Minimalist-ish Circuit Workout

Some days you wake up ready to just crush your workout…And then other days you get in the squat rack or on your mat or to the trail and you think to yourself, “I got nothin’…”

I’ve had a lot of those “I got nothin’…” days lately.  Not necessary burn out, but more a sense of restlessness and trying to figure out what how I truly want to train.  My workouts have been shorter and less intense than normal, and I may have fallen asleep on my yoga mat mid-workout last week.  I’ve decided to turn this little dry-spell into an opportunity to try new things with my training and find my mojo again.  (A lot of handstands and inversions have been happening, and I’m convinced we could all stand to spend a little more time upside down.)

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Not having a long term program at the moment means I can amp-up the “play” factor and really focus on the joy I get from moving – in whatever training/playing modality that may be – and then eventually figure out how to work that into my long-term training structure.

But that’s more rambling than you wanted, so let’s get to the point.  Today I woke up and decided I was in the mood for an exercise smorgasbord…I threw together a little bodyweight circuit, and sandwiched it between a mile run (to warm up) and this weight-plate complex (which looked so fun that I had to try it).  It was a little sweaty and a lot fun.  It’s pretty minimalist – all you need is a bench/step/sturdy chair, a chin-up bar, and a place to do inverted rows (you can use a table, as seen at Nerd Fitness) – and it’s one of those circuits that gets your heart pumping but isn’t balls-to-the-wall intense.  You could do it on it’s own for a 25-30 minute workout, or tack it on to another short circuit or a short run if you want to stretch out the sweatiness.

Minimalist-ish Circuit Workout

leg lifts on bench x 25 (This gives you an added range of motion to increase difficulty, but doing them on the floor is fine, too!)
toe-taps on bench x 20 each foot
inverted rows x 15 (modify foot positioning as necessary to suit your level of strength)
curtsy lunges x 20 each leg
jumping jacks x 50
windmills x 10 each side
step ups on bench x 20 each side
“monkey” pull ups x 8 (hands are stacked in front of each other and you are facing parallel to the bar, rather than perpendicular…alternate between bringing your head up to the left and right of the bar)

Perform the exercises in order with minimal rest between each.  Take a minute or two to rest at the end, then repeat for 3 rounds total.

Have at it, have fun, and let me know how you like it!

PS…did you take the survey yet?  It’s only a few questions, and it would mean the world to me to have your feedback!  Survey is here.

Discuss:

What do you do when you’ve lost your mojo?

Which kinds of workouts feel most like “play” for you?

Do you follow a set training program or just go where your mojo leads you?

“Exhaustion Is Not a Status Symbol”

A popular article came out recently, which described the epidemic (no, not Ebola) that seems to plague much of the fitness industry these days…the “militarization of fitness.”

You can read the full article here.  While it’s not the most well-written piece and there’s a definite “touchy-feely” vibe to it that I couldn’t get behind, one line really stood out to me.

Exhaustion is not a status symbol.

This hit home hard.  The idea of chronic exhaustion and constant busyness is something in which many of us take pride.  I sure did, for longer than I can remember.  But it should not be.  Exhaustion is not bad, but it should not be your goal.  If your goal is to be truly healthy for the long run (not just to look sexy), then your fitness habits need to be something that you can continue for the long haul.

That means learning to be flexible in your training, and adapt as necessary.

That means doing workouts that challenge you, bring you joy, and make you feel alive.

And that means not letting your workouts define your life.

EDITED dragonfly - arm balance and yoga workout

Running yourself ragged day in and day out for the purpose of being “hardcore” is stupid.  The article I referenced called it the “militarization of fitness.”  I think there is so much to be gained from a military mindset – discipline, structure, respect, sacrifice, putting a greater good above yourself – but that is lost when people misguidedly take a “drill sergeant approach” to their workouts.  Your workouts should not feel like bootcamp, because you are not in bootcamp.  (If you are, how the hell are you reading this right now?)  Our military trains at the intensity that they do, particularly in Special Forces units, because it is their life. Their physical fitness determines their ability to carry out their job and keep themselves and their brothers in arms alive.

On the other hand, civilians are not typically in those kinds of situations (unless they are law enforcement, first responder, etc.).  Physical fitness, for a civilian, is not a life or death issue.  Therefore, fitness need not be approached with a life or death attitude. As civilians, we have the luxury of training on our own terms…And we have that luxury because we live in the greatest nation on earth, and have millions of high-caliber men and women fighting to protect that and all our other freedoms.

At the end of the day, we should be grateful that we can train however we want.  Everyone should strive to be fit and healthy, but everyone should strive for that in the way that works best for their individual health context, with their unique lifestyle and preferences.   Your diet and training should be rewarding, not punishing.  Training is something that most of us are blessed to be able to do, not something we have to grind through.

So challenge yourself.  Work hard.  (In life and in training.)  Play and move and stretch and stay active in whatever way cranks your tractor.  But know why you are doing it, and make sure that what you’re doing doesn’t suck the joy our of your life, but adds life to your days.

3-Minute Pumpkin (Protein) Pie

Well, I waited until we were a week into October to bust out the pumpkin.  That’s some impressive self-control, if you ask me.

I have, however, been secretly singing Christmas carols since a particularly overcast weekend in mid-September, so that might cancel out some of the aforementioned self-control.

But right now I’m going to channel my inner “bro” (or lady bro?) and share an easy way to make your protein game a little more festive for the autumn season.  It’s perfect for after a workout, or after work, or after napping (or before), or at midnight or at noon or anytime really.  Including after yoga, when you may or may not be standing half-naked and hungry in your kitchen, and you may or may not be struck with serendipitous pumpkin-laden protein inspiration. Not that I would know about that, or anything… It’s not the fanciest recipe out there, but I’m not exactly Curtis Stone, ladykiller and chef extraordinaire. (To be clear, by ladykiller I mean devastatingly gorgeous, not…you know…a Ray Rice type of joke.  I’m offensive, but not that offensive.)  It is, however, full of protein and fiber and vitamin A and anti-inflammatory spices and other good things…and, obviously, it’s damn tasty.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t eat it.  A broad’s got to have standards, you know?  All it takes is 3 minutes, a microwave, and a little bit of magic.

[Fine. I lied. Magic is optional, you muggles. But the microwave is pretty nonnegotiable.]

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3-Minute Pumpkin (Protein) Pie

[adapted from this microwave mug cake recipe]

Here’s what you’re going to need, bro:

  • 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not the pre-seasoned pumpkin pie mush)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  2 tbsp flour (I made oat flour on the fly – just stick some dry oatmeal in a blender and go to town.)
  • stevia or other sweetener to taste (I used about 8-10 drops of Trader Joe’s-brand liquid stevia)
  • 1/2 tsp (or more…) cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each: nutmeg + allspice + ground ginger
  • a little baby-size sprinkle of ground cloves

And bro, it goes like this:

  • Mix everything together well.
  • Spray a bowl or mug with cooking spray or WD-40 whatever you like to use to grease things up. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but just in case I have some non-fluent readers or something: Do not use WD-40 to grease your mug.)
  • Pour the mix into the greased bowl and nuke that baby on high for 3 minutes.  You may need to cook it for less/more time if you live up in the Ozarks or have a microwave from 1992 or are suffering from some other weird altitude/technology issue. The bowl will be hot as fraack when it’s done, so put on your big boy pants oven mitts and turn that sucker out onto a plate.  Presentation is important, so make your little protein pie look pretty.
  • Devour that sucker.
  • Make gains. [Optional, but recommended.]

If you’re really looking for a good time, then whip up some “icing” to slather on top.

  • spoonful of peanut butter
  • enough milk to thin it out
  • cinnamon to taste
  • a couple drops of stevia (or a small spoonful of maple syrup, if you’re into that stuff.  #Canadians)

Stir, drizzle, enjoy.  Do the happy-food-dance if you feel so inclined.  [Spoiler alert: You will feel so inclined.]

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Watch out, it’s about to get 50 Shades of Delicious up in here…

Discuss:

Are you aboard the pumpkin bandwagon?

Thoughts on microwaves, radiation, protein, and general bro-dom?  Please share.  (These are a few of my favorite things.)

Did you complete the survey yet? Pretty please? I promise it’s faster than a teen boy on prom night.

I Must “ASS” Yall a Question…

Alright, I’ve got some questions to “ass” yall.

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Seriously, though, I need help.

Not professional help – although there may be a few folks who would suggest that.  [Like the customers who saw me dancing around and singing with espresso splattered in my hair while I was working this weekend.  And the fellow I asked if he had Asperger's or schizophrenia in the same hour...on a first date.  And all the roommates who've heard me caterwauling in the shower. So maybe a little more than a few...]

I need your input as I move forward with some changes here on the blog.

Readers are the reason I spend all the time that I do writing and researching and writing some more and taking topless photos that make my relatives uncomfortable.  Therefore, I want to deliver exactly the kind of content that will be most helpful for you, and I need your help to do that.

That’s where this little blog survey comes in…you get to tell me what you want, and then I’ll work my magic.

[To be clear, by "magic" I mean, "I'll bring more high-quality content that is in line with your interests and priorities."  I'm Samwise Gamgee, not Harry Potter.]

It is a very short survey, and should take you only a few minutes, at most.  It would mean the world to me if yall would share your thoughts and give me some feedback!  I’m also looking for some people to be part of my test group for certain programs and publications that will be launching soon.  If you are interested in participating in the test group and receiving free access to those programs/publications before the launch, please complete the survey and be sure to include your name and email where indicated.

Again the survey can be found HERE, and it truly takes only a minute.  So take a minute, take the survey, and help me give you the best content possible!

And in case your wondering…

Yeah, the gratuitous ass “glute” photo has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

[Sorry Mum and Dad.]

It was just punny.  Or, “bunny.” As in “buns” of not-quite steel.

But, you know, no one ever really said, “Oh man, I really want to get my hands on that pair of steel orbs…”

So maybe a more squeezable badonkadonk is a good thing.

I mean, so I’ve been told….

[Sorry. Again.]

PS: Take the survey.

Bits & Pieces No.4

It’s been eventful over here lately, yall.  Among other things, I had a great deadlift session, and have the gnarly shins to prove it:

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This is what I get for pulling conventional, even with knee socks!

I also spent a good portion of my week planning for some exciting changes that will be coming up in the near future here on the site.  There has been a lot of coffee consumption (what else is new?), coffeeshop hopping, and more than a few moments of eye-roll-inducing frustration.

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Cue eye-rolling, zombie-staring, selfie-taking frustration.

Overall, though, things are coming together nicely, and I’m excited to be able to roll out some new stuff here in the near future.  Aside from working out and working on…well, work…it’s been a weird week.  Good, but weird.  Suffice to say I am blessed with some of the best friends in the world in my little wolfpack, and they deserve a cash reward for putting up with my shenanigans.  So instead of talking about why I’ve had to ask 3 separate people this week whether they have herpes (don’t judge), the minor panic-attacks I had over a would-be intruder and a (separate) potential stalker, or how I only shampooed my hair once in the past 5 days (again, don’t judge), I’m going to share some delightful things I found on the internet.  And I’m keeping it short and sweet, because I’m headed out to meet up with some of the aforementioned wolfpack in approximately 30 minutes.  It is Thirsty Thursday, ya know…

Fitness

I Wear Large Bikini Bottoms — Excellent piece from Neghar Fonooni on how size really doesn’t matter.  Cue “All About That Bass”….

Fitness and Menstrual Health — All about the female athlete triad – amenorrhea, osteoporosis, extreme fatigue – and how to prevent it and/or recover from it.  (Ok, this one is geared more towards ladies, but there’s still an application for men..keep reading!)

Nutrition

Caramel Cookie Dough Oatmeal — Caramel, cookie dough, and oatmeal sounds like a trifecta of goodness into which I would happily faceplant.

Sugar Taxation: A Healthy Nudge in the Right Direction? —  I disagree with the idea of taxing sugar-laden foods (I prefer the government to let us choose for ourselves what to eat without punishment for choosing something deemed “unhealthy.”  We’re big kids, thank you very much.), but this piece explores the pros and cons of the idea and is a great discussion-starter (chime in below with your comments!).

Cancer-Fighting Red Cabbage Salad — I’ve made this before, and happened to enjoy it again last week…by enjoy, I mean ate the whole batch by myself in 3 days.  It’s the easiest thing to make, and it’s perfectly refreshing and crunchy.  Plus, I think fall is cabbage season (not that it makes a crazy difference – cabbage is dirt cheap pretty much year round).

Life

You’re Not Going to Get Ebola — This mini-post from blogger Matt Walsh was a slight balm to my hypochondriac-leaning soul.

The Woman’s Heart Attack  — Women present the symptoms of a heart attack very differently than men, which may be why they have a drastically lower survival rate.  Don’t panic, but do make sure you’re well-informed.

“He’s Not Scary, He’s a Little Boy” — This got me right in the feels, and I absolutely loved the author’s suggestion for an alternative response from parents.  If you’re interested in learning more, she also has a blog chronicling little Jameson’s journey.

Discuss: 

What are your thoughts on the proposed “sugar tax?”

Are you celebrating Thirsty Thursday or doing anything fun this weekend?

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Thirsty Thursday, Part 1: A soy chai. Ok, two of them. I have a problem. (Part 2: about to happen, and NOT to be documented…)

Back to School: Nutrition

Well, seeing as how it’s the first day of October and we’re “technically” into autumn now, I’d say it’s time for the next installment of that Back to School series.  (Even if “autumn” out here pretty much just means that I can go out at night wearing boots with my daisy dukes and not sweat to death.  Oh winter, where art thou?)  Today we’ll cover some ways you can level-up your nutrition/diet in order to optimize your health and general kick more ass while you tackle school/work/the upcoming holidays/raking endless piles of leaves.

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Meal Prep

If you’re the kind of human who has a full schedule and to-do lists coming out your ears, meal prep is going to be your best friend.  Everyone has a different definition of what it means to “do” meal prep, but it’s really pretty flexible (as any sustainable habit should be, remember?)  For some folks, meal prep will be the most beneficial if they literally prepare most of their meals for the coming week.  For others (like yours truly), that sweet spot is just preparing a bunch of basic foods at the beginning of the week that can be used to build quick/portable meals in 5 minutes flat.  The basic premise of meal prep is that you do any labor-intensive cooking/food preparation ahead of time.  Self-explanatory, right?  I like to take a few hours and do this on Sunday or on my day off from work, depending on how the rest of my schedule looks.  I’ll be sharing more detailed suggestions for meal prep later, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Slap some chicken breasts in the slow cooker. What do you know, you’ve got
  • Wash and chop all the veggies you can get in your grubby little paws. Good bets always include bell peppers, broccoli, onions, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, and other vegetable-y things.
  • Get a rice cooker. Use it.  (If you’re not all about that Asian life, you can cook other things in there, like quinoa, barley, steel cut oatmeal, etc.  But I happen to be partial to the rice thing…part of the whole biracial package, yadig?)
  • Cook up some potatoes. Bake ‘em, grill ‘em, throw ‘em in a crock pot.  It’s your choice, because it’s the 21st century and I’m progressive like that.

Foods To Support Cognitive Function

These foods can improve your ability to focus and to remember things, which in turn can help you learn better and retain more information…so eat up, and then study up.

Foods That Boost Immunity

Autumn usually brings with it a wave of flu viruses.  In addition to being a hygienic human (you know, wash your hands often, don’t let strangers sneeze on you, the usual) and getting a flu shot, you can boost your immunity by making an effort to include more of the following foods in your diet:

  • Micronutrient spotlight: Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, selenium, zinc,
  • Food sources: a generally balanced diet; additional fermented foods, garlic, richly colored produce, grass-fed/pastured dairy and red meat
  • How to Boost Your Immunity

Plenty of Protein

Amino acids (proteins) are required for the building and regulation of hormones.  If your body lacks sufficient protein (either total or a deficiency of particular amino acid), your hormone situation can get a little hairy.  The results of hormonal imbalances can range from small potatoes (increased cravings for sugar, irritability) to big leagues (infertility), but all of these effects are unpleasant and distracting when you need to concentrate on school/work/taste-testing all the candy corn you can get your hands on.  Furthermore, protein is crucial to brain health.  Studies have shown that protein therapy can not only protect cognitive function, but also reverse the effects of aging on the brain.  You likely don’t need to be force-feeding yourself 300g protein each day, but making sure that you get sufficient protein from high-quality sources is definitely a good move.

High-Quality Carbs

To be successful in school and at work, it helps to have the energy to stay awake in class and/or on the job.  Don’t be one of those people who are scared to eat carbs.  Not only will carbs improve your energy levels, but they are necessary for your body to properly utilize protein for repairing muscle tissues, building brain cells, and bolstering immunity.  If you really, truly, honestly have some kind of gluten allergy or other intolerance, then choose carb sources that won’t give you digestive hell.  Otherwise, don’t overthink it- love the carbs, and they’ll love you back.  It’s hard to go wrong as long as you’re choosing whole-food sources of carbs rather than, say, Red Vines.  (Not that those aren’t delicious in their own right.  But they’re not brain food, no matter how you spin it.)

Bottom line:

Now is the time to eat well.  Eat foods you like, and which support your health – plenty of protein (be it from plants or animals), plenty of carbs, brain-lovin’ healthy fats, and generally plenty of good food from whole-food sources.  Plan ahead and prepare some foods/meals in advance to make this more realistic.  And when those special occasions involving delicious and maybe not-quite-so-healthful foods come up, indulge away and get on with life.

 Discuss:

Favorite food of the season?

Do you change up your eating habits when autumn rolls around?

Do you ever meal prep? What does that look like for you?

Sweet Spot Workouts [Including One For Yall To Sample...]

Everyone needs some good, speedy workouts in their arsenal.  Life’s big and wild, and there’s plenty of ass that needs kickin’ outside the gym…so I don’t always have time for long workouts, and I’m sure yall don’t either.  Sometimes what you need is a wham//bam//thank-ya-ma’am deal, you know?

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If you’re hankering for a quick way to get sweaty and tired, I’ve got you covered today.  More accurately, Jen Sinkler has you covered with one of her new challenge workouts, The Spark, from her bud “Cardigan Mark.”  Remember the simple bodyweight ladder workout that I raved about?  That was all her doing.  This is another ladder-style workout, but this time it’s a descending ladder, which makes things a bit easier mentally.  I gave it a whirl after work one afternoon when I was more than a little stressed, anxious to sweat, and utterly uninspired to come up with anything on my own.  (Yes, I’m human.)  It was more of a challenge than I’d expected, but no so much that it was grueling.  You know those workouts that get you sweaty enough to feel like a sexy beast, but not so tired that you can’t even enjoy that feeling? Yeah, this workout is in that sweet spot.  Sweaty, sparkly, and satisfied.*

(Ok, maybe keeping the AC and fan off helped with the sweat factor.  But still.)

Head over to Jen’s site to check out The Spark…and if you give it a shot, let me know how sweaty you get/how much you love it!

Discuss:

Do you prefer to make up your own workouts or draw inspiration from others?

What’s the “sweet spot” for workout length for you? (For me, it depends. But I could do different kinds of strength training for hours and not get bored. Running, on the other hand….)

*Yes, I realize it doesn’t sound like I’m necessarily talking about a workout.  It was unavoidable.  Just go with it.