Archive | January, 2014

Just Keep Spinning

14 Jan
spin

It’s just a bike. It’s not gonna hurt you.

Do you remember when you got your first bike? I learned to ride on my brother’s old bike, which wasn’t very comfortable. But my dad ran behind me, holding on to the seat to keep me steady while I pedaled away. Then he let go and before I knew it he was calling from down the street, telling me to come back.

That was fun. That was almost 25 years ago. Once upon a time, bike riding was fun. Now I don’t do it anymore. But I still get somewhat of a thrill from the pedaling motion with my new workout obsession: spin class.

Let me tell you, I LOVE spin. It is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I feel so fulfilled when it’s over. The classes I take are about 45 minutes long and you’re going hard from the time you start to the time you leave. I’ve had several instructors and have never been disappointed.

I started taking spin because I was getting into a rut with running. I still love to run, but the knee pain and need for something different had me looking for something else. I took my first spin class when I was living in Atlanta. The instructor would call out instructions like we were on the Tour de France. “You’ve almost caught that cyclist in front of you!” “We’re going down hill!” “Last climb of the ride!”

It was a little strange, but still fun. And I walked away dripping, which meant I’d done the right amount of work. I take classes now pretty regularly in New York. I go once or twice a week, usually on the weekends, now that it’s freezing here.

Spin helps me keep my leg muscles strong, especially during the winter months when I refuse to run outside. But one of the added benefits has been what it does for core strength. I have no abdominal muscle definition. When you’re cycling on the bike, you have to engage your core. You’re moving between three positions, sometimes at 15-second intervals. Your core is what keeps you from falling over, not the toe cages.

Another added benefit of spin is the music. I have great instructors with great taste in music. One class will have us spinning to the oldies, another will be all hip-hop. I find myself singing along, when I’m not struggling for breath. Plus, you’ll find yourself trying to spin to the beat.

If you’re thinking about a spin class, I suggest first going to see what the studio looks like. You don’t want to be too crowded…unless you like other people’s sweat dripping on you. Also, you’ll be stretching and sometimes getting off the bike. You need room so as not to step on your fellow spinners.

Some people bring special shoes to spin, but I just use old running shoes. The special shoes are for people who are regular cyclists, not just spinners. There are some bikes set up for the special shoes, so have at it if that’s you.

The classes I go to are short, but the time still flies by. You’re in constant motion from the time you set up your bike. It’s encouraged to not stop until the end of class. It’s harder to catch back up. Before class starts, you’ll see people idly spinning away at the lowest level just to warm up.

Don’t let gymtimidation stop you from taking a spin class. It can seem daunting, but every new workout is daunting. Few people are perfect at it, especially at the beginning. Just keep spinning and you’ll get the hang of it.

photo credit: Riviera Fitness/French Riviera via photopin cc

I Did It: Aerials

10 Jan

arial_7“I Did It” is a feature on I’m Skinny, Now What? where I will tackle a new workout or diet and give you my opinion. Wish me luck, because I don’t like changing my routine.

So this is the story all about how my life got twist-turned upside down. Literally.

I like a little bit of thrill in my life. I love roller coasters and water slides. I love that ride at the amusement park that where it slowly takes you all the way up only to drop you. I even did an “I Did It” last fall for the sole purpose of flying through the air.

So when my friend and co-worker, Willa, asked me to join her and another friend, Kim, in an Amazon Deal for an aerials class, I didn’t hesitate.

What I Learned

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As I expected, aerials was so much fun…and so much work. Your body is the only resistance you have. If you’re like me and haven’t done much resistance training, it will be difficult. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing instructor.

Meet Kiebpoli. She is possibly the most patient person alive. Several of the women in my first class had done aerials before. They were climbing up the ropes and silks with complete ease. They looked amazing as they’d tie themselves up in knots only to roll out of it a couple feet above ground.

We were all there to learn something different. I was there to just learn the basics, which included climbs and inverts. As someone who doesn’t spend most of her time upside down, the thought of doing it was slightly daunting. Seeing is one thing; doing is another.

I was able to do the warm-ups, which involved me dead-hanging from the silks and lifting my knees to my chest. Yay, me!

Inverts were another story. To do that, I had to hold onto the silks and flip backward into a spread eagle. I’ve never been able to do a jumping spread eagle, even when I was a dancer. I always blamed my sizable posterior for this. Then I met people with bigger butts than mine who could rival the girls in cheerleading competitions. Welp. Suffice to say, after a several attempts, it was on to something else.

The sequence I enjoyed the most involved the hammock (a knot tied near the bottom of the silks). You don’t sit in the hammock but lean your hips into it and flip backward with your legs spread, toes pointed. From there you can do all kinds of poses. That one, I got the hang of.

In my second class, Kiebpoli showed me how to do more with the hammock invert. I was able to knot myself in the silks and sit up into a spread eagle. That was a lot of fun.

Because my phone was acting a donkey, I was only able to get photos and video of my first class. Below you’ll see my friend Kim, who’s been doing aerials for more than a year now, taking instruction from Kiebpoli on a new sequence.

Verdict

I absolutely recommend this. There’s a beauty in the artistry when a sequence is completed. Prepare for achy muscles, though. My shoulders and upper arms were sore for a few days after the first class. The second class, though didn’t cause as much discomfort. But epsom salt baths will become your new best friend.

If you’re in New York, you can take one of the several classes Kiebpoli teaches each week. I know I’m going back to work on my climbs and standing inverts.

Editor’s note: I fixed the spelling of aerials throughout.

Recipe: Pepper and White Bean Soup With Rotini

8 Jan

Pepper and White Bean Soup With Rotini

Time: about 15 minutes to prep, 25-30 to cook

vegetable_whitebeanIngredients

  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces frozen bell pepper and onion stir-fry
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 ounces dried rotini pasta
  • 15-ounce can no-salt-added navy beans, rinsed if desired and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (extra-virgin preferred)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation

  1.  In a Dutch oven, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the bell pepper and onion stir-fry, zucchini, tomatoes, basil and red pepper flakes. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt and oil. Drain in a colander.
  3. Stir the beans into the bell pepper stir-fry mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
  4. Put the pasta into soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta.

Courtesy of American Hear Asssociation Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook (third edition)

Verdict

This is one of my go-t0 recipes. It is so simple, so quick to make and so tasty. If I don’t have the frozen stir fry in the freezer, fresh onions and green pepper work jut fine (and taste better). I also don’t have a dutch oven, so a regular sauce pan does the trick. Spicy food is my thing, so sometimes I can go overboard with the red peeper. And don’t forget the olive oil and salt at the end, unless you have high blood pressure. Those two ingredients at the end really help, though.

Don’t Be Scurrd

6 Jan
someecards.com - My workout consists of walking around the office lying to people about going to the gym.

Don’t be this person.

Like I said last week, going to the gym for a newbie can be like being the new kid at school. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know the social structure and what the hell is that machine by the door?

There’s a lot of trepidation about joining a new gym, but that can be overcome. The thing about being the newbie is that you’re free to mess up and blame it on ignorance. Trip over your shoelace? Eh, no biggie. Get behind in the steps at Zumba. You’re in the back, no one’s paying attention.

Newbies, like the rest of us, have freedom to define their workouts according to their needs. A story in the Daily Mail siting a story in Cosmopolitan Body gives the usual reasons people don’t want to go: too lazy or the gym is too busy. The responses that bothered me most were “think the regulars dominate it” ( 12% women, 10% men) and “think they’re not fit enough to join” (15% women, 4% men). Women are struggling with a the great #FOWO (fear of working out)

Women who feel embarrassed when exercising outnumber men by two to one, with other people noticing them and feeling unfit deemed the main reasons for feeling uncomfortable.
Daily Mail article

I understand it. I was there in the beginning. The gym can be a daunting place and new things can be scary. But fear is a flimsy excuse for not doing the things you want, especially if those things are good for you. Who cares if some jacked-up shmoe looks at you sideways because you went for the 20-pound dumbbells when you should be picking of the 3-pounders? Screw that dink. You live and you learn. No one should be paying that much attention to you in the first place unless you know them.

Also, no one is ever “fit enough” for gym. That’s why we’re all there. Everyone is working on improvement. People are at the gym to get some type of result, be it to maintain, lose or even gain. As I’ve said before on this blog, we’re all works in progress. Think of it this way: the weight loss journey is a crowded highway full of single drivers. We’re all going to the same place, but you’re doing it as an individual. Because of that, most people at the gym are too focused on what they have to do to let your little slip ups get them down.

While on this individual journey, don’t forget to stop and ask for directions. Talk to the trainers. At commercial gyms like an Equinox or Bally’s, trainers can be like Tuesday afternoon salespeople at Macy’s. He’s bored or he’s talking to his co-workers because he has nothing to do. The next paid client doesn’t come in for another hour. That’s plenty of time to ask him about proper form for a lunge or three exercises to do to work on your upper back. Now look at you. You’ve made a new friend!

If all of the trainers are busy, you can ask one of the veteran gym rats. When you’re working out, you’re building endorphins and therefore super excited to help. You can also glance (don’t leer) around the gym at what others are doing. People watch.

The weight-loss process is trial and error. You will hit a couple bumps in the road on your way to your goal, but you’ll get there with dedication and effort. Do what works for you and you’ll be happier.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

3 Jan
This is only the beginning

This is only the beginning

Like most people, I love comfort. Fuzzy slippers, warm blankets, cushy sofas. There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction with your own surroundings.

There are other things that give comfort, but they could have unwanted effects on your health: too much alcohol to dull a pain, smoking to calm nerves, or even too many cookies to kill a craving.

Discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. It’s good to shake things up every once in a while. When you’ve gotten too used to a routine, do something else. When you’re tired of eating the same things over and over, try a new recipe.

Comfort is why my weight has gone up and down so much over the years. Right now, we are dealing with Winter Storm Hercules (thanks Weather Channel). This sucker is expected to drop a couple of feet of snow across the northeast. Adding that I’ve been on vacation since the Friday after Christmas, and you’ve got a recipe for “I ain’t doin’ nuthin’.”

I recognize that’s not the right attitude, but I know me. I don’t run outside in temps below 40 degrees. I’ve been to the gym a couple times this week, but my sofa is just so comfortable that I’m using it as my crutch to keep me from doing anything else.

One of the things I’ve learned on my weight-loss journey is that comfort is the path toward complacency.

Being uncomfortable only means you’re doing something different. Change is not the enemy. How you deal with that change is totally on you. You can either embrace it as part of your life or change the change.

I’m not saying be drastic, if that’s not for you. Sometimes you have to take baby steps into it. For some people, switching from yoga to CrossFit would seem like a nightmare. If that’s too drastic, take a Zumba or barre class.

For me, my struggle is the winter. I hate the cold. But despite the ridiculous amount of white stuff blanketing my neighborhood—which will not be shoveled or salted, Mayor De Blasio—I will get up in the morning and work out. My two options are to 1) lace up my snow boots, double up on pants and trek down to my spin class at 11:15 or 2) pop in an exercise DVD. Seeing as how this is the forecast for the day…

weather_crop

I think I’ll go with the latter option.

How are you keeping up with your work-out plans in this weather? Or, if you’ve got sunshine, can you send me a ticket to where you are :)?