Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Workout (Back Day!)

Today I thought I'd share one of my back workouts with you - this workout took about an hour:

I always start my back day with a few sets of bodyweight pull-ups to warm-up - today I did 5 sets: the first 2 were 7 reps, the second 2 were 6, and the third was 5.

Hammer Strength seated rows supersetted with bodyweight back extensions:
Rows: 110X10, 130X10, 150X8, 170X8, drop set: 170X6, 1650X5, 130X5, 110X5
Extensions: 4 sets of 12

Neutral-grip pull-downs, 5 sets - 85X12, 100X10, 115X8, 130X6, drop set 130X6, 115X6, 100X8, 85X10 - I really like neutral grip because I feel it more in my lats than I do with overhand or underhand grips.

Deadlifts supersetted with straight arm pull-overs (great for the lats!):
Deadlifts: 155X5, 175X5, 195X5, 175X5, 155X5, 135X8
Pull-overs: 37.5X12 - all 5 sets

Hammer Strength high rows supersetted with bodyweight back extensions (I have been paying a lot of extra attention to my lower back lately - I have scoliosis and really need to make sure I keep my lower back strong):
High rows: 140X10 - all 4 sets
Extensions: 4 sets of 12

Bent-over barbell rows supersetted with bodyweight pull-ups:
Rows: 95X10 - all 5 sets
Pull-ups: 6, 6, 5, 5, 5

Cable-crossover pull-downs supersetted with preacher curls (cable crossover pull-downs are a great isolation move for your lats - I stole them from a video I saw of Dana Linn Bailey doing them once & I love therm!):
Pull-downs: 85X10, 85X8, 70X10, 70X8, 55X12
Preacher curls: 55X8, 55X8, 45X10, 45X8, 35X12

After I was done with my lift, I got on the stepmill for 8 minutes and climbed a total of 50 floors - John and I had a cheat night dinner last night (at Carrabba's - our favorite) I felt like a little bloated today from the extra calories (and the alcohol) so I figured a few minutes of cardio would do me some good.

Overall it was a really solid workout - back day is one of my favorite days of the week! Now I am off to do my weekly grocery shopping, I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why sitting all day is bad for you (and what to do about it!)

I spend a LOT of time sitting down during the day – whether it’s the 8+ hours in front of a computer at work – the 2 hours I spend commuting – or the hour or so I take to sit down and relax at home – that’s over 11 hours a day I spend on my ass – nearly half of my day!  Even though I workout out regularly, it doesn't quite compensate for the amount of time I spend sitting down – and that’s actually a pretty big deal.  It turns out that sitting down is actually incredibly unhealthy, even if you exercise regularly!
From the Washington Post (check out the full article here) - here are some of the ways sitting for 8+ hours a day can negatively affect your health:
  • Organ Damage – such as heart disease, overactive pancreas (caused by a decline in insulin response), and higher risk of colon cancer.
  • Muscle Degeneration – mushy abs, tight hips, limp glutes – the muscles you are working so hard for!
  • Strained neck, sore shoulders, and back damage.

So – what can we do to try to prevent some of this from happening?  Obviously if your job requires desk/computer work you will still spend the majority of your day seated, but there are some things you can do to break it up a little:
  • Stretch!  For every hour you spend seated – get up and stretch – this will not only help your health but could improve your mindset too.
  • Invest in a standing desk so that you can continue working but will reduce the amount of time seated.  You could also look into a treadmill desk (I have been begging for one for a year LOL). Or even a desk bike – I had no idea these were a thing!

  • Walk, as often as possible.  Get up and walk as often as your schedule allows – even if it is just down the hall & back.  Walk on your lunchbreak – not only will this help you reduce the affects of sitting all day, but it is good to get away from your work for 30 minutes – and regroup.
  • Switch out some of your chair time for an exercise ball – sitting on a ball instead of in your chair forces more core focus and helps keep those muscles active.

  • Exercise regularly – as I stated earlier this alone will not outweigh the hours spent sitting, but exercise is necessary for maintaining your health – try to spend 30 minutes a day doing something active.
I am really passionate about this - since I do spend so much time sitting I understand that sometimes it is tough to remember to get up and do something, but I think we can all agree that your health is worth it!  I have a bad back to begin with, and obviously sitting all day is not helping.  Do this for your own health - I promise it will be worth it.  Try setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder - and try not to sit for more than an hour at a time without some kind of break!
Lily needs to get off her ass more too!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Condiments That Won't Ruin Your Diet

John gave me the idea for this post – so you can thank him if you find it useful!

When it comes to dieting and eating healthy, there is one big thing that can really affect your meals that you may not even think about: condiments.  Dressings, sauces, oils, even some seasonings can add unnecessary calories to your meals and you may not even realize it.  Take salads, for example: (I am using Applebee’s because we just ate there and I have them on the brain): a standard House Salad is 230 calories without dressing (15 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, and 13 grams of protein) – add any of their available dressings and you add anywhere from 170-250 calories and 10-32 grams of fat – just in the dressing!  That salad that you thought was a healthy choice can quickly become not-so healthy.  And that’s just a House Salad – their entrĂ©e salads vary anywhere from 180 calories (half portion grilled chicken caesar salad without dressing) to 1390 calories (regular sized oriental chicken salad) – that’s a huge difference!

There are a lot of choices out there that may seem healthy but secretly aren’t – and some that may not sound healthy but actually are!  This is why being able to read and understand a nutrition label is incredibly important – it can help you navigate through all of the choices out there so you can make healthier decisions!  Always make sure when looking at nutrition labels you are focusing on key factors:
  •        Serving size
  •        Calories per serving
  •         Fat per serving
  •         Carbs per serving – and how many of those carbs are sugar
  •         Sodium per serving – if you are watching your sodium intake
  •        Also, take a look at the ingredients – if you are concerned about overly-processed foods, this is important – check for the number of ingredients and for large words that don’t sound like real food – google ingredients you don’t recognize!
  •         Don’t fall for keywords like ‘low-fat,’ ‘light,’ ‘low-calorie,’ without checking the nutrition label first – these labels can be deceiving.
Here are some of my tried and true favorites, broken up into categories. This list is in no way inclusive, just some things I have come to rely on over the years.. If there is something you don’t see on this list, or something you are unsure of – feel free to email me and let me know!  

Salad Dressings – with these, it is a good rule of thumb to stick to vinegar based dressings, creamy dressings tend to have higher calorie counts (even the ‘light’ versions):
  •        Kraft offers a lot of really great low calorie and reduced fat options, some of my favorites are: Zesty Lite Italian, Balsamic Vinaigrette Lite & Roasted Red Pepper Italian (this one is a good example – nothing on the bottle or in the name suggests that it is low calorie or low fat – but it is one of the best choices!  Per 2 TBSP serving there are only 30 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 4 grams of carbs).
  •       Bolthouse Farms also has a line of low calorie salad dressings (including the creamy ones!) and they are made with healthy ingredients like yogurt and greek yogurt – these are a great option and worth looking into!
  •         Another option is to make your own – using high quality olive oil or coconut oil, your choice of vinegar, and spices – that way you know exactly what is in it, and you can make it to meet your macros.
Marinades – a lot of people think that when you are dieting all of your food has to be bland, and you have to eat plain, boiled chicken – this is not the case!  I love marinating my protein sources, here are some good options:
  •         Dales Seasoning is really good!  But it has a pretty strong flavor, so make sure you taste-test it first and go easy on it – a little goes a long way!  It is good with pretty much anything you can think of.
  •         Worcestershire sauce is another great option – I like this on red meat but I know some people like it on chicken too.
  •        Use salad dressing as a marinade – the examples I gave above would all work great to marinade meat, just be sure to check those serving sizes.
  •         Make your own – just like with the salad dressing, by making your own you know exactly what is in it and can customize for your diet.
Sauces – these can get really tricky!  Red sauces, cream sauces, barbeque sauce, etc… are all pretty high on the calorie chart – Prego offers a line of reduced calorie options and Stubb’s Original Barbeque Sauce is a really good option for BBQ – depending on how strict your diet is though, these may or may not be an option for you. 

Spices/Seasonings/Rubs – most spices and herbs are a perfectly fine choice for seasoning your food – just be careful with rubs as they tend to have added sugars in them.

Vinegars – Vinegar is pretty much a ‘free-food’ meaning you can use essentially as much as you want, as often as you want.  Some people will disagree with that, but I have found it to be a great choice for lots of flavor with minimal calories – red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic are great options.

Other Condiments – I didn’t know where else to group these, so they get their very own ‘misc.’ category:
  •        Heinz reduced sugar ketchup is amazing!  Tastes identical to regular ketchup with a fraction of the calories and carbs.
  •        Mustard – generally speaking, most mustards are fair game.  Watch out for honey mustard but regular yellow mustard, spicy mustard, and most other variations are a great choice.
  •         Red hot – and other vinegar based hot sauces are also a great choice – like the commercials say – I put that shit on everything!
  •         Spray butter – this one you need to be careful with – watch your sprays!  Spray butter is a great option as long as you don’t overdo it – it is still butter and if you use more than is recommended you are getting more calories than you think.
  •        Sriracha Sauce – I LOVE this stuff, but you need to be careful with it too – check your serving sizes.
  •        Salsa – I love using salsa to flavor dishes – most salsa comes in around 30-60 calories per ¼ cup serving and is naturally low in fat.
  •         Walden Farms – I am sure many of you have heard of the miracle “zero-calorie” line of products.  I have to advise caution here – it is up to you if you want to try these out, I honestly never have, but I do know some people that swear by them.  They scare me a little (lots of fake stuff) but that decision is entirely up to you.

**If you are watching your sodium, please opt for reduced sodium versions as many of the options I listed are NOT reduced sodium, but many can be found with reduced sodium options – a great brand to look into is Mrs. Dash.  Sodium is incredibly important in bodybuilding and in strength training in general, but if you have been told by your doctor to limit your sodium please, please do so.**

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday Meals & Training (and Progress Pics!)

I decided to follow a trend I see a lot in the blogs I follow – What I ate (Wednesday) Sunday!  I know it’s typically a Wednesday post, BUT my meals are a lot less boring on the weekends, and I actually photographed them all, so that’s what you get.

Sunday morning I woke up at 9 and my first priority was breakfast – so I made my go-to breakfast – egg-pizza and toast.  Please note, this tastes absolutely nothing like pizza, John nicknamed it the first time he saw me make it and it stuck…  6 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 1 oz cheddar cheese, sugar-free ketchup + whole wheat toast with spray butter and jelly.

After I ate, I meal-prepped for the week, and did a couple other random chores before heading to the gym at 11:30 to lift chest (here’s a tip – lift chest on Sunday, or Tuesday, or any day other than Monday – you will actually be able to find a bench – you’re welcome).  I have been meaning to start sharing some of my lifts on here so I’ll start with my bench from today – 95 for one set of 10 (warm-up set) 115 for 4 sets of 8, then I did a final set of 95 for 10 – I clearly need to make the move back to 135 but I haven’t had my spotter recently and after I dropped 135 on me a couple years ago I am gun shy about doing it without a spot. But 115 just isn’t gonna cut it much longer!  About 30 minutes before my lift I had a scoop of Volt.

Immediately after my workout I had 2 scoops of Muscletech’s Platinum Whey – this is NOT my favorite flavor (their other flavors are amazing though!) but it is all I have left until I place another order...

I got home, got ready, and John and I went on an impromptu date to Applebee’s!  I had their new Shrimp and Broccoli Cavatappi from the under 600 calorie menu – it was fantastic!  I even made the comment to John that I had a tough time believing it was under 600 calories because it was so good.  I highly recommend it!

I clearly did NOT take this picture, I stole it from their website - my photography skills need work...
After that we came home and spent the rest of the evening laying around and watching movies – my favorite way to spend a Sunday.  Ocean's 12 was on - I love the Oceans movies - and I had actually never seen this one the whole way through.  I folded laundry during commercials and did a few other chores.

Around 6 I got hungry again and made another favorite meal of mine – sweet potatoes, chicken, parmesan cheese, topped with Sriracha sauce.  It doesn't photograph very well, but it is delicious!  Also really good with ground beef.

And to end the day, John and I went to Dairy Queen to – I got the Birthday Cake Oreo (my second one this week!) and I am obsessed – it may be my new favorite, or at least a very close second to the Smores Blizzard.

This is all that was left by the time I got home to take a picture - I have no self control when it comes to ice cream
All of this came up to just about 3000 calories – which is honestly a little less than I was shooting for.  As you will see below, I have lost a little weight in the past 2 weeks, and even though seeing my abs again is nice, my goal is to GAIN weight, so I need to tweak my diet a little to compensate.  I have a tough time gaining weight, and really need to make sure I am eating enough on a daily basis to compensate.  When dieting/training, consistency IS key, but so is knowing when something just isn’t working, so I’ve changed a few things in my daily meal plan and am hoping when I do my next round of progress pictures it will pay off!

Progress Pic 1/10/15
Progress Pic 1/25/15

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#ThrowbackThursday: Rafting the Gauley River!

One thing you will probably hear a lot about on this blog (especially as summer approaches) is whitewater rafting.  When I met John, he shared this passion of his with me – and I absolutely love it!  I am no expert by any means, but he has taught me a lot and I can only hope to improve with every trip we take.
This is from a trip down the Nantahala River - it was my first time paddling!
In October of last year we took a trip to West Virginia to raft the Upper section of the Gauley River with both of our families – 10 people total in 2– and it was honestly the most fun we’ve ever had!  The Gauley is known as the ‘Beast of the East’ and for good reason – it is made up of class 3-5 rapids, and is one of the most popular advanced whitewater runs in the Eastern US.

We took our trip with a company called Class VI and had an amazing experience – both of our groups had fantastic guides and the company took really good care of us – if you are looking into this I would highly recommend them!  They provided all of the gear, gave great instruction, made sure everyone came off the river in one piece, fed us, and gave us beer when we were done (huge plus there!).

(From Wikipedia) There are dozens of rapids on the Upper Gauley; the most notable are the "Big Five":
  • Insignificant (Class V - ironically so named because the first expedition reported "nothing significant before Pillow".)
  • Pillow Rock (Class V - accessible via a steep trail from Carnifex Ferry Battleground site. Extremely powerful and intimidating rapid.)
  • Lost Paddle (Class V - a long, treacherous rapid consisting of four sub-rapids: First Drop, Second Drop, Third Drop, and Tumblehome.)
  • Iron Ring (Class V - so named for a large iron ring which had been anchored in a rock near the rapid by loggers many years before. The ring was cut and removed by vandals in the 1980s.)
  • Sweet's Falls (Class V - named for John Sweet, a canoeist and pioneer of Gauley rafting in 1972.

Now, I don’t recommend doing a river this intense as your first run, but if you can start small (and safely) whitewater rafting is a great sport!  You can plan a trip with friends and have a company take you down the river (which is absolutely best for first timers) whitewater kayaking is also a big thing for individual boaters.  Don’t be fooled though, a river is not “Disneyland for adults” and needs to be highly respected – it can be very dangerous.  It is a great outdoor activity and will trick you into getting a really good workout – you use a lot of muscles you may not have even realized you had.  Another bonus, it is always such a beautiful experience – the rivers are always really pretty with great scenery – the Gauley was absolutely breathtaking especially because all the leaves were changing for fall.

Have you ever done any whitewater rafting or kayaking? Tell me about it! I would love to hear your experiences :-)