Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fit to be tried: Box it up

With the new year - and its resolutions - rapidly approaching, I'm highlighting some of my favorite fit things of 2012. 

 

Think outside the box - it's such a lovely saying, encouraging people to step outside their comfort zones. Yet, this year, it seems everyone wants you to think inside the box. From makeup to food items to (now) workout clothes, monthly "box" subscriptions are available to allow consumers to sample new products or items they wouldn't buy otherwise. 

I was a nearly six-month member of Birchbox, trying out anti-aging serums and living on samples of BB cream for $10 a month, and I would have kept up the subscription if I was a little more into beauty.

What am I into? Well, you probably already know. Food. Health. Fitness. And lo and behold there are boxes for those. I recently had the opportunity to try out two box subscriptions - NatureBox and Bulu Box.

NatureBox. For less than $20 a month, a NatureBox includes 15-20 servings of 4-6 items "curated" by a nutritionist and sourced from local growers and independent food suppliers across the U.S. NatureBox also incorporates recipe ideas to go with the monthly theme. Every snack included is free of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors.


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In my box, I received dried pears, lemon pistachios, granola, pistachio power clusters and masa crackers. I was a bit worried about the sugar content of the items as I was on track with the Healthy Holiday challenge and not consuming any added sugars. The pears, pistachios and crackers, thankfully, were all without added sugar, and the clusters were borderline, using brown rice syrup. 

I found the products to be tasty, and it was nice to try something new. I was particularly fond of the dried pears (addicting) and the pistachio clusters, which fueled a Real Ryder class and holiday shopping. The lemon pistachios were quite lemon but tasty as long as you didn't suck on the shell, and the masa crackers delightfully salty.

I love the idea of the box, especially as I don't have a specialty market near me and thus the exposure to these sorts of items. However, I'm not sure I can justify the box's $20 a month price tag. I already have to get creative to fit in our groceries on $80 a week and taking out $5 a week for snacks that might not last all month seems like a bit of a luxury - especially as I'm not sure you can customize to specific dietary needs. I'd be more inclined to subscribe if it was the packages were smaller or there were fewer choices - with an appropriately smaller price tag.

Bulu Box. Bulu Box is the best way to discover vitamin, supplement and health products. Each box is filled with 4 to 5 premium products selected to help you feel your best. Look forward to a new mix monthly for both women and men that include: vitamins, weight loss, energy, protein, digestion, sleep support and more. It costs $10 a month.

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In my box, I received FRS Healthy Energy Chews, Perky Jerky, Almased Synergy Diet, Reserveage Organics CocoaWell dietary supplement and Crystal Essence Mineral Deodorant Towelettes.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I can fairly review it because I don't know what to do with most of it. I'm bothered that the second ingredient on the chews is corn syrup (the first is sugar) and the jerky has sugar. When I responded to the PR agent's email, I thought I'd be getting vitamins and not chews and deodorant towelettes. It does have a nice price tag so I'll give it that.

Of course, the subscription I'm most curious about is one I haven't tried: pv body. One workout ensemble a month for $40, including brands like lululemon. Of course, none of the blog reviews mention getting lululemon, and I can't imagine buying 12 outfits a year. My poor dresser couldn't handle it!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fit to be tried: Group dynamic

With the new year - and its resolutions - rapidly approaching, I'm highlighting some of my favorite fit things of 2012. 

 

So we keep living, cause the feel's right/ And it's so nice, and I'd do it all again/ This time, it's forever/ It gets better, and I / I, I like how it feels

I was half-way through the chest track (release 82) as I subbed the Thursday night BODYPUMP class when I realized something. Something sort of strange.

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And it wasn't the odd angle of that photo or my incessant desire to show off my new Old Navy outfit. But, while we're here, isn't it cute?

Nope. The realization was that my journey with BODYPUMP is almost a year-old. A year! It seems like forever and yet no time at all. Either way, it's hard to believe that I went from new participant to instructor in that time, and my passion for the class only continues to grow. I love how it's made me fitter, stronger and more confident while forcing me to do things (read: lunges) that I wouldn't do on my own.

As a non-gym member, I don't have the opportunity to take many classes and thus my experience limited. However, my friend and I made a commitment at the beginning of 2012 to explore new fitness experiences - including BODYPUMP - and I stumbled across some real gems.

Piloxing. A mix of boxing, Pilates and dance, Piloxing has a choreographed element that is familiar while challenging the body, cardiovascular- and strength-wise. I loved that I could take the class barefoot, and the mix of cardio tracks versus balance/strength work.


Real Ryder. I just took a class last week (here, if you are in NE Indiana), and I'm already plotting when I can go back. Many of us have taken indoor cycling classes but where Real Ryder classes differ is in the bikes. The bikes move side to side, allowing for participants to burn more than 20 percent more calories per session than Spin. I was surprised at how much harder the class was - I had to really figure out how to turn the bike and engage my core. By the end, I was wiping up my sweat (and butt) off the floor.

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Zumba. OK, I realize that I was the last person on the planet to try Zumba. It just didn't seem like a class for me. I lack rhythm, dance skills and coordination, and I had a preconceived notion that it was for people who were, umm, less hard core. However, with the right instructor, attitude and effort, Zumba is no joke. It's also low-impact, making it a great way to cross train during peak season.

This year, I also tried other kickboxing workouts - cardio and Turbo Kick - as well as Group Power (similar to BP). All in all, not a bad year.

Did you try any new-to-you classes this year? What's your favorite group exercise class?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holly and jolly

The clock read 5:03 when I bounded out of bed Christmas morning. While my early-morning workouts were more than likely responsible for the inability to sleep, I would be lying to say I wasn't looking forward to Christmas a little more this year.

Miles is older and aware of who Santa, excitedly saying "Hanta" at the mere glimpse and occasionally following up with a "Ho, ho, hooo." I was sure he would be able to open presents and even more certain that he would like what was inside him. His visions of baby would no longer dance in a cellphone but realized once reunited with his cousin.

Though it became apparent that Santa's role escaped Miles and his favorite Christmas present was a MegaBlocks truck that my brother gave him ... last year ... I can say that this was my favorite holiday to date. Except for the year I got the pink corduroy overalls.

So indulge me as I share some of my favorite snapshots of the day. I hope your holidays were merry and bright.

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Naughty or nice

He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!

Dangit, Santa! Way to ruin all the fun. It's no fun to be only good, and I certainly don't want to be only bad.

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Of course, I don't think you have to be only nice or naughty. Sometimes you can be both. Sort of like the Brussels sprout dish that I brought to Christmas dinner.

My friend had waxed on poetically about a Brussels sprout gratin he had made for his Thanksgiving meal. It had a board of artisan cheeses, heavy cream and the delightful vegetable people love to hate. It seemed a bit odd that he was so enamored with the dish - Brussels sprouts and cheese. Really? And then I realized that I am guilty of eating Green Giants Brussels sprouts in a processed cheese sauce and loving it.

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I decided that I would make my own version, minus some of the fat and adding some of my mystery box goodies from The Laughing Cow. When I shared what seemed like a great idea with my mother-in-law, I was informed that she did not eat Brussels sprouts. Not even with cheese. But I could bring a dessert.

I whined for a bit and threatened to bring a box of Oreos until I realized it wouldn't be very nice. And I wanted to be good, good for goodness sake. So I'd make dessert ... and my Brussels sprouts gratin.

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Made with fresh Brussels sprouts, center cut bacon and a cheese sauce of milk, Laughing Cow French Onion and Swiss cheese, the gratin is a dish that is just as good as it looks. The smokiness of the bacon and the flavor of the French Onion wedges complement the fresh, bright flavor of the Brussels sprouts. It seems decadent and a bit naughty but with a punch of good stuff like minerals and fiber.

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Leaving room for something that's definitely naughty.

Lightened Up Brussels Sprouts Gratin


2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
Kosher salt
6 pieces center cut bacon
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk of choice (I used half almond, half 2%)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 wedges The Laughing Cow French Onion
1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese

In boiling salted water, cook Brussels sprouts in 1-pound batches for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and roughly chop.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat, cook bacon until just barely crisp. Remove from pan; drain. In the same skillet, add flour, whisking to combine with bacon grease. Allow to cook for 1 minute. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until combined. Continue to whisk occasionally as the mixture begins to thicken. Add in garlic powder, salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and add The Laughing Cow wedges and Swiss cheese, continuing to whisk until the cheese is melted and well combined.

In a 9-by-13 baking dish, toss together the Brussels sprouts, bacon and cheese sauce. Bake for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven or until the sauce is bubbly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holidaze

Today is shaping up to be just like any other day.

I got up for an early morning workout (4.25-mile run with Denali followed by squats and lunges). I made a quick breakfast and fed Miles. There was the requisite shower and subsequent dressing. I prepped dinner in the slow cooker and packed my lunch for work.

Of course, today is not just any day nor is it just an ordinary start to the week. Not only is it Christmas Eve but today seems to kick off a two-week stretch of crazy schedules, family obligations and lots of temptations. It can be hard to navigate the holiday minefield (excuse the term) healthwise without feeling like everything is going to blow up in your face.

Here are some tips from The  Laughing Cow Community Leader Sarah Dussault - and some of my own as well.

Plan your workouts. You are more likely to make it to the gym if you've already scheduled it into your day. It also helps to plan what exercises you will do that day.

For the past six weeks, I've been following the Turbo Fire plan as closely as I can while still running and doing BODYPUMP. This means that I've been doing a lot of double workouts - getting up for Turbo Fire at 5 a.m. and running with the dog at 7 p.m. It's not a terrible plan but I know it might not be as easy this week.

Instead, I am going to try to get in one good morning workout. This morning, I ran and the rest of the week will look like this: Tuesday, rest; Wednesday, early a.m. run + YMCA class for work in p.m.; Thursday, Turbo Fire w/strength; Friday, Turbo Fire and a lunch run as schedule allows; Saturday, Bodypump; Sunday, run.

Make your workouts social. Instead of having dinner with your friends after work, try out a new fitness class you've been reading about. The more support we have, the harder we work toward our fitness goals.

I love, love meeting friends for classes. It helps me break outside my traditional routine, and the group atmosphere pushes me to work harder. I recently tried a Real Ryder class, and Mark and I are going to try to make it to a class while he's on break.

Moderation. Don't deprive yourself of foods you know you love! Make sure to include your favorite foods but in reasonable portions.

I've suspended the no sugar rule until Christmas, and thus far have enjoyed a single sugar cookie from my neighbor, tested a maple cinnamon chip cookie for Santa (quality assurance) and had a bite of my friend's gingerbread fudge. Small portions and sugar only once per day. I was going nuts trying to live up to this arbitrary rule, and it's OK to enjoy treats. Plus, I'm still six weeks sans Diet Coke. HOLLA!

Fuel up. Try having an English muffin or bagel thin with a wedge of The Laughing Cow cheese. You will burn extra calories if you consume something before your winter workouts due to the increase in energy. For a great post-workout snack, have a Mini Babybel Light. It's creamy, delicious and packs 6 grams of protein.

This advice also applies to pre-party eating. Tomorrow, I will have a good breakfast and lunch, as well as an afternoon snack before heading to my in-laws for dinner. By not going hungry, I'll save myself the mindless munching.

Buy a new gym outfit. We all get excited to wear our newest purchases so spending on your fitness clothes will make you want to visit the gym to show off. Or, reward yourself with that stylish top you've wanted once you drop those few final pounds.

Done and done. I am already pumped to wear my new Old Navy outfit to the Y class on Wednesday. And who knows what Santa will bring!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Play date times two

I can be an incredibly flaky person. I hate to admit it but it's true.

It takes me days to listen to a voicemail and just as many to return the call. Non-pressing emails often require a week time time to garner a response. Birthday cards are often sent a month - or three - beyond the event. My flakiness is so bad that I once gave my grandma a year's worth of cards as to make sure I didn't go another year without marking her blessed birth. Seriously. I'll give you her number and you can call.

So it comes as no surprise that it took me more than a year to demand (re: politely request) a play date with Kim and Leo.

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Kim lives in my corner, sort of, of Indiana. We've ran into each other here and there (including the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon) but I've been antsy to get to hang out with her. And Miles always gets a kick out of watching videos of Leo, who is just a mere six weeks younger.

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Through a bit of coordination, the two came over on Saturday for fun and lunch. There were balls throw, blocks shared and lots of attempts at hugs. Lord, my child. He must go to the most affectionate day care because poor Leo couldn't go five minutes without being accosted by a big embrace.


The two found common ground - literally - racing up and down the stairs. Leo and Miles chitted and chatted, in a conversation that I'm sure found a solution to the fiscal cliff and solved world peace. If you don't think those two are cute - you should have seen it by the seventh time. Hilarious!

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Kim and I got in such a good workout that we needed to go shopping for activewear. OK, we would have gone shopping either way but sure is a good excuse. While the boys napped, she and I hit up Old Navy to check out their winter line of activewear courtesy of Crowdtap.

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I have been a fan of Old Navy's workout attire for some time. I have a thin long-sleeve green tech shirt (with thumb holes!) that I got nearly three years ago to wear for a St. Patrick's Day race, and it is a regular in my fall/spring wardrobe. (You can see it in my race pics from my most recent 10K). I also got to try some Old Navy capris via Crowdtap last year, and I loved that they stretched with my pregnancy.

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I can probably thank the holiday shoppers for the variety and selection of sizes. There were tons of tops - some padded tanks, which I love for teaching BODYPUMP, and a looser fit that would be great for yoga. There were fleece jackets, a perennial favorite at ON, and more running appropriate jackets made with moisture-wicking materials - complete with thumb holes.

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I had briefly considered going with the jacket and a pair of long pants as I only have one pair of tights for running this winter. However, versatility won over and I went with capris and a tank that are perfect for teaching BODYPUMP, basement sessions of Turbo Fire and non-winter running. I loved the heathered purple color, which reminded me of Moving Comfort's urban gym capri that retails for nearly three times as much.

I will say that these items were marked compression, and Old Navy was not joking. I picked up smalls in both and felt like a piece of sausage stuffed inside a piece of penne. The items fit but did not flatter and more importantly, I didn't feel comfortable. It might have hurt my ego but I sized up in both. (For reference that blue jacket above was a size XS.)

Kim picked up the same capris in gray and the top on the mannequin above. Super cute. And totally appropriate because we have the same name.

Of course, there's no pictures of the two of us because we are awesome at shopping and not documenting visits. Just another reason for Play Date, the Sequel.

Have you ever purchased activewear from Old Navy? What are your thoughts?