Monday, September 26, 2011

A Short Story Called "Dinner"

Once upon a time, there was a very hungry young woman. She'd worked ALLLLLLL day and while she was happy to have been so productive, she was tired and NOT in the mood to make dinner. 

Luckily for her, she'd fully stocked her kitchen the day before and had nothing to worry about! She decided a light but filling meal was just the thing she needed and pulled out all the ingredients.

- A fresh veggie mix 
- Extra firm tofu
- Some extra veggies (squash and mushrooms) to toss in
- Rosemary
- Black peppercorns
- Garlic powder
- Extra virgin olive oil for sauteing

        She threw it all in a pan and let it cook on high.

Did you know that cinnamon is said to be good for your heart AND your brain?
Food for thought. 

Meanwhile, on a table nearby, she cut up a fresh peach and grabbed a handful of blueberries to add to a bowl of Greek yogurt, all sprinkled with cinnamon, of course!

And.... Voila! Dinner. 

                               And she lived happily (and healthfully) ever after!

                                                   - THE END - 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Groovy!

Hey everyone!

I have been missing in action a bit if you haven't noticed! I've been home visiting with family and friends and have started a new job so I've been busy. Of course, working out sort've fell by the way side. Don't get me wrong, I squeezed it in here and there but none of my workouts was worth writing about. Until last night, that is.

Back in the City I love for the past five days, I finally managed to get back into the groove of bringing my (slightly larger) behind to a gym for a proper workout. Well, "proper" may be stretching it...

Introducing, GROOVE HOOPS! My local YMCA (on 14th between 1st and 2nd for those of you in NYC) offers this class on Mondays at 8 PM, directly after their Punk Rope class. You remember when I took that one, right? I enjoyed it but it kicked my butt and I was reminded just how horrible my coordination can be! This time around, I definitely experienced deja vu as I tried to keep my arms and legs in some sort of semblance as our class progressed. But let me start at the beginning.

Here's the entrance of the 14th Street Y.

Groove Hoops was led by Stefan, an adorable curly haired blond with awesome capris. I actually arrived at the Y a couple of hours early because I wanted to get in a regular workout (some cardio, a bit more work on my legs, and a bunch of core work) before the class. As I worked out on my own, I grew pretty excited about the class.

Here, I must tell you something not many people know about me. I happen to be AWESOME at hula hooping. No really I've, like, won contests and everything! During the summer between second and third grade, when I attended a day- camp around the corner from my home, there was a hula hooping contest and, after no less than an hour and eleven minutes of non-stop hooping, I was named the champ. It is definitely a top ten moment from my childhood... 

So again, I was really looking forward to Groove Hoops- I just knew I'd be in my element. That said, I didn't really know what to expect- Have you ever heard of a class like this?

Well, in a nutshell, the class wasn't what I thought it might be. That's not to say it wasn't fun (it was!) but rather than break the class down by focusing working on specific muscles, Stefan taught us a bunch of tricks. While we were still "active", it wasn't nearly as intense as I think it could have been.

Luckily, we established rather quickly that we could all hula hoop decently (i.e. keep the hula hoop swinging around our waists for several minutes at a time). The first few tricks that he taught us involved turns. Typically, when a person hula hoops, she naturally throws the hoop either to the left or right, often without noticing her preference. For example, I always use my right hand to throw the hoop to the left to get started; I don't think about this before I do it, I just do it. Stefan explained that whichever way you throw the hoop, an easy (but cool looking!) trick is to turn your body within the hoop in that same direction. If you do this just right, the hoop actually stops moving as you turn then continues on its way as you stop back in your original position. I mastered it.

Feeling pretty dang awesome, I welcomed the next lesson. ... And it's fair to say I failed miserably at it. It involved tossing the hoop around our hand. Now, to be fair, I have a pretty severe nerve damage from an accident I had back in 2007 so having the hula hoop pressing against it over and over again as it swings around isn't the most comfortable thing in the world. Still, I can't use that as an excuse- I just plain stunk. If there is more than two steps in a move and at least one of them is done behind my back, it will take me awhile to get the hang of it. I did eventually improve but I still couldn't twist the way Stefan showed us. Oh, and I have bruises forming already on the backs of my hand and up my arm from the hula hoop pressing against my skin.

One of the last tricks Stefan showed us was allowing the hula hoop to gradually drop from spinning around your waist to spinning around your knees. This is TOUGH and I never quite got it. The best I could do was keeping it around my knees for about six seconds before it clattered to the floor. Dangit. My almost third grade hula hoop pride declined a bit every time dropped it.

Stefan showed us a few more tricks but they were so advanced that, unless you had all of the other tricks down, it was impossible to even attempt. I happily spun my hula hoop around my waist (two at a time, even!) for the last fifteen minutes of class, dignity (back) intact. Some people, like this girl to the left, were pros and could do a bunch of tricks!

Also, check out this video:
The woman in it wasn't in my class but that's definitely the same gym we were in- Would've been cool to see her live!

Bottom Line: I probably wouldn't take the class again. I love hula hooping and I'll be the first one to give it a go when I see a hoop sitting around but the class didn't blow me away, despite Stefan's enthusiasm and genuine friendliness.

Pros: The class is held inside the 14th Street Y which means I get a lot of bang for my buck. I was able to get in a great workout in their main gym and, though I didn't take advantage of them, I could've enjoyed their sauna and pool for no additional cost if I'd wanted. The staff at the 14th Street Y is very nice and helpful- I spoke to three of them during my visit there and I found them all incredibly helpful and polite. This must rub off on the clientele- Everyone's very chill and NOT pretentious at all, unlike some gyms. It's definitely a kid- friendly gym. Not that they're out on the main floor but you do see parents picking their kids up from swim practice; actually, there were even these two adorable little boys- no more than four years old- who brought their own miniature- sized hoops to class and participated on the side as their mother took the class. It really added to the class ambience (and I'm not "kid- friendly", per say).

Cons: Like I said, the class format wasn't what I expected. While I enjoyed learning new tricks, I didn't feel like I targeted any area of my body in particular and that's not what you want when you "work out". Or, I don't at least. Secondly, the time of the class could be better. Eight o'clock at night on a Monday is tough for most of us. Even an hour earlier would have been a lot better.

So what do you think? Would you have been tempted to try Groove Hoops like I was? Should I give it another shot sometime? (Or just buy my own hoop and spin to my hearts content on my own?!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Straightforward Question

We all work out for different, varying reasons. Most of us do have a primary reason in mind: To lose weight, because it's healthy habit we're cultivating, because it's our only time that is truly time spent alone, with our own thoughts.

I fall in the last category. The first two categories, particularly the second, certainly come into play but I know what keeps me going back to the gym, hitting the pavement, and signing up for some crazy classes, all really boils down to my "Me Time".

So, what do you think about?

Me? I think about a lot of things, most easily broken down into "the past", "the present", and (of course) "the future".

"The Past": Whew. In my short (allll-most) twenty-six years, there's a lot there. Good childhood memories like time spent with my cousins or causing ruckus with my friends while we rode around on our bikes for 6+ hours a day (talk about a great workout!) Sometimes, though, as I push past my mile or a particularly high rep, my mind begins to wander to... somewhat darker periods. I definitely reflect on those at times when I felt my weakest, mentally and emotionally. Usually, though, I'm thinking about it from a good, strong place as I pound the pavement or count off my last reps. I don't know if it has to do with feeling physically in control in the moment or what but... it's actually a really good way for me to work through some of my most confusing and difficult feelings. What about you? Surely we've all had some trying times in the past that we still think about from time to time... often when we work out and are, for the most part, alone, with those thoughts.

"The Present": As a woman front and center in her mid-twenties, the "present" represents A LOT, to say the least. Talk about having a plateful! For the most part, I LOVE IT. I'd much rather have a a lot going on in my life than not but it can be almost too much to handle at times and my workouts are often the only time I really and truly step back and just... BE. That's actually always been the case- My refuge/sanctuary absolutely is any place I can go, work out and sweat with no one in my face (unless it's a trainer or instructor I'm paying to be there, of course). Career options, romance options, family/friends both near and far, travel plans, my spirituality, my short-term goals... the list goes on and on. It's a lot of thinking and  it's so nice to do it on my own time.
Let's be honest, we haven't had the life experience it really takes to make some of the important decisions we find ourselves facing as we mature and a lot of it is guess work based on intuition and advice from others.... Becoming focused and centered is KEY to making smart decisions today to make an even better tomorrow.

"The Future": Ahhhhh.... "Future". I definitely do not have the details hammered out but "the future" to me is more of an amorphous plan where I'm happy and healthy and so are the people around me. As someone who is your typical  Type- A list-maker, with at least four calendars going at the same time, this may come as a surprise to some who know me. I certainly have goals in life and a blueprint of sorts (flexible as it may be!) that I mostly stick to but I've mellowed out in the past few years to realize that at the end of the day, me and my loved ones being happy and healthy is all that really matters; the details work themselves out, whether we plan down to the last minute or not.
That said, there is a lot on my bucket list (live in another country, create a family, become a successful, published writer, start my own business, travel as much as possible to very remote places in the world, etc.) I am constantly considering my opportunities for the future and I find that thinking about all of this while I'm huffing and puffing away is often just as beneficial to my mind as the workout is to my body!

So what do you think about? Do you find, like me, that thinking about life while working out tends to alleviate stress? Or, do you prefer to use your time working out just zoning out?  

Friday, September 9, 2011

So Long, Summer... Hellllll-O Fall!

Summer has come and gone and we now find ourselves at the start of Fall. Can you BE-LIEVE it?! I can't. Autumn, especially in the Northeast, is one of my favorite times of year but I will miss the carefree attitude that summer demands. (Sigh.)

I went pretty low-key last weekend for Labor Day because I was fighting off a cough (and I won the battle- Yay!) but I made sure to send off the season with a legit summer meal: Lobster salad, corn on the cob, asparagus, strawberries, and lemonade. Mmmmmmm.....

Whoops! Almost forgot to plate my baked fingerling potatoes with basil and extra Virgin olive oil!

Even better, I got all of my ingredients- including the basil- from the Union Square Green Market which means all locally grown, organic products- YUM!

Not to be outdone, of course, Fall has her own special dishes that make my mouth water just thinking about them now. Crockpot meals full of veggies like these, fresh baked goodies, and seasonal coffee drinks abound during these cooler months and I love the homey-ness feel they inspire. For instance, try this little snack I whipped up in no time at all while I was switching my Spring/Summer wardrobe over to Fall/Winter:
One sliced green apple, sprinkled with cinnamon and baked at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes (so they're still a little crunchy!) accompanied by Spiced Chai also with a sprinkling of cinnamon- MmmMmmMmmmmmmm! You'll thank me. 

    ENJOY & share your favorite *healthy* Fall dishes!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hey, Mister DJ...

I've been cooped up most of the long weekend getting over a minor yet very persistent cough and I'm THRILLED to be headed out the front door as soon as I post this for a nice, l-o-n-g run (... jog) along the Hudson. I know that, besides the beautiful scenery, I'm going to rely on....

                                   Mi musica! 

I actually need it for a lot of things…. Dancing, putting on my make-up, driving a car, and cleaning just to name a few activities. I definitely need it for any type of cardio workout I do, though. Here’s a list of some of the songs that have become tried and true faves:

-                                             Busta Rhymes: “Break Ya Neck”
-                                                              Beastie Boys: “Intergalactic”
-                                                  Gloria Estafan: “Turn the Beat Around”
-                                                      Missy Elliott: “Get Your Freak On”
-                                                                        OutKast: “B.O.B.”
-                              Jay Z: “On to the Next One”, “Run This Town” (w/ Rihanna)
-                                                            Cirque du Soleil: “16-Papillion”
-                                                              Cyrus the Virus: “Electronica”
-                                      Beyonce: “Run the World”, “Diva”, “Get Me Bodied”
-                                                                      Katy Perry: “Firework”
-                                                                       A.R. Rahman: “Riots”
-                                                             Black Eyed Peas: “My Humps”
-                                              Wyclef Jean: “Hollywood Meets Bollywood”
-                                          Ludacris: “Welcome to Atlanta” and “Move Bitch”
-                                      Florence and the Machine: “The Dog Days are Over”
-                                                             Green Day: “American Idiot”
-                            Electronica Techno Orchestra: “Badinerie from Orchestral Suite #2”
-                                                                               Techno 4: “Hot”
-                                                   The Ting Tings: “That’s Not My Name”
-                                            Eminem: “Till I Collapse” and “Lose Yourself”
-                                                              Pitbull: “Give Me Everything”
-                                                           A.R. Rahman and M.I.A.: “Oh … Saya”

Again, these are tried and true (somewhat of a euphemism for “dated”, if you haven't noticed….) so share some of YOUR favorites with me- I’d love to update my playlist!