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Readers request: Finding fitness

How to find an exercise/fitness routine that’s right for you?

Trial & error is the long (and unfortunately time consuming) answer.

I know lots of lifestyle factors and personal preferences come into play here, but more than anything else variety is definitely key in keeping yourself stimulated mentally and physically.  At least that’s my personal work-out philosophy.  Bodies plateau when a fitness routine becomes…well…routine.  So it’s critical to keep your muscles guessing.

Another thing to bear in mind, is that our bodies change over the course of our lives.  So what interested and worked for me in my teenage years may not do it for me now.  However, what’s not to say years down the road I pick that hobby back up again?  In other words, what you enjoy at one point in your life may be different later on, so don’t give up on an activity.  Just keep it on the sidelines until you’re ready for a change.

Things to consider:

  • Are you motivated by group exercise?  Team sports?  Or do you prefer to sweat solo?
  • How much time in the day/week do you have to devote to exercise?
  • When is your energy level at it’s peak?  AM?  PM?
  • How much are you willing to spend on workout equipment, gym memberships, etc?

Workout classes

Most gyms have a wide variety of classes for people who like group exercise.  Sure, gym memberships cost $$ but if you’re the kind of person who wants options this is a worthwhile investment.  And once you’ve joined, you don’t have to spend money on much else.  The equipment is all there for you, all you need to do it show up.

Pick a gym after a trial period…try classes, machines, personal trainers, anything and everything you’d like to take advantage of once you’ve joined.  Test various hours and make sure you have access to what you want, when you want…and then do it!

Make your membership fees worth it.  Body pump, spinning, zumba…whatever.  You can go to as many classes as you want, which means you have unlimited choices in finding a good fit.

I’m a total klutz so I steer clear of group classes, especially ones that involve choreography.  But if that’s your scene, I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun and a great workout.  The only part of not having a gym membership that I miss is spinning classes.  Fortunately, the West Coast weather allows for the real deal…which brings me to the next form of exercise.

Cycling

Before I moved to NYC I did a ton of biking…to school, to work…the streets of West LA are bike-friendly if you know which ones to take.

After moving to the East Coast I was without my wheels, which was fine since the weather was rarely between 40 and 90 degree anyway.  Snow and bike don’t mix.  Neither do swampy summer days with humidity that gives you an afro.  But none of that mattered since it wasn’t deemed safe enough of a commute by Kyle.  Or my mom.  I’m getting off subject.  My point was, moving back to CA meant I got to ride my bike again.

This is one of my very favorite forms of exercise.  I ride 1-2 times a week (more if I’m commuting to work) and it always leaves me on cloud nine.

Group exercise with bikes is more difficult as it relies on your friends to own bikes too.  But if they do, it’s a great weekend activity if you’re friends are into it – combining fun hang-out time with fitness.  Two birds!

Obviously price is an issue in cycling because bikes aren’t free…and you need a helmet, a lock, and (probably) a velcro-pack to carry small items in.  So yeah, this is definitely a more pricey form of exercise.  Upkeep on a bike can cost quite a bit too.

There’s also the matter of storage space.  If you’re in a house..lucky you.  If you’re in an apartment building, make sure any public bike rack is safe and secure.  If not, you’re looking at a new balcony accessory.

Another factor in determining if biking is a good fit for you is where you live.  Like I mentioned above, some cities and some seasons aren’t ideal (even winters in LA aren’t great for biking).  But if you already have the gear and the weather on your side, pedaling into the sunset is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise.

Running

Ah running…my life long love.  I’ll never truly be anything but a runner because it’s something I’ve always done.  When I try to think back I can’t recall a time I didn’t run.  Then I got into racing and those became a hobby too.  My phases of competitively training and running fluctuate depending on my mood.  Currently I’m in a relaxed and leisurely relationship with the sport, and I’m ok with it.

In any event, don’t think that a lack of experience/background means you’re not cut out to be a runner.  The best thing about it is anyone CAN do it.  Speed doesn’t matter because it’s an individual activity.  The only person you’re up “against” is yourself.  Go fast, go slow, go far, go around the block.  It’s impossible to fail.

Also, it’s the cheapest activity you’ll ever try.  All you need are shoes.  And you can do it anywhere.  If you’re a solo type of person, here’s your me-time.
Getting started with running is as simple as jogging around the neighborhood.  It sounds stupid, but seriously, go as far as you can go…and then try and go further the next day.  If you tire easily, don’t be discouraged.  Endurance takes time and running will always be waiting for you.

If you need help staying motivated, create a reward system for yourself, set goals, and recruit others to hold you accountable.

Examples:

  • Buy yourself a new sports bra if you run x times this week/month
  • Make gym dates with a trainer
  • Make a chart and cross off mileage as you do it
  • Log times/distances/activities on the computer or journal to see your progress
  • Arrange to meet a friend at group classes
  • Schedule classes into your day ahead of time
  • Enter races in the future
  • Meet friends for lunch at a place you can bike to
  • Set out your shoes/clothes/gear in the PM so it’s ready when you wake up

Yoga

I’m less of an expert in this category so I’d like to invite all you yogis to leave comments chiming in with your knowledge on ways to get into yoga and stay inspired.

I’m still in the beginner stages of practicing yoga, but what I have come to realize is how much it spills over into all aspects of your life.  Having good posture and holding your core together are just the physical effects (and they’re no small feat either).  The calm and inner peace that I feel each time I leave the studio are some of the other invaluable benefits.

The kinds of yoga vary greatly, from Ashtanga and Power yoga, to Iyengar, to Vinyasa, to Bikram, and everything in between.  I still have so many to try myself!

To the other beginners out there, let me reassure you…people have always been so inviting and supportive.  Nobody is perfect.  Everyone has some part of their practice to work on – great or small – so you’re never alone in your quest to get better.  Similar to running, you just focus on you.  Nobody else cares because each person is too busy focusing on him/herself.

Like strength training, yoga gets you strong.  Your muscles may not feel worked in the moment, but you’ll notice them eventually.  Hell, it may even add peace to your life due to the introspective nature of it.  Physical, mental, and spiritual exercise all in one.  Now that’s a good workout!

Strength Training

I’ve posted about my love for Jillian Michaels before.  I never believed in anything but cardio before I discovered her DVDs.  Now I think twice before knocking a 20 minute workout.  You can see my thoughts on those workouts here.

As far as strength training goes, I pretty much stick to Jillian’s videos (1-2 times a week).  Occasionally I’ll do Jackie Warner’s arm and abs routines if they are available on demand.  But I still haven’t found anything else that comes close in comparison to Jillian’s workouts.  I sweat and feel sore the next day, which makes me know it’s working.

As for equipment, my home set-up is as follows: 5 lb weights x2, 10 lb weights x2 (mostly for Kyle), yoga mat, balance board, resistance bands x2, large inflatable ball, wii (kidding).

I don’t always use everything listed, but I only mentioned what I personally like.

Miscellaneous

Don’t forget about checking your area for community sports leagues…like soccer, kickball, and/or dodgeball.  I know Santa Monica even has lawn bowling!  Are there places to go on hikes in your area?  Is there a swimming pool nearby?  Go for it!  Or for the cooler climate crowds, maybe look into ice skating or skiiing?

You won’t know if an exercise is a good fit for you until you try it.  And be sure to give each activity a few tries before you dismiss it.  Like a toddler trying new foods, sometimes it doesn’t connect until the 10th time!

Have an exercise to add?  Leave a comment below sharing how to get started and stay motivated.

I tried Krav Maga and if I had the $ to go regularly I would do it in a heartbeat.  It’s one of the most grueling and intense exercise sessions I’ve ever had to date.

Hope this helps!

52 - Elise LMYA Soccer Fall 1989

[The start of a lifetime of sports and fitness]

About my Dad

It’s rough being the only male in a house of women.  My poor pops.  Not only can he barely get a word in edge wise…

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But he can hardly get his face in a photo.  🙂

The thing is, my dad is awesome.  And even though we tease him, we all worship him. 

He’s responsible for setting an impossible standard for all future suitors (Kyle’s in the clear, but my sisters may be screwed). 

He’s also responsible for nurturing my sports career, spending his precious vacation time not on vacation.  Instead, he got off work early three times a week to coach me.  And then there were the weekends.  With 5 am wake-up calls to drive to every teeny tiny town in California for tournaments.  I hated listening to KFOG acoustic sunrise, but I loved every second on the road with my dad.

Obviously I could go on and on about how amazing he is.  But for the purposes of this blog, the most important thing to credit him for is introducing me to hummus.  He probably doesn’t even remember it.  When I moved in to an apartment my senior year at UCLA, he came to visit me hang shelves in my bedroom…while I was at class he did some grocery shopping.  And when I got home later that afternoon I had my very first taste of hummus.  And the rest is history…   🙂

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I love you dad.  Happy Father’s Day!

2.0

Hooray!  I’m so so glad you guys like the new look.  I could never have done it without Julie’s services, so if you’re looking for a blog makeover, she’s your gal.  Seriously.  She took a sketch of a header I drew and made it into the reality that you now see.  It’s amazing.  And she was ever-so-patient with my (nonexistent) technology skills.  Not that it’s over…there are still some kinks to be worked out, but for the most part things are running smoothly. 

Feel free to click around and let me know what you think.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated so I can make my site as user friendly (and pretty) as possible.  Aside from the font, which people have mentioned can be difficult to read, let me hear your thoughts!

Moving on…

Night shift steam rolled on by these past two days. 

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I actually really lucked out with my patient load…not only were they the sweetest group of people, but they were stable and compliant and slept through the night.  In the words of Michael Scott: win win win.

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Now that I’m riding my bike to work, it allows for a more restful day too.  I don’t feel rushed and/or anxious about when I’m going to squeeze in exercise (while still letting myself sleep in some) and my commute time is always the same.  For those unfamiliar with LA traffic, having a constant like that is invaluable. 

Biking to work means I can leave the apartment at 5:45 pm, arrive at the hospital at 6:15 pm, clean up, change into scrubs, relax, and I’m ready to get my nurse on when 7 pm rolls around.  Much better than guessing how the day’s 405/Wilshire drama is going to go down (my commute by car can take anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes, no joke).  That construction is getting to be too much stress! 

Next month they are closing the entire freeway down (July 15-18th) and the hospital is already looking to recruit staff to spend the night.  I predict a riot.  Or maybe a plot for J.J. Abrams’ next movie…

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The only thing you need to know about this bowl of oats is that it was made with almost as much peanut butter and raisins as oats

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The combo of PB&R (not to be confused with the beer PBR) makes breakfast (or early dinner in my case) taste like cookie dough. Anyone else think that raisins are very underrated in the oatmeal world?  Or maybe you never consider the rankings of breakfast ingredients like I do…  Eh.  Your loss. 

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Work eats were packed, as per usual…

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Sidekicks of mixed nuts, Three Sisters honey graham cereal (obsessed!!!), apples, and cherries.

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Salad with veggies and grains galore, topped with chopped seitan

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This salad was an everything in the fridge kind of situation.  In other words, a delicious, one-of-a-kind beast.  It fueled me all through the night.  Also, I had fun coworkers to work with, which always makes shifts fun and fast.

How is your work commute?  Do you drive?  Bus?  Subway?  Is it the same every day or does traffic come into play?

PB&J thumbprint muffins

The Green Market Baking Book is full of recipes by amazing chefs like Alice Waters and Dan Barber.

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And Chef Ann Cooper!  The recipe is actually vegan, but I didn’t have half the items on hand.  So then I did what I do best…took the inspiration and ran with it…making an entirely new recipe altogether.

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And they wound up tasting AWESOME.

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So here’s what you need.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Muffins (vegan)

Ingredients:

[dry]

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour*
  • 2 tbsp whole rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup NuNaturals stevia baking mix*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp Salba*
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

[wet]

  • 3/4 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • blackberry preserves (or whatever jam you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350.

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Combine all the dry ingredients (but only half of the peanuts).

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Mix wet ingredients together separately (except strawberries and blackberry preserves), and then add to dry ingredients.

 

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Fold in strawberries.

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Add to greased muffin tins, filling them only 2/3 way up.

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Then make little thumbprint divots in the middle of the batter of each muffin and scoop 1 tsp of blackberry jam into them.

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It doesn’t have to be perfect.

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Next, add remaining nuts to the tops of the muffins.

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Oven ready.

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After 20 minutes in the oven, check and see if a toothpick comes out clean.  They should take 18-22 minutes to bake depending on how packed your muffin tins are.

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The smell of these was RIDICULOUS.  Waiting for them to cool was torture.

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I halved the recipe and made another batch of mini-muffins, too.  These were without the peanut and jelly top layer though.

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So small and cute!

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I’m happy to report both of my official (non-vegan) taste testers were big fans.  The outcome was 100% delicious and tasted exactly like a PB&J sandwich.

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It’s been only four days since I made them, and there are only a few left!  Good thing I froze some, too.

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The minis are just as tasty.  And since they are so small, I can eat six at a time without feeling like I’m being a piglet.  And by six I mean ten.

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Mmmm.

*Substitutions wise, if you can’t find (or afford) coconut flour, NuNaturals stevia mix, or Salba, you can sub in different things but I can’t promise it will taste the same.  Coconut flour gives a delicious flavor unlike anything else, but whole wheat flour will work for all intents and purposes.  As for the stevia, you can use any other vegan sweetener, like turbinado sugar or coconut sugar.  Salba is similar to chia seeds and acts like an egg in vegan baking.  Alternatively, you can use chia seeds or ground flax with this recipe.