Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Seven

Today is Day Seven of the Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge.  It's also the last day of 2013!  It's been a great year here at Fit Armadillo.  After training clients for years in New England, this year was my first year working as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Houston, TX.  It was also my  first year accepting fitness clients online!  Having my own training business has been amazing and I couldn't have done it without the awesome support of all of my fans and clients. Thank you!!!

Want to join the challenge to get started on your fitness goals? Join us HERE>>

My Day Seven Workout:
For my last workout of year I wanted to go on a nice bike ride, but when I took my bike out of the car at Terry Hershey Park it wouldn't turn correctly. So, I just put it back in the car and went on the longest run since spraining my ankle :) I logged it on my Garmin Forerunner.  Here's a little overview:

Map of my run:

My splits by mile:

Here's a small pic of the park. Gotta love the water fountains scattered along the route:

I found this bench and did a mini circuit for fun. Ten step ups each side, 20 incline push-ups and 12 dips times two.

One cool thing about this park are the mile markers. Every 1/4 mile you get a check in on how far you've gone.  Check it out:

What was your workout today? Share with a comment below and HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEARs!

For more fitness inspiration check out these posts from fellow Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge Members:

Diatta shares her workout and resolution for 2014 HERE>>
Nadya gets in a water workout and cooks up some soup for her NYE party HERE>>
La'Shandra shares her workout and 7/31 abs circuit HERE>>
Christy dedicates a song to 2013 for you to enjoy while reading about her workout HERE>>
Tonya listens to her body so she can be back on her feet again HERE>>

Tighten + Tone Tuesday: How to Purchase Three Levels of Free Weights for Your Home Gym

Happy Tighten + Tone Tuesday! A few weeks back I shared a video that taught you how to set up a home gym for under $200.  Didn’t set up your home gym yet? Don’t worry! Today’s video focuses on some tips to make the process easier.  Watch it and then head out to get yourself set up before next year!

In this video you will learn: 

-How to make purchasing free weights (dumbbells) as easy as 1-2-3!
-Three exercises to help you purchase a set of light, medium, and heavy weights
-The number of repetitions you should be able to complete with a weight if it is appropriate for your current fitness level

Ready to learn? Tune in and then share your thoughts and this post if you found it helpful!

Want to learn more about how to set up a home gym for $200 or less? View my previous post HERE>>

What did you think of this video? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions! Share them with a comment below: 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Six

It's the Sixth Day of the Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge and that means we've reached the halfway point! If you're just joining this challenge, heres some info on what it's all about.  I'm a certified personal trainer who believes that starting a fitness resolution before January 1st is the way to make it last.  Staying on track between December 25th and January 1st, puts you way ahead of the crowd lining up at gyms all over the world on New Year's Day and gives you confidence. Think about it-if you can make it through the holidays mindful of your health and logging extra steps, you can make it through anything!  Since this is the first holiday season that I have my own blog, I couldn't resist bringing a fitness challenge to  this social format and so it began.  To learn more about the challenge, request to join our Facebook group HERE>> or read my initial post outlining the details for the members HERE>>

My Day Six Workout:

I'm still recovering from an ankle sprain, so the fact that I left my newest fitness tool, the Garmin Forerunner 310XT in Texas over the holidays was probably a blessing in disguise.  While I always wanted to know just how long some of my favorite running trails in Connecticut are, it wouldn't have been the best idea.  

Now that I'm back in Houston, TX and back to my Garmin, I was able to log a 3 mile run with my fancy machine.  Here all all of the stats it shared:

The map of my run with mile markers (I could have done a map view as well, but this satellite view seemed more fun):

My pace:

My elevation:

Definitely NOT in Connecticut anymore! Super flat herein Houston, TX!

My heart rate:

My mile splits:
And even the weather at the time of my run:

There's not much more to say except that I freaking love this Garmin Forerunner watch! I can't wait to use it to help some of my clients train for 5Ks in 2014!

Do you have a favorite fitness tool? What was your workout today? Share your thoughts with a comment below:

For more inspiration read some of the blog post from challenge members:

Dyson talks about her kettlebell workout HERE>>
La'Shandra shares her double sessions HERE>>
Diatta shares her workout and one of my favorite ab-sculpting moves HERE>>
Nadya shares her workout and a link to learn the Cherokee Dance of Life HERE>>
Christy shares her Day 5 and 6 Workouts HERE>>

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Five

Hard to believe that it's Day Five of the Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge, but it is! To learn more about the challenge, request to join our Facebook group HERE>> or my previous post outlining the details for the members HERE>>

My Day Five Workout
Today was a travel day for me.  I spent the morning trying to pack my suitcase which just took the last trip of its lifetime since it has a broken zipper. Thankfully all my clothes and Christmas gifts made it home in one piece! Between delays and driving times I didn't have time to sneak in an official cardio workout, but I did walk around a lot in the airport while waiting for my plane instead of typing away on my computer.

My real workout today is going to be some Yoga once I finish this post.  If you're looking for some Yoga that you can practice from the comfort of your home, you have to check out DoYogaWithMe.com. The classes are free and organized by difficulty, duration, style, and equipment so it's easy to find something that fits your level and timeline.  Tonight, I'm going to test out Yoga for Hips, Hamstrings, & Lower Back. Check it out HERE>>

After a long day of flying with me, my bunny Nathan is ready to get his yoga on as well. Check it:

Hopefully there are no downward or upward dogs in the sequence I picked!

Did you complete a workout today? Have you ever tried DoYogaWithMe.com? Share your thoughts with a comment below: 

Need some inspiration to get you started with your fitness goals? Check out some posts by blog challenge members here:

Dyson shares her Day 2 post HERE>>
Tonya checks in and needs some good germ-fighting tips HERE>>
LaShandra does a "Dirty Thirty" workout. Learn more HERE>>
Diatta checks in for her Day Five of the challenge HERE>>
Nayda shares her post for Day Five  HERE>>

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Four

Day Four of my Fit Armadillo Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge is here! I have a great group rocking the challenge with me, but there's always room for more. If you're interested in joining the challenge, request to be added to our group on Facebook by clicking HERE>>

My Day Four Workout:

Today is my last full day in Connecticut visiting family for the holidays so I wanted to get my workout out of the way ASAP.  I dragged my hubby and dad along to the LA Fitness in town with a plan to get in a quick swim and to try out one more fitness class during my time off.  I whipped up a quick breakfast and had everyone out the door by 7:33 AM.  We rolled up to the gym at 7:45 AM as planned, but when we got to the parking lot there was no one in sight.  My dad was ready to leave, but I figured that there had to be someone there soon since the class was starting at 8:30 AM.

Sure enough, at 8 AM one of the employees showed up and let us into the gym. I was pretty surprised that LA Fitness opens this late, but apparently they do! I made a beeline to the pool so I wouldn't have to share a lane and ended up swimming laps for 25 minutes. I had my own lane for all of 5 minutes, but a nice lady joined me for the remainder of my swim so it wasn't too bad.

After the pool I showered off quickly and was ready for the Boot Camp Conditioning class. Class started with a 10 minute warm-up, which consisted of some marching, jumping jacks, and side steps. A few dynamic stretching moves finished off the initial 15 minutes of class.  Next, our instructor, Gary, had us march in place while he demonstrated 7 stations that he had setup.  The circuit stations we were to complete were the following:

1. Push-ups with a leg up twice and then push-ups with a knee tuck
2. Bicycle crunches
3. Four jabs and an overhead press with 5 lb weights, weights to the floor
4. Cone run: Jog forward, backwards, forwards, backwards
5. Side lunge with a weight drop right, side lunge with a weight drop left, pick up weight right, pick up
    weight left
6. Heavy bag punch: Jab, Jab, Uppercut, Uppercut
7.  On a step: Step up, bicep curl, Step down, step up, overhead press

We completed each station for 2 minutes before switching stations.  After this 14 minute circuit, we did a five minute cardio routine which was similar to our warm-up, but a little more fast paced and included some jump roping in place.  Once this cardio segment was complete, we were marching in place again while our second 7 station circuit was described:

1. Push-up with a twist (side plank)
2. Leg lowers x 10, Bicycle crunch x 10
3.  Overhead press to squat to put weights on floor
4.  Cone run: side shuffles
5. Forward lunge to curl to overhead press
6.  Heavy bag punch: "knockout round" (constant punching)
7.  Right foot on bench, step up and tap left foot and repeat until fatigued and repeat with left foot on bench.

Gary had us stay at these stations for 1.5 minutes.  Then, we wrapped up class with some abs: arms up to the ceiling with a crunch, arms between legs with a crunch, toes taps left and right ("shimmy"), and a flutter kick for the lower abs. For the low back we did "swimmers" keeping the booty tight and lifting up our legs and arms while face down.  Finally, we stretched things out and packed up all our supplies.

I enjoyed this class a lot more than the Body Works Plus Abs one I took on Tuesday and am glad I was able to check it out.  I feel great now that I'm done with my workout early and am excited to spend some time with my family before heading back to Texas tomorrow.

How about you? What's your workout today? 

For some fitness inspiration read some of the posts from other blog challenge members here: 

Diatta shares her Day 4 workout HERE>>
Dyson just joined us! Read her story and cheer her on HERE>>
Tonya checks in for her second day HERE>>
LaShandra didn't allow her gym's daycare closing early to keep her from her Day 4 workout! Check out her post HERE>>
Nadya does some Qigong and showcases one of her talents HERE>>
Christy checks in from snowy Wyoming HERE>>

Friday, December 27, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Three

Today is Day Three of the Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge. I know the last few days have been some of the busiest of the year for many of you.  That's why I'm especially proud of the ladies who have started and stuck with this challenge despite all the changes in routine that come with the holidays.  If you want to make me proud too, you can still join in on the fun! Sign up for the challenge through my Facebook group by clicking HERE>>

Catherine's Day Three Workout:

My Day Three Workout consisted of a run on the treadmill and a no-equipment interval circuit that I created for those completing the challenge.

When I got to the gym around 5 PM, it was jam packed.  Whatever happened to people waiting until January 1st to start their fitness routines? Geesh! I'm all about people getting started with their fitness routines early, but only if they are part of the challenge, you know?

Luckily, the one treadmill that was open when I arrived was the new Precor one I'd had my eye on during Wednesday's workout.  I rarely complete workouts on the treadmill because I LOVE running outside. Even when I do use the treadmill, I never use any of the pre-set workouts.  However, I was very curious about this new machine and thought it would be fun to try it out.

How could you not want to try a treadmill with a welcome screen like this?:

With that picture of the great outdoors I couldn't resist! Or at least I couldn't resist it over the other older models.  Instead of hitting QUICK START, I opted for the WORKOUTS tab.  Here's what I got:

As you can see, I opted for the Aerobic Plus option. It claimed that I could "exercise at a higher intensity in this 4 phase workout" and seemed like a good option. And so it began! Here's a somewhat wobbly screenshot of the treadmill screen once I got started:

I was not prompted to do anything else, but I'm somewhat of a control freak so I had to click on the workout options on the right of the screen.  The first option was for Duration. Clicking on this let me set the length of my workout.  I entered 35 minutes since I had promised my parents that I'd make dinner. OK, OK....I also HATE running on the treadmill! But for the sake of the challenge and to avoid re-spraining my ankle due to icy winter weather conditions, I continued on.  

In addition to the Duration tabs, I was able to enter my Personal Info.  When I clicked on this button, I had to enter my age and weight.  Being a woman I didn't want to do this, but I know that it was only asking so the machine could make a more accurate calculation of the total calories I was about to burn. Plus, I took 10 lbs off my actual weight.  This is the one time I'd tell you to lie about your weight to a health related "professional." That's because most treadmills overestimate the number of calories you burn.  The less you weigh, the fewer calories you burn. The 10 lbs is just something I do to try to get a more accurate reading.  However, compared to my heart rate monitor's calculation, the treadmill computer still overestimated things by 10%.  Something to be aware of when you're working out!  

Finally, I was able to enter a Target.  No, the treadmill was not trying to take out an early New Year's Resolution maker with this option (rats)!  Instead, it wanted to know if I preferred a distance or calorie related target. Given my distrust of the treadmill math's skills, I had no choice but to choose a distance target.  I decided to enter 3.5 miles and got back to my workout.  

Here's a screenshot taken during my actual workout:

Don't ask me how I didn't fall off the treadmill while taking this photo, but I'm glad I didn't because my family already thinks I'm crazy!  The small indents in various blocks are due to me trying to wave my husband over so I could borrow his cell phone.  Lucky for me he mostly came close to my treadmill during the hardest segments!  I wasn't sure how these intervals would play out when I started, but they were resistance instead of speed intervals.  I love speed intervals on the treadmill (love being a relative term here-if I have to use the treadmill, I always opt for speed interval to pass the time), but HATE resistance intervals because I HATE hills too.  Needless to say, this was a great workout. 

I had the machine set to 7.0 mph once I entered all of my optional stats (Duration, Target, Personal). Truth be told, I did take a few breaks to wave over my hubby and when my heart rate hit over 180 bpm (I'm trying not to overdo things as I get back into running after a 3 week break for my ankle).  When my workout was complete, my average pace was 8:57 even though 7.0 mph is a pace of 8:34.  The inclines ranged from 0 degrees to 9 degrees (whew! was that hard).  

Remember how I selected my own Duration and Target? I wondered which one would be favored. Well, turns out the duration was favored, which was a little bit of an unpleasant surprise to me when I got to my target and was still running uphill!  I'm not sure if this would have been different if I wasn't able to hit my distance goal during the duration I had selected, but that's a test for another day!  

Here is the screen I was shown when my 35 minutes were up:

Once I was done I returned my husband's phone and tested out an interval workout I plan on sharing with my blog challenge friends later in the challenge.  The interval workout took me 20 minutes to complete and burned 220 calories - not too shabby!  

Did you complete a workout today? Share your thoughts with a comment below:

For some inspiration check out the posts from some of the blog challenge members:

Diatta completes a run that ends up looking like a familiar shape (to me). See what you think by visiting her page HERE>>
Tonya gets started with the challenge HERE>>
My MOM(!) wrote her FIRST blog post EVER for the challenge (so proud!) Check it out and cheer her on for me HERE>>
LaShandra shares her third full day HERE>>
Nadya talks about her Day Three and shares an inspiring story about the benefits of fitness HERE>>

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day Two

Yesterday marked day one of the Fit Armadillo Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge.  If you are looking for some work out inspiration, check out some of the workouts shared by members of the challenge.  Nadya completed Qigong, LaShandra tied on her running shoes despite below freezing temps, and Christy kicked her hubby's butt in a plank-off at the gym during day one. 

Feeling a little jealous of their motivation? Don't be. If you want to join in on the challenge, there’s still time! Join the Challenge through this link >>  All you have to do is write a blog post every day from now through January 5th to share your workout of the day.  You know you want to get a head start on the Joneses and everyone else who will try to steal your treadmill on January 1!

Wondering what my workout was today? Wonder no more. Here it is:

Catherine's Day Two Workout: Body Works Plus Abs Class and a Swim

Yesterday, the fam and I went to Anytime Fitness.  Today, I decided to try out another gym, LA Fitness.  As a fitness instructor, I rarely get to take other people's fitness classes. However, since I'm on vacation I HAD to try one out. The only class at the LA Fitness near me that worked for the family schedule was Body Works Plus Abs.  Sadly, I don't have any silly pics from this trip, but I do have a read out of my heart rate stats from my Polar Loop to share: 

The class lasted one hour and was a toning class.  I put my heart rate monitor on at home so the first 15 mins of the graph above are from just sitting in the car.  However, I burned about 300 calories while wearing it.  Way better than the 50 or so calories I would have burned just bumming around on the couch while my hubby worked from his home-away-from home!

Like I said, I hadn't been to a toning class like this in a LONG time.  I've taught my own and taken other classes, but this class was pretty old school.  I didn't know what to expect so I went to grab a heavy and light set of weights upon entering. Unfortunately, there were only three options for weights: 2.5 pounds, 5 pounds, and 7.5 pounds.  I'm not a fan of 2.5 pound weights (not sure why? READ THIS>>), so I grabbed the two heavier options and got to work.  

The Body Works Plus Abs workout consisted of a 10 minute light cardio and stretching warm-up, 40 minutes of strength training, and 10 minutes of abdominal work and stretching to cool down at the end of class.  While I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow from this class, the toning segment did not offer a full body workout.  We didn't complete any exercises for the back or calves.  Although, I guess the fact that we only had access to up to 7.5 pound weights doesn't make the lack of back exercises surprising.  

The toning segment of the workout consisted of about 12 exercises and involved us changing up the tempo for each one. For example, our first exercise was a squat. We got into squat position with our free weights on our shoulders, squatted down for one count, came up for one count and repeated this eight times. Then, we changed the temp to two counts down, two counts up.  Various other tempo changes were completed before the next exercise.  At least 100 repetitions were done for each exercise. For smaller muscles like triceps and shoulders, this gets really hard!  But is it really an effective or efficient workout? Not so much.

I started with my 7.5 pound weight and then switched to 5 pounds during these difficult times.  However, as I suspected, the exercises were too easy after the 5 pound swap.  While I definitely recommend tempo training as a way to change things up, I stand by my belief that you don't need to perform soooo many reps. Trying a heavier weight to start is a much better option.  Yes, you'll complete fewer reps, but that's more than fine! You can rest in between sets or perform an exercise that targets another muscle group before completing a second set of repetitions with a different tempo.  Unless you have a sports-specific endurance goal, you don't need to complete a workout that requires 100+ reps on your own! Unfortunately, to keep the ladies coming to class, many instructors still use lighter weights and an abundance of reps. Don't be fooled! Save time and be more effective by toning on your own by using a heavier weight even during tempo training. Keep to 10-15 reps and around 3 sets two-three times a week.  You'll get awesome arms and legs without feeling ashamed of that fact that you can't keep curling for the millionth time like your instructor!

For the abs segment of class, we did many different types of crunches.  I hadn't been to or taught a class in years that ONLY used crunches.  Crunches are OK and a bicycle crunch is one of the most effective abs exercises, but planks are where it's at for really activiating the core (abs+back).

So I had an OK class. It's always fun to check out other classes for a change!  After class I was able to do a 30 minute swim to give my little baby ankle a break from running even though I thought about running the entire time...

What was your workout today? Share with a comment below:

Nadya (who's quite the fitness recruiter!) shares her Day Two workout HERE >>
Diatta gets in her first day of the challenge despite a busy week. Read up + cheer her on HERE>>
Christy gets EVIL on the treadmill! Find out how HERE >>

Ready to join the 12 Days of Fitness Blog Challenge? I'd love to have you! Sign up by clicking HERE>>

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge: Day One

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Today is the first day of the Fit Armadillo Twelve Days of Fitness Blog Challenge.  Every day from today through January 5th, participants will share daily workouts on their blogs in an effort to keep moving over the holidays and to get a jumpstart on their 2014 fitness goals. If you want to join in on the challenge, there’s still time! Join the Challenge through this link >>    The way I see it, the more the merrier!

Wondering what a personal trainer's workout looks like on Christmas Day? Read on:

Catherine’s Day One Workout

Usually, I’d prefer to run outside Christmas morning since it’s a workout I can complete without disturbing anyone else in the family.  (OK, OK I do also love running)! Despite the fact that it was below freezing out in Connecticut, USA where we’re celebrating the holidays, I would have enjoyed the challenge of bundling up just right.  However, I still don’t trust my bum ankle with the cold weather.  So to fit my workout in before Christmas dinner, I convinced my parents to get us into their gym which just so happened to be the only one open on Christmas Day.  Surprised? Don’t be! The gym they belong to is Anytime Fitness.  

Here’s my workout of the day:

I started out in the new back-room of Anytime Fitness, which is AWESOME. It’s set up for personal training, but since there is no training on Christmas Day I had it all to myself.  Pretty darn cool!  I was able to use a foam roller to work out some kinks before getting on the treadmill.  For my cardio workout I did a 2.5 mile run on a treadmill I had never seen before. I’m excited to check out some of the programs they have on it during my next visit.  

Anytime Fitness Training Room: My Own Gym for the Day!

After my run I did a little HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I had a real field day using all the equipment I wanted in the back.  Here are some of the items I took out: 

I completed an interval with kettlebells, the Bosu, a jumprope, TRX bands, and medicine balls. I finished things up with some ab work.  

Before I left, I couldn't resist posing with the Anytime Fitness logo runners.  I think I look a lot like them, except of course, that I have two legs. What do you think? 

I also had a lot of fun trying to write out a Merry Christmas message for you. Sadly, I only got one word spelled out in resistance bands before my private gym in the back stopped being so private.

Wishing you a


Did you work out today? Want to join the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge? Know someone who would? Leave a note with your comments and share this to spread the word! 

Looking for some fitness inspiration?  Check out Day One of the Challenge for our other bloggers:

LaShandra talks about her Day 1 On her Blog Fit2BaMom>> 
Christy shares on her blog Life is Lovely Dream>>

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 12 Days of Fitness Blog Challenge!

Sitting here at home in Houston, TX where it is 74 degrees out, I'm having a hard time believing that it's almost Christmas!  Except when visiting any fitness clients living within 5 miles of a shopping plaza, but I digress.

If you've been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably have already heard of my 12 Days of Fitness Blog Challenge. If not, I'm here to invite you to join in on the Blog Challenge I've created to help you get a jumpstart on your 2014 fitness and blog-related goals.  This challenge is run by me, Catherine Basu, an ACE-Certified Fitness Professional so in addition to having fun and making new friends, you'll be able to get FREE fitness advice if you participate in the challenge!  Basically you have nothing to lose by joining the challenge expect a few lbs (or kgs depending on your location).

What do you have to do to be a part of the Challenge? I'm so glad you asked! Here's some more info to get you started:

1. Have your own blog. Don't have one yet? Make one by clicking HERE >>

2.  Write a post a day for the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25-January 5th) that talks about your workout for the day. You do NOT need to spend hours at the gym everyday to participate. The point of the challenge is to get you moving.  The minimum workout you can log is a 10 minute walk that you didn't intend on taking. Perfect excuse for you to get out of the house and have a "moment" of peace if things are getting crazy over the holidays...

3.  Join the Facebook group for the Blog Challenge so that you can ask me any questions you might have and meet the other amazing people in our challenge.  The Facebook group will be our meeting place. This is where you will share your daily fitness blog post. I'll collect all the links and share these on my blog as well so you'll have the chance to gain some new followers.   Click HERE to join >>

4.  Be ready to rock!  Get excited :)

At the end of the challenge I've planned a special surprise for all the participants who make it through the 12 Days.  Additionally, anyone who completes the challenge will be able to sign up for any of my fitness offerings in 2014 at 2013 prices.

Are you up for the challenge? I'm so excited to get things started next week on December 25th, hear about any fitness goals you have for 2014, and get the chance to read some awesome blogs.

For more information or to join in, click on the link for the Facebook group, e-mail me, or leave a comment below.

If you're traveling this weekend, have a safe journey!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dinner is served! Moroccan Chicken in the Slow Cooker

If you checked in earlier, you already know tonight's dinner at the Fit Armadillo household was Moroccan chicken in the slow cooker. It was SO easy to make, I forgot I didn't have to really cook tonight! The chicken is super tender since it's cooked all day in a bath of chicken broth.  Although the recipe says you have the option of pita bread, I highly recommend toasting some up.  The juices and lentils taste delicious on top of a slice of pita.

Want to get ingredients for What's for Dinner? Wednesday recipes delivered to your inbox so you can cook along? Sign up for my weekly newsletter HERE>>

Did you make this meal? Share your thoughts on Moroccan Chicken with a comment below: 

What's for Dinner? Wednesday: Moroccan Chicken in the Slow Cooker!

Happy What’s for Dinner Wednesday! This Wednesday I’m sharing a recipe that will only take TWO MINUTES of hands on time.  How is this possible? We’ll be putting our slow cookers to work for half the day.  This Moroccan Chicken recipe has been adapted from Cooking Light’s 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook.  If you are looking for an easy to use healthy cookbook, I highly recommend checking it out!

Invite five people over for dinner and whip up this flavorful dish tonight!  Looking for a great dinner and a movie idea? Check out Casablanca to make the Moroccan theme complete!

Here are your ingredients for six people:

8 ounces baby carrots
1.5 cups raw lentils
1.5 lbs frozen chiken tenders
2 tbsp garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
¾ tsp ground turmeric,
Pinch of pepper
½ tsp ground cinammon
28-oz fat free, low sodium chicken broth

3 pita bread rounds save for just before dinner time
Butter-flavored cooking spray
Hollywood Classic, Casablanca

Step One and Done: Round up all of your ingredients and your crock pot.  Toss everything besides your pita bread into the pot and set it to cook on high for 5 hours or if you’ll be gone during the day, set it to cook on high for 1 hr while you’re getting ready in the morning and then 7 hours on low.

That's it! Unless you want to add in your optional items, then continue with your reading...

Step Two:  Set your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut each pita bread in half so you have six rounds total.  Cut each half into 8 slices.  With your pita wedges facing center up, spray with butter-flavored cooking spray, and bake them for about 5 minutes or until they are crispy chips.

Serve 1 cup of the mix from your crock pot with 8 pita wedges.  Try adding in couscous and Casablanca to really get in on the Moroccan theme.

Would you try this recipe? Tell us what you think by posting a comment below: 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tighten + Tone Tuesday: Brain Workout with Special Guest Michelle Loch

Happy Tighten + Tone Tuesday! This week I'm so excited to share with you a 10 - Minute Brain Workout by special guest, Michelle Loch.  Michelle visits us all the way from Brisbane, Australia where my little sister now lives! Check out her tips on how to exercise your brain and the benefits of doing so below.  To learn more about Michelle, visit her on the web or connect with her through the links at the bottom of the page. 

Brain Training – 10 Minutes a Day

Being ‘Brain Fit’ is just as important as being physically fit.  Challenging yourself with mental exercises and new activities keeps your mind running on all cylinders.

There are so many studies now showing the short and long term benefits of brain training and keeping a fit brain – some studies suggest that brain fit people are 63% less likely to develop dementia.   And if you combine brain fitness with physical exercising and good nutrition, you can boost your brain power by up to 78%.

This is surely enough evidence for us to start paying attention and incorporating brain training into our health and wellbeing plans.

The density of your brain’s grey matter has an impact on how well you can make decisions, make good choices and exercise self-control – and these activities are essential if you are to stay focused on your physical fitness program.  Brain Training is a great way to get and stay brain fit.

In developing your brain training routine, consider the following:
  • Find ways to learn about how your brain works.  Having that knowledge helps you to control your brain, rather than it controlling you.
  • Aim to engage in 10 mins of brain training at least three times a week (though every day is a great goal to aim for)
  • Anytime you challenge yourself with anything new, you are, in essence, training your brain eg, 
  • Like physical exercise, choose activities that you enjoy
  • Variety is the key.  Investigate a number of exercises and create your own program that ensures different parts of your brain are being challenged each day.
  • Plan your week’s 10 minute trainings in advance

Sample weekly brain training program:

Day 1:  Practice a Stroop Test:

Day 2:  Have an ‘opposite day’.  Build new neural connections by putting your non-dominant hand into action.  Use it to perform daily tasks such as 
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Combing hair
  • Eating
  • Using your computer mouse
Notice whether it becomes easier over the day.  If it does, you are creating new neural networks in your brain!

Day 3:  Do this brain teaser:

Day 4:  Practice counting backward
  • Begin at 200 and count backward by 5 eg, 200, 195, 190…
  • Begin at 150 and count backward by 7 eg, 150, 143, 136…
  • Begin at 100 and count backward by 3 eg, 100, 97, 94…

Activities to investigate for developing your own program:

Online brain training

There are lots of online brain training programs, but these are worth a try…
  • lumosity.com
  • mybrainsolutions.com
  • brainmetrix.com
  • mindgames.com

Practice multi-tasking

Time yourself doing this activity:

Step 1:  Start the time and write the words ‘I am a great multi-tasker’
Step 2:  On the line below, write the numbers 1 – 20 eg, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7….19 20
Step 3:  Stop the timer
Step 4:  Repeat the exercise but instead alternate between the two lines, for example, write the letter ‘I’, then on the next line write the number ‘1’, then back to the first line write the letter ‘a’, then on the next line write the number 2 and so on.  Time yourself doing the entire exercise.  
Step 5:  Compare the times.  
Step 6:  Repeat the exercise every second day to see if you improve.

Practice memory techniques
  • www.memory-sports.com
  • http://www.wikihow.com/Remember-the-Order-of-the-Planets-in-Our-Solar-System
Brain games
  • Crosswords
  • Sudoku
  • Google a day – agoogleaday.com
  • http://www.prevention.com/brain-games
(though don’t just stick to one kind, engage in a variety and mix them up)

About Michelle:

Michelle Loch is a qualified and experienced Coach, Facilitator and HR Consultant with over 20 years of experience. She has trained leaders and executives across a variety of industries including Professional Services, Retail, Public Administration, Technology, Engineering, Mining, Real Estate, Education, Construction, Not-for profit and Finance.
Website: www.maxpotential.com.au 
E-mail: michelle@maxpotential.com.au    

Do you work out your brain? Share your thoughts or some brain exercises you enjoy by posting a comment below:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dinner is served! Chili Cornbread Pie

Wondering what Chili Cornbread Pie looks like? Wonder no more! The finished product is shown above.  This meal requires only 5 ingredients and less than 10 minutes of hands on time! Could it get any better? It can! You can keep most of the ingredients on hand to whip up this perfect-for-winter healthy meal on any busy night without having to think twice!

Ready to make your own Chili Cornbread Pie? Read the original recipe post here>>

What do you think of this meal idea? Share your thoughts with a comment below: 

What's for Dinner? Wednesday

Happy What’s for Dinner? Wednesday! This Wednesday I’m cooking up what for me is a blast from the past. It's a dinner I used to make in college, which somehow was 10 years ago!  I don’t know where the time has gone. This recipe is adapted from my one in my first healthy cookbooks, Cooking Light’s 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook.

I present to you the ingredients for this “so easy a college student could do it” recipe: 

Ingredients for Six People:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 -15-ounce can low-fat chili beef soup
1- 11-ounce can corn , drained
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese (your choice)
1- 6 oz package cornbread mix (just add water variety)
2/3 cup water

How to put it all together:

Step One: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Rock out to some classic 2000s tunes like "Miss Independent" or "Get Low" (you could time it so you get low when you load your oven....maybe?) while you wait for your oven to heat up.

Step Two:  Find a skillet and an 8-inch baking dish so you can be in the running for a record-breaking hands on cooking time of less than 10 mins! 

Step Three: Coat your skillet with cooking spray and warm it up on a medium-high setting.  Once it’s warm add your chopped onion and sauté it until it is tender.  If you think you’re going to cry while working with your onions, try wearing a pair of swim goggles.  It may or may not work, but it will definitely scare anyone who might otherwise be tempted to bother you while you're cooking (you're welcome)! Then add your canned goods (soup and corn) to the skillet and stir everything up well before removing it from the heat.

Step Four: Coat your 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and pour the contents of your skillet into the dish.  Top this pie filling with your cheese of choice.

Step Five:  Make your chili dish into a pie! Find a bowl you can use to combine the cornbread and water to make a smooth batter.  Then pour this batter over your soup and corn mixture.  Bake your chili-cornbread pie for 18 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Enjoy a slice of chili-cornbread pie and have “dessert” for dinner!

Have a thought about this recipe or want to share your favorite song from the 2000s or your college days? I'd love to hear what you're thinking! Comment below: