Thursday 31 March 2011

Circuit Matrix

Okay, as promised here is the circuit training I talked about in yesterdays post. Circuit training is a great cardiovascular and weight bearing mix, which gives you the best time crunched workout possible. A circuit can be built in an incalculable amount of ways, so to introduce you to it (for those who haven't given circuits a shot that is) I've created a matrix to build your circuits from, and well as I'll give some sample workouts to get you started. Here we go!

Choose exercises from the following categories:

Arms: Push Up - Plank - Tricep Dips
Abs/Back: Plank - Crunches - Pilates Hundred - Swimmer - Table Top Extension
Legs: Squats - Calf Raise - Wall Sit - Lunges - Kicks
Cardio: Jumping Jacks - Burpees - Pylo Jumps - Shadow Box - Step Ups

To have a maintain a higher intensity during your workout, incorporate free weights into these moves, have no rest breaks, or insert a cardio burst between each move.

Here are a couple of sample circuits for you to give a shot:

1)     20 minutes total - each move preformed for one minute, rotating through line up:
jumping jacks -  push ups  - squats  -  swimmer -  step ups - tricep dips  - lunges  - plank 

2)    Complete for time (meaning, go as fast as you can through this work out):
20 burpees  -  Pilates hundred  -  20 push ups  -  25 squats  -  20 tricep dips  -  15 burpees  - Pilates hundred  -  15 push ups  -  20 squats  -  15 tricep dips  -  10 burpees  -  Pilates hundred  -  10 push ups  -  15 squats  -  10 tricep dips -  25 burpees

3) Insert step ups between the  following moves, rotating through line up total of four times:
Start with three minutes of step ups (one minute leading with left foot, then one foot leading with right foot, then one minute of two foot hops onto the step) - 10 push ups  -  10 each side table top extensions  -  20 walking lunges - 15 tricep dips  -  30 bicycle crunches - 30 second wall sit

Here is a description of the less commonly known moves listed above:

Plank: lay on your stomach on the floor. Place the palms of your hands flat on the floor, positioned directly below your shoulders. Pushing up, straighten the arms, and hold your body in a straight line with just your toes and palms of your hands touching the floor.

Tricep Dips:  Sit on the edge of a chair or bench, with your legs extended out straight in front of you and resting on the floor. Place the palms of your hands on the edge of the seat next to your bottom, and push up so you are holding your body weight with your arms. Move your body forward slightly so that your body can lower in front of your chair, and then bending at the elbows, dip your body down slowly, then slowly raise it back up. That is one rep.

Pilates Hundred:  Lay on the floor on your back with your arms down at your sides. Keeping your legs glued together, raise them off the floor to a 90 degree angle, and lift your head off the floor, tucking your chin to your chest. Lower the legs, still glued together, until they are as close to the floor as you can maintain without your lower back lifting off the floor. Lift your arms off the floor a few inches, and pump them at your sides while holding your body position. Pump your arms one hundred times.

Swimmer: lay on your stomach on the floor, arms extended by ears, legs straight. Lift left leg off floor at the same time as lifting the right arm off the leg. As you lower these back to the floor, lift the opposite arm and leg off the floor. essentially mimicking the swimming movement. That is one rep.

Table Top Extensions: On your hands and knees, lift one arm out in front of you, while lifting the opposite leg out behind you. Bring back down. Repeat with opposite arm and leg. That is one rep.

Squats: Standing, with feet hips width apart, sit back as if you're going to sit in a chair, holding for a moment at the 90 knee bend, not letting the knees extend past the toes.Stand back up. That is one rep.

(I like this picture haha! Reminds me of awesome hubby...dreamy)

Wall Sit: Hold a squat with your back resting against the wall.

Lunge: standing with feet hip width apart, take a step forward with the right foot, bending at the knee and dipping down towards the ground. Knee should not extend past the toe. Push back to standing with the back foot, swinging it to the forward position, and back down into a lunge. That is one set.

 Kicks: These give you options. You can kick forwards, backwards, and to the sides. Do not 'pop' the knee with uncontrolled movements, but keep the kick slow, controlled, and focused.

Burpees: Otherwise known as 'man makers', this move has a few steps. Start in a standing position, go down to a push up. As you push up, get back to your feet, and raise your arms overhead as you jump. That is one rep.

Pylo jumps: Stand with your feet hip width apart. Crouch into a squat, and explode up into a jump as high as you can. Land on the balls of your feet.

The only equipment you need for all of the moves I've included in the circuit matrix is your body, so get started today! There are no excuses anymore!

Wednesday 30 March 2011

I Got Your Back

Monday I twinged my lower back, completed my work out anyways, but could feel the strain. Tuesday morning my back was tight, and even after loosening it up throughout the day, it wasn't quite up to a workout. So, this morning, even though my back was still not great, I decided to hop on the treadmill and walk the whole three miles if I needed to. After fourteen minutes I had covered a mile, had tried to go up to a run a couple of times to no avail, but thought I'd try again. First I shuffled. Then I jogged. Then I was able to run. If you have a strained muscle in your back don't give up, and DON'T take it laying down - that will only make the muscle tighter and very uncomfortable. Listen to your body, take it slow, and if your body is ready it will let you go farther, faster, longer and become stronger over all.

Here's today's breakdown:
Incline: 2%
Duration: 38:27 minutes
Speed Range: 4.0- 7.0 mph
first mile in 14:20minutes, then two miles completed in 19:07 minutes
Total Distance: 3.31 miles

I'm saving my yoga work out for tomorrow as the boys needed me after the run - but hey, yoga still equals a rest day, just better! Also, tomorrow I will be posting some circuits that can be completed at home with simple, or no, equipment. Stay tuned!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

“Is this a Good Activity?”

(Are there any Brian Reagan fans out there? If you haven’t heard of this comic genius, look him up on YouTube and it will be your ab work out for the day.)
Yesterday we made the trek out to see the in laws, and get our house on the market. While there visiting, we did our usual small-town Alberta activity – swimming. Awesome Hubby and I have made an effort since Darius was young to make fitness a family activity. So, while we may be into lifting weights, running, and the such, these forms of fitness are not exactly baby or toddler (unless your Darius) friendly. Enter swimming! Swimming is a perfect introduction to functional fitness, as anyone of any size, age, whatever, can don a bathing suit, get in the pool and splash around. Eli went swimming last night for the first time, and loved it – seriously what’s not to love about a hot and humid environment when you’re fresh from the original sauna?

If you are not a swimmer, and don’t intend to try it out, here is a list of other family friendly fitness excursions and activities. Give them a try – you might just have fun!
Go for a bike ride,
or a walk,
or try hiking!
Playing at park,
have a dance party,
or play basketball/soccer/volleyball/baseball (or pass, shooting, catch if only a few people are available.)
Remember frisbee,
and four square?
Or try the new XBOXKinect,
the original Wii Fit,
or exhilarating Rock Climbing!
Do you have a favorite family activity? Is your family looking forward to warm summer months to roam outdoors? or is your family more of a winter sport group? 

Monday 28 March 2011


How did your first day of training go? (If you haven’t seen the half marathon training plan, look at it here.)
Today as I started out my workout I realized something important: be willing to compromise your workout, just not your results.  Meaning, when you’re not able to complete your training as planned, complete your training in another available means. In our workout room we have free weights, bands, plates and bars, a bench, a yoga ball, a treadmill, and an elliptical (I am completely spoiled!). As today's plan called for weights and a three mile run, I started out with my weight routine, and was half way through when the treadmill became occupied. Instead of waiting for the treadmill to become available, I hopped on the elliptical, and powered through until the treadmill became available. Having a plan is great, but if it means that you’re not going to be happy unless things go according ‘to plan,’ then you’re going to be disappointed more often than not. Don’t throw in the towel; just modify your plans!  So, here’s the breakdown of today’s modification success:
Lunge, lift and press 3lbs 15 repetitions
Shoulder Pendulum   3lbs   15 repetitions
Boxer Curl   3lbs   15 repetitions
Walk outs   15 repetitions
Reach Through   3lbs   10 repetitions
*for video demonstrations of these moves, look at this page.
All five moves completed one after another, a total of two times in 12 minutes.
Followed by:
Elliptical Trainer
Distance: 2.61 miles
Time: 27:02 minutes
Incline: 2%
Distance: .39 miles
Speed: 5.8-6.0mph
Time: 4:08 minutes
It was a great workout, challenged me in much the same way a three mile run would, and a great kick off to my training.
What work out equipment do you have at your disposal? Are you training with a race in mind? Or simply enjoying your workouts for the sake of health and fitness?

Saturday 26 March 2011

Running Essentials

Today’s run was awesome! You know those runs that leave you with the, “I’m getting stronger!” feeling? The ones where you had to dig a little deeper to get through, and so when you reach your goal it’s that much sweeter? Well, today was one of those. I have a mantra I repeat to myself whenever the going gets tough, and today I had to pull it out big time haha! My mantra: ‘You can handle this for now’. The last time I used that mantra was during labour…today’s run was not as hard as labour thankfully, but it did stretch my mind in the same “can I do this?” way. I highly recommend acquiring a mantra before training officially kicks off on Monday – it will get you through the rough spots, the times when motivation is lagging, and onto the “I did it!” celebrations.
Today’s run, broken down:
Surface: Treadmill
Incline: 2%
Warm up: 3 minutes
Running: 42 minutes, intervals of 45 seconds at 5-6 RPE (for an explanation of RPE see this post) then 15 seconds at 8-9 RPE. One walk break of 30 seconds at the 34 minute marker.
Speed Range: 5.0-8.0 mph
Cool down: 5 minutes
Total Distance: 4.56 miles
Running is a great sport for anyone to get into because it requires very little equipment. To be honest, you could head out the door in a pair of jeans and tennis shoes and run. But the chafing would be enough to glue you to the couch for a solid week! (or more.) So, in an effort to make running as comfortable as possible, here is my guide to the essential gear.
Shoes: I’ve tried a lot of shoes, and keep on coming back to the Nike Zoom Vomero’s. One brand (which shall remain nameless), meant for wide for-footed people like myself, caused a stress fracture in my foot when I was training for my first marathon. Do I think it was the a faulty shoe? No, simply put it as the wrong shoe for me. Find your perfect fit by trying on a lot of shoes and seeing what is comfortable for you. In the Mach/April issue of Impact Magazine, catch an article about the importance of comfort in a running shoe on page 16 (“If the shoe fits, run with it” by Miranda Barrett.) This article debunks the advertisments companies put out there about their shoe making you stronger/better/faster, and focuses on the importance of comfort over any other element a shoe can offer. So, find a comfortable running shoe – it’s a simple as that!
Sports Bra: If you have little to no chest count yourself lucky, as you can get away with a simple sports bra (I’m in this category when I’m not pregnant or nursing.) But, for the ample breasted women out there, Oxygen magazine put out a review on sports bras in the March 2011 issue on page 76 (have you bought your copy yet? Seriously, this magazine is golden!) which is a great read, and a fabulous guide for finding your perfect bra.  Try before you buy – bras that rub, even if they’re cute, will sit in your drawer until you donate it to charity.
Clothes: Like I said, jeans and a t-shirt can do, but the chafing will sideline you for a good while (think back to elementary recess, when you’d run with abandon during “girls chase boys.” If you had thighs then, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) So invest in good quality running clothes. I say invest because it is better to get a few good quality pieces you won’t be replacing every season, then to spend a couple dollars at Walmart, get pieces that are alright, but leave much to be desired as far as function go, and be constantly needing to buy new running clothes. My favourite investment pieces are from Lululemon. I bought two pairs of my favourite running shorts from there two and a half years ago, and I still use them, and they’re in perfect condition. My favourite tops are also from there, as well as my socks – what can I say, they make solid clothing! If you haven’t perused their clothing, check out their website here. Their prices are higher than Walmart, but like I said, it will last!
Monday is coming quickly, so take this guide and get shopping for the items you need to be comfortable (read: chafe free, with happy feet, and a ‘bounce’ free chest) during training.  
What are your favourite running essentials? Do you have a shoe you’ve committed to?

Friday 25 March 2011

Party Time!

Darius, Eli and I had a great pary last night! With the food all layed out, we opened the laptop on the counter (we couldn't find the game on tv, but no worries as all games are broadcast online.) We set Darius' nerf hoop up on the kitchen pantry, and played ball, while watching ball - a great way to celebrate! Darius had his first experiance yelling at the tv - well, computer - and it was so fun to watch how excited he became watching the game. While our team didn't win (a loss by 9 in over time), we still had a great party!

Eli enjoying the game like only a baby (and old men) can!

Darius practicing his 'after dunk hang time.'

The final spread: Roasted Broccoli, cut up veggies with hummus, cut up fruit, guacamole, roasted red pepper and egglant dip, tortilla chips, and nut thins. All so yummy!

This mornings work out was a sanity saver for sure (yep, another one of those nights haha) and again found in the March issue of Oxygen magazine. Today was Shoulders and Arms, and at the end I added a favorite cardio burst, just for added mental clarity. Here's the cardio burst that is sure to get your heart pumping:
    Standing in front of a step, watch your watch or set a timer for one minute intervals. Leading with the right foot, step up onto step, then bring your left foot up, and then step down. Do this for one minute. Then switch to leading with the left foot, for another minute. Now, the final minute is spent doing two foot jumps onto the step, without a rest on or off the step. It's only three minutes, but you will feel it - and it feels great! I like to add these cardio bursts into my weight sessions to keep my heart rate elevated, however today needed to be speedy as baby is restless, and I'm a zombie. Ha!

What are your favorite ways to save your sanity?

Thursday 24 March 2011

March Madness!

I grew up in a family where sports were an integral part of the family dynamics. Between driving kids to practices, coaching said teams, and practicing with us at home, my parents (mom was the selfless driver, dad was the coach-with-the-mostest) raised a bunch of sports fanatics. Our family favorite was/is basketball, and with lil' sister having done her stint in the NCAA (see her player profile here), I think basketball is in our blood. I have proved to be a avid watcher of the sport, and not so much a player, regardless, I am indoctrinating my sons from a young age - and March Madness is a big part of that!

So, even though its just me and the boys tonight, we're having a party and cheering on BYU as they face Florida (7:15pm et for those who want to join in the fun!) And no party is complete without party food! Because I am me, the party food is going to be healthy. I have been trying to teach my boys from the very beginning (which includes my amazing husband), that food doesn't need to be processed/sugary/fatty/fried garbage to be delicious. Yes, we still have treats on occasion (hello! My first recipe I posted was for cookies! If you missed my awesome-sauce cookie recipe, you can get it here), but for the most part, whole foods are consumed in this family.
Now for the spread:

hummus and veggies (I love making my own, or buying it from Costco), roasted red pepper and eggplant dip/spread (see recipe below) with nut thins, salsa and organic tortilla chips, cut up fruit, yogurt dip (for the fruit of course), and popcorn esspecially for Darius!

Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Dip
one eggplant, peeled, cubed
one red pepper, diced into 1” square pieces
one small red onion, diced into 1” pieces
olive oil
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425F. Put prepared vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil (not too much or they’ll be soggy) and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread out in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast for 25 minutes. Once your timer has gone off, remove the pan from the oven, sit it on a cooling rack, and let cool completely. When cooled, place all together in a food processer, and blend until a smooth consistency.
Enjoy this on crackers, crusty bread, or as a spread on a sandwich. So yummy!

I am also making these cookies I read about on a blog I love to follow! Ashley over at Make it and Love it posted a recipe for Gluten Free cookies, and while my mom is a GF lady, I thought I'd make these for her to enjoy when she gets back from vacation tomorrow. I'll let you know my opinion on them later, but Ashley hasn't steered me wrong yet! 
If you'd like some more ideas on healthy party foods, or any type of meal or snack, check out one of my all time favorite cookbooks,Best of Clean Eatting Magazine cookbook  for more ideas.  

Are you planning on watching the 'Madness' tonight? If so, which team are you cheering on?

There were four in the bed...

And the little one was the quietest! I climbed into bed last night wit high hopes. Eli had powered through and been awake for over an hour, then eaten drank his little heart out, all by 930pm. I laid down, went to sleep almost right away ( a real treat for this mama), feeling completely relaxed. Then midnight rolled around and Darius was whispering at my bedside. I pulled him into bed, and he cuddled into me and drifted off to sleep. Eli called at 2am for more food, followed by my awesome husband climbing into bed at 3am. Eli was quiet until 630am, when he wanted another top up, and then it was time to get up and cook breakfast for Darius. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever sleep through a night again - and if I'll remember how to do it if I get the chance. Needless to say, exercise is ESSENTIAL after a night like that! Without a good heart pumping, energy boosting workout I would might turn to sugar, which puts me on a mood-busting sugar roller coaster.

Sooo, I continued on with the training plan found in the March 2011 issue of Oxygen Magazine (discussed here) and today was steady state cardio for 45 minutes. I had to maintain an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of 5-6 for the entire time, which made for a comfortable, stitch free run. For those of you that don't know the RPE scale, think of it like this: 1 means sitting on the couch, and 10 is the pace you'd maintain if being chased by a rabid dog - nice thought eh?
Here's my results:
Surface: Treadmill
Incline: 2%
Warm up: 4 minutes
Run: 41 minutes
Cool down: 3 minutes
Pace: 5.3-6.2mph
distance: 4.15 miles

It felt great! I didn't need any walking breaks due to the steady RPE which keeps the lungs breathing comfortably enough to talk, just not full sentences (more like short answers!)

Darius is a big 'nerfer' as he calls it (invest in a Nerf hoop - our whole family loves to play on it!). Thanks Uncle Brayden and Jessica for getting my little man-o on the right track!

The boys and I are gearing up for March Madness to continue this afternoon, so I need to go and get some house work done before preparing the snacks! Need some healthy game day snack ideas? Check back later!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Sweat Session and a Sweet Treat

Last night Darius was begging me for “Rainbow Cookies.” Anyone close to this little man-o of mine knows that he calls all multi-colored candies rainbows, and it takes some smarts to figure out which ones hes requesting. When it comes to cookies though, it’s a safe bet that hes asking for M&M to be in them and not jelly beans. So, right after breakfast, with Eli strapped to my chest (all you mamas out there, this is a great 'hidden' gem of babies - resistance training ALL-DAY-LONG), Darius and I set about making his cookies. My mom raised my siblings and I on amazing cookies, no they are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Naturally, I’m a bit of a cookie snob because of these sweet treats, but it also means, you’re getting a great recipe today!
Here it is:
Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 cups butter - softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups oatmeal
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
chopped chocolate

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients, then the chocolate.
Bake these at 375F for approximately 10 minutes.

Now, after years of making these delectable cookies, this is what I've learned. Let the butter sit in your mixing bowl, on the counter, over night to soften before making these. This time allows the butter to be the perfect balance between solid and melted - it is the epitome of soft.  Second, the darker the brown sugar, the richer (is that a word, richer?) the taste. I LOVE demerara, and it just adds that extra something, something. Third, the higher quality the chocolate, the better the cookies will be. I favor Bernard Callaubaut Milk Chocolate, and roughly two cups of it at that. Ha! But, M&M's hit the spot for Darius - true self sacrifice.

You'll notice this recipe doesn't have a 'yeild'. This is because no one makes the same size balls. I favor the rounded teaspoon, which yields roughly 8 dozen. Yeah, its a lot, but that just means I give some to friends, freeze some, and enjoy some fresh! This 'smaller' size is more kid friendly, and portion controlled for adults - then I can have one  two without feeling an ounce of guilt. So, whip some up with your little cuties, and enjoy!

Since my half marathon training plan officially kicks off on Monday, I am finishing off my current fitness plan, which can be found in the March 2011 issue of Oxygen magazine (a magazine I love!!!) Today was legs and glutes, which I followed up with Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown. I do Level II, which is roughly 26 minutes. This routine stretches out my muscles nicely (something I needed after yesterday's reintroduction to running - read more here) while challenging them. At the end I always the the "ahhh" calm that yoga brings.

          The workout room at home - the big bright windows are a real plus!

         My patient little workout partner - Eli is seriously sooo calm!

Darius (or Buzz Lightyear as he is known today) is right in the thick of things through every workout. Today he was crawling through the 'tunnels' I was making while doing yoga. He adds extra resistance to even simple moves!

Do you have a favorite workout dvd?

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Training: Day One

Hurray! First run done, now for the break down.
Surface: Treadmill
Duration: 50 minutes
Warm Up: 2 minutes
Cool Down: 5 minutes
Running Time: 43 minutes
Walk Breaks: 4, ranging from 20-30 seconds
Incline: 2%
Total Distance: 4.41 Miles

So, I was able to run for the first 30 minutes straight, varying my speed between 5.3 mph and 7.5 mph, then the dreaded side cramp came into play. Deep breathing into the side stitch, keeping your shoulders relaxed, and staying focused all help to relieve these annoying little distractions, but you need to know when its time to take a little walk break to relieve it, which is where the four little walk breaks came in. I also slowed my pace down a bit, and that helped me push through. Today was all about seeing where I'm at, so I could formulate a training program that is realistic to my current fitness level. I have been doing yoga, weight lifting, and speed walking since two weeks postpartum (so, for almost four weeks now) to ease myself back into exercise since I had the two weeks of next to nothing (I was advised to not even take the stairs! But stairs are hard to avoid when the kitchens on the main floor and my bedroom is not.) So, after today's wonderful success I am ready to post my training plan. If you're going to follow along and do this with me, be sure to listen to your body and rest when needed - resting is when the muscles recover, rebuild, and become stronger after exercise. So, without adequate rest, you will not see the results. Of course, too much rest will also negate results, so use common sense people. And, if in doubt, send me a note and we can hash out the details. Also, make sure that you're physically capable of a running regimen (meaning, talk to your doctor and get your clearance as I did yesterday) cause nothings worse than injury. Ugh! I have some stories on injuries from my last marathon training bonanza after Darius - but that's another post.

So, here's the training schedule:

Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
 2 miles
5 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
6 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
8 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
9 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
10 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
11 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
12 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 3 miles
2 miles
13 miles
Weights and 3 miles
2 miles
Yoga and 2 miles
Race Day!

I will of course be willing to change things as I go along, and tailor it to how my body is responding to training. So, stay tuned for changes haha! Also, you may note that there is no tempo or hill training in my plan. This is on purpose, as my goal for my first half marathon is not a time goal, but rather a "cross that finish line!" goal. Every training plan serves a purpose, and this one is just right for me right now!