Stop When You’re Done

This past weekend was the first time that I skipped more than one day of exercise since I began my training. Boy, did I regret it.

I always workout 5 days a week, typically with a break on Wednesday and another on Sunday. Well, I was out of town for the long weekend and ended up going THREE whole days without exercise…

I thought I was going to have a meltdown.

A long weekend off may not sound too terrible to some, but for me it was awful. I felt disgusting and miserable by day 2, let alone day 3! My body has become so used to getting it’s fix of endorphins that having such a long “break” made me feel all sorts of wrong.

I was finally able to workout on Tuesday and let me tell you, it was MUCH needed. I probably skipped my way into the gym, knocking people out of my way as I headed toward the locker room.

However, my workout was BEYOND tiring and I think that it can be attributed to my inconsistency over the weekend. I did increase my weight on some of my lifts, but I do that often enough that I did not recognize this tired feeling as a result of that.

My workout consisted of front raises, the shoulder burner machine (I don’t know if that’s actually the name), side lateral raises, military presses, some ab workouts and a tough bike ride to cool down. The only change I had made was increasing my weight for the front raises. I had been doing them with 15lb dumbbells but decided to up it to a 25lb plate – a) more of a challenge, b) plates are more comfortable to hold for that lift.

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Was it hard? Yes. Did I complete my sets? Yes. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. Overall, I felt weak and exhausted. Part of me did not want to even finish when I was halfway through my routine because I had this yucky, “you’re a bad girl for not working out all weekend” feeling.

Regardless, I pushed through until my whole workout was complete, rather than quitting when I initially wanted to.

Skipping a workout really is not worth it!

A Great Confidence Booster

During weight-loss, it’s great to see the numbers drop on the scale and everything, but there is just something awesome about pictures. Pictures speak a thousand words and in my case, they have been a confidence booster.

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The top two shots in this picture are the same ones that I posted when I was two months into my training and the bottom one is the most recent.

Picture 1 – April 6th

Picture 2 – April 25th

Picture 3 – May 18th

What I love about seeing “before and after” shots is that even when I am at a bit of a stand-still on the scale, I can still see that my hard work is showing. For example, I may have only lost a couple of pounds between two photos, but the definition is there and that makes me happy to see.

Maybe one day I will get the confidence to post my full body shot comparisons! Until then… I give you my arms, ladies and gentlemen.

Asian Lettuce Wraps Recipe

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ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS

I am crazy for these things! They are so flavorful and addictive, I could eat them every week. Using large lettuce leaves as your wraps instead of tortillas, and cooking with ground turkey instead of beef makes this a nice and healthy meal! If you are cooking for more than 3-4 people, or if you are like me and enjoy packing leftovers for lunch the next day, I would suggest doubling the batch.

Ingredients

Boston Lettuce

1lb ground turkey (or beef)

1 large onion

1 bunch of scallions

2-4 garlic cloves (I am obsessed with garlic so I tend to eyeball it until it looks like enough to meet my needs. I would suggest 2 if you aren’t as big of a fan)

2 teaspoons pickled ginger

1 can (8oz) water chestnuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup hoisin sauce (this is another one that I eyeball. I usually end up adding a little more than 1/4 cup)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

Asian chile pepper sauce (optional, but recommended for the spice!)

Peanuts, halved

Carrots, shredded

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First things first: chop, shred and process everything that needs chopping, shredding and processing! This will make your life easier once the skillet is hot. I chopped my onions and scallions, drained and chopped the water chestnuts, shredded the carrots, and used a food processor on the garlic and ginger. Also, take WHOLE lettuce leaves from your bunch and rinse and pat dry for later.

Over high heat, warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the ground turkey (or beef), stirring often. Drain, remove from the pan and set aside for later.

Using the same pan (without wiping out any leftover juice from the meat) cook your onions over medium heat until slightly brown. Add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce and chili pepper sauce (optional), and stir. Reduce heat if necessary.

20130523-100021.jpgMix in your chopped scallions, water chestnuts, and sesame oil. Your mixture should look like the image to the right. Nice and saucy!

Next, add your shredded carrots and peanuts before finally mixing in the cooked ground turkey or beef. Stir until evenly coated.

This is when I get a little wild and throw in a little more here and a little more there. I tend to drizzle in more hoisin and chili pepper sauce for the texture, flavor and color. This, of course, is based on preference. I prefer a little bit of a spicy kick. If you don’t, stay away from the chili pepper sauce!

While this steeps for a few minutes on low heat, arrange your lettuce leaves on a plate. Pile large spoonfuls of the meat mixture in the center for presentation and you’re ready to eat!

Yummy Banana Bread Recipe

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I LOVE BANANA BREAD! Yum yum yum.

Banana bread is pretty low cal and totally delicious. Have some especially brown and ripe bananas that you are thinking of throwing away? Don’t! Save your money and make something out of them!

Ingredients

– 4-5 ripe bananas, mashed

– 1/3 cup melted butter

– 3/4 cup sugar (many recipes call for 1+ cup but this is not necessary)

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 1 egg, beaten

– Salt

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (substitute whole wheat flour if preferred)

– Chopped walnuts (optional but DEFINITELY recommended)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a wooden spoon or a potato masher (easier), mash the bananas until goopy (sorry but that is the only way to describe the texture).

Mix MELTED butter with mashed banana in a mixing bowl. It is very important that the butter is melted! Next, add your sugar, vanilla extract and egg to the mixture. Once combined, evenly sprinkle the salt (just a pinch or so) and baking soda and mix. Add your all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour) and combine until your mixture is creamy. If there are a few small chunks here and there, that is ok!

Mix about 2/3 – 3/4 of your chopped walnuts into the mixture before pouring it into a 4 x 8 loaf pan. I suggest lightly coating the pan with crisco or butter, and sprinkling a little bit of flour on it to prime the pan. This will make it easier to remove the loaf later. Top the mixture with the rest of your chopped walnuts.

Bake for about 1 hour and let cool before serving to avoid crumbling.

I like to slice and toast my banana bread for the extra crispiness. It’s good plain, with a little bit of butter or even cream cheese on top!

Another plus? Your house will smell AMAZING.

Bon Appétit!

Let’s go to the gym and take pictures of ourselves!

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Nothing drives me more crazy at the gym than people who are NOT there to workout, but to make sure that their friends know that they paid a visit.

I got to the gym on Monday evening, and blocking the entrance to the locker room was a teenage girl. She was dressed in skinny jeans, Timberland boots, a see-through lace tank top and ENORMOUS hoop earrings and was taking pictures of herself in the mirror. She didn’t bother to move out of the way when I entered, so I carefully eased myself by her to avoid a photo-bomb. Wouldn’t want to ruin her new Facebook profile picture.

A few minutes later I am on an elliptical warming up and I notice the same girl on one of the treadmills in front of me. She is walking – in the same outfit, boots and all – with her hands on her hips and making a kissy face over her shoulder. To her right is a girl in similar attire taking her picture. What?

I looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing and realized that I was one of many people watching this ridiculousness. Who goes to the gym simply to take pictures of themselves “working out”..?

This goes on for a few minutes until all of a sudden, as she is popping her booty out and striking a pose, she goes FLYING off of the treadmill.

……….. I DIED. On the inside.

Sorry hunny, you deserved that one!!

YOU CHOOSE

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I have not skipped a single workout since I made the change. That is 5 days of exercise every week for the past (almost) 11 weeks!

I will admit that there were a small handful of days where I didn’t feel like going to the gym. But once I got there I was happy I didn’t skip. Overall, to my surprise, making the commitment to fitness has not been all that hard. I daydream about it. I wake up and immediately look forward to my fix of endorphins after work. I feel like crap when it’s a “break” day. The days that I have to work late and make up for it on another day are miserable, but I always arrange my schedule so that I am still getting my 5-days in.

Today I almost had to not go to the gym. My (not-so) little brothers are going to the prom tonight (eeeek!), and I was worried that if I went to the gym I wouldn’t make it home in time to see them off! They couldn’t care less, but I’m the big sis! I have to take photos and embarrass them a little, obviously!

SO, a quick gym trip it shall be, but at least it’s something! If I skipped today I wouldn’t be able to say that I have completed 11 weeks of my 5-day gym streak. A little is better than nothing! I would rather feel sore tomorrow, than sorry. You’ve just got to make the time for it!

New Headphones! Yurbuds Inspire for Women

I finally got new headphones!

Last week I was mid-run when suddenly… my headphones completely died out. Talk about terrible timing. I am one of those people that HAS to have music when I workout, or else I will be utterly miserable and lose motivation. The only exception is when I am working out with someone.

I had been using Skull Candy headphones for a while and at some point last week, one of the ear buds started fading in and out.  I dealt with it because hey, I could still hear the music in one ear and half the time I am removing one bud to talk to all the Chatty Cathys that frequent my gym. This lasted for a few days, until the funky one stopped working completely and the good one started being choppy. Then on Thursday, mid-workout of course, they completely died. I didn’t have them for too long either.

Two of my siblings had the same issues with this brand of headphone so I would advise against purchasing them!

I did a workout and a half with no music and that was enough for me to go crazy! SO, Saturday afternoon (after a kickass 6AM hike – productive!), I set off to Best Buy to buy some new gear. After much deliberation, I walked out with the beauties below:

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I got Yurbuds Inspire for Women earphones. I have only used them once and already love them!

One issue that I seem to find myself having with earphones (including Skull Candy and the ones that come with iPods) are that they are too big and fall out of my ears – particularly when I am running. The Yurbuds that I purchased are designed specifically for use during exercise AND for women with this exact problem! They are smaller, and they “click” into your ears by rotating them in. First workout – no problems! They sound excellent too.

Now, it’s possible that I was just excited about a new product and may run into problems down the road, so if that is the case I will say so! But for now based off of my first impression, I would definitely suggest getting a pair!

I lifted how much?!

CHALLENGE NUMERO UNO:

Squats: 155lbs (3 reps); Deadlifts: 135lbs (4 reps)

Last Thursday I gave the squat challenge a try! Somehow it turned into a squat AND deadlift challenge. It was painful and awesome.

A trainer at my gym asked me if I would be interested in completing a fitness test to see what my 1 rep squat max is. This was to be found by squatting the barbell, and gradually adding weight while doing fewer reps, until we reached my 1 rep max.

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Because this was the preliminary test, we spent a lot of time focusing on my form. He made me do a TON of squats with no weight on my shoulders while watching myself in the mirror from the side. I have a bit of a bad hip so getting the form just right was a little hard for me, but the practice definitely helped. I need to focus on keeping my heels flat on the ground and leaning my hips further backward. I did so many free squats that my thighs and butt were burning before I even started lifting.

We started with just the barbell so he could check out my form, then added weight with each set. I noticed that he was increasing the weight in larger increments than I do on my own. While I usually add an extra 5lbs to each side of the barbell with each set, he was increasing by 10-15lbs! With each set, I did 1-2 fewer repetitions. The more weight added, the longer the rest in between.

Again, because form was the primary concern the first time around, we only made it as far as my 3-rep max squat weight. This ended up being 155lbs (two 45lb plates and two 10lb plates)! Prior to that I had only squatted 135lbs. The trainer is certain that I can do about 175lbs. We’ll see about that.

During my workout, I had about 5 different guys that I don’t know stop and watch us work. I don’t think they are used to females in the weight room. Between my sets – I think I was at 135lbs – one came over and said “how embarrassing, I can’t even squat the 45lb bar and here you are doing 3 times that. Impressive!” Obviously this excited me.

After squatting, I thought I was off the hook. But no, the fitness instructor got me again! He asked me what I had next on my agenda and I told him I was going to do chest presses and bicep curls – my normal Thursday routine. “WRONG!” he said. Instead, we set off to see what my max deadlift weight is.

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What I used to use.

When I deadlift, I usually use weights similar to the one on the right. The most I had ever lifted was 60lbs at 10-12 reps per set. For the challenge, we “warmed-up” with the 50lb one, before he said that I had graduated from that style and was moving on up in the world to the barbell that you manually add weight to. The barbell is MUCH longer than the one I am used to, making balance difficult. Scary!

Set one, like the squats, was just with the barbell to check on my form. The three sets after that were with 10lb increases. By the time I hit 105lbs (three 10lb plates on either side) at 4 reps I was BEAT. I was kneeling on the ground after I completed the set and was sure that I COULD not and WOULD not do any more.

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Then I saw him make a Dr. Evil face while removing the 10lb plates and replacing them with a 45lb plate on each side. I’m sure you can imagine how much my eyes bugged out of my head, but if you can’t, this baby’s face is pretty on point. I asked if he was out of his mind. 135lbs?? Are you joking? I know that deadlifts are performed with your legs, but I was exhausted and it isn’t the same as carrying the weight on your shoulders! Gripping that much in your hands is hard!

I ended up deadlifting the 135lbs four times. This is WAY more than I had ever thought I would be able to do. It was more than twice the amount of weight that I have ever done!

I completed the workout with a 10 minute jog on the treadmill. Killer!

Healthy Quinoa & Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I have been thinking about making stuffed peppers for weeks now, and I FINALLY did it tonight. Best decision ever. This was one of the yummiest meals I have ever made.

I perused a whole lot of recipes online and finally came up with a combination of many that seemed satisfying to me. The end result was to die for. I am already daydreaming about the leftovers I packed for lunch tomorrow.

Oftentimes people make stuffed peppers with beef. I substituted ground turkey. I also substituted regular rice with a quinoa and brown rice combination. This makes for a healthier meal.

Ingredients: Bell Peppers, Ground Turkey, Quinoa (with Brown Rice, optional), Chopped Onion, Garlic, Canned Diced Tomato, Tomato Paste, Worcestershire Sauce, Olive Oil, Cheese (optional), Salt & Pepper.

First and foremost, preheat your oven to 350-375 degrees. I often forget to do this and kick myself when I am halfway through food-prep and realize that I am going to have to wait while my oven heats.

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Heat your quinoa in a sauce pan. I used a quinoa and brown rice combination. Many recipes call for oil or chicken stock, but I just used water. Quinoa is a seed (rather than a whole-grain) and is a great substitute for rice, with a higher amount of protein and fiber.

In the meantime, cut the tops of your bell peppers off and remove any additional seeds. Place each hollowed-out pepper into a dish… I would suggest spraying the bottom of your dish with a cooking spray. Be sure not to toss the tops of the peppers, because what’s left can be used for the meat mixture, depending on your taste. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté your garlic. While your quinoa is heating and your garlic browning, chop up your remaining pepper tops and onion. I chopped mine up pretty small so that I wouldn’t find any huge chunks in my mixture. Add your pepper and onion combo to the garlic and let sit for about 3 minutes, stirring every so often.

20130501-214631.jpgNow you are going to want to add the ground turkey, the worcestershire sauce (at your discretion), salt and pepper to your garlic, pepper and onion mixture. Many of the recipes that I came across required 1/4-1/2 cup of the sauce, but I would adjust that depending on your taste. I ended up using a little less than 1/4 cup and used a sauce that was low in sodium.

Once your meat has browned, add your tomatoes and tomato paste. I used Hunt’s Tomato Paste and Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies for a little bit of a kick. If you don’t like spicy, I would advise against this. If you do, Rotel is the best!

Once all of the liquid from the meat and the tomatoes is absorbed, add the quinoa (and brown rice if you so choose) to the mixture. Make sure to stir it thoroughly so all of the tomato paste is evenly distributed. 20130501-214420.jpg

When all of the above is complete, fill your hollowed-out peppers with spoonfuls of your mixture.

I cooked my peppers for about 20 minutes before switching it over to convection bake for 5 minutes. I then added the shredded cheese to the top of each pepper (I was careful to be light on some, regular on others) before heating the dish for another 5-10 minutes. Cheese is optional for this recipe. Because it is relatively healthy as a whole, I figured… why not?? I used a 6-cheese Italian Combination that included Parm and Asiago. The total cook time is about 30-35 minutes, depending on how brown and crisp you like it.

The final product was AMAZING and filling! I was sure that I was going to have to eat more after I finished my first pepper but almost didn’t make it through one! This is such a yummy meal and I am definitely going to have to save it for future reference. Let me know if you try it!!

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