5 Ways to Squat

Oh, the squat! Chances are you either love them or hate them! Personally, squats are one of my favorite exercises but they can be a killer so I get it if you love to hate them!
Squats are a very effective lower body exercise that can be done anywhere with or without added weight which is what makes them such a great home exercise. Not to mention the really great things regular squatting can do for your butt! Squats target and strengthen your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings. Your core will also get worked during a proper squat. With all those perks, what’s not to love, right?!

Squats are one of the most versatile exercises because there are SO many variations. I’ve listed 5 here that I routinely use but there are dozens! You could even get creative and figure out your own variations. With any variation, keep your core tight and your chest and head up. When squatting down, keep your butt out behind you and lower until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor and even a little further if you can.
Standard squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Prisoner Squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands clasped behind your head. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep you knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Sumo squat – feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed out at about 45 degrees (like a Sumo wrestler). Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press through your heels to return to start.


Split squat – start with a staggered stance, core tight and hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Slowly squat to parallel or lower keeping knee in line with toes. Pause and press through your heel to return to start.


Wall squat – stand with back against a wall and feet shoulder width apart and out in front of you about a stride length from the wall. Keeping core tight, slide slowly down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause and hold this position for 10-30 seconds (or longer!). Press through your heels to slide back up the wall and repeat.


All of these exercises can obviously be done without added weight but just for good measure my daughter felt I needed a little extra!


Happy Exercising!

Do You Share This Nutrition Goal with Me?

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Veggie Life

My workout routine is pretty solid at this point so one of my new goals is to work on my nutrition and eating habits. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around eating chips, donuts and candy bars and then expect to work it off on my next run. I eat pretty healthy about 80% of the time but there’s always room for improvement. I don’t like the idea of tracking my macro nutrients or calories very closely. Maybe that’s my problem! I find that to be a pain in the ass but I am aware of what I’m eating and I don’t eat mindlessly.

One of my nutrition goals is to reduce and possibly eliminate my red meat consumption for a variety of health reasons. I already don’t eat much of it because I simply don’t like the taste of it. I know, it’s crazy but a big juicy grilled steak as the ultimate meal just doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, I am aware that reducing my meat consumption means I need to get protein in other ways and lots of foods have protein, not just steaks and hamburgers. I do eat eggs and dairy and minimal chicken and seafood so that helps.

A general guideline is 46g of protein per day for the average woman. This is the recommended dietary allowance set by the USDA but keep in mind that it is a very general guideline. Everybody is different and most active women will need more protein than that per day. If you want to get detailed and track your exact protein intake, the formula to figure out what YOU need is:

Your weight divided by 2.2 then multiply that by .8 for not very active, 1.3 for active or pregnant, 1.8 for extremely active (ex. Training for a marathon).

If you choose to track these kinds of details, please keep in mind that it is all an inexact science and should be viewed as guidelines only and not absolutes. Make adjustments based on your personal goals and how you feel.

There are 20 different amino acids provided by protein sources. Nine are essential meaning we have to eat them because our body can’t make them. It has often been thought that plant-based proteins had to be combined in very specific ways in order to get complete proteins and ensure adequate intake of these essential amino acids. However, current research indicates that it is NOT necessary to combine plant based proteins at every meal. It’s enough to simply get all the amino acids over the course of the day or a couple days.

Ok, enough with the boring stats….

Here are some of my favorite plant based proteins. Let me know in the comments if you have some favorites I can add to my list. I’m always looking for new options.quinoa-1822176_640

Quinoa – This grain can be used very similarly to rice. I often fix it with some roasted vegetables or black beans and corn with a little taco seasoning.
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Rice and beans – Black beans or lentils and your seasoning of choice.

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Hummus and pita chips or veggies – This is one of my all-time favorite snacks.

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Nuts and nut butters – Almonds are another one of my all-time favorite snacks along with almond butter.

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Chia seeds – I mix these in my smoothies.

 

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Green peas – These don’t have to be the mushy, overcooked side dish from your youth. Toss fresh or frozen peas into a salad or purée into a hummus with a little garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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Spinach – I make all my salads with baby spinach and I also blend it into my smoothies.

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Broccoli – Steamed or fresh in a salad.

 

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Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds – Blended into smoothies or sprinkled on salads.

 

Happy Exercising (and eating!)

I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Just Start Now

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I recently wrote about New Years resolutions (click here if you missed it) so to go along with setting goals at any time…don’t wait for the perfect time to start a new fitness plan.
Start now. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or the perfect plan or New Years or whatever…

I know it’s a cliche but the perfect time is now. If you’ve decided to make a new fitness plan (or any other healthy habit for that matter) a priority, why wait? What’s going to happen between now and your “start date” that you need to wait for?

I know the holidays are crazy and stressful and you have other priorities so putting off your new fitness goals until after the holiday season seems like a smart idea. But…exercise can improve your mood and lower your stress levels (helpful when dealing with visiting family!) When you exercise your body’s level of stress hormones drops which helps you relax. Exercise can also give you more energy. I know that sounds contradictory but trust me. And who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holidays? And last but not least, going out for a 30 minute run or a quick weight session gives you a break from all the merriment!

So just start now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to start your formal fitness plan and are sticking with your pre-determined “start date” at least get out and do SOMETHING! Go take a walk or do some crunches or push-ups.

Here’s a fun holiday workout to help you out!
My family loves the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We watch it A LOT! So I decided to make it into a workout game. It’s simple.

Every time someone gets hurt (usually Clark) do 10 push-ups.
Every time something breaks do 10 squats.
Yep, it’s like a drinking game! Enjoy!

Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!

Annual Goals

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New Years resolutions…

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think goals can and should be set and adjusted at ANY time. But, I can also appreciate the idea of the new year being a great opportunity for a new beginning. The holiday season is busy and chaotic. January is usually the time where everything settles down and gets back to a normal schedule so it presents itself as a good time to start something new. I get it! It is a good time to re-evaluate current goals or plan new ones for the coming year.

It was about this time last year I set goals for 2016. I had a main goal and two secondary goals and I even used a goal planning sheet to post them in my home office. I was quite proud of my organized self!

And, literally, three weeks into 2016 they promptly went to hell with a cancer diagnosis.

Obviously, my goals changed and I had to make a new plan. The end of 2016 looks very different than I thought it would but I still accomplished goals and in some ways even made unexpected progress.

My point is, flexibility is key. So many people make New Year’s resolutions in January only to find they have “failed” by February or March. Don’t look at resolutions as success or failure. Sometimes, they have to be adjusted out of necessity and sometimes just because you feel like it. If you find yourself “failing”, take the time to figure out why and re-adjust. Don’t just give up. Maybe the resolution you made wasn’t right for you or maybe you need a different plan to accomplish it.

Goals should be written down but they’re not chiseled into the sidewalk out front – they can be erased and rewritten. Trust me, it’s OK! I did not accomplish my original goals for 2016 so for me, 2017 is just another opportunity to begin again.

Take some time today to think about what you want to accomplish in your new beginning.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Here’s a printable Goals pdf to help you get started.

Holiday Fitness

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Enjoying the holidays without wrecking the gains you’ve made all year can be tough but it’s definitely doable. First of all, it’s the holidays…so enjoy yourself and relax! I think this is something that people tend to forget or lose sight of. I know it can get chaotic and stressful but I think the key to an enjoyable and blessed holiday season is to remind yourself that it’s about friends and family not gifts and food. Great food helps but it’s not the goal!!

On that note, here are few tips to keep you from completely derailing your fitness.

1. Office treats…oh, those amazing office treats! I work from home so I don’t have this “problem” but I used to work in a school that had an employee baking contest. You can’t properly judge the contest if you don’t try EVERYTHING, right? Office treats are usually set up or offered all in one location so finding ways to avoid that spot is the best way to avoid overeating. Certainly, indulge if something looks especially good but you don’t need to grab a cookie every time you pass through the room. Plot a new course to the copy machine!
2. Parties and gatherings are part of the season. And usually, so is alcohol. Hubby’s company holiday party serves a drink called The Grinch and it’s amazing. If I’m not careful, I’ll drink 5 of them before I know it! (I’m not a big drinker. Really!!) Anyway, alcohol can add a lot of calories to your evening and you wouldn’t even realize it. Drinks are not filling like food. I try to match alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. It keeps me hydrated and keeps my calories in check. If you choose to drink be safe and of course, enjoy yourself, it’s a party!
3. While we’re talking about parties and gatherings…they always include food. Usually, very delicious food. I know I’ve said this before but, anyway…it’s a party. Enjoy it! I don’t “save up” calories for when I’m at the party. That never works. I also don’t eat a snack before the party like some people suggest. Frankly, that doesn’t work for me either. If it works for you, go for it. What I try to do is fill my plate with mostly veggies and then some protein and the last remaining bit is for carbs. And yes, I have dessert.
4. As far as my fitness routine goes, I don’t set any lofty goals during or right after the holidays. I focus on one day at a time and aim for maintenance. I have the good fortune to be able to work out during the day while the kids are at school so it isn’t too difficult to stick to my routine. But, I know that’s not the case for many people who’s evening routines might be interrupted by parties or houseguests or kids events. Just because you don’t have two hours for your regular workout doesn’t mean that you can’t do SOMETHING. Even 15 minutes will help relieve stress and is better than nothing.
5. Rest and relax! At the risk of beating a dead horse…it’s the holidays…enjoy yourself! Take some downtime and enjoy your friends and family. After all, that’s the point and the perk of the holiday season.

Happy exercising!

Across the Bay 10K

The Across the Bay 10K goes over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite races. I’ve run it several times and you can’t beat the view! And everyone from the volunteers to the police officers on the course to the participants themselves are so happy and excited to be there.

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Across the Bay 10K

As many of you know, 2016 has been a tough year for me mentally and physically and several months ago, it was unclear where my training and fitness level would be at this point. But there was no way I was missing this race…even if I had to walk the whole thing.

I wrote myself a training plan that I was confident would get me across the finish line as long as I could stick to it. I did…mostly!

Along with a new training plan, I decided on a new goal. Just finish. That’s it. No time goal. At all. Not even a vague “I hope to finish around an hour” kind of goal. I didn’t care if I ran, walked or crawled. Just finish.

This is not like me. I always have SOME sort of goal in mind. Vague or otherwise. I don’t always share my goals publicly but I always have them. Even the first time I ever ran a marathon and had absolutely no idea what to expect or what I was doing and had bronchitis 2 weeks before the race, I still had a time goal in my head.

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Me and my partners in crime!

But not this time. I decided to just let it go and do whatever I needed to do to finish the race. And it was great! First, I had rock-solid support from two very important people that would make sure I finished no matter what. Second, not worrying about a goal allowed me to run at a pace that felt good for me at my current fitness level. I didn’t try to push it. I wasn’t checking my GPS for pace or distance. I just ran. I sped up when I felt good and slowed down when I needed to. I was worried going into the race because of my health concerns but this turned out to be one of the best races I’ve run in a really long time.

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Just Finished

I certainly haven’t kicked the “goal” habit. Believe me, I’ve already got goals in mind for the next two races on my calendar but, I might have to “Just finish” more often! It’s a good feeling.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Look for my Complete 10K Training Plan ebook on sale soon!

P.P.S. Comment and let me know what kind of goals you’ve set for yourself.