Let’s Give Thanks For Strength!

As we spend this week reflecting on all the things we are thankful for, some of the obvious things definitely come to mind: family, friends, career, the ability to wear yoga pants every day of my life. But what I’m really feeling thanks for this holiday season is my strength. I’m thankful for the strength of my body. I’m thankful for the strength of my mind, and I’m thankful for the strength of my spirit. With that in mind, I designed this Thanksgiving Day workout to “thank” my body, mind, and spirit for always staying strong and helping me weather everything that I put it through. As a big thank you to you, I’ve posted the workout below, so you too can share in this act of Thanksgiving with me!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete Circuits 1 – 6 for time, take a full one minute break, and then repeat the whole workout trying to finish either quicker, or in the same amount of time. This workout is a mix of cardio, plyometrics, and full body strength training that will leave you sweating, burning, and feeling total satisfaction once you’ve completed it. Try not to stop between movements – the workout is designed to help you mix up the cardio and strength work and hits different body parts so you should be able to go all the way through with very little to no rest. Good luck, and have a strong, satisfying Thanksgiving!

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TABATA Be Kidding Me!

Happy Friday friends! Are you ready for a fast, efficient workout that will leave you panting, sweating, and jello-legged? This morning, I took on our first workout in our new “Tabata Be Kidding Me” series. Tabata is a a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that helps you get more out of your workouts in less time. Tabata-style training also helps you to achieve Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), or afterburn that creates an uptick in the metabolic rate for a few hours AFTER you finish! Tabata-style training is a great way to incorporate HIIT and strength training into a killer workout, especially if you are short on time.

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Are you ready to take on this workout? Great! I recommend downloading a free Tabata app to your phone to manage your timing. Tabata-style training requires all-out effort for 20 seconds and recovery for 10 seconds. You repeat the 20:10 cycle for 8 rounds (4 minutes). During each 20-second interval, you must put all of your heart, soul, and energy into the movements. You cannot pace yourself. Tabata is designed to be ALL-OUT EFFORT — that’s how you get it to work. If you are sucking for air after each round, or working your muscles to the edge each round, you are doing it right. Your goal is to remain consistent with your high intensity repetitions/speed or increase your repetitions/speed each round. Your goal is to NEVER. SLOW. DOWN.

Total Duration of Workout: less than 30 minutes
Equipment Needed: a treadmill, a bench, and a heavier set of weights

Directions:
Perform sets 1-5 in Tabata format: 20 seconds of the highest and most intense energy you can muster, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. You will perform each set 8 times through. For #2 , #4, and #5 you will alternate the exercise each round so you will only do 4 sets of each exercise total. Perform set #6 as written. For the 7th and final interval, you will perform half a Tabata, or 4 cycles and 2 minutes. Enjoy!

“Tabata Be Kidding Me”: Workout 1

1) Treadmill Sprints

2) Alternate Rounds: Heavy Wide Shoulder Press / Alternating Pistol Squats*

3) Bench Jump Overs (place hands on the bench and jump both feet from one side up and over to the other side)

4) Alternate Rounds: Reverse Flys / Tricep Extensions

5) Squat Jumps / Tricep Dips (preferably off a bench)

6) 4 minute uphill walk

7) 4 Tabatas (2 minutes total) treadmill sprint to finish

*If Pistol Squats aren’t currently in your skill set, feel free to substitute with alternating reverse lunges while holding the dumbbells.

Gratitude Changes Everything

As you may already know, I’m in the middle of my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. It’s been quite a ride, and it’s only just getting started. I have so many post ideas swirling in my head after every session (don’t worry, they’ll be coming your way sooner or later!), but this past weekend one of our trainers said something that resonated deeply with me. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be perfect to share now.

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This particular trainer is endlessly inspiring as a yoga teacher and as a person — joyous and supportive and giving, even if you only know him for a single class. He’s also a contortionist, which means he can do the craziest and coolest things with his body. During one session, he explained to us that growing up, he had been surrounded by people with disabilities — his best friend had lost both of his hands, he had an uncle in a wheelchair, his mother worked regularly with people whose motion was limited in one way or another. These circumstances, he explained, caused him to grow up with an incredible amount of gratitude for what he had — a body that worked, a body that moved — and that gratitude spurred him to do the most that he could with that. “My friend was tying his shoes with his teeth,” he explained. “How could I not try to do everything I could with the hands I was so lucky to have?” Now he stands on his hands. Walks on them. Heals with them, as much as he can.

Around this time of year, we get a lot of reminders to be grateful. To give thanks for what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. A worthy reminder, to be sure, but I challenge us all to take that one step further and do something with that gratitude, that thankfulness. To make it count, to let it spur us onto something greater, something more. Show you are grateful for your capable body by working it, testing it, using it — show you are grateful for your capable mind by dreaming, planning, creating. Use your gratitude as my instructor does, to inspire those around you.

It really changes everything.

It’s Time (to Toss Your Scale)

Happy Friday, you strong, wonderful women.

As the cold sets in, we find ourselves in the midst of the same old unhealthy “body weight vis-a-vis food” rhetoric — only now, dressed in its holiday best! Yes, it’s the time of year for family and love and fun, but it’s also time marked by back-to-back holidays that center around/are filled with food. From the moment those mini Twix bars hit your office through that New Year’s Day hangover pizza, tis the season to consume, consume, consume.

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All this consuming leads to a lot of talk about gaining weight and avoiding weight gain around the holidays. You’re about to be bombarded (let’s not lie, it’s probably happening right now) by articles telling you how you can enjoy the holidays without putting on extra pounds, by friends planning their pre and post Thanksgiving workouts to negate any gluttony that might take place, by ads for weight loss supplements and juice cleanses and workouts guaranteed to take off that holiday weight. Before you get lost in it, we have a holiday present idea for you to get yourself: GET RID OF YOUR SCALE. NOW. FOR GOOD.

It’s more than an idea — it’s a plea. Get it out of your bathroom, get it out of your house! Seriously, be done with it. You are worth so much more than what you weigh. That number flashing up at you is such a poor, inaccurate reflection of who you are, how strong you are, and how healthy you are. When you are able to stop assigning your self-worth to whether a particular number makes you happy or not, you’ll finally be able to take control of your fitness, your health, and most importantly – your happiness.

We at Size Strong know all about struggles with the scale — with being slaves to it, obsessed with its judgment. We’ve both gone through periods of needing to weigh ourselves every morning at the same time (right after waking up, and after peeing, of course). We’ve let that number dictate how we were going to feel that day — head held high and confident, or upset, frustrated, and digusted with ourselves.

Looking back on this destructive behavior from the outside now it seems crazy, obsessive, and stupid — but the fact is, whenever we talk about this with other women, we get heads nodding in agreement and similar stories shot right back. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we assign our self-worth to a number that only tells us what amount of force is exerted on our bodies by gravity? More importantly, why are we so obsessive over something that really doesn’t tell us the whole story? Why do we let it rule our moods, or happiness, the way we lead our lives?

Get off the scale. Your self-worth and your progress in strength and in health are not reflected in the numbers it shows you. Muscle weighs more than fat — don’t forget that. Stop focusing on that arbitrary scale number and start focusing on the things that are really important. Focus on increasing your energy levels, increasing strength, increasing power, speed, agility, coordination. Focus on nutrition, on proper sleep, on forming healthy and productive relationships. Measure how many times you laugh, how far you can run or jump, and how long you can hold a handstand.

Get rid of your scale and start allowing yourself to feel comfortable in your own skin. You are an incredibly special person, so let your confidence shine through. The only numbers that matter today are the number of seconds it takes you to put that scale away for good.

Fuel Strong: Smart Snacking

In an ideal world, we would all be able to eat fresh, homemade meals each days at exactly the right times — a hearty protein-filled breakfast shortly after getting out of bed, a veggie-packed lunch with enough protein and healthy fats to fuel the afternoon, and a light, clean nutritious dinner several hours before bed to allow enough time for digestion. But how often does life work out that way?

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Sometimes we have busy schedules, early workouts, late workouts, unexpected meetings, late dinner plans — all kinds of this that get in the way of an “ideal” routine. These are all of things that can make our lives interesting and wonderful, but can also make negotiating a healthy existence tricky. If you’re like me, constantly on the move in a big city without the time or inclination to cook, you have to figure out a new ideal. That’s why, in addition to awesome recipes, we at Size Strong want to provide you with tips for those times when you can’t provide yourself with an ideal meal. Today, the focus is on snacks.

Surely you’ve heard that it’s a good idea to always have some kind of snack on you. Nothing derails a day of healthy eating more quickly than finding yourself famished with no healthy options around. If you can’t reach into your purse or gym bag for something quickly satiating, you can easily find yourself eating something you didn’t intend to eat, and probably also more than you intended to eat. Hunger has a way of clouding — or obliterating — our good judgment.

Here are some Size Strong tips for smart snacking:

1. Know yourself. If you do a quick Google search for healthy snacks, you’ll come back with hundreds of options and suggestions. Some of them will sound delicious to you, some you won’t even consider — but you’re the one who knows what you’ll actually prepare and eat. If you pack a mini-packet of almond butter and an apple, will you eat that? Will you get up in the morning and cut apple slices? Be practical — your ideal snack is something that you will enjoy eating and that fits into your lifestyle. It’s not necessarily going to be what is best for someone else, or what some magazine tells you is right.

2. Educate yourself. Take some time to really think about your schedule, your habits, your body. When are you most likely to need that snack? Is it a mid-morning craving because you skipped breakfast? Do you find yourself working (or working out) through lunch and then in need of an afternoon snack? Do you run straight from the office to the gym with dinner not in sight for hours, and thus need something to tide you over pre-workout? Notice when you’re getting hungry so that you can prepare accordingly.

3. Arm yourself (with snacks)! If cutting up fruit or carrot sticks is not for you, be happy in the knowledge that there is a plethora of healthy snacks out there meant for people like you (and me) who just want to grab and GO. Spend some time in the snack aisle at Whole Foods or your local health food store. Try different things. Read up on products. Find your favorite, and always have them on hand. My personal go-tos? Kombucha (I prefer the GT Multigreen and Gingerade), Go Raw chips (the spirulina taste like banana chips!) and KIND bars (the dark chocolate variations only contain 5g of sugar and are a delicious treat in a pinch — especially the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond for me).

Remember, of course, that snacks are just that — snacks. You shouldn’t be wolfing down 4 Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond KIND bars a day, since they are more or less a healthier candy bar. Nor should you let these snacks replace wholesome meals — which will be the topic of a future post. Happy snacking!

Friday Fit Fashion: Warm Up with Zella

WINTER IS COMING.

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We just heard the most dreaded words of all — POLAR VORTEX — in the forecast for next week for the Midwest, and cold temps across the board for the East Coast. The chill in the air means at least one good thing though — cozy winter clothes, and the more layers, the better. These jackets from Zella, the amazing activewear line from Nordstrom (Lina is one of their Chicago ambassadors), are so warm and so soft. They are perfect by themselves for a fall day or for bundling under your North Face during the polar vortex. The cut is snug and flattering without feeling like a wetsuit, and the bright colors are more than welcome on dreary winter days! Lina is wearing the “Pretty Moon Dust” Jacket in Fuschia Glow, and Emily is wearing the “Haute Horizon” Jacket in Teal Lapis.

Have a STRONG weekend!

Fuel Strong: Crockpot Chicken

I have a confession to make: I LOVE the cold. Before you start rolling your eyes at me and protesting, let me explain myself. I just love everything about this season — I love sweaters, and Starbucks Red Cups, and the leaves changing, and the powdering of snow, and boots, and snuggles to keep warm. But one of my favorite things about the cold and this time of year is snuggling up with some warm, rich, nutritious deliciousness. I’m talking soupy, brothy, vegetably, chickeny, good-for-your-soul amazingness. I’m also talking cheap, fast, and easy! Without further ado…

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Crockpot Chicken & Veggies Au Jus

What you need:
one WHOLE chicken (make sure to take the gizzards out)
1-2 sweet potatoes
1-2 zucchini or yellow squash
1 cup of mushrooms (if you don’t like them, leave ’em out!)
1 tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt (Celtic sea salt is fine too)
1/2 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp thyme
2-4 peeled and smashed garlic cloves
a Crockpot!

Directions:
(Seriously guys, it takes less than TEN minutes of prep and then you get at least 2 days worth of food!!)
1. Wash the chicken and pat her dry
2. Place in crockpot
3. Cut up veggies and place in crockpot (you can add other veggies of your choice, like carrots, as well!)
4. Sprinkle seasoning over the chicken
5. Turn on low and let slowly cook for the next 7-10 hours
6. Serve in a soup bowl with the juice, veggies, and melt-in-your-mouth chicken

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Leftovers:
1. Serve as soup again the next day!
2. Pull remaining chicken out and shred. Serve pulled chicken with veggies the next day, and maybe add some tomato sauce to change it up.

Enjoy!