Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interval training

I'll admit, there was a time in my life when I couldn't for the life of me understand why people run.  Just the thought of running any distance further than from my front door to the mailbox gave me the willies. I had a good friend who was training for a half marathon and I would shake my head in disbelief as she would recount her training progress.  But earlier this year, I decided to give it a try.  I was getting a bit bored at the gym and felt I needed a new challenge to keep me going. So I hopped on a treadmill and ran...and ran...and ran.  Now I love running.  I put on some good music and go.  My feet and breath fall into a rhythm with the beat of the music and I don't even realize when 3 or 4 miles have gone by.

But after a while, you can get bored with running too. It can be hard to find new ways to challenge yourself.  That's why I LOVE the new workout I discovered recently!  This workout works interval training into your daily treadmill routine.  Interval training is really beneficial when it comes to burning calories, shedding fat and boosting your metabolism.  The basic principle of interval training is to alternate levels of high-intensity work with low-intensity work or even periods of rest. Basically get that heart pumping, then let it rest. Rinse and repeat!

This particular routine takes you from a fairly slow pace to a fast pace 5 times.  It takes 46 minutes:

1 minute at 4.5
1 minute at 5
1 minute at 5.5
1 minute at 6
1 minute at 6.5
1 minute at 7
1 minute at 7.5
1 minute at 8
2 minutes at 4.5

repeat 5 times.

The first time I tried it I was AMAZED at how many calories I had burned! It's a real killer and I guarantee you'll feel it the next day! And if 8 isn't fast enough for you, you can always alter it! My husband bumps his speed up by 1 every minute until he's running at a 10 (so his cycles end up being shorter).

Of course after a good run it's always good to get in some good weight training! And I did promise to give y'all some workouts to use on the floor, so I'd love to share with you my shoulder routine.  In the time I've been doing free weights, the muscle I'm most amazed with is my shoulders. I can't believe the change I've seen in the muscle in the time I've been working on it.  Here is the routine I use:

(3 sets of 10 reps each)
Dumbbell Shoulder Press  - See how to do this exercise here

Lawnmower - stand with feet wider than should width apart. Begin with weight in right hand positioned near left ankle. Move the weight across the body and end with it at the right shoulder, elbow bent and pointing as far to the ceiling as you can get it. Return to starting position. This is one rep.  Repeat on left side.

Side Lateral Raise - See how to do this exercise here

Start with a 5 pound dumbbell and see how it feels. If it's easy, go up to the next weight (usually this will be 10 pounds, but could be 7.5 depending on what's available).  Try to do the heaviest weight that you can. But remember, if your form starts to deteriorate, your weight is too heavy and you need to go down!

I hope you'll give both of these workouts a try! If you do, please be sure to let me know what you think in the comments! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Pasta

Is anyone else ready for fall? I can feel it in the air. From the back to school vibe to all the pumpkin recipes beginning to circulate around Pintrest, fall is in the air. Yesterday we had cloudy skies and the temp dipped all the way to 85! I immediately felt the urge to run out and buy boots! Every year I look for fall with desperate anticipation.  Sadly, I live in Texas so fall doesn't come until late November and then it usually last for about 5 hours.

So while it's still summer, we might as well enjoy our favorite summer recipes, right? Derek and I LOVE pasta night but I have a hard time getting excited about a rich red sauce with heavy meat and thick spaghetti when it's 110 degrees out.  So recently, we decided to come up with a summer pasta dish to satisfy our inner Italians!

This dish combines farfalle pasta, fresh summer veggies, grilled chicken and pesto to create a light, but filling meal! Paired with a caesar salad its the perfect meal for a hot summer day!

One of my favorite things about this meal is the grilled veggies.  Cooking the veggies on the grill gives them an almost smokey taste which adds such amazing flavor to the whole dish.  Now, I'm sure you can buy fancy contraptions for doing veggies on the grill but I simply make a little tray out of aluminum foil! Just fold up the edges to hold the veggies in and, voilà!

Begin by prepping your veggies.  Chop up squash, zucchini,  cherry tomatoes, and garlic.  I like to keep the slices thick so that they keep a little crunch after they are cooked! Once everything is chopped, load it all onto your grilling tray, drizzle with some olive oil. and salt and pepper to taste.


Salt and pepper your chicken breasts and they are ready for the grill. Pop the grilling tray on with your chicken and let your grill work it's magic!

While the chicken and veggies are grilling you can cook your pasta.  

I'm not sure what turned us onto farfalle pasta but I just love it. And the kids get a real kick out of "bow" pasta.

Just look at those adorable little bow ties boiling away!  I love them!

When the chicken, veggies and pasta are done, you can put your dish together.  First, slice your chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Put your pasta into a large bowl and top with the veggies and sliced chicken. Make sure your bowl is big enough to allow room for tossing!

Add 3 Tbsp of pesto. One day I hope to make my own pesto. But since my herb growing skills seem to need some cultivating (pun intended!) we use Classico traditional basil pesto.  

Toss the pasta, veggies and chicken with the pesto and your pasta is ready!

I like to top my pasta with copious amounts of parmesan cheese, but that's up to you! 

For a simple caesar salad simply chop a head of romain lettuce,

and toss with tomatoes, parmesan cheese and your favorite caesar dressing. I just LOVE Briannas' caesar dressing.  It's made with asiago cheese and it's sooooo yummy!

I hope everyone is enjoying the dog days of summer! I know I'm praying for cooler temps but while it's still hot, enjoy this summer dish!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The power of weight training

Lately a good friend of mine has been posting a lot about weight training.  I love hearing her comments and knowing that another person out there understands the awesomeness that is weight training.  But I realize that a lot of people might not incorporate this important aspect of fitness into their daily gym routine.

For the better part of my life (or perhaps, my "fitness life"?) I thought that working out meant jumping on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes and watching an episode of The Office while I moved my legs around. And while I can't speak enough about the benefits of cardio training, it wasn't until recently that I realized the importance of serious weight training (and saw the benefits!).  I read a really good article the other day entitled 8 Reasons To Lift Heavy Weights.  You can read the article here.

One of the reasons the article lists is that you'll burn more calories.  While it's true the the actual act of weight lifting won't burn as many calories as a cardio session, it does put the body in a better position to burn calories through out the day.  It has been proven that muscle is more metabolically active than fat and thus will burn more calories when you are at rest.  So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even when you are sleeping!).  It's brilliant, right? Give you body a little lean muscle to replace the fat, and it'll do the work for you while you sit on your bum! ...Ok, well maybe it's not THAT simple, but you get the point.  You'll also continue to burn calories for a longer period of time after your training session. And when you increase the amount of weight you are lifting, you can burn almost twice as many calories during the two hours after your training session! So when I do the grocery shopping after a trip to the gym, I know that my body is furiously burning calories while I try to decide between regular and organic black beans! Isn't that great?

In addition to helping your body burn calories, weight training can build bone density, prevent injury, and help you loose belly fat. YES! Lifting weights (say a good shoulder exercise) can help you loose the belly pooch! You can't spot reduce fat, but your body has pre-conceived places where it likes to store fat. For most of us, one of those places is our belly.  A study out of the University of Alabama showed that women who lifted weights lost more belly fat than those who did cardio alone.  And while we all want to look good in a bikini, this also helps to prevent some kinds of cancer and can lessen your risk of diabetes. ALL. GOOD. THINGS.

However, a lot of women worry that if they lift weights they'll look bulky or man-ish.  But the opposite is actually true. Our bodies need testosterone to really bulk up.  Because women only produce this hormone in small amounts, we tend to lean out when we lift weights.  So lifting weights can actually help us to look leaner!

The tricky part is knowing where to start. Over the next few week's I'll be posting exercises that I like to do for specific muscle groups.  I hope that these will help you to get out on the weight floor and make your body the healthiest, most attractive fat-burning machine it can be! Happy lifting!