While winter has not been quite so ‘wintry’ here in Germany as it has been back in the states, it has still been grey and dreary so Don and I took a little trip to the Costa del Sol in Spain. This was one of the best ideas we have ever had. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the food… well, I totally cheated on my ‘eat healthy’ scheme, but it was worth every bite.
In between all of the eating, we did a lot of walking- to and from the hotel (right near the beach but about an hour walk from the city center), up and down the sights (you can actually walk along the ramparts of the Castillo Gibralforo) and across the sandy beaches (barefoot, of course). Most days, we averaged about 30,000 steps (double what I average at home).
A few mornings were devoted to a run along the beach (nothing improves a run like the sun shining on your bare arms and the sound of waves hitting shore) or a workout from Neila Rey, but still, there was the eating. By the end of the third day, I was actually growing a little tired of cheese, if you can believe it.
I can’t bring myself to be one of those people who watches what they eat while on vacation. It takes too much planning; you have to remember to purchase and then pack all of those healthy little snacks, you have to remember to bring some with you when you leave for the day, and then you have to remember that you are not, in fact, entitled to eat warm churros sold to you from a window because you have some boring old almonds stashed away. I want the excuse to eat the churros; its vacation time, man!*
This was a great vacation and for the rest of the past week, I have been struggling with getting back to normal. The first morning after a vacation is always kind of crappy (what do you mean there is no ocean outside my window?) and getting back to normal eating and exercise habits is even crappier (what do you mean there are no palm trees in the gym?), but we can’t live every day like it’s vacation. For now, I’ll just settle for looking at my photos of the beach while I eat some soggy cereal.
*Said churros were not photographed because I ate them too quickly. They were delicious.
Anyone trying to eat more healthily, beware! It is a funny coincidence that these tasty little delights become available about 2 months into the new year. It is almost as if the fates are testing us- “you’ve made it this far into your resolution for better health and fitness, now show me what you’re really made of!” I have a few suggestions for limiting your intake of Girl Scout Cookies:
1. Buy a box to share with a friend, then ‘forget’ to take the remainder with you when you leave your friend’s house. This seems a little underhanded, but avoiding Girl Scout Cookie overindulgence is an every-man-for-himself situation.
2. Get married. Especially if you are a woman, this is surefire way to insure you don’t overeat. We bought a box of Thin Mints on Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday afternoon they were gone. I only ate 6 of them.
3. Bring them to work. Nobody can resist the temptation of a Girl Scout Cookie. Grab a couple for yourself and then leave the box in a common area to be devoured.
4. Park your car in the garage or down the street and close all the blinds so people think you are not at home; if the cookies can’t find you, you can’t eat them. Very determined Girl Scouts may still knock on your door, so this method is not foolproof.
Good luck, my friends, and may the force be with you.
I spent most of last night awake while my stomach grappled with the decision whether or not to sacrifice my dinner to the Porcelain Gods, and around 4:00 this morning I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to carry out my plans for the perfect Sunday- an early morning ride followed by some time at the gym and maybe a post-workout brunch with friends. Sabotaged by a sneaky stomach bug and unable to do any physical activities beyond making the five-minute walk to and from the bakery for fresh bread, I have used my confinement to the couch to do a little exercise research.
As February begins, many of us find ourselves one month into our New Year’s Resolutions (If this is you, congrats! If you fell behind, now is your chance for a fresh start!), and we may be struggling to find some variety in our workouts to keep us interested and motivated. I have been using the workout selection feature of the Bodybuilding.com Body Space iPhone app, and while some of the workouts have been a bust, most of them have been challenging yet accomplishable. Even so, I have been keeping my eyes open for other sources of inspiration to avoid (as the old adage says) putting all of my eggs in one basket.
I came across a book at work by Jan Endacott called ‘Weight Work for Women.’ And while I was initially a little put-off by the title (it seemed to suggest that maybe women can’t perform the same weight work that men can and that things need to be modified for us, nothing gets my pseudo-feminist hackles up more than suggesting that women are inferior), I pulled it from our shelves to add to the library’s January fitness display and promptly forgot about the book until I was switching displays on Friday. As I walked the book back to its rightful place in the non-fiction section, I paged through it and was impressed with the information inside. I think, since the guidelines and explanations within the book are useful for anyone who is just starting a workout regime, a better title would be ‘Weight Work for Those Who are Unfamiliar with Weight Work,’ but that is neither here nor there.
The introduction includes a good, brief overview of the benefits weight lifting provides, like improved bone density, increase in metabolism corresponding with an increase in lean muscle, etc., and it also has simple graphics that show where the muscles you will be working on are located on your body. This is quite helpful because how will you know if you are doing the ‘Triceps Toner’ correctly if you aren’t sure where, exactly, on your body you are supposed to be feeling the burn?
The book proceeds in a logical order; as you are introduced to the book, you learn why working with weights is important to your health, some basic anatomy, how to analyze your fitness before beginning a program, and how to select appropriate exercise equipment. Next, you learn how to stretch specific muscles before and after you exercise, which is important to avoid injury and unnecessary stiffness (always stretch when you a finished with a workout!!!!!), and then you learn how to do a series of exercises (broken into categories based on what region of the body they focus on) before you are given some workout templates combining the various exercises.
What I like most about the book it that it provides a lot of variety in workouts with minimal equipment. For many of the exercises, you need only your body, and for the others you need simply an exercise ball and/or a pair of dumbbells. This makes ‘Weight Work for Women’ the perfect resource for someone who might feel self-conscious about trying these things in a busy gym with what feels like the entire Fitness Freak Nation looking on, or for someone who’s day got away from him and is stuck trying to squeeze whatever exercise he can into the one hour of free time he has while dinner is baking in the oven.
Another FANTASTIC resource for no-excuses-because-you-can-do-this-at-home-in-your-undies workouts was passed along to me by Don. I’m not sure how he stumbled across NeilaRey.com, but I’m sure glad he did. This website, like many fitness websites, features information on nutrition, recipes, workout programs and fitness challenges, and motivational tips for everyone from the beginner looking to dip a toe in the water to the seasoned athlete looking to stay motivated. What is unique about this site is the uncluttered, fresh layout and the easy-to-view info graphics.
When visiting many fitness sites, I am distracted by all of the ‘stuff’ going on. Why all the photos of people with veins bulging on top of their bulging muscles? Why all of the ads for protein powder? Where is the stuff I actually came here to read???? I don’t have a lot of patience for sites that are too busy; I find them distracting and hard to navigate, and, often, I tire of having to weed through all of the crap to find the information I’m seeking and I give up (this is my main complaint with the BodySpace app, too much stuff going on in one tiny space guys. How about the social media part of it be under its own optional tab? I have friends already, I’m looking to you for fitness help!). Neila Rey’s site is a minimalist’s dream come true.
The color scheme is simple, and the graphics are easy to understand and feature a nondescript cartoon man who demonstrates the exercises instead of a bodybuilder with abs on his abs who makes you feel inadequate. The site is easy to navigate, and Neila’s programs (with accompanying menus), like the 90 Days of Action, can be viewed in your browser, downloaded into PDF format or saved to your Google Drive. The only way Neila Rey could make it easier for you to exercise would be for her to come to your house and do it for you.
If you aren’t ready to commit to a program (and if you are, Neila Rey and Jamie Eason are your gals), the site features a multitude of daily workouts to do. Not only are they things you can do outside of a gym, but the workouts feature clever titles like ‘You Had Me at Bacon’ or “the Hunger Games Workout’. There is even one appropriately named the TV Workout that is designed to be done during commercial breaks without leaving your couch! Let me say that again: a workout that you do while sitting on the couch during commercial breaks. Like I said, it could only be easier if Neila came over to do a live demo.
Each workout is explained in a simplistic info graphic and at the bottom of the graphic, Neila tells how many sets of the workout to do based on the level you are aiming for. In her Workout Manual, Neila ranks the levels as 1 being normal, 2 being hard, and 3 being freaking murder. If you are new to this, it’s probably best to start with normal or hard and work your way up to murder. Be sure to head over to the site and check out all of the great tools offered (for FREE, I might add). My advice is to start with the Motivation Tips and the Nutrition tips before you go on over to the workouts; I think Neila has some good advice that is easier for the average schmo (like me) to follow than is found on other fitness sites that often set the bar higher than the normal person wants to go.
Reading the ‘Practical Guide to Healthy Eating‘ reminds me that it is resolution check-in time! One month in, and I am holding true to my goals of eating healthier (except for today, a stomach bug leads to a carb-fest of buttered toast). Breakfast still needs some improving, it is usually a bowl of cereal and tea so I need to add protein, Lunch is healthy, a big salad and some sort of carb to rebound after my workout, and Dinner features lots of veggies, some protein and very few (if any) extra carbs. I have been eating fewer sweets and cheese (sometimes I go an entire day without eating either, if you can believe it). Now that I have drastically cut back on sugar, things, in general, taste sweeter; earlier this week, Don was making himself a PB&J for the next day’s lunch, and I stuck my finger into the peanut butter jar for a quick taste (we have separate peanut butter jars- he prefers crunchy and I prefer creamy) and was shocked by how sweet it was! Don tried to tell me that I was imagining things, but when we did a comparison of the nutrition labels of our peanut butters, we discovered that his has 3 grams of sugar per serving while mine only has 2. Now that I have stopped dulling my tastebuds with a steady influx of sugar, they are more sensitive to the sweet stuff. Go figure. I hope everyone else is having success with their resolutions, and if things aren’t going exactly as planned, pick up a copy of ‘Weight Work for Those Who are Unfamiliar with Weight Work Women’ or head over to NeilaRey.com to get yourself back on track. Now that you know there is a TV Workout, start tonight during the Super Bowl- you have no excuses!