22 Minute Hard Corps Review

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Please indulge a moment of extreme de-motivational energy, but here goes:
I hate push-ups and burpees.
Whenever one of these two exercises pops up on part of my current workout, I tell myself, “burpees aren’t that bad…”, until I do a couple, and yup, sure enough, I was right, full on hate. Same with push-ups. I’m not sure why I hate them so much more than any other moves (some of which are more painful or harder), but that’s just the way it is.
That is all, now onto some positive workout related info….

Anyway, I am currently working out with a Tony Horton workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I decided to start this new program because for the past few weeks I’ve been feeling very unmotivated to commit myself to another 60 or 90 day workout with a program I have completed several times in the past couple years. I was randomly mixing up workout between P90X3, Piyo or a quick TurboFire HIIT, and (big surprise) I wasn’t feeling like the workouts were beneficial. I guess following a program is better than doing random workouts, who knew…

I have found that the best solution to solving low motivation is spending money on a new workout program, so I was looking around on the BeachBody.com website and found a new boot camp/military style workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I really like it so far, and the best part is that it’s only 22 minutes long! Don’t think that because the workouts are only 22 minutes long this workout is easy, it’s not.
While each workout is only 22 minutes, they definitely get the job done! 22MHC includes as a lot of basic moves we all remember from gym class like pull ups, squats, lunges, some plyometrics, bear crawls, gorilla crawls (a killer leg workout) as well as the afore mentioned push-ups and burpees.
I also really like the fact that all the people on the DVD are from differently military branches (nothing but support for our men and women in uniform!), and they do all the workouts wearing a 22 Min Hard Corps shirt, camo pants and combat boots. The workouts are done in a cadence reminiscent of military drills (at least the ones I have seen on TV), with everyone counting plus a little drumming music in the background. The cadence is something I had to get use to as I’m not use to doing a workout by this style. Tony goes around counting and motivating the others. There are three rounds with 5-7 moves and a 22 second break. During the first round, there is someone to show a demo of the move including a modified version. There’s also a killer ab workout that’s done on the cardio days.
I highly recommend this workout for its intensity and relatively quick time table – it’s quick and gets the job done! The change I made that helps me get through it is turning on upbeat music in the background because I don’t like hearing the cadences. If you’re someone who is short on time or has a toddler running around, this is a great workout. Another plus is the required equipment is very basic, just a pull up bar, jump mat, and weights (or a sandbag), plus water and a towel…..

Here’s a preview of the workouts!

 

Cherries, Cherries and More Cherries!

Frozen cherries, dehydrated cherries, cherry pies, cherry jam…I’m sounding a little like Forrest Gump, but only because we had so many fresh cherries off my parents tree we didn’t know what to do with them except, make pies, jam, freeze and dehydrate!

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My parents begged us to pick as many cherries as possible while they were (conveniently, as it turns out) out of town this past week. Without hesitation, without even an inkling of an impending catch, I said yes and then it was off to do some cherry picking. My first rule of fresh fruit picking is to take regular samples to make sure the product is up to standard, but seeing as how these are SOUR cherries, beyond confirming the sourness, I wasn’t about to keep on putting myself through any more tasting then necessary. But free, fresh fruit is free, fresh fruit, so we all pitched in picked a gigantic bowl full. A bowl full of fresh cherries is sort of a wintertime dream come true, but processing these little gems was closer to a nightmare. I spend the next couple days pitting cherries. The good news was that my mom loaned me a cherry pitter, the bad news was that these sour balls of fun were slightly too small for the pitter to pop out the seed like I am used to with normal sized cherries. That means running them through the pitter once to loosen the pit, then going back through and picking out the pits by hand. Thousands of times. Did I mention we picked a lot of cherries?

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Homemade cherry jam made at nap time!

Generally, with strict tasting requirements in place, there wouldn’t be many cherries left to make into other things, but Addison was the only person who could eat them and keep a straight face. When life gives you a pile of sour cherries, add sugar should be a saying, because that’s exactly what we did! The jam recipe we used called for equal volumes of sugar and cherries, which seemed completely outrageous when measuring out the sugar, but I will say this jam turned out just the way we wanted! It’s definitely not low calorie or low sugar, but the jam turned out awesome. Jam making is an intense process (careful measuring, lava-like liquid splattering, time constraints etc.), but we managed to make 12 jars in just under 2 hours. Just as a warning, if you have never made jam, do not try making jam with little kids running around, that could end in a disaster a number of different ways.

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As for the dehydrated cherries, I knew they had to be sweetened somehow, so some internet searching let me to a kind blogger who shared her experience with trying to re-create the Trader Joes cherry snacks. Following her recipe, I boiled them in sugar water for 20 minutes, drained, then dehydrated for about 5 hours (time and temp will vary for different dehydrators). Very tasty, although the bowl of cherries I started with ended up fitting in a small container.

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My little helper sealing the frozen cherries

Now that I don’t have any more cherries to pit, I will say it was a productive week of preserving, and nice to get some winter supplies into the pantry this early in the summer. Hopefully, next year the cherries won’t be quite so bountiful.

A Love/Hate Relationship with Cardio

The workout I love to hate (or hate to love, depending on the day). Cardio is sort of like kale, I know it’s good for me, but it’s hard to get motivated to actually do something about it. It’s not like I don’t do cardio; most recently I put myself through 60 days of a Shaun T workout which is about the most extreme cardio I have ever done. My past attempts at sustaining a cardio workout plan include traditional cardio like swimming, including training for and completing a 2.7 mile swim across Donner Lake, martial arts/kickboxing style workouts, running on a treadmill (let me just say I hate running of any kind) and I even struggled through a 5k race (did I mention I hate running).

I guess the moral of this blog post is that cardio doesn’t have to be the traditional long duration run/brisk walk (or elliptical machine), I mean, who has time for that kind of stuff? It is just as easy and more fun to incorporate sports that involve running like soccer or basketball, or even martial arts. The beauty of the Shaun T workouts I mentioned is that I can get the cardio aspect done quickly and also include strength and flexibility at the same time.

Just in case I needed any more reason to include regular cardio workouts into my routine, here are some more reasons (thanks Google!):

Most efficient workout for burning fat and calories for which can result in weight loss (with a proper diet of course)

-Increases heart strength which leads to more efficient blood circulation, even when not working out
-It increases lung capacity
-It helps reduce risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes
It makes you feel good (endorphins anybody?)
Increases sex drive (how can that be a bad thing?)
Leads to better sleep
Reduces stress

What’s your favorite cardio workout?

Benefits of Yoga

I will admit…I’m not a fan of yoga. Sitting in poses letting my mind wander for who knows how long is not my idea of a fun workout, but more like preparing for a nap. In my book, any workout where checking Facebook is possible during the workout isn’t really a workout….My favorite workout is strength training or sweaty cardio where I feel that post workout high, deep muscle burn, sweat in my eyes and the need to sit down when done.

But….several of the trainers, workout blogs and workout friends I respect keep mentioning yoga, so I begrudgingly did some research and found that, strangely enough, yoga does have benefits (who would have thought). Before I share my personal experience, here are some benefits that will hopefully encourage readers to take a small step towards throwing in the occasional yoga workout:

“Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown, protects your spine, better bone health, blood flow, ups the old heart rate (can improve cardiovascular conditioning), drops blood pressure, regulates adrenal glands, improves happiness, lowers blood sugar, helps focus, relaxes your system, maintains nervous system, releases tension in your limbs, helps sleep deeper, boosts immune system functionality, gives lungs room to breathe, prevents IBS and other digestive problems, increases self esteem, eases pain (asana, mediation or a combo of the two helped with back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, arthritis to name a few), gives inner strength, benefits relationships, uses sounds to soothe your sinuses, keeps allergies and viruses at bay! and supports your connective tissue just to name a few.”

That is quite a list, and I am not totally sure how yoga can accomplish all those at once, but I certainly believe the stretching and strengthening aspects are true as I have experienced them myself. Currently I am throwing a PiYo workout into my weekly rotation when I am not in the mood for an intense workout, and find that I am relaxed when done, but still feel like I have kept up my conditioning and have increased mental focus (that is until my two-year-old starts emptying kitchen cabinets). Being around a toddler, I am always trying very hard to avoid getting sick, so if the immune system boosting claim is true, that can only help my cause.

All in all, my weekly yoga workout hasn’t transformed me into a yogi, and don’t imagine myself ever sitting on a mountain in the lotus pose, but would recommend throwing in a yoga based workout once in a while, if nothing else, it will add variation to any workout plan, and best case scenario the benefits could include all those on that really long list….

My Best Friend, the Crock Pot

The crock pot came into my life on my wedding day, and saw occasional use for work potlucks. It mostly took up space under the counter, and I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. That is, until I attempted to prepare a meal with a 2-year old doing what she does best; alternating between being hanging from my arm and disappearing into that quiet that all moms know means trouble! Now I attempt to use it at least once per week because it solves a number of problems at once. First, I can prepare and throw the ingredients in while the baby is taking her afternoon nap without worrying about what she is doing in the cupboard. Second, it is big enough that leftovers are guaranteed, and that means one less night I have to cook! Third, I can control the ingredients and make soups and chili that aren’t loaded with sodium and other preservatives. These perks apply equally to busy working adults and stay at home parents, so there is really no reason not to use it.

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I regularly make the old stand-by dishes, including chili, (which I made the other day for Super Bowl), stews, and chicken soup (my new favorite Thanksgiving tradition). Recently I learned that it is really, really easy to cook a whole chicken in the crock pot. Just remove the plastic and giblets, and throw it in the crock pot. A little garlic or other handy spices only make it taste better, but are certainly not required to produce a juicy chicken. A chicken cooked like this can take the place of those store bought rotisserie chickens, which sure taste good, but have questionable ingredients and spend an unknown amount of time sitting on the shelf in the store. A crock pot chicken has no added sodium and is hot out of the crock pot so I can feel good about feeding it to my family. The leftovers can make some top notch enchiladas if plain chicken doesn’t fly (no pun intended) two nights in a row.

What are some of your favorite crock pot meals?

 

 

 

What is Bok Choy?

I must confess, leafy greens are my nemesis; I know they are among the healthiest foods available (superfoods anybody??), easy to find at the store and keep well in the fridge, but I just can’t get excited about kale (even fresh from our garden), spinach is only edible when cooked into a lasagna, and chard is just fancy spinach. With these unfounded biases firmly in my head as I perused this week’s box list, I saw bok Choy and immediately lumped it in with these other leafy greens. It took some coaxing and ridicule, but I was persuaded not to remove it from the list. Now, after using it for several different recipes this week, my initial apprehension has been upgraded to ‘this is pretty good…for a leafy green vegetable’ (just have to remember to say that last part).

I found it to be mild in flavor, although I don’t foresee myself eating it raw, as well as meaty enough to stand up to cooking while retaining some texture and flavor (unlike spinach, it is easy to pick out even when cooked along with other veggies). We got a single plant, which grows in a bunch, kind of like celery, but leafy, with stems wider than chard. Because the stems are wide and close together, a lot of dirt was caught on the inside of the lower stems, and definitely took some washing to avoid an extra crunchy meal.
Last week I made a sort of stir fry thing, combining it with other vegetables, then heaping over quinoa. I also added it to a tomato sauce used in an eggplant lasagna. Both dishes were well received at my house, so I am excited to add it to other dishes!

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Along with my recipe research, I have uncovered some other fun facts about this exotic vegetable:

1. Bok choy is in the Chinese cabbage family, which also includes Napa cabbage. It is sometimes referred to as white cabbage, but be sure not to be confused it with Napa cabbage (a serious faux pas in vegetarian circles I am sure).
2. There are many kinds of bok choy that vary in color, taste, and size, including tah tsai and joi choi. Bok choy can also be spelled pak choi, bok choi, or pak choy.
3. The Chinese have been cultivating it for more than 5,000 years.
4. Although the veggie hails from China and is still grown there, it is now also harvested in California and parts of Canada.
5. Just like for most fresh vegetables, don’t wash until you’re ready to use it (don’t ask me why, but my thoroughly unscientific testing has shown it to be true). Unused parts can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
6. Bok choi is packed with vitamins A and C. One cup of cooked bok choy provides more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of A, and close to two-thirds the RDA of C. This is a huge natural boost to the immune system, and I am a firm believer that consuming vitamins directly from vegetables are superior to taking a multi-vitamin, but that’s another blog post….
7. If you are thinking of growing your own, it takes about 2 months from planting to harvest, and thrives best in milder weather (shucks, not suited for the Reno climate).
8. Finally…..Bok choy is sometimes called a “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

The bottom line is I foresee more bok Choy on my families dinner table in the future, and recommend giving it a try as an alternative to the more common leafy greens.

Please share any bok choi recipes that I should try!


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Lifting Weights For Women

When I tell people about my workout scheme, most women have a negative comment about the weight lifting part. Something about not wanting to look like the Incredible Hulk in a bikini….just trying to picture that gives me the creeps. Trust me, I totally understand that no girl ever wants to look like the incredible hulk, least of all me. Trust me again when I say the choice of whether or not to lift weights isn’t a choice between bat wings and incredible hulk arms. There is a solid middle ground that means toned, beautiful arms as well as a healthy cardiovascular system and happy body. If for some reason you want incredible hulk arms, I hear steroids are the way to go.

With this weight lifting dilemma in mind, I found this interesting tidbit by Chalene Johnson (posted on her FaceBook like page this month), in one of the fitness groups I am a part of:

“How often? As little as 1x per week (lifting heavy) was shown to make a noticeable difference in body composition! With 3x a week, results were SIGNIFICANT!

Trying to lose weight and and reduce body fat-then lifting weights or body weight training may be your missing piece!

In a recent study, 10 weeks of strength training was shown to increase resting metabolic rate by 7 percent, and an average of 4 more pounds of fat loss in those who strength train 3x per week vs those who solely did cardio.

So if your goal is to get lean-you need to lift  it may be time to ditch the treadmill , and say hello to weights,”

Some BeachBody workouts that are great for reducing bat wings and building a little bit of muscle are: Chalene Extreme, Body Beast (yes, even women are doing this workout), P90X, P90X2, P90X3, and the newest BeachBody workout that was released in December Hammer and Chisel.

I am currently using Insanity: Max 30 workout, and have also completed cycles of P90X/3, while also using Body Beast: Lucky 7 and my arms aren’t ripping out of even my tightest shirts (even when I get REALLY MAD).

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These are my arm results back in January/Febraury 2013 while doing TurboFire and adding in Body Beast-Lucky 7 once a week.

The other, long term advantage of including weight lifting in a workout (especially as we get older) is fighting osteoporosis. The best way to fight osteoporosis is to be proactive (don’t wait until bones start breaking) and participate in regular weight bearing activity. Unless you are really good at hand stands, activities like lifting weights or yoga are the best way I know of to provide weight bearing activity for arms.

If anybody has any questions about lifting weights as part of an overall body workout, I would be happy to answer them!