Archive | November, 2012

Pure Barre

28 Nov

I went to a Pure Barre class for the first time since August, and it felt amazing, so I thought I would do a post about it!

Barre classes are sort of all the rage right now, and because I love to try out anything that is “all the rage” I of course jumped on the chance to go with a friend this past summer. At that time, there wasn’t one in my hometown. Here’s the blurb from their website, just to give you a little background:

“Pure Barre is the fastest, most effective way to change the shape of your body. Using small isometric movements at the ballet barre set to motivating music, Pure Barre lifts your seat, tones your thighs, abs and arms and burns fat in record breaking time.”

As a side note, I’ve mentioned before that I grew up dancing. As a result, as an adult, I’ve always been fond of Pilates classes, but disliked yoga. (Sacrilege, I know, since yoga also tends to be all the rage.) I used to go to this spin/yogalates class in college that was awesome. We would spin for 40 minutes, then do a mix of yoga and Pilates for 30 minutes. It was great because the spin part was really intense and burned a lot of calories, but I felt so relaxed and stretched after the yogalates that I forgot out hard and intense the spin part was and kept going back for more! Anyway, I could always tell which moves were yoga-inspired and which were Pilates-inspired because Pilates feels natural and graceful to me, but yoga feels awkward and uncomfortable. Basically Pure Barre was right up my alley because it uses moves I am familiar with from dancing and Pilates.

Basically I was hooked from my first class! For those who are unfamiliar, the classes I’ve been to start out with a “warm up” that is no joke. It starts with some marching, then moves on to a forever plank hold where you move different legs and arms, then push ups (!) and on to arm work. The focus is very minimal movements that cause a deeep burning sensation. One thing I like is that the arm moves are very difficult and leave my arms shaking, but there is no need to save anything for later because you don’t use your arms again after that at all, so I have no fear of fatiguing them completely.

After warming up, you do a few thigh exercises at the bar (these make my thighs burn so much that towards the end they are almost numb with pain), then a few “seat” exercises either at the bar or in the center, then some very intense ab work. Finally you do what I have heard called “glute raises.” At Pure Barre they are called “back dancing,” which I find hilarious and love. After each session of muscle work, you stretch out that muscle. The hour just flies by and you are left feeling completely spent, but tighter and lighter. 

When a Pure Barre opened in my town they had a new member special where you got a month unlimited for $100. Pure Barre promises that in ten classes you will see results. I probably went around 25 times in the thirty days I had. (I had to get my money’s worth. Also it’s kind of like an addiction.) I didn’t take any official measurements, but I did do a lot of staring at myself in the mirror. I can honestly say that my body has never looked so toned and sleek as it did while I consistently doing Pure Barre. I miss that.

Here are some things to know before your first class. (Luckily I went with someone! I would recommend that, actually, if at all possible.):

1. You must wear socks. You should bring your own. If you don’t bring socks, they will make you buy their socks, and their socks are $12. They are fancy and non-slip, but still pretty hefty for socks. I always just wore regular socks, and never really had a problem with slipping. 

2. There isn’t really a receptionist. Whoever is teaching the class stays at the front desk for awhile, and there are always regulars standing around buying clothes, or just chatting it up, so you need to be sort of assertive about signing in. 

3. There is very little instruction about the moves. There are a few “breaking down the barre” classes where they explain the moves in-depth (I haven’t been to one of these, but I’m told that’s what happens there), and if you have questions you can always ask after class. Try to follow along as best you can. The instructor will correct you if you are way off.

4. The mat work against the mirror is tricky. So there is this part of the class where you put you sit on the floor, grip the bar, and use your abdominal muscles to move your feet. It’s tricky for first-timers, or even 25-timers if they aren’t paying attention. It requires a lot of focus and a lot of loud exhaling. The more you go the better you get at it.

5. If you are sore after a class, go to another one. This is true of all workouts, really, but the best way to get over soreness is to get right back in the saddle. Because you are stretching so much, the best thing you can do if you are extremely sore is to go to another class the next day.

I will say that Pure Barre is a little expensive for me. A month unlimited is normally $200. If I didn’t have my morning boot camp class that costs around the same, I would do it in a heart beat. I can’t justify spending the same amount on workouts that I spend on rent. This is the first time I’ve gone back since my month expired, but I asked for a month from my parents for my birthday, so I will become a regular again soon. (Sunday, actually.)

I should also probably mention that I didn’t exclusively do Pure Barre, I did it on top of my boot camp workout. Basically for that month it was unusual for me not to feel sore. It was kind of awesome, really. However my results were enough to make me a believer, and even if I hadn’t been able to see the results so clearly, I enjoyed the workout enough that I probably would have been enthusiastic about it regardless.

Have you tried Pure Barre or another barre-inspired class? What did you think?


5 Miles!

26 Nov

Yesterday we upped the mileage on the group run to five miles! This is the farthest I have ever run, so I was a little nervous, but it was not hard at all! (I mean, it’s still running, so it’s still a little hard, but it wasn’t the physical feat I was afraid it would be.)

I mentioned in a previous post, that since we can’t use headphones for the half marathon, I would have to do something extremely embarrassing the day before to have something to mull over and make the time go by. Well, this weekend I did something embarrassing, so I can say from experience that my (joke of a) strategy works pretty well.

If I were reading this blog, I would want the juicy details of the embarrassing thing. In order to protect the innocent (me?) I will just keep it short and say that I confessed having feelings to a boy that did not exactly feel the same way about me. Which was kind of a bummer, except that it happened at a great time because the miles just flew by. On second thought, maybe I should have saved that for the 10-miler that comes in a few months!

Anyway, today I thought I would share the (brief) history of my interest in running. I grew up dancing, so I did absolutely no running except at P.E. when we would have to run the dreaded mile. (In blue jeans of course.) I always hated running that mile. All of my friends would race one another and brag about who was the fastest. I was more middle-of-the-pack. I wasn’t the girl in the back walking the whole way, but I definitely wasn’t in the race. My dance teachers supported my lack of running talent by telling us how horrible running was for our finely tuned dancer bodies.

In high school I traded in studio dancing for the school’s dance team. At dance team practice we ran a mile every day before practice to warm up and increase our endurance. I actually was finishing first during these miles, but I hated them. I ran them as quickly as possible just to get them over with. (Plus, the faster I finished, the longer I had to sit around and gossip while waiting on everyone else to finish.) Our dance team coach told us that we needed to run a mile every day during the summer break so that we would be prepared for dance camp mid-summer. She told us that we would be in trouble if we came back for practice and couldn’t run the whole thing. I have always been extremely obedient, so I ran every day my first summer on dance team. And I hated every minute of it. It never got easy or pleasant. In fact, after that first year, I realized that I could run a mile without having to practice it, so I gave up the daily mile in the off-season. I did love dance practice though. I loved the feeling of getting so worn out that I felt like I couldn’t do another run-through and then finding that extra energy deep down to catch a second wind and keep going.

In college I became the elliptical trainer’s best friend at our school’s rec center. I read in a magazine around that time that the Amish are able to eat high fat food and remain slim because they walk an average of eight miles a day, so I strove to do that. The rec center was a mile from my dorm room, so I would walk there, do 3 miles on the elliptical, and walk home. The remaining three miles came from walking to class. It worked. My freshman year of college I was the smallest I have ever been. That lasted until about my junior year, when I started taking a more lackadaisical approach to exercising. I would do it off and on in spurts, but never with the discipline I had before, and it rarely involved running.

It was my roommate my second year of grad school who made me actually enjoy running. She would ask me to go on “walks” with her, and I quickly learned that her version of going for a walk involved a lot more jogging than I was comfortable with. We went for a jog just about every day on a two mile loop near our house (that involved a killer hill, by the way.) She is the one who taught me about form and replacing shoes and that sort of thing. I got back down to my pre-late-college weight and stayed that way throughout the time that we lived together. I will do a post on my eating habits another day, but I’ll just say for now that prior to living with her my diet involved a lot of beer, a lot of cheese, and a lot of “fourth meals” from my beloved Taco Bell. I still ate these things from time to time, but she is one of those (crazy) people who thinks that fast food is “gross” and who has always known what a proper portion size is.

Somewhere during my time living with her I dated a boy who convinced me to train with him for a local half marathon. The half marathon was going to be in February. We started training in late October, and I dropped out of training in December. Now that I am training for this half marathon with the help of the program I joined, I realize we had no idea what we were doing. We followed a Couch to 5k program we found online, and then too quickly moved into a half marathon training program we found online that was apparently not for beginners.

When the training got to where we were supposed to be running four miles four times a week I just couldn’t keep doing it. I dreaded each and every run, and then I got behind in the training, and then I just quit altogether. I went back to my pleasant jogs with my roommate and decided that I just didn’t love running enough.

My first year living alone, post-grad school, I just completely stopped exercising for a good six months. I would go on a two mile run here and there, but I didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods, and my 9-5 job on top of eating extremely heavy lunches just left me too wiped to exercise. I was out of shape, and unhappy because I was really missing my exercise endorphins.

Last spring, I was fed up with being out of shape. I googled personal trainers in my area and found the boot camp class that I still attend now. That class made me much stronger, but the scale didn’t budge a bit. This past summer I started adding in afternoon to supplement my boot camping, I got my eating back on track (somewhat), and I got a dog, which guilts me into getting out the door even when I don’t want to. This half training so far (it’s early yet) has been sooooo much better than the last time. I think because I already had a strong running base when I started it, and I am in a stronger place mentally to handle the challenges that have come along.

I’m still not where I’d like to be with my weight, eating, or love of running. But I know that I am on the right track this time.

I’d like to know, if you are a runner, how did you get started?    

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 Nov

Hello and Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a fun time stuffing your bellies. Even I ate a little too much, and I, for the most part, hate Thanksgiving food. I have always disliked Thanksgiving because, while the thought behind it is lovely (it’s always nice to be reminded to give thanks for all that we have been given), a) I don’t really care for the food; and b) it’s usually just me and my parents sharing a meal together. I’m an only child and live in the same town as my parents, so sharing a meal with them is something that happens around once a week anyway — usually with better food. I know it sounds weird since I generally love food, and therefore a holiday centered around food should be right up my alley. BUT I have never really cared for turkey. When I was growing up my dad ate a turkey sandwich for dinner every. single. day. I don’t love poultry, so turkey just underwhelms me. I’ve never loved stuffing (in the south we call it dressing), sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, or pecan pie. So, past years have involved me eating very little on Thanksgiving.

This year was different because my family got together with a couple of other small families and everybody brought a few dishes. Someone brought regular mashed potatoes (yum), macaroni and cheese (double yum), so I had some tasty foods. And it was a lot of fun spending time with a big group.

I brought an appetizer, and although it isn’t exactly Thanksgiving-themed, it is a super easy (for the most part low-calorie) treat that has been a hit everywhere I’ve taken it. So I am sharing it with you now. As far as I know it doesn’t have a name. I had them at a party and then googled the ingredients to come up with a base-recipe that I tweaked according to what I remembered eating.

You will need:

3 packages frozen mini-fillo cups

1 package bacon bits (I used turkey bacon to try to shave some calories, but I could taste the difference. Real bacon bits are better.)

1 cup 2% swiss cheese, shredded

1 cup fat-free mayonnaise*

1 can rotel

Drain the rotel a bit and mix together with the cheese, bacon bits, and mayonnaise. Scoop the mixture into the mini-fillo cups. Bake fillo cups at 350 for around 15 minutes. Voila. Easy peasy delicious app.

*Just as a side-note, if you live in the south, you know that using anything besides real mayonnaise is extremely frowned upon. That is not really a concern with this recipe because the mayonnaise is more of a binding agent than anything. The other flavors mask that distinctive sweet-taste that is so unpalatable to real-mayonnaise proponents. 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? 

On Calorie Counting

21 Nov

I did noooot feel like going for my daily run today. But I made myself get out the door and go anyway. No ipod, no iphone, just me and Henry. It was a beautiful day, and once I was out there things were fine. It wasn’t my favorite run, it wasn’t my least favorite run, but afterward I was glad I went. I’m always grateful afterward!

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my goals lately has been to drop a few of the extra pounds I picked up last year after entering the working world. At my job last year, it was expected that we all eat lunch out together. Since I was the only girl in a small office, we seldom went anywhere where there were healthy choices. Even when we did go somewhere that offered healthy choices, I had a hard time making those healthy choices. When every one around you is eating french fries, it’s hard to be the one with a salad. Sure, I would make a healthy choice every once in a while, but I could not make myself order the healthy thing day in and day out. My waistline and my wallet both suffered. I was also having to get used to fitting exercise around an 8-5 job. (Oh how I missed “free” access to my university’s awesome gym and a flexible schedule that allowed me to go work out at 10:00 on a week day!) Add in a new relationship for the better part of the year, and I was sitting at about 10 pounds over my normal size. All of my pants were too tight all of the time, and I was frustrated. 

At my new job, I’m on my own for lunch, which is how I like it. Except now, I no longer have any excuses for not getting my eating in gear. I expected those ten pounds to just fall off once I stopped eating lunches out. I know at this point you are probably shaking your head and thinking “bless her heart,” because shock of all shocks, no, ten pounds did not just “fall off.” Enter calorie counting.

Calorie counting is one of those things like weighing yourself. It has it’s uses, it can be a tool for success, but it can also be something that gets way out of hand and makes you miserable. Up until a couple of weeks ago, my calorie counting went a little something like this: Eat within my prescribed calorie budget for four days. Log everything dutifully. Go out to dinner/drinks/party/whatever and totally bust on daily calories. Lose the heart to log my failures. Quit calorie counting for the next two days and eat whatever I want. Start up again at the beginning of a new week. Repeat cycle.

I wouldn’t recommend this strategy for calorie counting. It doesn’t work. My bestie started having success calorie counting and she basically told me what her eating model has been. In a nutshell, she eats egg-whites + veggies for breakfast, chicken salad and one serving of potato chips for lunch, chicken or some other meat and veggies for dinner. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was the potato chips that gave me sort of an aha moment. So no. Eating processed foods is never ideal, but that little treat at lunch was helping to get her through the day. And the fact that she knew she could have a serving of chips kept her from downing a whole bag of chips in frustration later. (Which is what kept happening to me!) So I’ve been loosely following this guide — except that I can’t do the egg whites. I hate breakfast foods for the most part, so I usually make a protein smoothie. Also, I don’t eat chicken, and try not to eat other meat, so I usually sub in fish or tofu for lunch and dinner. And it’s been working! So here are just a few of my tips for calorie counting successfully:

1. Measure what you eat. This was my biggest down-fall for the first few months. It’s hard to log your food if you have no idea how much of it you are eating. If you aren’t measuring, you’re guessing. And you’re probably guessing wrong. Measuring also prevents me from, say, planning to eat a serving of carrots and hummus, then finishing off the tub of hummus with my finger.

2. Don’t deprive yourself. This is sort of the trickiest balancing act of trying to lose weight, and one I still struggle with. (See, e.g. my undying love for Taco Bell.) Obviously you have to deprive yourself a little. But you also need to eat in a way that is sustainable for weeks, or months, or even years. So, for example, if you love Taco Bell like a fat kid loves cake, get a taco! But don’t get two taco supremes, a cheesy gordita crunch, and a mexican pizza (a purely hypothetical order, of course!) Choose your indulgence wisely. And don’t eat Taco Bell for lunch, grab some co-worker birthday cake in the afternoon, and eat chicken alfredo for dinner. Obviously, it would be lovely to be able to eat whatever you want whenever you want, but that’s what put the pounds on. To take them off some things need to change.

3. Certain foods give you more bang for your caloric buck. Vegetables and lean protein have very low calories for the most part. Starches, alcohol, and dairy have fairly high calories. You may need to adjust the prominence these different foods play in your diet. For me, before I started calorie counting I used cheese the way some people use salt, or ketchup. I was using it to flavor my foods. Now, before I add cheese to something, I ask myself whether it will actually enhance the dish or not. Cheese is a calorie luxury, not a necessity. 

4. One “bust” on your calorie budget won’t kill you. Last week I had a day where I just ate everything in sight. It started off with me probably not eating as much as I should have for breakfast and lunch, followed up with me making a not-very-good meal for dinner. I ate about half of it, but I wanted to eat something that tasted better, so I had a few chips, then a few more, and before I knew it I had eaten the rest of the bag. Then I went to a gas station, bought a bag of gummi bears and polished those off as well. By the end of it all, I was about 1000 calories over the daily budget my calorie-counting app gives me. I fretted about it the next day, but then I realized something. My app gives me a calorie budget for me to lose 2 pounds per week. Since there are 3500 calories in a pound, that is a calorie deficit of 7000 calories. So even if I go over my calorie budget by 1000 calories one day, I’ve still lost nearly two pounds that week. So one splurge (embarrassing as it is) won’t hurt me.

5. It takes a long time. A couple of weeks ago, I thought “man, I’ve been eating really well this week. I should reward myself with some Taco Bell.” Then I realized I had only been tracking my calories for two days. Losing weight takes work because it takes consistency. It means having the will-power to make good choices all day, every day, for weeks, months, and years. As I’ve learned the hard way, those ten pounds aren’t going to just fall off on their own. I need to change the choices I’ve been making in order for that to happen.

6. It gets easier. At first it is so hard. When you’ve been letting yourself have whatever you want whenever you want, it is hard to change. Your body will not want to change. Your mind will start telling you that you “deserve” this that or the other thing. If there is a point where it is smooth sailing, I’m not there yet, but I will say that mostly, it is easy. After two weeks, I no longer act like every meal has to be something that is going to “wow” my taste buds. The good thing about meals is that there is always another one coming. I don’t have to treat every meal as though it is my last one.

So that’s my sage advice for the week. This has been a long post, but it’s something that has been on my mind lately, and I wanted to speak about it.

How do you feel about counting calories?

Scary Night Walk

19 Nov

Today I cross-trained. Thanks Jillian Michaels, for taking care of my trouble zones!


Henry hates being left out of cobra pose. He also hates blurry phone photos, but I could only do so much mid-workout with one arm.

Right now I am in what I think of as the “scary zone” of working out. I’m working out consistently at least once a day, and most days twice-a-day. This means I only have to pay minimal attention to what I’m eating because I am burning so many calories. It also means I feel fantastic all of the time because of the endorphins. 🙂

Sounds awesome, right? So why is this the scary zone? Because it’s at this point that one false move could send me off the wagon. I’ve been here before, and the trouble is that I’m getting so strong and seeing such great results that at some point I will lose the drive that got me here in the first place. I will get busy, or meet a guy, or something unforeseen that I haven’t thought of yet happens, and I will miss one workout, then two and before you know it I’m back to eating whatever I want and not exercising at all.

I think the good news is that this time I have that half marathon hanging over my head for at least the next three months. I bought and paid for entry and training, and if I start getting too lax I will not finish, or embarrass myself, or something. So we will see what happens. I hope this lasts, because right now I am loving it.

Now, about my scary night walk. After getting rid of all of my trouble zones, I decided to take Henry for a short walk around the neighborhood. It was dark and colder than I dressed for, so I decided to take a shortcut home. the shortcut goes behind a nearby store, and there is a dumpster there where all of these stray cats hang out. (This was not the scary part. I am not afraid of these cats. They are like Top Cat.) I noticed that one of the cats was a lot bigger than the others and not moving around as much. I got a little closer and saw that it was (dum dum dummmm) A GIANT OPPOSUM*!! He was just sitting there in the midst of all of those cats, looking super creepy. Rodents should never be that big. I hate hate hate opposums. I wanted to cry, but instead I turned around and ran back to the main road and took the long(er) way home. And now I will have nightmares.

*I spelled it opossum to be grammatically correct. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it a different way than “possum,” though. I don’t know if this is a southern thing or if the “o” is always silent/left off. I googled it and apparently a “possum” is a completely different animal that always lives in New Guinea and never lives in North America by the stray cat dumpster near my apartment.

Long Run Jitters?

19 Nov

Today was my second “long run.” As you can see from the quotes, we are still doing the shortish distance of four miles. Last week I wrote that I was very nervous about going on the group long run. Maybe I can blame last week on it being the first one, and me not knowing what I was getting into. This week, though, despite successfully doing the exact same mileage last week (and taking the exact same path, btw), I still had jitters in the hours leading up to leaving to go meet for the long run. I mean, I had butterflies in my stomach about it. I tried to ask myself what was going on to see if I could get to the bottom of it, but I came up with nothing. I then texted my bestie to tell her I was nervous. Her response was. “that’s weird.” 

The nice thing about pre-run jitters? You can run them off! That’s what I’ve decided pre-run jitters are far superior to pre-exam jitters (although my grad school roommate and I did do a few laps of the building before our first exam our first year) or pre-football game watching jitters (I also once ran around the neighborhood before watching a football game because I was so nervous about the outcome). Since my solution to jitters it to run them off, pre-running jitters are the best! 

It turns out I did have a slight reason to be nervous. I got to the meet-up spot about five minutes before we were supposed to start, and everyone had already gone. Last week I got there right on time and there was a pre-run pep talk and lesson in stretching. So today I got out of my car and just took off. Every one was so far ahead of me, I thought, “This is going to be so boring, running back here by myself the whole time.” But I also thought that there was a little bit less pressure, because other people wouldn’t see me falling behind. I was already behind!

It turns out I caught up with a couple of people within the first mile. One of the coaches was bringing up the rear to make sure nobody was left behind. When I told her I got a late start, she commended me for taking my time and not trying to spring to catch up. (Yeah right. The thought of starting off four miles with a spring never crossed my mind!) By the second mile I had passed another clump of people. Then, during mile three, I passed the last small clump I was going to pass, and I was by myself again for the last mile and a half. Catching up/passing people kept me from being bored, and while the last little bit wasn’t so fun, it was the last little bit, so it was over quickly.

It was a beeeeeautiful day to be running. The perfect fall day. With all of the catching up / enjoying the weather, I didn’t even miss having music or my audiobook. I was just happy to be out there running!

On Only Sweating the Small Stuff

17 Nov

Yesterday I got off work early and got to run in the daylight! It was wonderful. I was able to wear a tank top and the whole run just felt lovely. I felt like I could have kept going more than my three-mile loop, but going further would have involved crossing some streets at peak-traffic time so I just called it a day. Especially since I have another long run Sunday.

Last week I posted on all of the things I don’t know about running a race. I’ve been reading lots of running blogs to motivate myself, and that’s wonderful, but it also causes a little anxiety. I am a very beginning runner, but I find myself worrying about things like speed, and gear, and training runs. All with my first half marathon months away. I think it’s normal to research the heck out of a new hobby, but I need to remember that all I should be focusing on right now is getting to that distance and getting across the finish line. After that, there is plenty of time for improving and training more. 🙂

I am off to go cheer on my beloved football team, but before I go, I will share a recipe I made up last night that was pretty good, if I say so myself:

Spinach-stuffed Tilapia

1 tilapia filet (mine was 4.5 ounces)

1/4 c spinach

1 clove garlic (I might use 2 next time)

2 tbsp cream cheese (mine was 1/3 less fat)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

a couple of shakes of parsley (I didn’t measure this — sorry!)

1/2 lemon

olive oil

Directions: Mince garlic and heat in non-stick skillet until fragrant. My spinach was frozen, so I added in the spinach at the same time to thaw. Add in cream cheese and mix in with garlic and spinach. Once cream-cheese mixture is heated through, spoon onto half of the tilapia filet, and fold the fish over on top, so that the cream cheese mixture is between two layers of fish. Place on greased baking sheet. Squeeze lemon over fish and sprinkle smoked paprika on top. Bake at 250 for 20 minutes.

This was very yummy and very filling. I roasted some veggies to go along with it, but I was unable to eat them because I was so full. (They took an extra 20 minutes to cook because I am very bad at getting all of my food to be ready at the same time.)