Monthly Archives: March 2011

Let’s get physical!

A couple weeks ago I came to a painful realization.  I was in a workout rut.  Day after day I was doing the same things, and getting painfully bored with it.  And of course, when you do the same thing day in, day out, your body stops responding because your muscles aren’t challenged anymore.

So, with that in mind I decided to do something completely unprecedented for me.  I bought an exercise video.  Now, I know what you’re thinking – how can a tape actually change things?  While I do have fond memories of jumping around in my living room with my dad while doing Tae Bo, I’ve usually considered exercise videos to be a complete and utter joke.  Ohhhh, how wrong I was.  So what was the video that so completely rocked my world?

It’s called the “Tracy Anderson Mat Workout”.  And it will kick your butt like you’ve never experienced before.  You may have heard of Tracy Anderson before.  She’s the trainer that has worked with Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna (see above).  And after watching Gwyneth slither in a catsuit on top of a piano at the Grammy’s, I figured, she must be doing something right because she has an absolutely rockin bod.

Ok so on to the tape.  While I don’t agree with all of Tracy Anderson’s theories (for example, she states that women shouldn’t lift anything greater than 3 lb weights or we will bulk up — which has NO scientific evidence whatsoever), the tape itself challenged me in a way that I had never experienced before.  It’s about a 50 minute workout using limited equipment – all you need is a chair, a mat, and two 3 lb weights – or two waterbottles filled with water if you don’t have weights in your house, followed by a short cooldown.  The tape itself is divided into several sections which work your legs, your arms, your butt and your abs.  It’s generally easy to follow, but the actual exercises are very challenging and DIFFERENT from anything I’ve ever tried.  Another plus is that many of the exercises focused on using your own body weight to lift yourself and work different muscle groups.  Literally there are muscles that hurt now that I didn’t even know were there in the first place!

Another plus to the tape is that I can do it in the comfort of my own home on my own schedule, and can easily pack it with me to do when I’m traveling.  Oh yea, and having D notice that my abs were looking particularly defined didn’t hurt either.  So while I definitely won’t be saying goodbye to the gym anytime soon, this is a great way to shake things up a bit and get a totally different kind of workout.  And that sounds just peachy to me.

What’s cookin good lookin?

Lately, as I have been tackling midterms, D and I have been spending a lot of nights in.  Besides nightly championship rounds of Jeopardy and Guitar hero (it was a study break ok?), we have been making some pretty delicious and healthy meals.  Not to sound completely domesticated, but I find something incredibly therapeutic in cooking and baking.  Even with all the stresses of finals, sitting down to a meal that D and I made is always a joy and keeps me grounded.

The first (and probably most important part) of making a meal an experience, is setting the right mood.  This requires a little advanced planning (which you can probably do while playing Angry Birds on the Subway ride home).  I like to put on the dimmer lights, set the table, and get a little music playing (see playlist at the bottom of this post).  Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll have a little wine while I cook, a little tip I learned from the chef who taught me how to cook in the first place — my mom.  The point with all this ambience mumbo-jumbo is that cooking should be relaxing, not a frantic, harried mess.  I know it sounds cheesy, but when you cook from a place of love, you can really taste that love in your food.  And frankly, cooking for someone you love can be really alluring and even a little sexy (if you’re not in a relationship, it makes an awesome date night, too).

Ok, back to the cooking.  After I get the mood all set I make sure I have all my ingredients out and start chopping anything that I need before I cook.  The French call this technique “Mise-en-place”, which means literally, to “put in place”, but I like to call it “my preparation so that I am not running around the kitchen opening drawers like a chicken with my head cut off”.  Then it’s time to get cooking!

Most of the time, D and I don’t cook anything too elaborate, just really good, simple food.  We like roasting fish with asparagus or spinach, making big salads with grilled chicken, tofu stir fries, filling bean soups with crusty whole wheat bread, and simple pasta dishes.  I always try to squeeze as much veggies as I can into any dish and keep the ingredients seasonal.  Below is a simple, pasta dish that D and I made recently that we both loved:

Pasta with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce


This recipe is a great “starter recipe” to add different proteins too (chicken, shrimp, lean turkey).  It also tastes delicious on its own.  Serve with a simple, arugula salad and you’ve got a yummy light meal.

Other Time: 15 minutes minutes
Yield:  4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups pasta and about 2 tablespoons cheese)


1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine (fresh is better, and whole wheat is even healthier!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 1/2 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; place pasta in a large bowl.

2. While pasta cooks, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and salt; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil and pepper. Add tomato mixture to pasta; toss well to combine. Top with cheese

CALORIES 343 ; FAT 13.3g (sat 4.2g,mono 6.2g,poly 1.1g); CHOLESTEROL 51mg; CALCIUM 201mg; CARBOHYDRATE 43.4g; SODIUM 541mg; PROTEIN 14.8g; FIBER 3.7g; IRON 2.6mg
Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2010

And as promised, below you will find a little cooking playlist to jam out to while you whip up something scrumptious.

1)  “Something Good Can Work”  Two Door Cinema

2) “Check It Out” will.i.am & Nicki Minaj

3) “Bright Lights Bigger City” Cee Lo Green

4) “How sweet it is” James Taylor

5) “Mandy” Citizen Cope

6) “Make it Wit Chu” Queens of the Stone Age

7) “Don’t Lie” The Black Eyed Peas

8) “Lovely Day” Bill Withers

9) “The Girl from Ipanema” Getz and Gilberto

10) “Superstitious” Stevie Wonder

11) “Allure” Jay-Z

12) “Silver Springs” Fleetwood Mac

13) “Entre Dos Aguas” Paco de Lucia

14) “Let’s Get Lifted” John Legend

15) “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” Michael Buble

Gym Boredom Solutions

 

While it would be nice to be able to run outside every day, enjoying the glorious fresh air, unfortunately, New York weather is just not always so cooperative.  And as my mother used to say, “March comes in like a Lion, and out like a Lamb.”  So basically, we are all doomed to the gym for a little while longer.  But going to the gym doesn’t have to always be quite so BORING.  Even when you are pushing yourself, sometimes it’s just the last place you want to be.  So here are some helpful tips for jazzing up your gym sesh and staying toned during these gross next few weeks.

Getting There:

  • Just plan it. Sometimes the hardest part of going to the gym is the simple act of walking in the building.  The best advice I ever heard was to literally write your gym sesh in your planner/iphone/blackberry calendar.  If you have that little reminder there, and carve out that time for yourself, you’ll be a lot more likely to go in general.

Staying There:

  • Grab a good magazine. Nothing is more motivating to me than reading a good fitness mag (Women’s Health, Shape, Self, Health magazine…just to name a few favorites) and working out.  But that’s just me.  I find that’s it’s a great opportunity to catch up on reading of any kind.  Just make sure that it’s something that’s not so distracting that it will affect your workout.
  • Listen to an audiobook. This is my new FAVORITE thing.  Lately I’ve downloaded books that I’ve been dying to read, and listened to them on my ipod while working out.  It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone — get my reading in and workout at the same time.
  • Take a class. A lot of gyms offer different and interesting cardio and strength classes nowadays, and not only is it a great way to supplement your fitness regimen, it’s also fun!  Case in point — I recently have started taking a class called 30-60-90 at my gym.  It’s an interval class that uses things like a medicine ball, step, weights and a body bar.  Initially I thought it would be torturous, but after 45 minutes I was actually enjoying myself and working different muscles that I didn’t normally get too.  While I was sore the next day, it was a good kind of sore – the kind you get from hard work.
  • Make a date. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best ways to make your workouts more fun is to bring a friend.  It’s kind of a throwback to your playground playdates – except the machines aren’t monkeybars.  That extra motivation can make you work harder and knowing that someone else is relying on you to show up will make you less likely to cancel.  Just make sure to not fall into the pitfall of focusing too much on chatting and not enough on actually working out.
  • Challenge yourself. Nothing makes working out more meaningful than when you actually are doing it for a purpose – not just to stay healthy.  Whether it be something as simple as a goal to be able to be able to a pullup or two (they’re hard!!) or training for a 10k, having a real, tangible goal can give your workout new meaning and a new sense of motivation.

Cheers to your next awesome and exhilarating gym sesh!