The Pinnacle

November 20, 2013

Ya’ll,  I have reach the pinnacle of vegan cooking.

pizza 2

Homemade Vegan Pizza.  Worth eating.  I know.

pizza 1

Forgive the awful cell phone pictures, but this was just too good not to share.  Honest to goodness Mom & Pop pizza  feel and taste to it.  I’ve made this pizza twice now.  I followed the recipe for this pizza dough both times.  The first I did a nice over night dough rise (and made my own sauce, per her instructions).  The second time, I threw it together on a Sunday afternoon and used up the last of some store bought pizza sauce we had in the fridge.   I added some slices of Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese and kept my fingers crossed that the cheese would melt a bit (a common Vegan cheese problem).

The words “wait…which one is mine” and “aw man, yours looks better” were heard in my kitchen that night.  Glorious glorious words.    I think the secret was putting the cheese in the oven when it was 500 degrees 🙂  But seriously, that dough?  Magical.  I’ve already turned a few people onto it, while becoming a total addict myself.   There is literally nothing I have made and/or adapted from Smitten Kitchen that has not tasted amazing.  I forsee many.many.MANY nights of pizza in my future.

xo

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Deck of Cards Workout

November 18, 2013

I like working out, I really do (ok, maybe not cardio so much…).  But I also like my weekends and sometimes, a workout is the last thing on my mind on a cozy rainy Sunday morning.  Just like anyone and everyone else, I can definitely struggle with motivation.  So this Sunday – I definitely was not feeling the scheduled workout, but as the day wore on – my guilt settled in, especially knowing that I really wanted to get back into the swing of things and really see some gains and the key to that – is consistency, aka – NOT skipping a workout on Sunday just because.    But I definitely wasn’t up for a full fledged workout downstairs in the chilly basement…where there was no football watching to be had.  Priorities – I gots ’em.  So I reached back to when I first started working out pretty seriously and had to travel to a friend’s house that weekend.  One of the workouts I did was called a “deck of cards” workout.   They’re pretty standard workouts, with a ton of different ways to do them.  The first time I did them, I followed Jamie Eason’s deck of cards workout and did a set of plyometric exercises, totaling the number of 3 cards to get my “number per” exercise for each exercise.  I’ve also seen workouts that incorporate two moves (say, pushups and burpees) and you assign red or black cards to each exercise.  For my workout today, I borrowed from this workout and used a different exercise for each shape.  The original workout called for trying to get through as many of the 13 card sets as possible, each number on the card dictating how many of each move you do.  I chose to up the ante a little bit and add in a second set of exercises and switch between the two for each set of 13 cards, for a total of 2 rounds per workout set and added in 20 mountain climbers at the end of each set.  I finished up the deck of cards and was definitely winded, but strangely craving more.  So after a quick break, I came up with 2 more workout sets and went for a second time.    Here’s what my final workout looked like for today:

Picture1

For the sets that required weights (squats, curls, presses, etc) I kept the weights super light, since at any given time I could be doing 20+ lifts at a time.  The rest of the exercises I did with body weight only.   To give you an idea of how this works – one of my card draws for Workout 3 looked like this.

unnamed

I stuck to the original number values of

J= 11, Q = 12, K = 13 and Ace = 14 (there are no jokers in the deck for this!).  So that was 23 lunges per leg, 12 tricep extensions, 12 upright rows, 2 + 10 jumping jacks, 10 upright rows, 9 lunges per leg, 28 upright rows, 2 + 22 jumping jacks and finally rounded out the set with 20 mountain climbers.   After this workout, I pulled another 13 cards and did repeated for Workout #4, switching between the 2 for a total of 2x per workout (i.e. the entire deck of cards, sans jokers).   Excluding the small break, the whole thing probably took me close to 45-50 minutes.

It may not seem like a lot, but as you work through each set and keep the pace up, you are definitely winded by the end of workout.  Especially when you get the higher pulls like 23, 24, etc.

I finished up feeling proud  that I had at least put in some time getting my heart rate up and I especially appreciated the change of pace.  Not to mention a chance to catch some Football in the process 🙂

Hope ya’ll had a healthy weekend!

xo

disclaimer:  I am not a licensed fitness professional or trainer – this is a workout I designed for myself and felt comfortable doing given my level of experience with weight lifting.  Please only pursue workouts that YOU are comfortable with and are appropriate to your level of fitness.  The great thing about workouts is that they can be tailored to anyone’s skill level!

My 100%

November 15, 2013

I read somewhere once that you should always give 100% everyday to whatever it is you’re doing.  But the kicker, is that what is your 100% one day may be nowhere near your 100% the next day.

That, I have found – is so so true.

The good news is that my trip to the dentist was remarkably uneventful – I say remarkably, because the level of sensitivity and pain in my teeth was enough to have me double over at different points in the day.  If you know me, you know my tolerance for dental pain is also pretty dang high.  I’m not being a hero, rather the opposite.  I hate going to the dentist, so I have adapted to tolerate almost any level of pain in order to avoid it.  Case in point:  I let an abscessed tooth go for over at least a year – and I’m willing to bet longer than that.  So I put on my brave face and called up the dentist.  Turns out – the pain wasn’t an abscessed tooth, but in all probability a nasty sinus infection that I’d been fighting off for a few weeks now, that suddenly decided it wanted to be BFFs with the nerves running to my teeth.  Thanks for that.

So – while the dentist was thankfully uneventful (I did stay for my cleaning though! Gotta be better about these things.), i’m still left fighting off this sinus infection that isn’t symptomatic enough to warrant antibiotics, but pesky enough to make this blast of cold weather we’re having one of the most painful to date.  I try to keep my medication overload to a minimum, choosing instead to fight unhealthy with healthy.  But my efforts have certainly been a bit subpar to my normal standards.

So this week, my 100% looked like significantly lower intensity workouts and zero traditional cardio (the movement set my teeth throbbing).    I lifted far less weight than I normally would aim for.  But I worked out.   And I attempted to have nutritious and healthy balanced meals each night.  Sometimes, my 100% was a bowl of soup, but soup with greens and protein.  Sometimes, like last night, my 100% looked like a heaping bowl of pasta, a beer and NO workouts.  Turns out, I’d been blaming a lack of motivation and will power when it was probably my body saying “‘scuse me, but you’re sick, yo”, ok and maybe a little bit of lack of will power 🙂

Yes, I probably could have pushed a little more this week, but in the end – I would’ve been even more miserable than I already was.  I am proud that I got in my workouts and plan to keep on getting them in.  I’m ok that I have to modify them right now, because its not the end all be all of workouts and it feels better to do something than nothing.  And eventually, when I’m feeling better, the workouts will ramp back up.  But for now, this girl just wants to sleep! Its reassuring and kind of cool to be able to acknowledge a mental progression of sorts.  A year ago, I would’ve been so angry with myself for not putting in a full workout I had planned.    Growing up is cool.

Happy weekending y’all!

xo

 

Sickie Dinner for 1

November 13, 2013

Soup1

Sick = soup, always – right?

While I’m definitely not full blown sick, I have been feeling pretty drained and under the weather lately.  I’ve been trying to keep up my workouts  at a lower intensity and keep my body fueled with good healthy foods to fight off whatever it is that’s wrong with me (my money is on a Sinus Infection/Tooth Infection – yuck).

Yesterday was a particularly rough one and by the time I was home and had finished my workout, I had ZERO appetite.  Not eating wasn’t an option, so instead I threw together this easy soup that reminded me of my “mom, can I have a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup?” days.   Salty, comforting and with a few extra healthy bits and pieces to satisfy my lifestyle.

I started with half a cube of Veggie broth bouillon into 2 cups of water and added some diced carrots and celery I had already cut up in the fridge.  Next went half a package of pre-cubed tofu cubes, some freshly grated ginger, cayenne pepper and garlic powder, a trifecta of sick blasters!  Once the veggies were nice and tender and the soup was ready to eat, I threw in a handful of torn up kale and let it steam a bit, to up the greens factor.

Soup2

The result was cozy and comforting, salty and nourishing.  Not too heavy, but still nutritious enough to satisfy.   A big bowl of this would fill me up on a regular (feeling good) day, especially with the addition of some grains or noodles.  But for now, it was perfect as was.    Tonight, I’m feeling like a hungry beast, so I’m hoping a nice solid biceps/back workout will put me in the mood for some roasted acorn squash….get in mah bellay!

I’m off to the dentist tomorrow (I really hate the dentist…) to try and figure out if the tooth is the problem, or the sinuses are the problem.  Chicken or the egg?

See also – go give my friend Dom some serious love over at his page.  He just got back from running the NYC marathon.  Major inspiration right there.

At home vs At the Gym

November 11, 2013

Man is this post long over due….

I “recently” (cough cough: early October: cough cough) spent some time out in Salt Lake City, Utah for work and while I was there, I had the pleasure of some of the best vegan food I’ve had in a long time and even managed to not step foot in a Starbucks once the entire time I was there (A staple for conference goers everywhere…), choosing to explore the local breakfast and coffee options instead, a personal accomplishment of mine.

On top of all of that, I had serious first for me, which was being dedicated enough to a workout to take advantage of a hotel gym to keep up with my scheduled sessions.    Since it was the first time I’ve set foot in a gym other than my basement for the first time since February, I thought it’d be fun to compare my experiences between the two.

First things first: Cardio. 

I have a treadmill at home, but the week I was in Utah was the first that my training program was adding some medium intensity cardio back into the mix.   There are a few things that I came to realize.

1.  Never underestimate the value of a good quality treadmill.  I have my brothers hand-me-down treadmill in my basement, for which I am extremely grateful.  But its a rickity and wobbly machine that doesn’t have proper incline control (read:  none at all).  But I think the most important thing I realized while in Utah, is that good treadmills are a bit softer on the knees.   For 3 days in a row, I banged out solid cardio sessions which were enjoyable and a good workout and I was actually a bit sorry to see the time end.  Compare that to at home, where its painful, sluggish and slow.  Lesson learned, a) get outside and run b) save up for a decent treadmill (sure beats fighting for one at the gym!).

2.  Somewhat related to being on the treadmill, is the fact that I was willing to be on a treadmill.  One of the reasons I first started running is embarrassingly non-inspirational.  I waltzed into my apartment gym ready to elliptical my little heart out.  The only problem?  No ellipticals were free.  No problem, I’d just hop on a bike and work out (steadfastly avoiding that treadmill), but they were full also.  Strangely, the row of treadmills was empty, but people will milling about stalking ellipticals like it was their job.  So instead of wasting my time, I reluctantly got on a treadmill (and voila! A blog was born…).  The moral of this story?  Is I saw my previous self walk into that gym every.morning.   The amount of eyerolling, foot stomping and exasperated sighing that I witness simply because the ellipticals were occupied was both amusing and disheartening.  I was suddenly very grateful that I had the ability to work out in so many different ways.

Next up – LIFTING.

Oh man. I didn’t think I’d ever miss weight lifting machines as much as I have in the past few months.  I love free weights and will forever believe they are the best form of lifting.  But lately I’ve felt a bit limited with the exercises I can safely do (like heavier weights for squats), or even think about about doing (lat pulldowns, leg press, etc).  There are some quick fixes, hamstring curls/leg extensions with dumbbells etc, or front/hack squats to replace the quad targeting for leg extensions, but I have been absolutely missing targeting my back muscles or incline exercises.  Funny though, while it was really nice to use those machines (and do a proper pull up/chin up, I managed to eek out 3-5 each time (leg kicking and all), after which a separate gym goer promptly walked over and banged out about 30 without breaking a sweat – sigh.), I found I missed simple things, like my squat bar (seriously, what gym doesn’t have a barbell.   I also had the pleasure of a workout partner for the week.  Which came in VERY handy after spending hours wandering around a city and eating delicious food.  Sometimes a little outside influence is necessary 🙂

I came back thoroughly proud of my workout dedication and extremely burnt out.  As I worked through some minor jet lag and general conference/travel exhaustion, the last thing I wanted to do was prep meals, wander downstairs after work and lift  heavy.  I took a glance over my workout logs (another reason I am super glad I kept them) and realized that it had been about 7 weeks straight of very intense lifting, 5-6 days a week.  For someone who’s used to those workouts, it starts to be second nature, but for this little gal, it was definitely time for a breather.   I also glanced over my food logs and was a bit skeptical of the amount of calories I was taking in (and with the lack of cardio in the first part of the program, not burning off as much).  I did a few more calculations and reading and came to the conclusion that I was probably taking in about 500 more calories than I truly needed, which would explain my overall discontent with body image and feeling sluggish.  I was so focused on protein and carb ratios, that I completely overlooked my veggie intake also.  Instead of my clothes fitting better, they were beginning to feel a bit too tight.  Oops.  So for the 2 weeks or so after my conference, I worked out moderately, but really focused on not focusing too much on the diet. I ate what felt healthy (and much much lighter).   My natural caloric intake came back down to a far more reasonable intake amount and I now feel a TON better.  After a few days of 100% no workout rests, I kept up my workouts, but instead of 5-6 days a week, I cut back to 3-4 days a week and kept the weights a little lighter.    Slowly but surely I’m working myself through the burnt out phase.  I’m keeping an eye on inspirational sources and trusting my food instincts a lot more, instead of focusing just on numbers.  Certainly nothing groundbreaking, the body is this crazy thing that requires a lot of fine tuning when it comes to workouts.  So its just a general moving forward and tweaking as I go.  Which I’m proud of doing, rather than saying “nope! not for me, peace out, workouts!”

Now that I’m starting to feel a little more inspired, I’m beginning to pay a little more attention to my at home gym.  I’m still not convinced that I need a gym membership, so I thought I’d give a peek into how I’m getting through some hurdles I’ve found.

The Squat Rack

The Squat Rack

My biggest concern  when working out at home is safety, especially since I workout solo without spotters.  As my weights for squats went up, the need for a “squat rack” became pretty apparent.  I have two sets of 10 lb weights, a set of 5s and a set of 20s.  And anything above 25 lbs it gets a little sketchy trying to clean and press the bar on to my neck (body pumpers will know this move).  So the solution, was this rack.  It puts the bar just below shoulder height for me, so that I can easily get under the bar and not have to worry about getting the weights up and over my head.

My "incline" set up

My “incline” set up

One of the staples of weight lifting, is to target the same muscles from different angles.  Think, regular bench press vs an incline bench press. The above set up is my quick fix for any incline exercises until I get a bench that can be adjusted for different angles.  Its just my exercise ball propped against an old fridge (or wall, etc) in the basement.  Its definitely not perfect, but it works for now.

Exercise bands

Exercise bands

My last quick fix so far is the use of exercise bands for exercises like tricep pushdowns or seated rows.  The above set up is what I use for the pushdowns, if I’m doing a row, I wrap the bands around a pillar instead of a ceiling beam (which incidentally is also where I try to build up to some efficient pull ups).   The obvious downside to this fix is the lack of added weight resistance.  I do find with the tricep pushdowns that if I’ve worked my arms out hard enough previous to this exercise that the bands will be extremely sufficient in fatiguing the muscles.  But for the rows, lat pull downs, etc, I usually end up wishing I had more weight to pull.  I usually try to find different exercises that target the same muscles that use dumbbells instead.

So there you have it – that’s the current state of my at home gym, with a pretty decent set of dumbbells to go with.  I’m happy with what I’ve pulled together so far, but next up on the list is definitely a proper pull up bar, a bench and I’ve seen a few online tutorials for putting together a lat pulldown machine.  I also think I’d like to seriously look into a decent treadmill or elliptical machine.  Its definitely not perfect and I absolutely miss the amenities of a fully equipped gym, but I also don’t miss waiting for a machine (cardio or otherwise) and the added few steps of working up the motivation to get out of the house and to the gym.   Plus, you can’t beat having 2 four-legged furry workout buddies to keep you company!

Happy Monday ya’ll!

xo

p.s. How is it the 2nd full week of November already?? I’ve been doing my daily “I”m grateful for…” but keeping it private, in a little notebook that I carry with me everyday.  I’ve really been enjoying the practice and plan on keeping it up even after November is done.

p.p.s.  Thank you so much to whoever nominated me for the Mobbies ( A Baltimore based Blog award).  I’m super sorry I haven’t been too timely with posts lately.  The above mentioned burnout recovery involved some nights of complete self reflection.