January 27: Kickboxing

Yesterday evening, two colleagues and I ventured to a group fitness kickboxing class. It’s becoming apparent that Thursday and Friday classes should be avoided or I need to arrive earlier because they are just so crowded. One colleague speculated that the reason for the crowded group fitness classes was a pre-emptive strike against the carbs in their binge drinking weekend. I haven’t been working here long enough to speak to the validity of that claim, but based on the overflow of crowds at local bars and the red solo cups littering nearby lawns, I’d say there is probably some truth to the claim.

Fortunately, everyone was mindful of their surroundings. It could have gotten ugly during the interval with the burpees lol. Anywhoo, the class was an hour, but we did cardio for 45 minutes. For the most part, we worked at a high rate of perceived exertion. I’d say I remained between a 6 and 7 most of the class, though the instructor was at an 8  to 9. I’m very mindful of proper form because I’m not interested in having a knee problem, but the class was so quickly paced that it was easy to harm oneself. Besides concern for proper form, the lack of adequate personal space had me holding back for fear of striking someone inadvertantly.

After 20 minutes, I had to mentally will myself to push through. If my body could speak, I know it would fuss me out about trying new workouts and shocking it into recruiting different muscles or pushing it beyond its comfort zone. Just as I am becoming faster in the pool, learning to like spinning, and managing in Step & Sculpt, I go and try kickboxing lol. Thankfully, my body hasn’t said “Eff you” since January 2 lol. Following 45 minutes of kicking, boxing, jumping jacks and shuffling from side to side, I welcomed abdominal work. Oh, to be 21 again because our instructor was full of energy. What I thought would be a time to cool down turned into hardcore abs. She made Jackie Warner’s core workout look like child’s play. I toughed it out, though, as my abdominals are much stronger than they’ve probably ever been. Lord knows I would never do such an intense abdominal workout on my own.

It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed working out this much. Even though buying a group fitness pass is more money on top of the gym membership, I definitely enjoy myself much more than I had been when all I did was crank it out on the elliptical or adaptive motion trainer. And based on the variety of workouts I’ve endured in the last four weeks, I just wasn’t pushing myself hard enough on my own. I am definitely stronger and leaner than when I brought in the new year.

Bottom line: Kickboxing is a good cardio workout; spinning still wins in my book, though. It’s really easy to hurt yourself because of the fast pace and quick transitions from one move to the next. I’ll try other kickboxing classes to find a less crowded time, but I will definitely try it again. More than likely come the end of February when the students are overwhelmed with coursework and making plans for spring break, attendance will thin considerably.

January 25: Mighty Meal, the “healthy” version

I had one of those days. My research data was not as good as I hoped and when I went to swim my stress away, I happened upon swim team practice. The four available lanes were taken, and I was frustrated that I wasted 30 minutes of my life walking across campus and changing into my bathing suit only to have to walk back in the bitter cold without so much as  getting my feet wet. Mentally, I had zero desire to be productive, so I decided I was going to cave into my incessant craving for McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. For the last 2 1/2 weeks, I have endured the relentless add campaign for the special pricing for a 20 piece. I live a block from a restaurant; it’s been really hard to resist. But with the day I had, I made the choice to indulge. I had 881 calories remaining for dinner, so I visited mcdonalds.com to choose a meal that was nutritionally reasonable. The Mighty Meal with apple dippers, low fat caramel dip, and 1% low fat chocolate milk and sweet and sour sauce was 620 calories. With six nuggets, I thought my craving would be satiated.

I have ordered Happy Meals and Mighty Meals before when I wanted McDonald’s but not all the unhealthy that usually comes with a visit. I mean, do I really need 10 McNuggets? Even when I think the answer is yes, by the time I finish a salt-ridden meal, I instantly regret my decision. So, while I receive funny looks for ordering a kid’s meal sans a child, I don’t care. Today was the first time I opted for the healthier version of the kid’s meal; in the past, McDonald’s was a quick and cheap place to indulge in all manner of unhealthy: McNuggets, large fries, soda and 2 apple pies!

Sweet and salty...a satiating indulgence

I prepared my dinner on a plate and enjoyed it like any other meal. I was surprised that the apples did not have skin, but they were plentiful and sweet. For once, I didn’t not finish a McNuggets meal feeling the need to drink a gallon of water to dilute the salt. Hopefully, the limited time advertisemens for the 20 piece McNuggets end before another salt-craving creeps up on me *smile*, especially after this report about how salty snacks can harm you in 30 minutes by constricting blood vessels for up to two hours following a single meal!

January 24: Calorie currency (and spinning revisited)

I hate owing people money. I would definitely say I’m fiscally responsible. I have my moments of impulsive spending, but I learned to avoid situations where I might be tempted. So, it’s a wonder why I repeatedly indulge in sugary morsels then wonder how I’m going to “pay for it”; in other words, I make decisions about how often and how intensely I will work out to burn the calories. For most people, that’s probably an okay mentality. But lately, I feel guilty about overindulging in unhealthy foods. It’s really less about the food than it is about my lack of self-control. Regardless of the nuances of my issue, the fact remains that I suffer through workouts sometimes just to burn calories that I couldn’t invoke some willpower and not consumein the first place. I wish I could bake a pan of Pillsbury cinnabon buns and only eat one. And try as I may, it just ain’t happening.

So, why not put my situation in terms that I can relate to and feel that I can actually achieve? Denying myself chocolate isn’t the answer. What if I treat calories as currency? According to Loseit.com, each week I burn about 2300 calories. My old mentality said that I can consume 2300 calories in unhealthy snacks and be good. So what if I just ate half a pan of brownies *shrug*? Well, now I am devoting 20% of the calories I burn to unhealthy snacks. That means each week, I can only consume 460 calories of chocolate or equally tempting baked goodness. If i don’t work out as much one week, then I can only eat 20% of that total. And just like money, I can save my calorie currency for a special treat. I’m not allowing myself to put calories on credit, though. If I didn’t burn it, then I didn’t earn it.

My first test came Monday. I wanted to give spinning another chance. Some friends who are spinning enthusiasts said I should  try again. I’m not going to lie: it was a great workout. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for it. So, I was in the 6:15 am group fitness class peddling myself into a pool of sweat. The workout was challenging and fun. My legs were sore, but I suspect between Bob and swimming  that they have become stronger in the last two weeks allowing me more endurance. I’m actually preparing to head to the gym for an afternoon spinning class; I guess I like this kind of tea after all!

I earned 179 calories from spinning and walking across campus prior to facing the temptation of a spread of sugary goodness in the form of Oreo cookies, Chips Ahoy! cookies, a quarter sheet of marble cake with icing, and chocolate cupcakes with icing. There was some salty goodness on the table, too, but I prefer the glucose- and fructose-filled poison *smile*. I made a calculated decision to choose one cupcake when I really wanted two cupcakes and a hunk of the sheet cake. It’s only Wednesday, but so far reframing calories as currency is really helping me make better decisions about when and how much I indulge my sugar addiction. We’ll  revisit my progress in a few weeks as I begin to build a habit of prudent calorie spending.

January 23: Aqua jogging and roasted potatoes

I’m rather behind in my updates, but rest assured I have tried many new things in the last several days *smile*. First, I tried aqua jogging during my Sunday swim. My swimming buddy was sick, so I went alone. Sunday mornings are pretty dead around the pool, which meant I could swim more than 40 laps (=1000 yds) if my body permitted. In addition to picking up a kickboard, I chose an aqua belt as well.

I only took four breaks, though they were not rest breaks. I inhaled some pool water and had to expel some of it; the other times were to adjust my swim cap and goggles. I actually finished 40 laps in 35 minutes and wasn’t the least bit tired at the end. I figured I could manage 250 more yards and wanted to aqua jog. After about 3 yards, I realized that I would never make it jogging in the water. I almost guarantee I was not jogging correctly, but my arms became sore almost immediately. I turned around and propelled myself backwards, which was much more efficient! The sensation was actually quite exhilarating. I became much less worried about how ridiculous I must have looked and just began to enjoy myself. With the aqua belt, my fear of inhaling pool water and panicking into a frenzy was gone. I actually did the breaststoke and wasn’t too shabby. Of course, it took me forever to swim the 25 yards, but I alternated swimming the breaststoke on my belly and on my back, though the latter I doubt was a true breaststoke. Let me tell you, moving my legs like a frog while on my back had my inner thighs and glutes working! The other wonderful thing about the aqua belt was that even though I had to rest doing the breaststroke properly, I could just stop where I was and treadwater until I could finish the lap. Kickboarding is like exercising, but using the aqua belt is like being a kid playing in the pool! I felt so much less inhibited and much more willing to try different strokes.

Perhaps being so free-spirited in the pool motivated me to try to make roasted potatoes. I had been eating pork sausage patties with my frittata, which I made with Sargento mozzarella and provolone cheese, yellow tomatoes and orange tomatoes. The yellow and orange tomatoes made the frittata taste soOoO much better than when I used red tomatoes. But I digress. I had a few Green Giant red potatoes remaining from the stash I used to make a pot roast before the new year. I love roasted potatoes; I usually buy them frozen or eat them at restaurants. Never have I attempted to make them myself.

My first attempt at roasting potatoes

After scrubbing the tubers, I cut two medium and four small ones lengthwise then into wedges. I seasoned a quarter cup of olive oil with dried herbs and coated the potatoes. I wasn’t sure what temperature to roast the potatoes, so I went with the standard 350 F. Pouring the potatoes onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, they cooked for 50 minutes until they started to brown. Evidently, I was supposed to roast the potatoes at 475 F, which would have taken them considerably less time to cook. Regardless, the potatoes turned out quite well. They were in serious need of some salt, so I lightly sprinkled them with table salt. I will definitely make homemade roasted potatoes again because I grow tired of baked potatoes and mashed potatoes.

My mouth is watering just looking at this picture!

Bottom line: Aqua jogging in deep water is for the birds, but the aqua belt is a great workout tool. I experimented with different arm strokes and leg kicks to make my workout more enjoyable than simply kickboarding. Then for dinner, I successfully roasted red potatoes as a healthier side for my frittata than pork sausage patties. Great day of new experiences! Pictures will be forthcoming *smile*

January 20: Body composition analysis and Subway breakfast

As part of the swimming distance challenge, I received a complimentary body composition assessment. Since we also receive another complimentary assessment at the end of the challenge, I thought I would take advantage of the gesture and stand on the fancy scale. I have never had my body fat measured. Of late, I have been concerned about being “skinny fat”. While I used the term years before it became mainstream (it’s not the most creative of terms, so it’s not a surprise others settled on it as well), I was not aware of how problematic being skinny fat can be in terms of one’s health. I actually have to watch my diet because of concerns that my blood pressure is borderline high. I don’t like taking ibuprofen for cramps, so what do I look like taking a pill so I don’t die from a preventable disease. But alas, according to the body composition analysis, I actually don’t have enough fat. Yeah, I said wtf, too.  

Okie, so here’s the run down. I was not able to eat or drink within 3 hours of the test, nor could I take it within 3 hours of waking up. I could not have exercised, consumed excessive food, or drank alcohol within 12 hours of the test. It was just a lot of can’t associated with the test. So, I decided I would visit the campus recreation center as soon as possible this morning. 

The test was performed using the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer, model TBF-310; it was a very quick process, about 5 minutes. It took the staff member longer to enter my age and height than it did for the analysis to be completed. I was given a receipt with all my statistics on it. I’ve lost a few pounds in the month since I was last on a scale; I didn’t expect to have lost much weight since most of my exercising involves strength training as well as cardio. What was a surprise — and I’m not sure I quite believe it even though I followed the “rules” — is that I’m 13.1% body fat. As a woman, the normal range listed on my analysis receipt is 21 – 33%. My total body water (TBW) is about 62% of my body weight, which is normal. Body mass index (BMI) is 25.3, which interestingly indicates I am overweight lol. Good thing I don’t have a complex! The final reading I will share is my basal metabolic rate (BMR). I need 1453 calories for basic body functions.

Since I chose to do the body composition analysis this morning, I couldn’t eat breakfast at home. I didn’t have anything portable (I usually cook oatmeal on the stove); besides, I wanted to build a better breakfast and try a meal from Subway. I usually make my own breakfast, and if I do eat out it’s at a sit down restaurant. But I needed a quick meal and knew from all the product placement during Biggest Loser and commercials during Fox NFL Sunday that Subway would be my healthiest option given the choices I had near campus.

I was too hungry to take a picture of the Sunrise Subway Breakfast Melt on flatbread, but it looked, smelled and tasted scrumptious. According to the website, the Melt is 540 calories for a 6 inch sandwich. However, the sandwich I built was 450 calories because I chose different options. For example, I was able to get a third piece of turkey instead of the standard one piece of black forest ham. I did go with bacon, so I thought I would save myself the trouble of having too much sodium with ham and bacon. I also had an egg white patty, pepper jack cheese, banana peppers, spinach and tomatoes on my Melt. Had I gone with the English muffin instead of the flatbread, I could have saved 50 cents and 140 calories. For the record, that was a Pillsbury reduced fat cinnamon roll with icing. Yea, the flatbread was yummy but it didn’t compare to a cinnamon roll lol! I ate 3.5 hours ago, and am still quite full.

Bottom line: Definitely try the body composition analysis if your gym offers it, or consider buying a scale for personal use if it’s something you would use more regularly. And for $4, a Subway breakfast is yumdeliocious. It’s very easy, and much cheaper, to replicate at home but for a fast food meal, it’s good for the wallet and the waistline *smile* In fact, I’ll add replicating the breakfast at home one day soon!

January 17: Fitness medley

About two weeks ago, I tried a spinning class for the first time since it was free. The recreation center concluded their free week of group fitness classes on Sunday. I attended yoga pilates, total body tone, vinyasa flow yoga, and step & sculpt classes. I have enjoyed yoga DVDs for years but never actually attended a class. With the opportunity to try classes for free, I thought I would give it a try. The other classes I chose were just from curiosity since they fit into last week’s schedule best.

I went to both yoga classes with a friend, Kim, who was also interested in yoga. While I’m not afraid to try new things by myself, it definitely helps to have someone join me. Yoga pilates was our first class; we spent 75 minutes doing sun salutations interspersed with other postures. For about 8 minutes, we performed pilates to concentrate on abdominal work. The instructor was really great at explaining proper alignment and what muscles should be felt.

Wednesday night I went to Total Body Tone. The class was way too crowded, which happens when free is combined with college students at 6:15 pm. Using too many contraptions (step, body bar, free weights, and resistance bands), we hit all muscle groups in 45 minutes. While the workout fatigued my muscles, I just didn’t have fun. And what’s the point if I don’t have fun, right?

Thursday found me in vinyasa flow 2 with Kim. It was refreshing to see men in the class; they were athletes whose dance instructor required them to attend at least one yoga class. Again, we spent most of the time doing sun salutations. A different instructor from the one who taught our yoga pilates class, Scott also did a good job explaining postures and modifications; proper alignment; and proper breathing. While I definitely want to attend Scott’s class again, it occurs at the same time as Tai Chi, which I planned to attend weekly with a co-worker.

Saturday morning I found myself in Step & Sculpt. I figured few people would show up at 8:30 on a Saturday; I was wrong. While not as crowded as Total Body Tone, a fair number of women attended. We had plenty of space, however. A young lady I met in the locker room Friday was on the step behind me; she said the instructor was one of her favorites. It took some time for me to learn the intervals, but once I did I began to have a lot more fun. I was drenched with sweat well before the class was half finished. I think that as I attend the class each week, I will do better at following along. It was a great workout that was really fun.

And as I was visiting all these classes this week, I began the aquatic distance challenge. One of my friends who came with me to spinning class agreed to be my swimming buddy for the eight week challenge. Brittany and I swim 1000 yards or 1000 meters (depending on lane availability) twice a week. It takes us about 45 minutes to swim the 40 laps. Well, Brittany swims; I kickboard *smile*. Each time I enter the pool, I practice breathing underwater. I started adding single armstrokes as I kickboard. My goal is to actually swim a few laps of freestyle before the challenge concludes. The last time I tried to swim for exercise, I became tired in the middle of the lane and panicked; that was at least 5 years ago and I’m still traumatized.

I’m really enjoying the variety of workouts. I still do Bob a couple of times a week. According to Loseit.com, I should probably step up my exercising. While I wrote a few weeks ago about my concern of eating too few calories, I went overboard with indulging in pumpkin bread, chocolate chip scones and cinnamon rolls. Tracking my progress makes me more accountable to myself. Seeing new muscles when I brush my teeth or being able to comfortably wear a flattering pair of skinny jeans is encouraging; and I am hopeful that such positives will make me think twice about overindulging in sweets.

January 15: Skinny jeans

I am not what you would call “trendy”. I’m usually among the last of my friends to try new technology or fashion trends. When skinny jeans came on the scene a few years ago, I didn’t even bother to find any in my size. I thought you had to be a stick for them to be flattering. Even as skinny jeans appeared here to stay, I didn’t pay them any mind because I have “track legs”. You know, legs that look like I ran track? In my experience, that comment is usually a euphemism for thick thighs. Well, after surviving December with one pair of jeans that can fit into my calf-length snow boots, I thought it would be a wise investment to buy some skinny jeans.

Who knew UGGs looked so cute?

The first pair of skinny jeans I tried on, I broke a nail trying to get them on. Not a minor cosmetic break, mind you, but an into-the-nail bed-break. I didn’t even bother to try on a bigger size. It took several weeks before I felt that I could mentally handle skinny jeans shopping. Over winter break, I tried on about six pair of skinny jeans that looked age appropriate (i.e., no rhinestones, no tacky label across my butt cheeks; no low cut). I found a pair that fit well, if only a little snug. The waist didn’t gap, the amount of spandex was perfect (because looking like a sausage isn’t cute), and the rise was high enough to avoid a muffin top. Bonus: they cost $16.99 + tax *smile*

Well, this weekend, after three weeks of intense workouts I felt confident enough to want to wear my skinny jeans for running errands. Much to my surprise, the jeans were too big in the waist and fit everywhere else perfectly! I can’t believe I rocked some skinny jeans *smile* Yay for exercise!

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