Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stand Up Paddle Boarding!

Looking for some summer fun? Trying to find the perfect way to beat the heat? Well why not try stand-up paddle boarding! The perfect water sport that combines the looking-awesome of surfing with the ease of standing!

But I know what you're thinking, "Jenny, the only body of water in my area is absolutely disgusting! Only someone hoping to develop super-human powers would dare submerge themselves in that waste filled sludge-pit we call a lake." I used to feel that way too. Still do, in fact, because the nearest lake to me is pretty unsavory. Fortunately, stand-up paddle boarding is so easy that there is minimal threat of coming in contact with the water (assuming, of course, that you are both careful in your movement and have the foresight to not venture out with an obnoxious acquaintance). The board is so large and buoyant that as long as your feet are firmly planted and you avoid any sudden movements, it's fairly easy to stay balanced (the only issues I had were at the very onset as I was acclimating to my sea-legs and whenever I would get startled by a fish, wasp, or beer can). Furthermore, it looks pretty difficult, so all of the kayaking passersby are duly impressed with your wave riding prowess!

When Jason and I went paddle boarding this past weekend, we spent about an hour on fairly calm water, which was a good way to get used to the movements of the board and work on our technique (involving basic standing and paddling). We never actually ventured out into the lake, but kept to a nearby connected passageway (which probably only compounded the whole this-water-is-disgusting issue). While I may have been too afraid of waves/fish/boats to brave the slightly rougher water of the actual lake on my first outing (with full intention of conquering it at a later date), I know that there are quite a few paddlers that are brave enough to surf the ocean. In fact, I think Hawaii (and probably other places as well, maybe) has annual events where people traverse fairly large distances on paddle boards (yeah, I'm pretty thorough and detailed with my research...). Recently, Justin DeBree of Florida set the world record for longest stand up paddle board journey with his trip from Key Biscayne to St. Mary's Georgia (a total of 420 miles), as well as the world record for most miles paddled in one day (49 miles)!
As I do not have a waterproof camera, and anticipated much more falling-into-the-water,
I had to steal these pictures from the internet.

I was actually thinking of how pleasant of an afternoon stand up paddle boarding could make, given the right circumstances. Just imagine it: grab a group of friends and pack a picnic. You could easily enclose your foods in a water proof bag or backpack (for safe keeping in the event that you and your belongings topple into the water). You could all paddle for a bit until you find a good stopping place, then either park your boards or just sit on them and float on the water. You could have your nice picnic, chill out for a bit, then paddle back. If you get too hot (because seriously, I may have not fallen in the water this past weekend, but I was still soaking wet from sweat), you can always jump off the board, take a dip, then remount and keep going. Of course, this scenario is only desirable if you've found a body of water that you can see more than an inch into... but I think it would definitely be worth the search. Or hey, you can always still risk it and hope for radioactive powers.

Have you ever been stand up paddle boarding? Are you terrified of what unnatural things might be in your local lake? What about the natural mysteries of lakes, such as that of Loch Ness?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aerial Silks

Let's face it, exercising can be really boring if we let it. I remember a four month stretch where I was doing the same 30 minute Jillian Michaels workout DVD (her 30 Day Shred) roughly 5 times a week. After a couple weeks, once I figured out how to do all of the moves, it tended to get a bit tedious (albeit still extremely difficult). It got even worse once I was able to talk along with her word for word throughout the video (granted, a bit more breathlessly than she does), much like I do with my friend Kim's answering machine. On top of that, after I would finish the DVD, I would go for a run on a treadmill in my apartment's fitness center while watching a Free-on-Demand episode of Psych. I was almost always the only person in there, on the same treadmill, and it was usually at night. Even worse, when there was someone in there, it was never someone interesting or distractingly handsome, but rather someone that wanted to watch news or some other program that was equally boring.

Needless to say, I had some difficulty maintaining my enthusiasm working out due to how uninteresting and monotonous my routine had become. Then I started branching out.

I decided that rather than work out one day, I would take a bike ride over to the mall for dinner. Now, considering where I lived at the time (at an intersection of 2 major highways and nestled in some valleys and hills), it ended up not being the most successful outing, but it sure was interesting! Shortly after that, a few friends and I make the trek out to Fredericksburg to hike up Enchanted Rock. I genuinely enjoyed  that. I got to climb up big rocks and jump over small creeks. The view was spectacular and the company even better.

This is when I realized just how much fun fitness could be! It doesn't have to be personal trainers and DVDs! It doesn't even have to be regimented! It just has to be active! Shortly after our hike up Enchanted Rock, I moved back to my hometown, and my friends and I have been trying new activities to keep us moving ever since.

First, I started rock-climbing, thanks to Hannah and Kirsten. After that, Maddy taught us all how to slack-line. We've gone ice skating, swimming, biking, and swing dancing. Most recently, though, Hannah and I have started taking some particularly interesting classes that we heard about on Groupon: aerial silks.

Aerial silks is a type of performance art where you perform aerial acrobatics while hanging from a suspended fabric. Basically, it is what all of those circus performers are doing when they're hanging in the air on a giant ribbon. Think, Cirque du Soleil.

Here I am doing a variation of the "tear drop."

Of course, I've only had two classes and have very little upper body strength, so I can't do anything near as cool as Cirque du Soleil. In fact, I can barely get off the ground. Hannah, on the other hand, is showing everyone up with her awesome upper body strength and natural flexibility (granted, she has about 8 classes on me... but I'm pretty sure she showed everyone up her first class as well).

Isn't she such a natural?

Each week, they teach us the basics of climbing the silk and have us do some exercises to strengthen our core. Then, the fun parts start when they teach us some poses.

Soon, they'll be adding more aerial classes, such as something involving a hoop and an aerial yoga class! 

What activities do you participate in to stay fit? Have you ever tried aerial silks? Ever had a particular desire to join up with circus folk?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Strawberry-Orange Muffins

I think we can all agree that breakfast is the greatest meal, bar none! I mean, it is the most important meal of the day. Making breakfast is actually one of my favorite parts of the weekend (this extra-long weekend, I plan on making these crazy egg cup things I saw in Shape Magazine). Unfortunately, I can never make breakfast during the work week, because I do not have any motivation to get up any earlier than absolutely necessary (which probably has nothing to do with the fact that I regularly stay up past 2am).

Up until a few days ago (when I realized how awful it would be if I lost my fitness competition - I mean really, who writes a seven-book autobiography in stream-of-consciousness?) I had been resorting to McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with Egg for my morning sustenance. Occasionally, if I were feeling particularly healthy (or running particularly late), I would just grab a yogurt cup and eat it at my desk. Neither of these options have been entirely satisfying.

In an attempt to arm myself with some grab-and-go breakfast options that are delicious, nutritious, and convenient, I decided to make some muffins last night (starting at 11pm, thus ensuring another late night) from a recipe I found on EatingWell.com.

Strawberry-Orange Muffins

  • 3 tablespoons - almonds (I actually used chopped pecans)
  • 2 tablespoons & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons & 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided (I used a splenda blend)
  • 3 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided equally
  • 2 tablespoons & 1/4 cup canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Process almonds, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely ground (I actually just stirred them, because I don't have a food processor). Transfer to a small bowl, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk the remaining 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons orange zest, and 1/4 cup oil in a medium bowl with buttermilk, orange juice, egg, and vanilla extract until well combined.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just combined. Add strawberries; stir just to combine.
  6. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with the almond (or pecan) topping, gently pressing into the batter.
  7. Bake the muffins until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 5 minutes more before serving.

I realize that my track-record with baking does not look so great, but you can see for yourself how delicious these muffins look!

But what is better than muffins? MUFFIN TOPS! Seinfeld's Elaine was right when she opened up "Just Tops," everyone loves muffin tops! Unfortunately, she didn't have a muffin top pan, designed specifically to make the perfect muffin tops. I, on the other hand, do (thanks Grandma!), and tend to use it whenever possible (so, three times over the past year).

Yes, this is the same serving dish...

What is your favorite breakfast of choice? Do you like muffin tops, or the entire muffin? Does anyone else plan on spending the entire 4th of July weekend making various breakfast dishes?