Movember – No Mustaches Here!

Mo-vember has become a very popular tradition in the month of November. It’s a very fun way to help raise awareness for an important cause but Mo-vember has never really been a big thing in my household. This is the first year we’re even participating in the event. Well, I am not participating, technically, as I lack the special ability to grow face hair (thankfully).

I’ve seen a lot of marketing of ‘alternative to Mo-vember’ options for women out there. NoBra-vember was particularly amusing. I decided to do my own thing, maybe it will catch on, maybe it won’t, but to me, it was a great motivator in a month when motivation is at its lowest and chocolate treats abound.

Enter “Move-mber”! For the month of November, I’ve committed to get up, get out, and get moving, in some way, every day. Those of you who follow Rapunzel’s Adventures on Facebook have probably seen the updates as the month progresses. Hopefully, this sheds some light on those daily (seemingly random) updates.

I’d love for others to join me in my Move-mber initiative, it’s open to anyone and everyone. There’s no need to go to the gym, specifically, or feel obligated to run through a snow storm. The goal is just to find ways, within your physical limits, to increase your activity each day. On rest days, even, I make an effort to walk every hour or to use my work breaks to take the stairs when I wouldn’t otherwise. Anything that’s more than what you usually do is perfect. It’s all about staying motivated and not letting the grayness of November keep you on the couch.

Come and join me in Move-mber!

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[Infographic] 10 Exercise/Health Myths

Exercise Myths

A lot of these myths are things I encounter when talking about fitness with people, especially the cardio and scale points. While I have trouble adhering to some of these things (marathon training kind of flies in the face of limiting oneself to 20 minutes of cardio), I know the reasoning behind it.

How many of these facts are new to you? Would they change how you approach your own workouts?

Everyday Tools to Improve Health

We can’t all dedicate full-time committment to health activities. Realistically, most of us have work schedules that prevent us from gym visits 2-3 times a day with a well-scheduled eating routine. Meetings come up, your boss has a deadline, or there’s a family commitment that falls right when you would normally hit the gym. Has anyone else noticed that most family functions revolve around meals? I’m thinking of you, Thanksgiving!

When I worked in retail and food service, I was on my feet all the time, often for 8 or more hour shifts at a time. I was running around filling orders or stocking shelves. I was at my leanest when I had those active movement jobs. I also learned I could eat what I wanted without gaining weight.

When I got my first office job, that changed. Quite quickly I noticed that the food I would eat was not shedding as fast as it had been. It’s not surprising since my activity level had dropped significantly. Here I am, almost 6 years later, and still working in an office and still looking for ways to make the lack of activity at work impact my health less.

So how do you accomplish that? Most of my changes are not exercises but changes that help with blood flow, stress level, and nutrition. Since all of those tie into overall health, they’re still going to have a positive impact on you.

  1. Take regular walk breaks– My watch beeps every hour on the hour. I set it that way to help me as I can easily lose track of time when working on projects (even still I’m almost always late for lunch). Since it’s already beeping, the logical step was to merge something with that beeping. Enter walk breaks. Statistics show that most static job workers should be taking breaks from computer tasks, and sitting specifically, once every 45 minutes to an hour. These breaks should be no less than 2 minutes in length and, ideally, you are walking or moving around for those two minutes (no standing in one place!).How I approach that is to take a quick 2-minute walk around my floor, or down to the main floor and back, when my watch beep goes off. This helps keep my glutes engaged and awake as well as giving my brain a chance to relax. Don’t forget, our glutes shut down with too much sitting. I speak from experience, waking those muscles back up from hibernation is not fun!
  2. Drink water as a habit– Does anyone else find, especially in the winter, that homes and offices can get very dehydrating? I’m always thirsty in the winter no matter how much water I drink. Keep in mind, often the feelings of hunger is masking thirst. This suggestion breaks down into two parts:
    1. When hungry, drink waterIf you feel the pangs of hunger, try drinking a small-medium cup of cool or cold water. Wait 15-20 minutes and see if that helps with your hunger. The body often mistakes thirst for hunger, resulting in over-eating and dehydration (which can lead to water retention).
    2. Drink when you can – My building at work has no good sources of drinking water. It’s old, the pipes are poorly maintained, and the water fountains don’t work. It’s very easy to become dehydrated at my work as the nearest source of drinking water is 2 buildings over. Luckily for me, the route to the mail room passes no less than 4 newly updated water fountains. To ensure I was getting a solid amount of water each day, I would always bring my work water bottle (I have one for work, one in my car for the gym, one for the gym when not using my car, and 2 for running that I keep at home) with me on my mail route. The other rule with that mail trip is that I always drink a big serving at every water fountain I pass. That’s 4 on the way to the mailroom, 4 on the way back, and a filled water bottle to last me until the next day’s trip.
  3. Take the stairs – Yes, this is an often-mentioned suggestion, but how many of us actually do this? I do, but I have no choice, there are no elevators in my building. This option is not feasible for everyone, so only do this if it doesn’t cause you pain! Two years ago, when I started at the gym, I couldn’t take the stairs at work without finishing out-of-breath and exhausted, but every day I would repeat that until it became less challenging. Then, my trainer told me to take it to the next step. Two stairs at a time! That was a whole new challenge. I treat stairs as the opportunity to work on my lunge form and to engage both my glutes and my hamstrings (weak spots for me). Focus on pushing up, through the heel of the foot in front and contracting with your glute to push through the motion, just as you would a normal lunge.
  4. Spend your lunch outside – I’m guilty of not always doing this step. Sometimes I like to just lock myself inside and catch up on my social networks. It is always refreshing when I do get out for lunch though. Take a quick walk around, or just sit in the sun/shade and forget you’re going to have to return to work in half an hour. The mini mental break will do wonders to cut your stress, which can be a contributing factor to visceral fat (the fat around our abs), and allow your mind to relax. When we focus too hard and too long, we can’t always think through problems as well, so this break allows your mind to recoup some energy to increase post-lunch productivity.
  5. Find outdoor routes around work – The above mail route can be completed through a series of building connections or a more direct route outside. I always choose the outdoor route (even if it means missing 2 of my water stations, in which case I double up on the 2 I do pass). Like the lunch break suggestion, taking a walk outside has a freeing effect on the mind and can really rejuvenate the psyche. This option could be challenging for some work environments, so feel free to adapt this to just going outside and visiting nearby businesses. The

So there you have it, my steps to adding some health-increasing habits to the everyday lifestyle. Remember, you have to adopt any task on a regular basis for a minimum of 2-4 weeks before it becomes a habit and begins to produce results.

Feel free to share more tips and tricks to adding health to a busy lifestyle in the comments!

September 15 – Metabolic Legs

I had a couple of exercise goals this weekend to get back into my workout routine as well as trying to break through my plateau. Plateaus are just depressing and they can really kill any motivation if you let them.

In the hopes of bringing something new and challenging to the table, I opted to try a metabolic workout this weekend. I’m new to metabolic training as a whole, only having done a couple of metabolic workouts before, but the general goal is to do short but strong whole body cardio movements (burpees, weight squats, rowing, sprinting, box/sled pushes, etc.) so that the whole body is engaged. With metabolic workouts, you’re trying to keep a high intensity in your routine, so you should be sweaty with a high heart rate well before the end of a set. If you aren’t, you’re not pushing hard enough.

That’s part of the reason I tend to balk at metabolic workouts. I don’t mind getting sweaty, but when my heart rate increases rapidly or through movements where my arms are engaged (holding weights up during cardio, burpees, etc.), I have a very difficult time breathing. I suffer from a case of exercise-induced asthma which pretty much stops me in my tracks after not too long. I’ll save that discussion for another time, but suffice to say, metabolic workouts are the bane of my asthma where weight or resistance training is not. It took a lot more mentally to push through this workout than it does most just in light of my fear of suffocation or passing out. Yes, you do push yourself as hard as you can, but no one really benefits from passing out, do they? I decided I wouldn’t let my fear of collapsing stop me from trying my hardest.

For breaks, I took 5-10 minutes (usually around 5-8 minutes) between sets for recovery. That’s a long time, but the reality is, recovery is key so that you’re able to complete the next set. With resistance training, 1-2 minutes at most is what you’re looking for between sets, but with a metabolic workout, you would not be in good shape to complete the following set if you did that short a break.

Also, I always made two slow-paced laps around the workout room before stopping for water or sitting down to stretch. It helped to bring my heart rate down, allowing me to breathe consistently again, as well as kept the blood flowing in my legs. If I had sat or laid down right away for a period of time, my legs would have seized up (more than they were already doing) and that would have made any further sets even harder. As much as it feels like you just want to lay down for 5-10 minutes, you have to try to walk it off for the first bit. It really does make a difference.

Metabolic Workout – 4 sets (timed) with 5-10 minute walking breaks between each

Bench Jumps: 20 reps – you want to land as softly as possible on the bench, avoiding a loud ‘slam!’ sound on landing. I often have mental challenges with these due to a fear of tripping or falling off the bench. Putting them at the start really helps to prevent it from psyching me out through the rest of the work out. As always, remember to contract the core (abs) when jumping.
Jumping Lunges: 20 reps – even though you’re doing these in fast succession, remember to get into a full lunge position and land on both feet at the same time. I’m prone to landing one and then the other which can not only put too much weight on one leg and knee, it can throw off your balance. Be sure to avoid leaning forward by keeping a pelvic tilt and a straight back in your lunge position.
Burpees: 20 reps – you have to contract the abs while doing these and that is something with which I still struggle. Unlike the video, I add a jump when coming up each time, for extra leg engagement and cardio. I find the key for getting through these is to pace myself. While I am doing this routine for time, by not going as fast as possible in the start, I have enough energy to get through the full 20 reps. If I went all out at the start, I would maybe get 5 done before I had to stop and catch my breath.
Squats: 20 reps – form is key with squats. Avoid leaning forward or shifting your weight to the front part of your foot. You want your chest to be up and facing forward with your butt back (as if you’re about to sit on a chair). If you’ve done deadlifts before, it’s similar to the form in terms of keeping your butt out behind you with your back up. The goal is to get to at least 90 degrees on your squats every time.
Jumping Squats: 10 reps – form is just as important but you will be coming onto the fore-foot a bit in order to push-off for the jumps. You want to get as close to 90 degrees as possible, still, and don’t let your upper body tilt forward (facing towards the ground).
Box Push: 2 passes @ 45 pounds – a pass is along one whole side of the gym, for me, so the distance can vary if you have a smaller space. When pushing the box or sled, you want to remember to keep the hips down (you don’t want your but high in the air or your back to be curved inward). Remember to push from the glutes and to sprint as hard as you can for both pushes.

When I did these for time, I had negative splits which really encouraged me but I found I almost became too focussed on the time as each set passed. If you have someone who can time you, it may be best to have them record it without telling you so you don’t feel pressured to keep up or beat your previous time. Some might like that pressure, but I found it distracting in the last few sets.

My splits:
Set 1: 5:32.74
Set 2: 5:28.79
Set 3: 5:26.30
Set 4: 5:22.54

[Re-Blog] Women are dying to be thin

I’m always skeptical of infographics since they’re often skewed to support a bias, and while this one is probably no different, I think it raises some good questions about how women perceive their bodies.

Recipe Roundup: Sweet Cucumber Kimchi

Sweet Cucumber Kimchi

I’ve always had a thing for sweet kimchi. I like the spicy stuff too, but it doesn’t settle well for me. A restaurant near here makes great kimchis using sprouts and cucumbers. As I’ve been messing around with ideas in an effort to increase my vegetable intake (an area of my diet that is sorely lacking), I remembered this all-vegetable dish.

Unfortunately for me, a quick Google search soon proved that most people make a spicy, or pseudo-spicy, kimchi similar to the standard Korean variations.

So where to go from here? Among all of the recipes I found, I was able to glean the base items that go into a good kimchi recipe: vinegar, salt, veggies (usually greens and legumes), and spices. Below is my variation based on that summary. I also had to tweak the seasoning to suit what I happened to have in my spice rack.

Notes:

  • Use as much, or as little, of each vegetable as you wish. The main goal is that everything should be able to be submerged in the liquid. Below is simply what I used given the size of my dish.
  • The last two seasonings were just what I had lying around that complimented the flavour I wanted. They may not work for your version, so feel free to substitute whatever seasonings work best for you. Chili peppers and other spicy seasonings are usually popular.
  • Balance of sweetness to the bitterness of the vinegar is subjective. What I’ve listed is what made the balance I was looking for but it may be way too bitter still, so adjust accordingly.
  • Cucumber kimchi does not keep long. Consume within a day or two of making it.

Ingredients

  • 3 mini cucumbers, sliced into thin sticks
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced into thin sticks
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • garlic to taste
  • mustard powder to taste

Instructions

  1. Pour vinegar into an airtight-capable bowl or jar.
  2. Chop veggies and add them to the vinegar.
  3. Add in sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring and tasting until desired balance of sweetness is reached.
  4. Add other seasonings as desired.
  5. Chill in fridge for at least 30-60 minutes.
  6. Serve in liquid, chilled.

I’ve usually had this served with the liquid to me but, from my research, it seems to be dependent on the cook’s preference. If you wish to remove the liquid, be sure to let your veggies soak for at least an hour, or overnight.

Sweet Cucumber Kimchi

Sweet Cucumber Kimchi with Green Onion and Orange Bell Pepper.

This dish is a great compliment to a hearty warm meal and it can be very refreshing in the warm summer days. I hope you enjoy!

Recipe Roundup: Quinoa with Spiced Meat and Cheddar Cheese

All Mixed Together

In looking for a healthy carb option for my lunches while I’m on a higher intensity training schedule, I came across this recipe. Given what I had in my kitchen at the time (10:00 pm on a Sunday night) I modified it to suit my needs.  It still worked out really well so after encouragement from Vicky, I’ve decided to post it. For those who checked out the above link, you’ll notice my recipe is different. The ingredients below are what I used in my variation. I love garlic and cheese, so please keep that in mind. The original called for 2 gloves of garlic and 1/2 cup of cheese. In my second batch I also used peppers.

For me, this makes 2 filling lunches (not 4-6 servings as per the original). Probably for most people 4 would be the most reasonable amount of servings but you may find that on the small side if that’s the whole meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 package of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar

Instructions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add quinoa and simmer with a lid for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Uncooked quinoa in boiling water.

    Continue with the recipe but remove from heat when the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa will be soft but chewy with each grain looking like it has popped open.

    Quinoa Done

    How quinoa looks fully cooked.

  3. While the quinoa is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add the onion and mushrooms.
  5. Saute until soft.
  6. Add the ground meat, cumin, Italian spice and cinnamon.
  7. Continue cooking until the meat is done. Drain excess fat or liquid as needed.
  8. Add the garlic (or garlic salt) to the meat and saute 1-2 minutes.

    Meat Cooking

    The meat and veggies mixture.

  9. Remove the meat from heat
  10. Mix the meat and quinoa together.
  11. Add the cheddar and stir until mixed.
  12. Serve warm or store for later.

This works out well for me as a quick and protein-full lunch option. I am rarely hungry for the second half of my day and well into my work out, which has always been a challenge. Enjoying a warm meal that tastes good re-heated is also a bonus. I would recommend serving it warm (either fresh or re-heated). Although I do enjoy it cold as well, I’m sure many would prefer it warmed up, if possible.

I like to experiment with the veggies and seasonings a bit each time so feel free to sub in what works for you. I also usually like to put my garlic in before the meat or split it with half before and half after. If you prefer, you could also add in a sauce or stronger spices. This recipe lends itself to adaptations. Sorry there isn’t a prettier final picture. It was going into lunch containers, not onto my plate (sadly).

All Mixed Together

Quinoa with Spiced Meat and Cheddar Cheese.