Wednesday, June 29, 2011

... anything but that!

So do you know what's really easy to do? Heat up a frozen pizza, turn on the N64, and lounge about as you tear up the track on Mario Kart.

Do you know what is slightly more difficult? Going running then preparing a healthy dinner.
Can anyone guess which option I've been partaking in more recently? One hint: it involves Princess Peach kicking some butt.

Normally, this wouldn't be that big of an issue, because I don't eat pizza every night, and I tend to incorporate some physical activity into my life (rock-climbing, etc.). Right now, however, I need to step up my game.

Last Wednesday marked the start of a fitness competition among a few of my friends. The contest will last 90 days, and the winner will be chosen by determining who among us loses the highest percentage of weight over the next roughly three months. Since its onset, I've attended an out-of-town wedding followed by an out-of-town baptism, my car has broken down, devastating me to the point of pity eating, and well, I've been extremely lazy. As a result, I can almost guarantee that I am in rock-bottom, belly-dragging, dead last place right now.

Were it just my pride that were at stake, that might be okay. I may be extremely competitive and hate losing, but I know that it wouldn't be the end of the world (although it would probably be close). Even if there were a big prize for the winner that I really wanted, being in last place wouldn't be so bad. I mean, I'd be no worse off than before.

But no. We decided to structure our competition to punish the losers rather than reward the winner. If I lose, I don't just miss out on bragging rights or some awesome trophy/prize; instead, we've decided to punish the losers through torture and embarrassment. One girl will be forced to read the entire Twilight Saga and discuss its merits on facebook (and only the merits... nothing negative) if she loses. Another will be have to do the same but with a handful of Nicholas Spark's novels of our choosing.

My punishment is a little different. It's still a book, but I don't mind reading silly love stories, and I'm not all that embarrassed by them either. While I may not particularly be a fan, reading Nicholas Sparks wouldn't be torture for me, and I've already voluntarily read the Twilight books. Instead, as we determined last night, if I lose, I will have to endure reading this:

Also known as "Remembrance of Things Past," In Search of Lost Time is the 7-part semi-autobiographical "fiction" of Marcel Proust which is written in a stream-of-consciousness style.

Never before have I dreaded reading a book (or apparently 7) so much.

Needless to say, in an attempt to avoid this horrible fate, I have been eating pretty healthy today, and I've already made plans to both rock climb and run this evening.
This may be just the motivation I needed.

Do most fitness competitions involve reading? Would the threat of having to tell people on facebook that you like the Twilight Saga be enough to motivate you into action? Does seeing all those ripped werewolves in the Twilight movies get you motivated to stay fit? Because they're pretty cut.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Beauty of Fitness Magazines

This was the issue I purchased that fateful
day in September, on my way to Paris.

I may or may not have mentioned before my love affair with fitness magazines. After reluctantly picking up an issue of Shape during an inordinately lengthy layover at the Chicago airport, I got so motivated and optimistic about living healthy that I signed up for a subscription as soon as I got home.

Impatient for the next issue, and afraid that there would be an unfortunate lag between when I placed my order and when they would actually start shipping magazines to me, I bought the next month's issue off the rack at HEB (now I have two copies of the October issue featuring LeAnn Rimes). Hoping to fill the near-month-long void between issues, I also signed up for Self magazine. Some months, if I had gleaned everything I could from Shape and Self too quickly, I would head to Half Priced Books to see what second-hand fitness magazines they had available (the answer: very few - but if you're looking for bridal or cooking magazines, you're set).

During this time, my obsession was probably becoming unhealthy. I would spend hours staring at those glossy pages, devouring every issue, making sure I didn't miss a single article, caption, or advertisement. I always had one magazine in my workout bag, one in my purse, and a pile next to the couch. Don't get me wrong, I never actually retained anything from them (I have tried maybe 2 of the workouts over the past year and only attempted one of the recipes, which as you may recall here, did not go well), but I loved them all the same. I especially liked the success stories. Even better than the success stories? The monthly updates from regular people who were in the process of getting healthy. They didn't have glamorous tales of how they lost 200 pounds by eating Subway sandwiches or anything. They were people just like me who were getting fit little by little. They were people I could empathize with and learn from (in fact, they probably still are). Sometimes, their updates would really move me.

Lately, I've calmed down a bit, and stopped reading these magazines so intensely (to be honest, I haven't even opened my new Shape, yet). Most of that has to do with the fact that I moved back to my hometown and have kept pretty busy ever since. Regardless, I still get very excited when an issue arrives in the mail.

Which brings me to my actual point (What? You thought my endless rambling up there was actually the point of the story? Rookie mistake...). I am so happy with this month's Self magazine. Why? So many reasons...

First, it features Zooey Deschanel, whom I absolutely love. She's so cute and quirky, and always wearing adorable sundresses! Also, I found out that she's going to star in a new tv show, the New Girl, and has a blog, Zooey's Miscellany.

Second, it features Zooey Deschanel hula hooping (or, mentioning hula hooping, really... rather briefly). I just bought a hula hoop (it lights up and makes noise), so it's perfect! She mentions in one of the captions that sometimes she spends hours hula hooping, much like myself (I may have spent the better part of a Lingo marathon on the Game Show Network hula hooping while I shouted answers at the screen).

The best part about hula hooping is that it is most successful
when wearing an adorable sundress like Zooey Deschanel's 
(as long as there are no large bows in back or anything).

So what I can gather is that you
stand on a board in water and paddle.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Third, only a few pages after the Zooey Deschanel feature (starting to wonder how many times I'm going to work her name into one post? spoiler alert: it's 4), there was an article on Stand Up Paddle Boarding. I know what you're thinking, "Jenny, you're terrified of water, and boards, and paddles, and standing up in general," but to that I say "accurate observation, ma'am/sir." Regardless, I just purchased a Groupon a few weeks ago for Stand Up Paddle Boarding at a nearby lake! They say it's a mixture of canoeing and surfing, but is way easier than surfing (phew! I was awful at surfing). Until this article, though, all I had ever heard about stand up paddle boarding was what the Groupon description said (which was nothing... but the accompanying picture made it look fun).

Finally, included in the issue are a lot of workouts geared towards getting slimmer/more toned/stronger arms. Of course, all magazines are featuring arm workouts right now so that people can get cute, sun-dress-appropriate arms for the summer. I, however, am excited because it might help me finally beat Teddy Westside at arm wrestling (that's right, it's going to happen).

Basically, fitness magazines are awesome; end of story.

Do you subscribe to any fitness magazines? Do you know how I could turn off the sound on my hula hoop but still have it light up (I already tried putting duct tape over the speaker)? Do you prefer old school Lingo with Chuck Woolery as host or the new revamped Lingo with Bill Engvall?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Breaking in my brand spankin' new kitchen.

Moving always seems to throw a hitch in my healthy eating.

Moving from San Antonio caused problems, simply because it threw off my healthy eating momentum. Moving into my new apartment caused bigger problems, as I could no longer rely on my parents making dinner. Because I was in the middle of a million things (such as unpacking, party planning, and making up excuses for why I'm not eating healthy), I took to take out rather than grocery shopping. In fact, my apartment has seen more McDonald's in the past two-and-a-half weeks than my house did in the four months I was there (say what you will, but I always have and always will love those chicken mcnuggets).

Yesterday, I finally made the trip to the store to stock up on some healthy staples. Afterwards, I prepared the first meal in my new apartment [assuming you don't count the roughly 10 frozen pizzas my oven has prepared (which weren't just for me, I promise), the 4 scrambled eggs I made over the weekend, and the meat pasta that someone else cooked last Thursday]. Take a look!

This may be the simplest meal ever, but it's always a crowd pleaser (which isn't that big of an accomplishment, considering that I live by myself and am therefore the entirety of the crowd).

Oh, it looks so delicious that you want to make it yourself? Well here's how!

Baked Chicken:

Thinly Sliced Chicken Breast
Lawry's Season Salt

What to do:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.
2) Cut chicken into manageable chunks.
3) Place on cookie sheet or some other cooking pan lined with foil.
4) Sprinkle with Lawry's Season Salt
5) Bake chicken until it is cooked through (roughly 12-15 minutes)

Apple Salad:

Yogurt of choice (I use Yoplait Fat Free Strawberry Banana, but my mom uses just plain yogurt)
Strawberries (optional)

What to do:
1) Combine a dollop of yogurt with some honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Mix to taste, then set aside.
2) Chop apple into manageable chunks and place in bowl.
3) Add handful of grapes to apple chunks.
4) Cut up a couple large strawberries and add to apple/grape mixture (optional).
5) Add a spoonful or two of yogurt mixture to fruit bowl. Stir.

(Sorry I don't have more exact measurements or anything; I've just always tended to mix it all together and see what happens.)

Caesar Salad:

Fresh Express Caesar Mix Salad

What to do:
1) Empty contents into bowl.
2) Toss.

This meal was kind of my go-to in college, and may have actually been the only dinner-esque meal I prepared while in school (I made plenty of breakfasts and baked goods, but not so many dinners). Even so, it remains one of my favorite meals. I actually prefer this extremely simple chicken and bag salad to most comparable meals that I would get at restaurants. Also, because cooking for one seems wasteful in the amount of effort exerted versus the payoff, I tend to just cook the entire pack of chicken and save the rest for leftovers. Surprisingly, these left over chicken chunks are even good cold! Basically, what I'm trying to say is that my dinner last night was awesome, and simple as it may be, you should try it.

Do you have any super simple go-to recipes that are surprisingly amazing? Is it possible to find big frozen bags of raw shrimp with the tail off? Do you like that rather than grown up glasses, I'm drinking out of my novelty Halloween cup?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The 2011 Firefly Run

Costumes, free food, Jamba Juice, glow sticks, and running. This was my Saturday evening spent at the Firefly Run, benefiting the Children's Medical Center. What could be better? Probably costumes, free food, Jamba Juice, glow sticks, and N64 Mario Kart (which incidentally, is pretty much how I spent my Sunday).

The race took place in the evening (when the fireflies come out) and every participant received two flashing arm bands at the onset, as well as a glow-in-the-dark bracelet at the finish line. Given my penchant for dressing up, which is fortunately something I have in common with my friends, we decided to kick it up a notch (bam!). With just some tulle, elastic, and battery powered Christmas lights (or more accurately, wedding decoration lights (note: when you shop in that aisle, people ask you awkward questions... but it's not as bad as when shopping for a nephew in the baby aisles)), we were able to make these beauties!

Kim ended up using LED rope lights, so her skirt was awesomely blinding.

I must say that for our first 5k, which was run/walked after an embarrassingly moderate amount of training, I think it actually went pretty well (especially when you factor in just how much we dislike running)! We were pretty awesome though, and totally finished in the top 90% (I don't mean to brag, but I may or may not have come in 2097 out of 2376... like a boss).

Here we are after the race! Left to right: Maddy, Kim, Hannah, and me.
In case you were wondering, it is actually kind of difficult to run with a Christmas light battery pack duct taped to flimsy elastic around your waist. Also, even though there was a costume contest, we were some of the few that were dressed up (quite a few people actually asked to take a picture with us).

After the race was the after party, and after the party was the hotel lobby. After that, you know..... wait... I was channeling Santigold, sorry. But, after the race was the after party. They had a DJ and we got to watch some dance performances by the super bowl 2011 dancers in their LED suits. It was awesome. They also had food and drink tents set up, which is where Maddy and I got some delicious tacos and tried out some chocolate Muscle Milk.

We may or may have seen someone else take Muscle
Milk fake advertising pictures and thought "oo fun!"

By the end of the night, we were all quite parched and extremely hungry, so we went back to my brand spankin' new apartment for a Post-5k Victory Shindig. We even enjoyed ourselves so much that we're thinking of making this a semi-regular happening. Perhaps another 5k every month or so?

Have you ever run/walked a 5k? Do you think the wind-resistance on our tutus might have slowed us down? Are you totally jealous that I got a free smoothie sample and coupon from the Jamba Juice tent? Because you should be.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And now I have an excuse for my hot pink hula hoop that I bought last year...

Charlotte, over at the Great Fitness Experiment, never ceases to amaze me. Every month she and her "Gym Buddies" do a different "fitness experiment." This past month was their Great Hula Hooping Experiment. Awesome.

I've heard some amazing things about the health benefits of "hooping," such as toned abs and arms, greater stability, and everything good that happens when you incorporate cardio into your regular routine (stronger heart? better lungs? overall health?), and have been definitely meaning to check it out. It doesn't hurt that when I was a kid, I was pretty magnificent with a hula hoop (and no, I don't feel like 14 years of aging, a two foot height difference, and twice as much weight should have any significant impact on the very apparent natural talent I exuded as a child). In fact, you could say (probably inaccurately) that I was kind of a hula hoop child prodigy (am I overselling my expertise yet?), and I was kind of a big deal in the hula hoop community (or more accurately, I once entered a contest at my country club's Fourth of July barbecue, and came in second place, behind my sister).

So of course, given my obvious prowess with a hoop, it is only natural that I would want to pick up this activity again as an adult. I actually got so excited about this potential new workout, that on a semi-recent late-night Walmart run, I ended up walking up and down the toy aisle hula hooping for quite some time. What I found that night, though, is that Walmart does not carry hula hoops meant for adults. I found the largest hoop I could (which granted, worked pretty well... I mean, the only reason it eventually fell was because Teddy Westside started hitting wiffleballs at me), but it wasn't nearly large enough or sturdy enough for most of the activities and moves that I'd read about in my magazines. Fortunately, when Charlotte and her "Gym Buddies" started this experiment at the beginning of the month, she dedicated an entire post to making your own hula hoop (and as we all know, I am a sucker for craft opportunities).

I'm thinking of actually turning this into an entire nostalgia-themed workout. Hannah has a skip-it. We all have jumpropes. All we need are some roller skates (preferably with Barbie on the side to emulate my old roller skates - shown on the left), and we'll be ready to go!

What other childhood activities would make a great workout? Do you think Kirsten would notice if I stole her light up hula hoop? How many times could you skip it?

Note: you really should go look at Charlotte's post on hula hooping (link above). It has some awesome pictures and a fantastic video of their hula hoop routine.