Monday, February 5, 2018

A Rough Start to 2018

Hey Everyone! Sorry for the recent silence - I've been battling the flu and complications these past several weeks - and I can say from experience this year's flu is nothing to mess around with. Since coming down with symptoms on Dec. 31 (what a way to end the year!) I've been to the doctor twice, urgent care and the emergency room. As you can see, it's been an awesome start to 2018!


But I think - knock on wood - I'm finally getting better. The latest round of meds seem to have made a huge difference and I think this time the sickness might really be on its way out. The only symptoms left are mild congestion and cough as well as healing up a rib muscle strain (caused by a coughing fit two weeks ago). 

As you can imagine, I'm itching to get back to my normal workout routine. I've been trying to maintain some type of routine these past few weeks but it's been impossible. I know I've lost a lot of fitness but hopefully I can start slowly rebuilding now that I'm getting better. 


One mistake I've made is foolishly thinking I can do hard doubles while recovering. When I'm healthy, I often do a hard workout during the noon hour and then do another one after work. Attempting to do this while sick is a bad idea. So this week, I'm really cutting back and aiming to do one moderate effort workout per day. If I feel up to it, I'll add in a second "workout" of walking on the track or treadmill. 

Monday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (I'll dial down the effort to keep this moderate)
Tuesday: 30 minute walk + WAC Fitness Test
Wednesday: WAC Arms & Abs (depending on rib muscle) + WAC Small Group Training
Thursday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (lower effort)
Friday: WAC As Many Reps as Possible 
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day

You may be wondering about the WAC Fitness Test. It's there because another round of Lose It started last week. I missed doing the Fitness Test with the rest of my training group but am planning to do a make up this week. Like everything else on my workout plan, it will probably be at a lower effort so my expectations are not very high. But I guess that means I'll see more improvement when I do the test again at the end of the 12 weeks!

My nutrition has been all over the place these past several weeks. There have been periods when I've wanted to eat nothing but other times when I've been ravenously hungry. I haven't been following Weight Watchers since I think while sick and during recovery the best approach is to feed my body what it wants, when it wants it. But this week I'm going to transition back to being on a more Weight Watchers friendly diet. 

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Breakfast Wrap
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad
Dinner: Classic Beef Chili

Snacks will include clementines, light string cheese, veggies, popcorn, QUEST bars - or whatever I feel my body needs, even if it's a cookie or two!

Despite being sick for weeks on end, there have still been a few good things to start the year:

Lots of Brunching - For some reason, while I've been sick/recovering, I've felt best on Sundays. So after getting over the initial flu sickness, there has been lots of brunching. In the past few weeks I've been to a few favorites: Engine Co. 3, Lake Park Bistro, Blue's Egg, Smoke Shack and Cafe Bavaria. 

Delish pastries start the meal at Lake Park Bistro

Caretaker Charlie - My little darling has been an absolute doll as I've been stuck at home. There has been lots of snuggling and he brought a smile to my face even during the lowest points. 


Vacation Planning - In just a few weeks I have my first trip of the year - a ladies weekend in Savannah, GA. It's a place I haven't yet visited so I'm really looking forward to exploring someplace new. My friends and I have already made a few meal reservations and selected a few sites we want to visit. We've also started outfit planning because when in the south, you better make an effort to look good ;)

A Few Good Books - Given all the spare time I've had lately, I've gone through quite a few books: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories, The Comfort Food Diaries, China Rich Girlfriend, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Forward: A Memoir, Falling. Some of these were delightful reads while a few were duds. I don't regret reading any of them though!

That's the update to start the year! Tell me:
  • How has 2018 treated you so far? 
  • Have you visited Savannah? If so, any must-visit places I should add to my list?
  • Have you read any good books lately? If so, what book and what did you like about it?

We're already one month down - and one month closer to spring!

- ST

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lose It Wrap Up + My Results!

After taking the summer off from running and training, I was feeling rather out of shape and pudgy. Lucky for me, the Wisconsin Athletic Club started its Lose It program mid-September. The 12-week program was focused on losing weight and body fat and improving overall fitness through small group training sessions.


And what a difference 12 weeks can make! Going into the challenge, I was hoping to see results but was a little unsure about how much change I could actually make. However, I was focused and made it a priority to succeed. Although I'm not yet sure how I did compared with others in the program, here are my results:

Weight: -12.5 pounds
Body Fat: -9%
Fitness Tests: 
  • 1-mile run (improvement)
  • Timed plank (improvement)
  • Timed push-ups (improvement)
  • Timed stair climb (improvement)
  • Timed walking lunges (improvement) 

I'm thrilled with my results and I can tell that my fitness is so much better. Looking back, there were a few key things that really helped me be successful:

Working out all. the. time. I went to as many Lose It workouts as I could fit in my schedule (there were typically 3-5 in addition to my 1-hour training session). I also did additional workouts at the Downtown YMCA. A typical week for me included two-a-days on Mon-Thurs and a workout on Friday and/or Saturday for a total of 8-10 workouts per week.


Focusing on strength. Before doing Lose It, I believed for a workout to be effective, it had to be fast paced. I quickly learned HIIT was not the only way to shed pounds. One of the trainers forced me to slow down, lift heavier and do every single rep correctly. It was a total mindset change for me as I've always been used to banging out a high number of reps as fast as possible. I totally fretted that these sessions were not going to help me achieve my weight loss/body fat loss goals, but in the end I think they were the most helpful. So while I lost weight/body fat, I gained a lot of confidence in my strength and ability to lift heavier (thanks Travis!).

Joining Weight Watchers. I knew I had to clean up my diet to go along with all the working out. Joining Weight Watchers really helped. While no foods were off limits, I knew exactly how much I could eat. And because the plan is pretty flexible, I could also enjoy small treats here and there, which really helped me stay motivated throughout the 12 weeks.

Eating the same foods. My breakfasts and lunches were the same almost every day. Turkey Bacon and Egg Wrap. Tuna/Chicken, Sweet Potatoes & Corn Arugula Salad. Popcorn. Veggies. Light String Cheese. It's boring to eat the same thing all the time but my body responded well to those foods and it made things easy.  

Now that Lose It is over, I'm focusing on maintaining my weight through the holidays. I'll continue working with one of the WAC trainers these next few weeks until Lose It starts up again at the end of January. During the next round of Lose It, I'd love to shave off another 4-6% body fat as well as lose more weight!


If you're in the MKE area and need a kick in the pants to help you lose weight - or just improve fitness and strength - you have to check out the WAC's Lose It program. I totes recommend it and can't wait to participate in the next round of the program!

Finally, many thanks to the Downtown Wisconsin Athletic Club and the trainers I work with - Ellie, Travis and Mike - you guys are great!

Tell me: What are your best weight loss tips?

- ST

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ALL the Christmas Cookies + It's the Last Week of Lose It!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the holiday season with all the celebrating with family & friends, gorgeous decorations, festive music, delicious food and sparkles galore. 

Last week/weekend I really started getting into the holiday spirit and helped decorate two Christmas trees at work, put up stockings and a few decorations around my own home and went to the most amazing Christmas cookie sale with my mom. The cookie sale was so awesome that I somehow ended up with nearly 10 pounds of cookies. Oops. 


Those cookies went straight into the freezer since I can't afford to indulge these next few days. That's because ... it's the final week of Lose It!

With it being the final week, there will be a weigh in and multiple fitness tests on Thursday evening. So this week is all about bringing my A-game to every workout to sweat off every last tenth of a pound.

Monday
Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: Y-Blitz

Tuesday
Workout 1: WAC Burnout Workout
Workout 2: Y-Blitz + Mini Kettle Bell Workout

Wednesday
Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: WAC Sprints & Bodyweight Workout

Thursday
Workout 1: WAC Supersets Workout
Workout 2: WAC Small Group Training

Friday - Rest Day

Saturday 
Y-Blitz

Sunday - Rest Day


I'm so tempted by all the cookies stashed away in my freezer. However, I'm determined to be strict and stick exactly to my diet plan. With the weigh in on Thursday evening, I'm avoiding all alcohol and carbonated beverages and limiting my bread/pasta/dairy/salt intake to reduce bloat.

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana 
Snack 1: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad  + 2 Clementines

Snack 2: Popcorn
Dinner: Ham & Bean Soup + Spinach Salad + Apple

After this week, I'll be back in my normal workout mode and will likely start incorporating more running into my routine. I can't wait to see what my results are on Thursday and will be sure to report back!

Tell me:
  • Have you ever participated in a weight loss or fitness challenge? How did it go for you?
  • What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? 
  • What's your favorite type of Christmas cookie?

Cheers!

- ST

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2018 Race Schedule - A Work in Progress

Hey everyone! Can you believe how quickly 2017 flew by? We basically have just one month left this year and that means it's time to start planning next year's races. 

So this year was a bit of a wash for me as far as running is concerned. I pretty much stopped after a few spring races and took a much-needed break from racing. But after several months off, I'm looking forward to getting a few races on my schedule. 

I still haven't been doing a lot of running but my basic fitness is back. So come January, I'm going to start running more to get back into race shape. 

Here's what I'm thinking of racing this upcoming year:

Pettit Indoor Half Marathon Relay - I'm super excited to race this one with the same team of gym friends from last year's Indoor Marathon Relay. We'll be focusing on shorter, faster intervals this year. I'll consider it a good workout for my upcoming 5k races!


Luck of the Irish 5k - This one is a maybe, depending on the weather. If it truly sucks, I'll race the First Call 5k instead.

Nicolet Bay 5k - I love this 5k in Door County and hope to do it every year that I'm able to run. The course is flat and fast and winds through Peninsula State Park. This will likely be my spring goal race.

Kings & Queens 4 Mile - I ran the Kings & Queens Half Marathon a few years ago and really loved the course. This time I'll likely opt for the 4-miler instead - it's a new distance option for 2018. I haven't raced many 4-mile races - in fact, this will only be my second one! Being only one week after the Nicolet Bay 5k, this may end up being more of a fun run for me. 




Wisco Mile - I've had this race on my radar for a few years now but it's never worked out for me to run it. Depending on how fit/fast I feel mid-June, this may be the year. I really like the idea of racing a fast mile on the track!

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago - This is another one that will always be on my race calendar. I love racing Chicago in the summer and Rock 'n' Roll races are always super fun because they are large-scale, well organized and super high energy! The only thing to decide is which distance to race: half marathon, 10k or 5k - or maybe I'll do the Remix Challenge this year and do the 5k + either the 10k or half marathon.


Lake Country 5k - Yet another race that is always on my race calendar. I've been doing this one since I started running. It's a hillier course but I love the challenge. 

And then ... I'm not sure! I'd love to add a few more fall races but haven't picked any yet. Whatever I end up adding will likely be shorter distance - something in the 1-mile to 10k range. 

Tell me: What's on your 2018 race calendar? Any fall race suggestions?

Enjoy your Tuesday!

- ST

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Try It: Swanson Health Products

Let's face it - we're all incredibly busy these days. But that doesn't mean we want to resort to eating junk when time is tight. One way to make sure you're able to maintain a healthy diet at all times is to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you always have ingredients on hand to whip up a delicious meal. 

A few months ago, Swanson Health reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in checking out their online shop and trying a few products. Of course I said yes! Healthy products + the convenience of online shopping? Score!


I had heard of the brand but wasn't super familiar with all of their offerings. It turns out the website has thousands of products. Everything from vitamins and supplements to food and cleaning products. There are even beauty products on the site! 

I immediately went to the food section to pick out a few items to stock my pantry. Here I found a great selection of nuts, oils, baking products, protein bars, pasta, grains, soups, and even cookies! I was expecting to pick from just a few products but it was like shopping the aisles of any brick and mortar health food store. 


A few of the things I added to my cart:

  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Organic medjool dates
  • Honey
  • Almond flour

I was especially excited about the macadamia nut oil as it's a harder-to-find item. I like drizzling it on salads and pastas to add a nutty flavor. 

It's a good thing I stocked up on these things because I was recently in the mood to bake and found I had all the ingredients I needed to try Running on Veggie's Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies. These cookies are so easy to make - just add dates, peanut butter and 1 egg to a food processor, blend and bake. So simple and so good!



I would order from Swanson again (if you sign up for their email list you'll get discount offers almost daily) for the convenience and selection of products. It's definitely worth checking out - particularly if you don't have health food stores near you or if you don't have time to get to one!

Tell me: What's your go-to health food shop/website? 

- ST

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hell Week, My Way

A few weeks ago, some of my friends started talking about Hell Week at Orange Theory Fitness. The idea is that there are eight themed OTF workouts during the week, and they will try to do as many as possible to push themselves and sweat like crazy.

I really love the idea of making a hard workout push for a week. Even though I'm not an OTF member, I decided to create my very own Hell Week. My version includes 10 total workouts - a combination of Lose It workouts, WAC group workouts and Y workouts. I know I'll be beat by the time my Sunday rest day rolls around but I'm looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish!


Here's my plan for the week:

Monday: 20 min walk + WAC Sprints & Core + WAC Cardio Circuit
Tuesday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Squat Til You Drop
Wednesday: 20 min walk + WAC Triceps Training + WAC Kettlebell Circuits
Thursday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Small Group Training
Friday: WAC Pump It
Saturday: 30 min run + Y-Blitz
Sunday: Rest Day

And because results don't happen without a healthy diet, here's a sample day of meals/snacks:

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana
Snack: Raw Veggies + Light Babybel Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad + Clementine
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup + Honeycrisp Apple

Fall temps recently hit MKE making it perfect soup weather. I spent Sunday evening making a large pot of Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup for dinners this week. It's a super simple recipe and calculates out to only 3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving!


Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup
Serves 6 (3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving)

1 tsp olive oil
1 container Trader Joe's Mirepoix Vegetable Mix (onions, celery & carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 AmyLu Italian Chicken Sausage Links, diced
1 15oz can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle (basil, oregano, thyme blend)
10oz raw kale (cleaned, chopped, stems removed)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add Mirepoix veggies and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes, then add diced chicken sausage. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until veggies are soft and sausage is lightly browned. Add beans and diced tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes before adding chicken broth and Pasta Sprinkle seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Stir in kale and season with salt & pepper to taste.

A little sprinkle of Parmigiana Reggiano could be amazing on top of this soup but it will add an extra Smart Point.

So that's it for me this week - it's just about grinding through the next few days and getting all my workouts in! Tell me:
  • Have you ever completed a workout challenge? What did you like/dislike about it?
  • Are you celebrating Halloween this weekend? If so, what's your costume?

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Weight Watchers Foods List

My first few weeks on Weight Watchers were challenging. In the past, I've been more concerned about the number of calories in food and nutritional value. But on WW, foods are assigned a Smart Points value (based on calories, fat, sugar, protein, etc.). 

I quickly discovered even foods that are lower in calories can have a lot of Smart Points. For example, my favorite Kashi Go Lean cereal is off limits due to its high point value. I've also had to cut back on or eliminate many of my old diet staples, such as quinoa, farro, tomato soup, legumes, etc. All are too high in points to incorporate in my everyday diet. 

Fortunately, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered a few lower point items to work into meals. This list doesn't include the obvious things like vegetables, fruits and lean meats. These are more little things I've found to create low-point meals or to eat as a small snack. 


0 Smart Points
Bumble Bee Tuna Pouches (My fave is lemon & pepper)
Dill Pickles
Turkey Bacon Bits
Egg Beaters
Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

1 Smart Point
Mini Babybel Light Cheese
Light String Cheese
Tumaro's Ancient Grain Wraps
Boca Vegan Burgers
Turkey Bacon
Lipton Cup-A-Soup Chicken Noodle 
Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate Fat Free Hot Chocolate Mix
Peanut Butter & Co Mighty Nut Original Powdered Peanut Butter

2 Smart Points
Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese Slices
Flatout Light Wraps
Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream

3 Smart Points
Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries
La Panzanella Mini Rosemary Crackers (half serving is 2 points)
Popcorn

Here are a few ways I've used these food items:

Cheese Plate (3 Smart Points): 3 La Panzanella Mini Crackers + 1 Mini Babybel Light Cheese + 1 Honeycrisp Apple 

Ice Cream Sundae (2 Smart Points): Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream + Sliced Strawberries + Blueberries + Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

Breakfast Burrito (4 Smart Points): Tumaro Wrap + Egg Beaters + Turkey Bacon + Sargento Cheese Slice + Salsa

Cheeseburger & Fries (7 Smart Points): Boca Vegan Burger + Sargento Cheese Slice + Lettuce Bun/Wrap + Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries + Dill Pickle + Ketchup & Mustard

It really comes down to how creative you can get. I'm still discovering low point items to add to my list and finding new ways to combine things to make tasty and interesting meals and snacks. 

Tell me: If you're on Weight Watchers, what are your favorite low-point foods? Or, if you're not on Weight Watchers, how do you keep your meals light & healthy?

- ST