintained my gym membership was because I love using an elliptical for cardio.

I purchased a Proform elliptical about a week ago, for $378 through a Groupon deal ($399 reduced cost from $999, with an additional $72 off from my stockpiled Groupon credits, plus extra for tax and shipping).  It should arrive in another week or two.  It was a model made specifically for Groupon's deal, I believe, so I did a great deal of research on the machine's specs before purchasing it.

(photo from the Groupon website)

Although it was a special model, it was equivalent to other high-quality Proform models and non-Proform ellipticals.  I even researched the brands used at my gym to note any differences.

The stride is 18 inches, about 2-3 inches shorter than the machines I have used at the gym, but on par with other home machines.  I weighed this carefully, but eventually decided that I could easily adjust to a slightly shorter stride for the convenience of having my own affordable elliptical machine in my apartment.  It comes with built-in 12 workouts, 12 resistance levels, speakers and an i-pod music port, a cooling fan, and many other "extras" that I am glad to have.  Although it weights 152 pounds, the unit tips forward onto two front wheels for easy moving (see the second picture).

Once I receive it, I will review the entire process of setting it up, just in case you were thinking of buying an elliptical as well.  I know the thought of putting something like this together is daunting.

Having introduced my elliptical... I don't want to suggest that you can't work out effectively at home without large and expensive cardio machines.  You absolutely don't.  However, I know myself.  I know I love ellipticals, and owning one is a terrific investment because I will use it all the time (I already do, at the gym).  Keep in mind that plenty of people stay in shape at home without using a machine at all.  I don't rely on machines exclusively -- I also use free online workouts, DVDs, and my own routines with free weights.  Even if you cannot afford to buy DVDs or weights, there are plenty of free workouts online to help you get started.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Workout, July 18th, 2012

The Workout:  Bodyrock.tv video and 60 minutes on treadmill (3 incline, 3.1 mph)

I completed the first part of my workout, a Bodyrock free online video (the "I Can Only Imagine Workout") as I watched the rain pour down in sheets.  Had I been dependent on going to the gym, I clearly never would have gone!

This Bodyrock video is only about 12 minutes long (as are most Bodyrock videos) but packs a nice little punch.  I really enjoyed this one move called the toe touch, where, from a flat position on the floor, I lifted my right leg, while meeting it in the air with my hands and doing a crunch, and then switched to the left (and repeat...).  The side to side burpees were challenging but I didn't give up.

I wasn't in the mood for much of anything else, although I tried to find some sort of free ballet-esque workout on line but didn't find anything I liked.  So my default was walking on the treadmill (while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune!).  It reached 100 degrees here today, and despite running my AC at full blast, it was still deathly hot all throughout my workout.  The heat tends to zap my energy so taking a long walk on a treadmill is a good compromise.  I had initially intended to walk outside, but thought better of it due to the heat.  It was a wise move, because the skies opened up today and my walk outside would have been swiftly ruined!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Workout," Tuesday July 17th, 2012

I am firm believer that you don't need to actually get on a treadmill or some other machine, or put on running shoes and hit the pavement, or pop in a DVD, or take a class... to do a workout.  Life sometimes hands you a workout if you are willing to take it.

Today my workout was walking.  Endless, endless walking.  In a dress.  With a heavy bag.  At a quick pace the entire time, just because I am a NY-er who has no ability to walk slowly.  In the heat.  And humidity.  NYC's humidity and heat right now are disgusting.

I had jury duty, at a courthouse just one express subway stop from my apartment.  Sounds simple, right?  First I had to walk to the subway (7 minutes), in the heat, and carrying my laptop bag.  Then off the subway to the courthouse, so another 5 minutes.  At lunch, we were given a long enough break to justify a return to my apartment to eat, so tack on another 12 minutes of walking and carrying that increasingly heavy laptop  bag in the heat...

And then after lunch, BACK to the courthouse (12 minutes), and finally upon our dismissal at the end of the day, a return back home.

Total "workout?"  48 minutes of quick paced walking, including lugging that laptop bag, all done in approximately 95 degree weather.  I worked up more of a sweat than I do on any cardio machine!

Monday, July 16, 2012

How I Started Working Out at Home - circa 2008

So there I was, a thirty year old woman, newly engaged, and looking for a small workout video to supplement my gym workouts at home when the weather refused to cooperate with my gym-going plans.

I was a member of a wedding chat board, and all the buzz that year was about Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.

I ordered it, used it once, and promptly threw it on my pile of movies.

Over three years later, I started the process of building my own "home" gym and started to scout out exercise DVDs, and remembered that I, once upon a time, owned this.  I decided to give it another try, and am glad to report that I didn't give her video enough of a chance the first time around.  The short 20-ish minute workouts are challenging enough... but I swap out the tiny hand weight exercises for some more hardcore kettlebell lifts.  I usually tack on something else after doing this workout -- anything from using the treadmill, to some relaxing pilates, to something insanely high-intensity... you know how it goes!  Once you get started, you want to keep going!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Workout, Sunday July 15th, 2012

The Workout: MMA video and 45 minutes on the treadmill (0 incline, 3 mph)

Today's workout was uninspiring.  I was ill all day yesterday (the type of ill where I essentially woke up, puttered around the apartment, went back to sleep, woke up again to eat, watched tv, and went to sleep for the final time that night).  So I decided that today's goal was to stay upright and move in some capacity.

I started off by playing this old-school free kickboxing video and made it about 5 minutes in before I decided it was a bad idea.  I then switched to this much easier MMA video (essentially, more kickboxing), clocking in at about 10 minutes, and was able to complete it.

The thought of lifting, or dancing, or doing just about anything else still lacked appeal, so I plugged in my trusty treadmill and set the incline to "0", set the speed for a manageable 3 miles/hour, and walked (or rather, strolled) for 45 minutes.  I didn't break a sweat, I admit, but I also didn't fall over into a puddle of near-death.

Quitting The Gym - Introduction

My move to quit the gym has been a long time coming.

I have belonged to a gym ever since moving to New York City in 2000 (first, the YMHA in the East Village, then the New York Sports Club, followed by a private gym run by my posh high-rise building, then back to the New York Sports Club).  I currently pay $73 in monthly dues at the New York Sports Club... or $876 a year.  And that is WITH a corporate discount.

I have been a member for 4 years.... or $3,504.  And really double that -- my husband is also a member.

And that is ignoring the money I spent on the gyms prior to the one I belong to right now.  (That being said, the YMHA in the East Village, a/k/a as the 14th Street Y, was a terrific deal, with a spacious workout room and a pool, and I am hesitant to lump it into the "money-suck" category.  The private gym was also a decent deal, at about $500 a year, and membership included use of a pool, sun-deck, spinning room, and yoga classes, nevermind the amazing gym equipment.)

For the past few months I have been decreasing the number of times I go to the gym each month, and testing myself at home to determine if my whole "quitting the gym" manta is sustainable.  Verdict?  Absolutely sustainable.

This blog will following my journey as I quit the gym and start working out at home.  I will discuss my actual workouts, workout philosophy, offer eating tips, and maybe a random life and health/beauty tip thrown in for good measure.