January is the Month of Coziness.
Yep, it's true. A whole month dedicated to the art of cozy, of which I am a supreme artiste. I LOVE coziness. Mama says that when I was a baby, she couldn't get me out of my gray and pink sweatsuit no matter how hard she tried. Why was that? Because it was super cozy.
And now? Coziness reigns on high here in the Mooney-Flynn household with a superfluity of pillows and blankets and thick woolen socks and hearty winter stews.
Just yesterday, I made the most delicious Paleo Creamy Chicken Stew. It was the ultimate in cozy. I pass it on to you, my gift to you in this, the Month of Cozy.
Paleo Creamy Chicken Stew
- 1/2 cup organic butter, from grass-fed cows (or your choice healthy and suitable-for-cooking fat)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 5 lbs whole chicken, cooked and shredded (I cook mine in the slow cooker; see below video)
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 scallions, chopped
- In a soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until they begin to become translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes.
- Add almond flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
- Add stock, chicken, carrots, and mushrooms. Bring soup to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
- Turn heat off. Stir in coconut milk and scallions.
- Serve. And enjoy!
Before you go throwing away all those yummy juices from the slow-cooked chicken you just made, watch this video on a super easy and budget-friendly way to make your own chicken stock from scratch!
**Exciting Announcement Alert!**
Remember a time, long ago, when something arrived in your mailbox and you were happy to see it? It was magic in an envelope
-- a letter from a best friend who moved away, your grandmother sending you $10 for your birthday, the latest American Girl
catalogue. At one point, mail was actually enjoyable to receive. But then, the often
tragic and bleak adult world crept in and the next thing you know you have American Express bills, cable sales letters addressed "To Our Neighbor", and the gluttonous weekly coupons for lawn maintenance, mattresses, and powerwashing services clogging your mailbox to the point that maybe it wouldn't be so bad if that obnoxious punk kid down the street swooped by with a baseball bat and creamed your mailbox, hightailing the sad, overwhelmed, metal container across the lawn next Saturday night.Sigh. But good news, my friends! Because mail is about to become enjoyable again!
Starting in February 2013, my dear friends over at Chronicles of Strength will be launching a full in-print newsletter. That's right! It's delivered to your mail
box, not your inbox. You'll have something to treasure and hold onto forever...well, at least until the next month's issue arrives. From the words of Pat Flynn of ChroniclesofStrength.com, himself, here's what you can expect from the in-print Chronicles of Strength newsletter due out in February 2013:
- Full Chronicles of Strength Paper and Ink Newsletter
Look, with this newsletter I’m holding nothing back. This is me in the raw: Uncensored, Unchained, and Unplugged (literally). Disconnect from the digital realm and join me each month as I refute “reality”, shake the system up, piss a few people off, and help you to find clarity and success in the world of weights. I’m giving you everything I got. This newsletter…it will improve you.
- Monthly Kettlebell Workout Routines
Others try to imitate, but they never come close. To wit, nobody else puts out as much high quality kettlebell workout and training material as I do, and perhaps that’s because nobody else can. This newsletter will feature the best kettlebell routines that I have to offer for forging a leaner, harder, stronger physique—quickly, efficiently, effectively. But be warned: these all have something of the demonical in them—unlike anything you’ve ever seen from me before. These workouts…they will improve you.
- Monthly Paleo Recipes
I’m often asked “what do you eat?” Well, here you go! No more confusion or boredom when it comes to the kitchen and proper eating habits. I’m going to show you how to take your nutrition to the next level–how to eat for maximum fat loss and high-octane performance–without the use of drugs or dangerous fat loss pills.
- Ranting and Ravings
Unbiased product and research reviews. I do the testing so you don’t have to waste your time. Discover what works and what never to waste your money on. No expense or effort will be spared to bring you the most trustworthy and reliable critiques and reviews on equipment, supplements, and research each and every month
To whet your appetite prior to the February launch, you can get the first month FREE (free!!!!)...as a downloadable pdf.(yes, this one will show up in your email inbox)Click here to get the first issue! P.S. Don't be concerned by Pat saying that there are recipes in the monthly newsletter. All he does is taste-test them. I create them. So if you like the recipes here on Beautiful-Strength, you are sure to love the ones we add to the Chronicles of Strength newsletter each month.
Don't forget to click here to get your first issue of the Chronicles of Strength newsletter FREE delivered RIGHT NOW to your email inbox.
A couple of months back, I wrote a post
about training grip strength with one of the most primal of movements: The carry.Today, I'd like to revisit, but rather than focus on the farmer's carry (that is, carrying weight at your side, as you would a pair of suitcases), we're gonna talk overhead carrying. The overhead carry is a crazy good way to develop:
- core strength
- diaphramatic breathing technique
- shoulder mobility and stability
- better posture
- strength induced from spending time-under-tension
So overall, a pretty sweet movement. And a downright primitive one. It ain't sexy, but it works. It's powerful and so too will you be training this movement.
But before you go and throw two heavy kettlebells overhead, you've got to get the technique down.
Check out the video below on how you can pwn the overhead carry...and then watch a most excellent ab finisher you can add onto your next training session.
Check out the military press technique video I referenced in the above video, by clicking here
Typically, kettlebells come in four kilogram increments--12 kg, 16 kg, 20 kg and so on. For those of us who use the imperial system, those are 8.8 pound jumps.
In lower body movements, such as the squat and deadlift, which are powered by some of the largest and strongest muscle groups in the body, no big deal. But in upper body exercises, 8.8 pounds can be a huge jump.
But there are ways to hack through those plateaus, bridge that 4 kg gap, and move along with your total badassery.
Check out the short video below to find out a few techniques on how to push past a kettlebell military press strength plateau:
Drop any questions you have in the comments section. Happy lifting, my friends!
There might not be any historical evidence as to why the heck November 23rd is National Cashew Day, but you know what? I don't need any!
The cashew is one of my favorite tree nuts. It's high in monounsaturated fat (7.6 g per ounce) and, while it contains a decent amount of omega-6s (2.2 g per ounce), it’s lower in polyunsaturated fats than almonds (3.5 g per ounce). Its nutritional content is pretty awesome, too:
Courtesy of WHFoods.com
Sure, like any nut, they should be consumed in moderation -- cashews do have a considerable amount of phytic acid (which blocks the body's ability to absorb minerals from foods) when compared with the other nuts of the world, but you can mitigate the amount of phytic acid by soaking raw cashews before consumption.
Plus, it's a bit too easy to gorge on the little guys, and as much as I don't advocate counting calories or worrying about how much of good fats you're eating, there is still a limit to how much of a calorically-dense food (e.g. the cashew) you can eat before it starts to weigh you down...literally.
But today, we are CELEBRATING the cashew nut in all of its glory! First up, let's talk about the "hollow position." I maintain that you kinda look like a cashew when doing it...
...so maybe that's a stretch, but it gives me the opportunity to talk about this position, which is where you should be starting out in the hanging leg raise and the tactical pull-up. This hollow position ensures that your shoulders are packed and down and that your lats, abs, and glutes are engaged.
It's the difference between hanging passively between your shoulders and dialing in the appropriate amount of tension as your executing a beautiful pull-up or HLR. (I wrote about lat engagement and active hanging in a previous blog post, which you can read here
).Here's a quick how-to video on performing the hollow position:
Don't worry about getting in a particular number of sets/reps of this. Just grease the groove...a little here, a little there. You want this position to feel very natural. Once you've got that down, try the hanging hollow position (which I'll cover in a later post).
Okay, moving on...
The second way, I'm going to celebrate National Cashew Day is with a cashew recipe! Yippeee!!
Cashews, though a native of Brazil, have traveled the world. And now one of the top producers of this wonderful little tree nut is India. So I've put together a deeeee-lightful curried chicken recipe that I think you'll really enjoy.
(If you're not a big fan of curry, don't be put off by this recipe. The curry powder isn't overpowering. I fed it to my boyfriend, someone who doesn't particularly like curry, and he gobbled it up. That said, if you love curry, feel free to add more than the teaspoon the recipe calls for).
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 lb chicken, cut into strips, 1/2" wide and 3" long
2 TBS coconut oil, divided
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
1 TBS fresh ginger, minced
1 TBS garlic, minced
1 tsp Madras curry powder
3 small dried hot red chile peppers, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dry-roasted, salted cashews, chopped
1. Combine chicken broth, vinegar, and 4 TBS water together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Heat 1 TBS coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken, resisting the urge to touch it for a few minutes so that the chicken browns slightly. Continue cooking, until the chicken is cooked through (no pink).
3. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Add remaining 1 TBS coconut oil to the skillet and add the onions, ginger, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, 5-6 minutes.
4. Add curry powder and chile peppers. Toss to combine.
5. Add chicken and the sauce back to the skillet. Stir to combine and continue cooking 1 minute more.
6. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and cashews. Serve and enjoy!
Note: This tasted phenomenal with avocado mashed with lime juice and cilantro and roasted sweet potatoes on the side.
Do you have a favorite cashew recipe? Share the nutty goodness in the comments section!
Until about a year ago, I never understood why anyone would spend more than $50-$75 on a pair of jeans. They're just jeans after all. But after a friend convinced me to go designer...Wow. I mean WOW. There is a huge difference, especially for us girls who have an athletic build. Average priced jeans simply don't fit the athletic body type that well and are either too tight on the legs or too loose on the waist.
But after years of wasting money on jeans that just fit "okay" (but still left me feeling like a stuffed sausage in the legs only to have a giant gap in the back of the waist), I've found redemption. Redemption in the form of Joe's Jeans in the Honey cut.
Check out why I absolutely love these jeans (and why they are TOTALLY worth the price) here:
Macy's website has a decent snapshot of Honey cut reviews. You can read more here. And to show off those luscious legs of yours? Well, you've gotta...
Pistol squats are an awesome bodyweight exercise that you can do pretty much anywhere. And even if you can't do them now, you CAN work your way into doing them with ease.
I was in a hotel room the first time I started working on my pistol squats. I did them next to the bed and rested my forearm on top of the mattress, only allowing my arm to provide just enough assistance so that I could complete the squat...no more than "just enough"!
Whether you need help stabilizing in the downward portion of the pistol squat or need some extra oomph to stand up from the bottom of the pistol, resting your forearm on a bed or bench can help a lot.
From the time that I first started practicing pistols in this fashion, within five or seven days I was able to do unassisted ones. And within two weeks after that, I was repping out five or more at a time. So this technique can get you doing pistols...and a lot of them...in a short amount of time. Just remember...give yourself the bare minimum amount of assistance you need to complete a rep. No more than that!
Watch your strength explode to the moon and watch your thighs firm up very, very nicely.
Finding myself in a hotel room once again this weekend, I was reminded of my first attempts at pistol squats those many months ago in another hotel in another city. Feeling nostalgic, I put together a short video on this technique. Enjoy!
P.S. Pistol squats are best performed barefoot. The soles of most 'regular' shoes cheat the movement. So do them barefoot, if you can. If not, wear minimalist shoes, such as the the New Balance Minimus I'm wearing at the end of the above video, Vibrams, etc.
Before we get into the complexes today, I've put together a quick tutorial video on how to do a reverse lunge. If you struggle with balance on this puppy, you're not alone. So check out the vid below to learn how to properly do this exercise (and an easy trick you can use to keep your balance, too).
Also remember, the reverse lunge is part of the Turkish Get-Up (as you'll see in the Get-Up Sandwich video below) so practicing the lunge now will aid in your mastery of the TGU.
With that knowledge in hand, go forth! Scorch body fat! Sculpt lean sexy muscle! And become one bona fide burst of sexy with these kick ass kettlebell complexes!
And of course, of famed nastiness, The Great Destroyer...
P.S. I just wanted to point out the Google search bar that's now available on the top right of the page. As we add more and more content to the website, this will help you find older posts. And don't forget about the searchable tags on the sidebar, as well!
The barbell deadlift is, by and large, my favorite movement. To me, few things feel more powerful than pulling weight, standing tall, and owning it.
And what makes the deadlift most excellent?
1. You can pull a tremendous amount of weight with it.
2. It's a total body move that engages everything from thighs to back to abs to lats to traps. Phew! That's a lot o' muscle!
It's quite common to have a fear of the deadlift, though. People seem to be insanely afraid of doing anything that they can feel in their backs. There's something about feeling your lower back work that makes people extremely uncomfortable. But fact of the matter is, you're not going to hurt yourself. But you will hurt yourself, if you NEVER work your back muscles or when you do, you lift with poor form.
So let's remedy those things.
First things first, you have to work your back muscles, and the deadlift is going to be the best all-inclusive manner in which to do so. Backsides are often forgotten because they aren't readily seen in the mirror and are often ignored out of fear of injury; thus, they remain underdeveloped or worse.
Secondly, you have to lift with impeccable form. We've all heard the phrase "Lift with your knees, not with your back." That's true. And that's the safe way to lift. But there's more to it than that. There's safe, but there's also optimal. We're going to work on optimal (in which "safety" is automatically included).
So over the next several weeks, I'm going to break down the deadlift, go over the technique, and give you some drills you need to be doing to get the most out of this movement.
The deadlift is an incredibly strong movement. Now let's work on strengthening yours.
Watch for the next episode of the "Find Your Strength" Deadlifting Series!P.S. Everyone knows someone who could improve their deadlift. (We all can use to improve our deadlift; no one's perfect. Not even me. That's not easy for me to admit... :P) So do your sub-par deadlifting friend a favor, and send 'em the link to this post! Their spines will thank you! P.P.S. Local to Exton, PA? If so, ladies, head over to the Wedding Bells Bootcamp page and sign up for your FREE one week trial. Come on in, sweat it out, and start gettin' the fat off...no strings attached! Hurry--We're just about 3 weeks away from the start of the FIRST Killing It With Kettlebells Wedding Bells Boot Camp and space IS limited! P.P.S.S. Psst...You don't have to be a bride to come into Wedding Bells Boot Camp! This kettlebell boot camp is for women only. So come on in and get lean(er) and strong(er) with like-minded women! P.P.S.S... whatever... Not local? We'll have you covered soon, too! This fall, Wedding Bells Fitness goes online with a completely online training program for any woman, from brides-to-be to mothers-of-the-groom to any woman ready to get in the best shape of her life! Weekly training plans, recipes, how-to videos, coaching calls, and more will be at your fingertips. Keep an eye out...or better yet--sign up for our FREE newsletter to keep up-to-date on all Wedding Bells and Beautiful-Strength news!
This may sting a little, but truth is, I'm not here to motivate you.
I'm of the mindset that if you need motivation to train, get in the best shape of your life, and be totally awesome, then you have some other things you need to work on, things that I'm simply not qualified to help you fix or that I'm just not capable of fixing. What comes to mind is an oft-recited quote from Henry Ford: "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."
Instead, I'd like to think that my purpose here is to give you the information you need to train intelligently, get in amazing shape, and feel totally awesome so that at some point (if you're not already at that point), your life might look something like this:
Pretty sweet, right? I sure think so! That said, today I'd like to give y'all some intelligent information on "everybody's favorite": Abs.
I don't know anyone who doesn't want killer abs. They may not outright say that it's one of their goals, but c'mon, you know it is. And that's totally cool! There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look great in a bathing suit . But there are a few things we need to clear up because truth be told, most ab info out there is totally bogus. So let's get started, shall we?
Getting Lean, Sexy Abs: Everyone's Favorite Workout Topic
Below, you'll find just a smattering of the latest covers for several of the top women's fitness magazines. There's a theme here. They may look a little different, some more defined than others, but they're in every cover photo...We're talkin' abs here, people! Lots and lots of chiseled abs!
So many abs on the magazines covers, and flip through the magazine pages and find so many crap ab exercises.
Now, I certainly have NOTHING against a good set of abs. In fact, I think they're just great. It tells me a couple things: (1) Even if your nutrition isn't what I would recommend, you are at least aware of the fact that what food and drink you put in your mouth does have a pretty large influence on what your tummy region looks like. You can't cheat your way to a great stomach. As the popular phrase goes, "Abs are made in the kitchen." And that's very true! For the vast majority of people, if you are sittin' around drinking beer and eating cake on a regular basis, you can keep dreaming about getting abs that look like this. So dial in your nutrition (for more on that, check out Metabolic Reset) and you might very well wind up with a set of stunning abs like those featured above.And (2) you really do have to work for abs...but probably not in the way you think (more on that in a bit). You need to get lean enough for those abs to show in the first place, but for heightened aesthetics, you do have to work on developing these muscles.But first, let's talk about the primary purpose of your core muscles. Without an understanding of that, you'll probably continue to train them in an inadequate--or downright unsafe--manner.(FYI--The ab routines any of those magazines have you doing aren't going to get you the abs you want).
There's a Better Way
There is a function and a purpose to your core muscles. And no, it's not to look good naked. These muscles' purpose quite often gets ignored. It's easy to see because, well, we live in modern society, sitting in cars, in front of TVs, and at computer desks which takes your core out of the equation and let's the back of your driver's seat, couch, or chair cushion do all the work.But the true purpose of your core is this: Anti-flexion, anti-extension, and anti-rotation. In other words, the primary purpose of your core is stabilization. Having a strong, stable core is crucial in injury prevention. Most people are already too unstable (i.e. mobile) in their lumbar region. This contributes to poor posture (for more info on this, check out my "Fix Yo' Chicken Neck" post) and an overall weakening of core stabilizers, which not only include the muscles you can see from the outside but also deep core muscles (e.g. transverse abdominal muscles)
.So since most people are too mobile in their cores, then it makes no sense to train mobility even more...namely "flexion" exercises which usually go by the names crunches, sit-ups, and so forth. That doesn't mean you shouldn't train your core. On the contrary! What it means is that with the core being so, well, core to your overall health and wellness, it is imperative to train it correctly. Let's see what this looks like:
A Deeper Dive
Chances are if you ever took voice lessons or were in theater, at some point you learned about diaphragmatic breathing. It's the type of breathing we were born to do. Watch an infant breath and you'll notice his/her belly inflate, not the chest. Over time, this type of breathing disappears from our autonomic system, and rather than through our belies, we breath from our lungs and chest.
BUT breathing through your chest does not utilize and strengthen the deep core muscles as they need to be used and strengthened. It is advised that you relearn diaphragmatic breathing, focusing on, not just pushing your belly out, but truly breathing from deep within your core. By doing this, no you won't look like her all the time:
There's nothing strong or stable or functional about this.
Sucking in like this takes your deep core muscles out of the equation. And you kinda need those. Scratch that, YOU DO NEED THOSE.
Look, I understand that breathing from your diaphragm may not look totally attractive all the time, but guess what? You train TRUE core stability and you will be able to get stronger, develop more lean muscle mass, have the capacity to get leaner, and will ultimately look a lot better than someone so obviously sucking in their gut.
On the Surface...Almost
Okay, so you're practicing diaphragmatic breathing. It's feeling a little less foreign to you, and lo and behold, you're actually getting stronger as you do this. Amazing!
So what's next? The plank. That's what's next.
Done right, the plank is one of the best core-stabilizing exercises around. It provides a phenomenal core workout, helping you to strengthen and stabilize your abs. Ohhhh, hey that kinda sounds like the entire purpose of your core, doesn't it? ;P
It will help you find the right amount of tension to utilize while performing upright/standing exercises, such as overhead pressing, squatting, rack holds, top of the deadlift, etc. Not only that, it will help you in nearly any other endeavor that requires you to, well, move. It doesn’t matter if that’s a walk on the beach, hauling a heavy watermelon into the house for the barbeque you’re hosting, or tossing your kid into the pool for the umpteenth time because he keeps coming back, begging for more. A strong core puts your entire body in a much better position than a weak one does. It’s that simple, and the plank is one excellent way to get you to a strong core.
But this isn't the plank you're used to. A full-tension plank is something that you will probably only be able to hold for 15-20 seconds max. Notice, I said "full tension". I mean it. Stay engaged! Don't get loosey goosey in this.
So let’s go over the basics of the plank:
· Come into a push-up position with your feet together, hands planted beneath your shoulders, perpendicular to the ground.
· This exercise IS NOT just about your abs so you need to tighten your glutes, squeeze your thighs together, and keep that belly tight.
· Engage your lats by squeezing your armpits. Envision yourself pushing the ground apart with your hands to get your shoulders back and down.
· Do not pop your butt up, or let it sag. Keep a nice, neutral spine. You should be able to serve coffee off of your back!
Hang 'Em High
Let's say you've got the diaphragmatic breathing down, you're performing excellent full tension planks, and you are feeling so freakin' stable, Paul Bunyan could push you and you wouldn't even move....But you're hungry, you're famished, and you want more!!
Whoa, there, tiger, settled down. I got ya covered. If you're at this point (and be honest, if you're not, that's fine. Keep working planks and proper breathing), then it's time to introduce yourself to the hanging leg raise. You can see it in the video below. The HLRs start at around the 30 second mark.
You'll notice, if you keep watching the video, that there are some ab exercises in there that after talking about not doing sit-ups or flexion exercises, that you'd think I would poo poo...but if you are truly stable in your core, it's fine to train it in various ways. But again, YOU MUST BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. If you can't breathe from your diaphragm, hold a solid plank, or beautifully execute a set of hanging leg raises, then you have NO business practicing anti-stability core exercises. It's that simple.
You can be totally awesome. This is something you'll have to realize but I can give you the best information possible to get to that point.
Abs are made in the kitchen. Cut out grains and refined sugars. Eat as low on the food chain as possible. Fast on a regular basis.
You have no business doing sit-ups or crunches until you are truly stable in your core...
...And you get stable in your core by training stability, namely diaphragmatic breathing, plank, and eventually, hanging leg raises.
Questions? Comments? Love to hear them! Drop them in the comment section or send me an email at Christine@Beautiful-Strength.com
Wakey, wakey, eggs n’ bakey
Wake up, latissimi dorsi! Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you. You’ve been asleep long enough. It’s time to rise and SHINE. Shine, baby!
First things first, watch this brief video here on waking up sleepy lats; then, we’ll delve into some of the scientificals. (No, that’s not a word. But I like it so I’m gonna use it).
There to the right, you'll see an anatomical rendering of the lat. As you can see, the lat takes up a decent amount of space on the back.
The lat has several functions, including humeral extension, adduction, abduction, and rotation. In simple terms:
The main function of the latissimus dorsi is to pull your upper arms down and to your sides (when they're above your head, i.e. pull-ups), as well as pull your upper arms down (think the downward portion of a jumping jack) and in front of your body and to rotate your upper arms inward.
| |As I mentioned in the video, your lats are actually powerful stabilizers and work to provide stability to a whole host of exercises, from vertical pulling movements to knee dominant movements to hip dominant movements. Lats have an important influence on ensuring multi-directional stability at the lumbar spine, as well. Stabilize your spine and you won't see many strains in your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexor, etc. etc. etc.
You'll also be able to dial into the appropriate amount of tension needed for any manner of lifts. A good starting point to see if you're using your lats is to try the hang, as Pat Flynn from ChroniclesofStrength.com so kindly demonstrated for us. The key here is to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Think of them as "poison". To do this and avoid shrugging, you'll be forced to engage your lats. If you've never done this before or if you are still working on getting your pull-up/chin-up numbers to increase, don't discount it. This simple exercise is a lot harder than it looks.
Once you've woken up your lats, you'll know what feels like to use them. From there, focus on including your lats when you perform a military press and a deadlift. Feel your armpits squeeze against the sides of your body and find the appropriate amount of tension that you need to enhance your lift, not detract from it.
It's Not All About You
There are goals in strength, conditioning, and a healthy lifestyle that keep us going back to the gym each week or opting for strip steak instead of fried chicken. Those goals could be anything from killin’ the tactical strength challenge that your gym is hosting or passing RKC or pressing a 20 kg kettlebell or lowering your blood pressure. But those aren’t end goals. They might get you to the next goal, but they’re really just middle-ground goals that roll up into the end goal.
And the end goal for strength, conditioning, and healthful living is to make your life outside of the gym more pleasant, make your life easier to live.
I think that the simplicity of that statement oftentimes overrides the power of it. The first time this concept really hit home was when my grandfather’s health began to fail. Years of taking abysmal care of himself finally caught up to him. Sure, you could argue that everyone dies; it’s only a matter of time. But that’s such a self-centered and short-sighted view. Your life doesn’t end with you. If you get ill from a preventable disease, you are putting yourself above your family who will need to take care of you, who will suffer as you take ill, and who suffer after you are gone. Yes, everyone dies, but there is the life, the emotional toil, the hospital bills before that death that must be greatly considered.
I’m sure many of you have similar experiences, perhaps with an elderly family member. And taking part in my grandfather’s failing health opened my eyes to what I don’t want for myself or those around me. I want to be able to reach overhead and grab a coffee mug from the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. I want to be able to bring in the groceries without my adult children worrying that I might throw my back out. I want to be able to be as healthy and self-sufficient as possible til the end of my life.
And between now and then, I’d like to have fun. I’d like to be confident that if some challenge presented itself, I’d be able to take it on. It’s an awesome feeling—being confident in your physical capabilities. And you don’t know how cool it is until you feel it, too.
Shuck you, pal!
Speaking of confidence in your ability to take on challenges as they present themselves, today, when Pat, Big Pete, and I got roped into a corn shucking contest outside of Whole Foods (where I purchased something I am so excited to tell y'all about…more on that next post!).
I used my grip strength and strong arms and showed those other competitors who’s boss!! (Sorry, Big Pete…maybe next time?) AND I got a gift certificate to Whole Foods because of it. Instead of buying some of the corn I shucked (corn's a grain...stay away, far far away!), I walked right back in that store and bought organic, grass-fed NY strip steaks. I’m going to roll ‘em around in salt and pepper and cook those bad boys up in shimmering hot grapeseed oil. Roasted sweet potatoes, zucchini, and squash are rounding out the meal. And hey, how about some summer sweet strawberries to finish up? Yep, all because I rocked it at a corn shucking contest. Makes getting and staying fit even more fun when you’ve got something to show for it. Like strip steak. And strawberries.
Mmmmhmmm life is good!
Before we get into Section I of how to train with your significant other without killing one another, I'd like to describe my ideal day. Now, when I say "ideal" I don't mean "perfect". That would require Heaven on Earth, a secluded tropical island, and a mojito. No, I say ideal in the sense that given that all aspects of my life stay the same, here is what the best case scenario would look like for me. Let's call it a "Saturday".
So on this "Saturday", my boyfriend and I would wake up and the dog would not start growling and barking and romping around as soon as she heard us stir. Instead, she'd sleep quietly and we'd spend a good hour in bed, just laying there (lying there? I never got the difference), enjoying each other's company. Then, there would be breakfast.
Oh, you like breakfast, you say? Well, that's just perfect because I like breakfast, too. While we're talking breakfast, then, let me share with you this recipe for a crustless quiche:
| | CRUSTLESS SPINACH QUICHE
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups shredded Muenster cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated.
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan.
- Bake in preheated oven until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Okay, now back to my ideal day...after breakfast and after ample time spent lounging around with a cup of coffee, catching up on my crossword puzzles and writing, and generally just being a little lazy, my boyfriend and I would head to the gym to get in a great training session together because, as luck would have it, we love working out together and we work out well together.
But you know what? "Luck" isn't the right word. Well, maybe it's luck that brought us together to begin with (awww ;P), but it isn't luck that makes it possible for us to not only survive exercising together but actually (gasp!) enjoy it. I gasp because I know plenty of girls who shake their heads and say "Oh, yeah, [Insert Name of Boyfriend/Fiance/Husband/Significant Other] and I could never work out together. It would get ugly."
Why is that? Why can't they work out together? There are plenty of reasons to give it a try. Every once in a while, the Yahoo! homepage or somewhere comes up with a list of reasons why you and your beau should exercise together: It's sexy (Sure is! Exercise increases the release of endorphins, those 'feel good' body chemicals, which in turn is thought to lead to the release of hormones that rev sex drive. Well, who wouldn't want that?? Even better, if you can get your significant other to work out, too, you both reap those lovely benefits, right?), it strengthens your bodies and your relationship, you accomplish something together, etc. etc. etc.
Working out together really is like a microcosm for your entire relationship. It shows that you can work together, take directions from one another, trade off on who is the leader, and learn from one another. It also shows that you two hold the same values in terms of how you perceive the importance of your health and well-being. If you can work out well together in a gym, then what couldn't you tackle together outside of the gym?
Yet, it doesn't seem like couples do this very often. Or at least, they might try it often enough, but it ends in awkward silences or full-blown fights, and those love life benefits? Yeahhhhhh, those pretty much fly out the window...especially when you haven't spoken to one another since your warm-up.
When I was training out of a big box corporate gym, couples would often come in together, but as soon as they swiped their key fabs, they split--the guy typically heading for the weights and the girl to the treadmill, the elliptical, or some bodypump type class, and they wouldn't see each other again until an hour or so had passed.
OR I'd see this:
Girl and her boyfriend come in. They walk to the weights section. Girl feels a little uncomfortable because she's in a part of the gym she never goes. Guy proceeds to act as if he knows everything about weightlifting. He tells her what to do, she feels overwhelmed by it all. He corrects her form, she resents him for telling her what to do. He gets frustrated because she can't just do the lift and she's pulling both the "weak girl" act and the "I've got it" act simultaneously. Neither of them have fun and there's a good chance that it ends in the girl walking off to the cardio section in a huff while her boyfriend sulkily does fifteen different types of bicep curls.
It doesn't have to be like that. Like I said before, the gym can act as a microcosm for the rest of your relationship. A bad attitude, stubbornness, and a belief that "I'm fine, leave me alone, you're not helping" won't get you anywhere. Trust me, I know. I vividly remember telling someone exactly where they could "shove it", if they told me one more time how to do something. But I also know the opposite side; a while back I was watching a guy I was dating at the time do pull-ups. He wasn't fully extending his arms at the bottom of the movement. When I mentioned that to him, well...let's just say we didn't talk for awhile. That is, we didn't talk for a while after he told me I was mistaken; his pull-ups were perfect (not that it matters now, but they weren't).
But it's amazing now. My boyfriend and I have a great time training together. I actually miss him when I work out without him.
So how do we do it? Here are some tips:
*Check your attitude -- Yeah, sometimes you're just not in the mood to work out or you don't want anyone telling you what to do, but that kind of thinking doesn't get you stronger, leaner, or healthier. So knock it off. Be open-minded and cooperative. If you were working on a team project at work, would you have that kind of nasty attitude with your coworkers? Probably not. So why treat your significant other worse than the people you work with? That's not fair at all.
* Check your ego -- If you could benefit from instruction (and everyone can), don't let your ego get in the way of your health. Take into account that your workout partner may have some insight that you could benefit from, which brings us to the next pointer...
* Listen to your significant other -- You have a lot to learn from each other. Like today at the gym, my boyfriend was doing weighted dips. He asked me if he was going low enough. He wasn't. I told him that. He listened and fixed that on subsequent sets. Or later on in the workout, I was practicing my one-arm push-up, and he told me it looked good, except that I was kind of rotating as I pushed up. I listened, and I fixed it on my next set.
* Relinquish control (sometimes) -- Look, I know being told what to do isn't always the most fun thing in the world, but it's not always a bad thing. At times, I'm simply not in the mood to work out so going into the gym and having someone else tell me what to do can actually work to my benefit. I don't have to think about my training session, yet I'm training. It's a beautiful thing. And besides, you can trade off who gets to pick/run the workout.
* Just because you can't do the exact same workout, doesn't mean you can't workout together -- Say you and your significant other aren't on the same fitness page, that doesn't mean you still can't workout together. If your workout calls for pull-ups and you can't do those, then do rows. If you want to deadlift together but can't haul the same weight, set up two bars. You can workout together, even if you aren't doing the identical things. Plus, there are plenty of fun body weight "buddy workouts" you could do with your beau that would be equally challenging to the both of you.
I truly believe that being able to work out together (or do some other challenging task together) signifies the strength of your relationship. If you aren't quite there yet with your significant other, that doesn't mean your relationship is weak, only that there are opportunities to make it stronger. And this is one of them. And it might take some getting used to. Remember when you two first moved in together? You had to learn how to occupy the same space, learn what to say, how to do things without stepping on the other's toes. It's the same idea. It might take some time getting used to working out together, but once you get in the swing of it, you'll realize how very rewarding it can be.
Oh right...my ideal day...okay, so lounging, breakfast, coffee, training session...definitely some more food, like an excellent post-workout meal (need ideas on how to orchestrate an excellent nutrition plan? check out Metabolic Reset; no nutritional guesswork here). Then, maybe a nap. And how could a day not be pretty close to perfect without some time spent lovin' on our St. Bernard puppy, Lola? A walk on the nearby trails should do just the trick!
Now, that truly is an ideal day.
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