Thursday, August 30, 2012

Entering the World of Jane Fonda: My First Group Fitness Class


Recently I decided that I wanted to switch up my fitness regimen to include some strength and toning workouts. No worries,  I am not giving up my love affair with running! However since I am getting sufficient cardio in by running 4 days a week, I decided that instead of cycling on my two cross training days I needed to incorporate some weight training as well. While I am happy that my body is a healthy size 6 (and sometimes 4!), I want to be strong and toned, not just skinny- I want abs not flab! 
As soon as I got back from vacation, I started researching different classes and fitness studios.  I am not a ‘gym rat’ and so if possible I wanted to stay away from the large chain gyms.  Last week I took the plunge and visited Bella Forza studio for their Circuit Body Blast class.

I should say at the outset that I was a fitness class virgin- which means my review of the class may be a little skewed since I have nothing to compare it to and to be fair, I think that if I attended more than one class some of my “cons” may be eliminated.  That being said, here is a recap of my first experience:

The class the I tried was the Circuit Body Blast class. The class was between 45-55 minutes long and cost $15.00 for a drop in rate.  The class was described as “a program in which you move immediately from an exercise for one muscle group to an exercise for a different muscle group until all major muscle groups have been worked. The circuit of activities can include free weights, calisthenic exercises, plyometrics, mats, and balls. Moving immediately from one activity to the next allows you to work the cardiorespiratory system as well as the muscular system.”  Our class size was 11 and there were 6 different “circuits.”

Positives:
  •  The receptionist was extremely friendly and welcoming and made a point to walk me back to the studio where my class was at and introduce me to the teacher
  • The décor was fun and girly- bright pinks and purples and black- which was fitting for a “sassy” women’s only fitness studio
  • The first class was free, you can pick and choose from a variety of classes each week, and you can sign up for the particular class date and time that you want online (if the class is full, you can ask to be put on the waiting list and they will notify you via email if you have been added to the class)
  • The circuits were each 2 minutes long with a 15 second rest between – which is perfect with someone with ADD like me- I mean, I can do anything for 60-120 seconds!
  • The music was great and upbeat and it was nice not to have to use my own watch or timer to know when I was supposed to rotate between stations or exercises
  • I loved how my body felt sore in a good way afterwards- I can tell that I worked new muscles or used them in a different way than I usually do with running.

Negatives:
  • The instructor seemed kind of chaotic- she announced each of the stations, but it seemed as if she was making them up as she went along.  And there were no notes or signs or anything to remind you what you were supposed to be doing at each station- she rattled off a list of 12 things (2 for each station) and you were supposed to remember what moves to do at each station.  Um, I’m a pretty smart person, but I had a hard time remembering what I was supposed to do at each circuit.
  • Since there were so many circuits, the instructor was not doing the moves along with us, so for someone new like me it was hard to tell if my form was correct or whether I was doing the right movement
  • While it was nice to be doing the workout with others, I did not sense the camaraderie that others have mentioned (however, I am chalking this up to the fact that it was my first time and that if I were a more frequent attender maybe that camaraderie would develop).

No, I did not wear an outfit like this to my first group fitness class!
Overall, I am really glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something different. I am still on the fence as to whether I would prefer fitness classes to simply doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day shred videos (a lot of the circuit moves were the same as she uses on her dvds) at home, but before I make that decision I want to try a few more different classes at different studios.  As Jillian says, it is important to spice things up and “get comfortable with being uncomfortable!” Stay tuned in the next couple weeks as my adventures in the new realm of "fitness" continue!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lexy's Favorite Asian Chicken Salad

I just made a giant bowl of this salad and kicked myself for not remembering earlier this summer.  It’s a great one that you can customize to your flavors.  It’s also perfect to take to potlucks or pool parties.  I found a couple of similar recipes last summer and took my favorite parts to make this one up.  You can easily swap out the chicken with tofu, shrimp or your choice of protein.  Whenever we grill, I just add another chicken breast to the pile and save it for this recipe. 



For the Dressing


  • 1/4 cup honey or agave

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

    
    Spicy Delicious Sriracha Sauce
    
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon Almond butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

For the Slaw


  • 4 cups shredded coleslaw ( I use purple & green cabbage)

  • 1 cooked chicken breast shredded or cubed

  • 2 cups prepared shredded carrots

  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 cup cooked and shelled edamame

  • 2 medium scallions, finely sliced

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro


Preparation

1. In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the spicy ginger dressing.

2. Chop all the slaw ingredients and add to a large bowl with lid.  Pour the dressing on and shake vigorously.  Serve & eat as a salad or side dish.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Traveling SmartSassySister Style!


Huge flamingo in Hampden section of Baltimore!
Lexy and I had so much fun on our vacation that it was impossible to include all of the places we visited into one post! Keeping with the trend of eating and shopping (after all, what else would you expect from a Smart Sassy Sister on vacation?), here are some more of the fabulous places Lexy and I found in our travels!
 
Grilled Apple and Brie- Delicious!
Café Normandie:  While we were shopping in a charming gift store in Annapolis, we asked the owner where she recommended that we eat lunch and she directed us to Café Normandie, which specializes in French country cuisine with Maryland Seafood Specialties.  Lexy and I each got a grilled apple and brie sandwich, along with a side salad and their house dressing. It was delicious and filling!

We love Annapolis-food, stores, and sailors!
One Petticoat Lane: If you know Lexy and I, then you know that while we like nice upscale clothing, we do not enjoy upscale prices and we are always hunting for deals.  While in Annapolis we found  this fabulous consignment shop.  The store had a lot of great brands and while I did not find anything there, Lexy found a great Lily Pulitzer dress- over 90% off retail!  The owner was extremely friendly and even brought each of us a glass of wine to sip on while we tried on clothes- definitely the kind of service you do not get at big box stores! 

Talbot's Clearance Centers:  
On our vacation, Lexy and I went to two Talbot's Clearance Centers(one in Maryland and one in Virginia). The Talbot's clearance centers are way better than the Outlet stores you find at the outlet malls- the clearance centers have the out of season items from the actual stores in the mall versus items made specifically for the outlet stores-  which means that you are able to find the better quality products at fantastic prices!   Besides the fabulous deals, the great part of shopping here is that Lexy and I are the same size- and so we would just take one of everything back and swap clothes when we were done trying them on- made it so much more efficient.  After our trip to the MD clearance center, I ended up with 11 pieces, with a retail value of $558.17 for $110.00! A tip if you find yourself near a Talbot's Clearance Center and short on suitcase space, Talbot's will ship your purchases to your house for $8.00.

The menus at Golden West were old Record albums!
Golden West Cafe: On Friday night, Lexy and I headed back to the Hampden district in Baltimore.  After shopping in some of the fun eclectic shops in the area, we had dinner at http://www.goldenwestcafe.com/.  This place was really unique and great!  We started out with an appetizer of brussel sprouts lightly fried in a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce- the menu describes these as addicting- and let me tell you they are!  Lexy and I split two entrees- we tried the grass fed bbq burger with sweet potato fries on a homemade bun and  the Aztec Burrito (fried plantains, grilled squash, roasted corn, black beans, jack cheese under Christmas style chile sauce, salsa fresca and crema drizzle.)  Even though we both were stuffed, when the waiter brought our desserts (chocolate cake with mocha frosting for me, carrot cake for Lexy) in an open box, neither of us could resist eating half of it right then and there!

SweetGreen: Lexy and I were thrilled to meet up with our high school friend Sarah (check out her guest blog post here- obviously she is a smartsassysister at heart!) in Georgetown on our drive from Maryland to North Myrtle Beach.  After perusing some fabulous shopping (including a visit to Lululemon and Vineyard Vines), we had lunch at SweetGreen  Sweetgreen is a quick lunch restaurant that sources local and organic ingredients from farmers and where you can get “fun, fashionable food that is both healthy for you and aligned with your values.” Um, can we say perfect?  Sarah had a salad and Lexy and I both had the guacamole greens with chicken wrap.  A perfect, fresh lunch before starting our long car journey! SweetGreen has multiple locations on the East Coast, so be sure to check them out.

Consignment shopping on the way to the beach!
Best Kept Seacrets: While Lexy and I spent most of our time in North Myrtle Beach reading magazines by the pool or the beach, we did take time to make a quick stop at a local consignment shop we spotted, Best Kept Seacrets Consignment Gallery.  Even though the owner told us that most of her stuff was picked over since she was getting ready to switch to her fall inventory, Lexy found a great deal on a shirt and I got a pair of brand new Nine West pumps for $10.00!

Have you ever found any great local shops or restaurants while on vacation? Share them with us in the comments!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Morning Baltimore....

Between the two of us our vacation included traveling between 10 states, 2200 miles in the car, waiting in airports and being away from our homes for a combined total of 20 days- all of which can spell disaster to a clean healthy eating routine- luckily by planning ahead and bringing our favorite snacks from home we were able to splurge on good restaurants and good desserts rather than wasting our money and calories on crappy snacks & convenience foods.


Our Hotel Pantry 
We always made sure to grab fresh bananas and apples form the hotel lobby and we didn’t go anywhere without packs of Justin’s Nut Butter in our bags.  We had enough Lara and Mojo bars to feed an army and had plenty of roasted almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas (mexican pumpkin seeds) and organic dark chocolate.  Once we bought it all and got organized it was so much easier, and cheaper, than running out every time we were hungry or being tempted by late night pizza parties. 


Part of what made our trip so much fun was exploring all the local restaurants and stores.  Neither of us are big on chains and through internet research, urbanspoon apps and reviews and suggestions from our friends we really found some unique spots. 


Chiapparelli's in Little Italy

In Little Italy we went the charming Chiapparelli's at the suggestion of 3 older Italian men sitting on the stoop outside their row house.  Our waitress brought us each out a loaf of bread.  We each had some (how could we not, our waitress had made it that morning in the restaurant!) but like all things, we had it in moderation.  I had the broccoli rabe & sausage with homemade pasta and Carrie tried the ricotta & spinach ravioli’s.  They both came with huge salads.   






For dessert we checked out Glarus Chocolatier and got some truffles and a dark chocolate sea salt bar.  The owners make the chocolates by hand in their shop and don't use high fructose corn syrup (aka...poison) and named the store after his father’s hometown in Switzerland.  There was no waxiness, it was just pure heaven.  They also ship online orders, which is a good thing because that sea salt bar was amazing!
Sharing our Ice Cream



We worked up an appetite staring at cute Navy boys at the Academy and needed to cool off with a sweet treat.  We were thrilled to find the Annapolis Ice Cream Company that doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup and makes all of their ice creams on site.  The best part was they let us get 1/2 scoops, and since we love all the same flavors we enjoyed caramel with sea salt, brownie batter, and coconut chocolate chip.  Big smiles from both of us!







We found The Dogwood Restaurant in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore and were thrilled to arrive during Restaurant Week.  It was a nice surprise to enjoy this farm to table restaurant and get a full appetizer, entrée and dessert for $30, but we would gladly go back and pay full price. 

We started off with Bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeños on baby arugula salad with jicama and sweet and spicy chiles and Seared chincoteague day boat scallops with grilled zucchini succotash, virginia prosciutto and a cannellini bean pureé; and that was just the appetizers! Our entrees were Spiced lamb borek with shenandoah lamb seasoned with north African spices and ginger, wrapped in phyllo with spinach and feta cheese and served with cucumber tzatziki salad and a
Grass fed beef tender, potato stuffed with chevre and roasted carrots.
We devoured our desserts so quickly I don't have a photo of the Key Lime Pie and Carrot Cake, both made with local ingredients. 

Check back later this week for a post from Carrie on some of other adventures.   



Friday, August 17, 2012

Beach Bums

 
Brainstorming topics for future posts
 

Morning View from our balcony
Lots of pool time
Sorry for the infrequency of posts, we were at the beach.  We spent 1 week at an International Convention in Baltimore, MD where we explored all kinds of great local eats, and walked for miles and miles.  Carrie joined Lexy and is now a member of National Board of Directors for the HIKE (Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment) Fund.  After the convention we hit the coast and drove down to Mrytle Beach for some fun in the sun.  Carrie tried on and bought her 1st bikini ever!  I am sure there will be a full post on that topic too, but we wanted to give you some snapshots in the meantime. We haven't seen each other in 9 months, so there was plenty of catching up to do.  We stayed up until 4am talking, did lots of shopping and looked at cute boys from the Naval Academy, I guess much hasn't changed since we were 16!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (Workout)!

Smart Sassy Sisters all the way!-Sarah, Lexy, Carrie

The guest blog post below is from Carrie & Lexy's friend Sarah Mashburn Vogel.  She is definately a Smart Sassy Sister!  We have know each other for nearly 20 years and reconnected while in Washington DC last week.  She's our go-to Yoga expert and lost 30 pounds (the healthy way) and has kept it off for 7 years.  (And how can you not love her shout to to the musical Oklahoma! in her title)  She's definately the classy poised version to balance out the craziness of Carrie & Lexy. 


The truth is, I'm not naturally a morning person. Just ask my mother. As a kid, getting me out of bed and ready for school was quite the ordeal. I got better as an adult, but I never became bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the AM until I started beginning my day with a workout.

Two years ago, I spontaneously decided to wake up for a 7am fitness class with my now-trainer. His enthusiasm woke up my groggy mind, and the exercises he lead us through left my body feeling energized and ready for the day. Soon, I was regularly taking his class and working out on my own on the other days. Now, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. four days a week to work out. I certainly look forward to the day I sleep in, but I don't feel nearly as good as I do on the other days.

If you're rolling your eyes at this post, I don't blame you. I used to think people who worked out in the morning were crazy, but I promise it's not as insane as it sounds. All it takes is a little planning and change in perspective.

Does the idea of morning exercising intrigue you? Here are four tips that keep me from hitting the snooze button:

1. Be Prepared. It's not just the Boy Scout motto. Every evening, I pack my breakfast/lunch/snacks for the day as well as bag with everything I need to get ready for work  (Side note: I go right to work from the gym, but known plenty of people who go back home too. It's your call). That way, I don't have to think about it the morning. I just get up and go. Plus, I get a few more minutes of sleep because of it.

2. Drink Up! Water, that is. I always start my morning with a large glass  of water to rehydrate and get my body ready to work up a sweat.  As for eating, there's differing opinions about whether or not to eat before a morning workout. I usually stick to water and if I need extra energy, 8 to 10 almonds that I can eat on my way to the car. I also keep a water bottle nearby for post-workout hydration.

3. Find a Friend (or a Class). Three mornings a week, I participate in a strength training class with a small group of women that I've grown to call friends. One of them even helped me find a job at her company! I know they wouldn't judge me if I didn't show up, but I do feel accountable to them. Plus, having a friend working out with you makes the time go faster.

Sarah-far left, bright eyed and bushy tailed for her morning workout
4. Mix it Up.  Whatever time of day you workout, it's important to find a fitness routine that incorporates activities you like to do. This is especially true in the morning. A  couple of weeks ago, I woke up feeling overheated (not unusual in humid Washington, DC). I knew a sweaty cardio session wasn't going to happen.  So instead, I decided to go the local pool and swim laps. The cool water felt  great, and I felt great for not sleeping in.  Having a few options in mind will make it easier to find a workout that fits your mood.

And last, but not least, don't forget to set the alarm! 

If you start a morning fitness routine, let me know how it goes. Us early birds need to stick together.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You Can be a Runner!


Last night as I was up late packing for Lexy and my trip to Baltimore and North Myrtle Beach (no matter how hard I try, I am always up late packing the night before)  I was thinking how crazy it is how much I have changed in the past year and a half.  Case in point: I packed an entire gym bag full of running shorts, tanks, sports bras, running socks and two pairs of running shoes (one for normal running and an old pair to use for running on the beach).  Two years ago, I did not even own any workout clothes, let alone pack them for vacation! As I looked over my running schedule for the next two weeks to try to plan when I would incorporate my running into my vacation I was once again reminded that I am officially now what I never imagined I would ever be- a runner.  

And you know what- if I can become a runner, then anyone can. I know that seems like a very broad statement and some of you may be thinking, “Carrie doesn’t know what she is talking about I have never been able to run or running hurts my shins or I have asthma” or a multitude of other excuses.  The truth is I used to use all of those excuses too!  I remember in college I was always jealous of my friends who were runners and who ran regularly and raced in 5ks-  it seemed so natural to them and I honestly believed that you were either born a runner or not a runner.  Every now and then- I would say maybe once every year- I would decide that I wanted to run too, and I would go out for a “run.”  After about 5 minutes I would have to stop, red-faced, out of breath and panting, shins screaming- which only served to reinforce my belief that I was not and could not be a runner. 
Now those of you who know me (or regularly read the blog), know that I now run 4 days a week, ran the entire 13.1 miles of the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half-Marathon, and I am once again training for a fall-half marathon.  I am in a running group and I very rarely miss a scheduled running day- even while on vacation.  So what changed? (and no, I did not get a lung transplant or all of the sudden become a natural athlete).   For those of you who may be wondering how I (and you can!) transitioned from a couch potato to a runner, here are some tips or advice that really helped me along the way:

  • Start slowly and gradually build up: In the past, I would just go outside and try to run- which obviously my body was not prepared for- thus I would end up hurt and discouraged.  This time, I approached it differently and started with walking first. After about two months of walking, I started the Couch to 5k Program- (I used an app on my phone but there are also written training plans for this). Couch to 5k is great, because it uses walking/running intervals with the running intervals gradually increasing with the goal of being able to run 30-35 minutes without stopping at the end of the 9-12 week period.  Starting slowly is key to not getting injured!
  • Get good running shoes/socks: I balked when my friend Sarah told me I needed running socks that cost $10.00 a pair- after all- how much difference could socks make? Turns out, they make all the difference in the world- I ran one time without running socks and it is the only time in a year and a half of running that I got blisters! My favorite brands are feetures and baiga.  Do not do what I used to do and pick out your tennis shoes based on which ones look prettier or cooler- go to a running store and get fitted for the proper shoes for your feet based on your gait/foot structure, etc…
  • Ask for advice from people who run: I think because we all technically know how to run in a generic sense, we do not view running as something that we have to learn how to do- which is a big mistake.  If you decided you wanted to be a gymnast, would you automatically start trying to do back handsprings on the balance beam? Running is the same way! There are a variety of ways that you can learn how to run: ask a friend or family member who is a runner to watch you run and help you correct your form, join a running group in your area (which I highly recommend- even though I did not join until over a year after I had been running), or heck, even simply type beginning runner into google- there are a TON of articles out there about proper form, ways to avoid injuries, etc.     
  • Make it a priority: Decide when you are going to run and stick to the plan.  The trick is to do it enough to make it a habit- after the first few weeks it will be so ingrained in your routine that you will not even think twice about doing it!
  • Do not compare yourself to others: Instead of focusing on trying to be Usain Bolt or lamenting the fact that the girl next to you is running like a gazelle while you are a huffing and puffing hot sweaty mess, focus on the fact that every day you are getting stronger and healthier and celebrate small accomplishments such as being able to run for 10 minutes without stopping or by achieving a personal best time (even if it is only by a few seconds!)
  • Do not expect every run to be an improvement: with running, I have found that you can never predict if you will have a great run or a bad run. In fact sometimes what you think will be the easiest runs end up being the most difficult!  It is all part of the process, so do  not let yourself get defeated- it is the hard runs that make you stronger!
  • If you are running, you are a runner:  I am SO guilty of this- for so long, instead of  identifying myself as a runner, I would say things like” “I may run but I’m certainly not fast” or “I sometimes have to talk walk breaks so I am not really a runner.” That is complete crap. If you run, you are a runner. It is as simple as that!
Do you want to start running? Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Never Be Fat Again Book Review


Never Be Fat Again: The 6-Week Cellular Solution to Permanently Break the Fat Cycle


I was intrigued by this title.  It was an 11 hour CD or 356 page book, so it’s not a quick read, but there were some good gems in it.  There were some topics covered that did not really speak to me such as stress, sleep, sun exposure, journaling and breathing, but even so there was still a ton of information that interested me.


Some of the tips I really liked included: 

·         Weight loss is a side effect of good health.  Get your body in order, and weight loss will happen.  If you are eating a diet full of only fruits, vegetables and organic meats you will not be obese. 
·         Medications manage disease, not cure it.  I don’t want to just manage high blood pressure; I want to get rid of it. 
·         It is nearly impossible to eat the standard American diet and be healthy or lose weight.  You can’t eat what everyone else is eating and not start to look like everyone else. 
·         Even a twinkie or chips have more nutritional benefit than a soda. 
·         You can have a disposition to being overweight, getting breast cancer, developing heart disease, or various other ailments, but you can prevent & reverse it with proper nutrition.
·         Genes play a role, but diet &  lifestyle make all the difference.
·         Take quality whole vitamins, cheap drug store versions don’t do any good and use lots of synthetics and fillers.  Don't waste your money on them.
·         Make your fast food a crisp apple and handful of walnuts
·         White flour is the same thing as eating sugar.  Your body metabolizes white flour into sugar quickly.  So in reality when you eat breads, rolls, or pasta you are just eating sugar.  The average Americans consume 200 lbs. of white flour a year and 160 lbs. of sugar, which actually is 360 lbs. of sugar.  During the processing of white flour all the vitamins and minerals are stripped.
·         Remove all breads from your diet (Ezekiel and sprouted grains are ok in moderation).  As a former carbaholic this one took a little bit getting used to, but I don't devour the breadbasket anymore. 
·         Use animal protein as a condiment, not a main course.  Get your protein from vegetables like broccoli, spinach and beans.
·         90% of all chickens have cancer when they are slaughtered, 80% of pigs have pneumonia when they are slaughtered, and a large percent of cows have cancer.  How can we think eating meat from a diseased animal is healthy?  When you eat them, guess where those diseases go? 
·         Get calcium from green leafy vegetables, not dairy.  A cow doesn’t drink milk to get calcium, it eats grass.  70% of the world doesn’t drink milk, so why are we guzzling it down?
·         Eat for color-find foods with natural bright colors like red, orange, green, and purple.
·         If you want to lose weight, don’t just cut calories or the amount of food you are consuming, you need to change the types of food, and add in nutritional options.
This alone should motivate you to eat better!
       
This looks a whole lot different than the pyramid I learned about in health class

You don't need that many carbs!    

I am always looking for new books or resources, do you have any to recommend?