Video Review: Amy Dixon’s Raise Some Bell

Lately I have been in a rut with my workout DVDs.  After a while the same workout on a regular basis gets repetitive and dull.  So I have become consumed in creating new and creative circuit style workouts for myself almost everyday.  I do start to miss being instructed, and since I have been lacking a workout buddy the past couple of weeks, the gym is getting a little lonely.  So last night I had the company of Amy Dixon, a 15 lb kettlebell and my puppy Petey during my sweat session.

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Raise some Bell is a kettlebell routine, which I am sure you could have guessed.  The workout is a total body routine that lasts 40 minutes including warm up, cool down and a stretch.  There is also a 7 minute “Ultimate Kettle bell Core Workout” on the DVD.

The warm up was great.  I loved how Amy warmed up our  wrists.  It is not your first thought to prepare your wrists, but I pulled my right wrist during kettlebell workouts in the past so I can appreciate the attention to detail.  We dynamically moved through stretches and exercises that prepared us for the powerful moves to come while bringing our heart rate up.  I can definitely see this warmup working in more than just a kettlebell routine.

The Workout consisted of powerful ballistic moves such as swings as well as exercises you would typically do with your basic dumbbell.  The way Amy creates a combination flows well and I enjoyed putting together the exercises.  It allowed me to get a feel for each more before adding on.  My favorite exercise from the workout was the “Rainbow”, It’s a swing with a 180 degree continually pivot on one leg, I felt it over my entire body.  I am a sucker for anything ballistic.  I used a 15 lb kettlebell for the entire workout, but I wish I had a 10 or 12 lb bell for both the hammer curl and the jerk.  I found myself struggling to balance the bell by the horn during the curl.  15 lbs was not to heavy for my right arm during the jerk, but I struggled a bit on my left arm.  I should probably invest in a lighter bell not only for my clients, but for myself as well!

Some of the moves were a little complex, and it took me a few reps to get them down, surely my second time completing this video will be more beneficial than the first.   The moves were powerful and challenging, I felt like superwoman while I was jerking out my reps.  Kettlebell training definitely gives me a high that is different than running and plyometrics and I cannot get enough of it.  I will say, I am pretty sore today.  I need to make a commitment to break out my bell more often after experiencing my body’s reaction to the workout the next morning.

The workout takes a lot of thought and coordination to safely complete the exercises, so the time flew by quickly.  I did not believe Amy when she said we were on our last move of the day.  I do wish the workout was a little longer. I prefer my workouts to be about an hour.

The ab workout is separate on the DVD menu so I completed the 7 minute routine after I cooled down.  I would have liked to tackle abs before the cool down.  The exercises were functional and an all over core workout rather than targeting the superficial muscles, which I liked.

All in all, I give this Kettlebell routine 4 out of 5 stars.  I really loved the exercises and combinations but it was just a little too short and I wish the ab routine came before the cool down.  I will definitely be doing this workout again though.  It is great for when you need a solid workout and you have less than an hour to fit it all in!

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What To Eat Pre-Workout

One of my clients recently asked me what and when she should been eating before our sessions to keep her from feeling exhausted and/or nauseous. So hear I am, singing the praise of carbs carbs and more carbs.  You cannot efficiently burn fat and build muscle without adequate carbohydrate intake.

One of my favorite quotes actually came from my NASM text book.  I memorized it when studying but find myself using it as a reminder in my own nutrition choices.  It goes like this: “Fat burns in a carbohydrate flame”

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Basically, maximal fat will not be utilized without enough carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates serve as our most vital source of energy for all bodily functions and muscular endurance.  This is because our bodies depend on muscle glycogen during exercise.  But enough with the scientific blabber, what you need to know is that without sufficient glycogen stores available, you may hit a wall during your workout, burn less fat and build less muscle.  As an athlete, you want to save your protein for building muscle, rather than use it for energy.

2-4 hours prior to working out, you want to consume a carbohydrate rich meal with some protein as well.  A common carbohydrate to protein ratio is 2:1 when exercising for an hour or less.  If you are an endurance athlete you can up your carbohydrates to a 3:1 ratio.  If you workout in the mornings, just get something in your system that will cause little distress on your belly and will digest easily.  Read this short article highlighting the importance of pre and post workout nutrition  from Equinox’s blog.

In order to recover and replenish those glycogen stores after a workout you need to eat at minimum a small snack within 30 minutes of completion.  If you are able to consume a full meal within 30 minutes of working out, you can do so with a carbohydrate and protein rich meal.

Now this does not mean you should eat pasta for every meal.  Sometimes we forget that fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates.  Also stick to whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or oats.

Here is what I suggest my clients consume before a heart thumping session to avoid early exhaustion:

  • Banana or apple with nut butter ( I prefer Raw Unsalted Almond Butter)
  • Steel cut oats with half a banana, some blueberries or raisins (get creative and use what you have)
  • A hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit
  • Whole wheat crackers with hummus (I love Mary’s Gone Crackers)
  • Carrots and Hummus
  • A bowl of quinoa (Ideas here: I’m dying to try the “bagel bowl”)
  • Brown rice cake(s) with avocado (I need more than one, but I have a lot of body to fuel so keep your personal needs in mind)
  • Baked Potato with salsa and a sprinkle of black beans (so good and such a great endurance carbohydrate)
  • Baked Sweet Potato with a sprinkle of cinnamon and some ghee or coconut oil

Post Workout I usually grab a banana and a handful of nuts or make a protein shake if it is not meal time. If I am running around I also really like Zone’s Perfectly Simple line.  You can find them at most large grocers and target too. They are not as pricey as some other brands on the market, and they are gluten free!

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GF oatmeal with blueberries, half a banana and half a handful of almonds

Most days I time my workouts to come before a balanced meal.  If it’s breakfast time, try an egg and vegetable hash or a bowl of breakfast quinoa with Greek yogurt (which when combined is a complete protein). If you want some egg and vegetable ideas, check out my blog post Green Lunches.  When it’s dinner time, have nutrient dense veggies, whole grains and proteins.  I am not a big meat eater, so I combine foods to create whole proteins and incorporate eggs into meals.  For example, rice and beans when combined create a whole protein and provide you with adequate carbohydrate replenishment!  Above is my post workout breakfast from this morning, this is also a great pre-workout meal, especially for those long runs during spring training.

Just keep in mind I am not a nutritionist and everyone has slightly different needs depending on their body, exercise habits and dietary restrictions.

Green Lunches

I am not a nutritionist or even close to one (disclaimer), but I love to prepare and devour nutrient dense food.  Above are six Green Lunches that I have made in the past week.  I am not a recipe person.  I just buy whatever is on sale (usually what is in season) and roast, saute or enjoy raw.  From the top we have….

  • Sunny Side Up Kale: Sauteed kale with a sunny side up egg and half a banana
  • Green Bowl: 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4 mango, 1 pear, 1/2 fuji apple, 1/2 avacado, 2 kale leaves in the blender. Topped with banana chips, coconut ribbon and raisins
  • Sauteed Kale and Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato: I use Himalayan sea salt, basil leaves and ground peppercorn to season
  • Kale, Brussels and Alfalfa Sprout Salad: Chopped and tossed with avocado, pumpkin seeds and my homemade vinaigrette (Dijon mustard, EVOO and balsamic)
  • Cabbage and Brussels Sprout Scramble: Cabbage and brussels sprouts sauteed with one egg scrambled in and served with half a banana
  • Mashed Delicata Squash with Lentils, Quinoa, Cannelloni Beans and Brussels Sprouts: This is kind of a “Hodge Podge”. I happened to have the lentils and quinoa already cooked so I mixed them in with my Delicata.  Delicata can be microwaved for 5+ minutes and scooped out of the skin for a mashed consistency.   I will make a batch of lentils in the beginning of the week so I can just throw them into dishes to add bulk and a nutty flavor.

I don’t plan my meals much more than a couple hours (or minutes in advance). This is because my mood and my physical state determines what I eat.  I suffer from a lot of stomach issues and sometimes I lack an appetite for certain foods or any appetite at all.  I hope my green meals give you some lunch time inspiration! Feel free to comment with questions or your own lunchtime suggestions!

Here are some fun nutrition facts on some of my most used winter foods:

KALE

  • High in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin K, A and C
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Anti inflammatory and Cholesterol (LDL) lowering properties
  • Great Detoxify-er

CABBAGE

  • Contains Folate for women of child bearing age
  • Natural Electrolytes
  • Great Detoxify-er

LENTILS

  • Folate: Lentils contain more of this B vitamin than any other unfortified plant food. In addition to protecting against coronary artery, folate helps prevent birth defects
  • Fiber: half cup of lentils provides around a third of your daily requirements. We absorb the energy from lentils slowly, which helps keep blood-sugar levels even
  • Iron
  • Lentils are a significant (and virtually fat-free) source of protein

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

  • Great Detoxify-er
  • Antioxidants
  • Improves Digestive Health

Yoga Studio Review

logoLast night I tried a new studio in Reston, Virginia called Beloved Yoga.  It is a small studio at the bottom of a commercial office building on Sunrise Valley, but once you walk in you forget you are in commercial office space.  Inside, the decor is everything you want to see in a yoga studio, which for some reason makes the experience more enjoyable.  I was ready for 90 minutes of “me time”, so I put away my parka and purse and got right on my mat.  I looked around and saw everyone had the same blanket so I followed the crowd and grabbed one and some blocked too.

I learned in the first 10  minutes that the block and blanket would be added to our sun salutations.  One sequence involved holding the block between your thighs while you flowed.  This I had never done before.  The Blanket was used in the next flow.  We stepped off of our mats and onto our folded blanket to “slide” through the sun salutations.  I saw this as a way to fire up the core, but the instructor never vocalized her intentions (from what I can remember).  It is always fun and interesting to try new things, but I prefer my smelly mat.yoga meme

I signed up for a $8.00 new member drop in, which I thought was reasonable.  I do like when the first class is free, but who doesn’t? The Vinyasa was vigorous and fun.  We did a creative sequence I have not particularly done before.  It is always interesting to experience new teachers.  The instructor was much louder and bolder than anything I have experience, but it made the flow feel more like a workout as sweat literally rolled off my face.

There was no deep stretch towards the end of class, which I probably could have used.  My hamstrings, butt and upper back are pretty sore today, a positive of course! We did do frog for three minutes, which made me want to cry.  Like so many people, my hips are too tight from sitting at a desk most of the day.I would give the class four out of five stars. It was challenging, outside the box and relaxed my brain for 90 whole minutes!  It was nice to get our of my home studio (my bedroom floor) and really lose myself in the poses, as cheesy as it sounds.  I would love to go back and make it a regular thing.  Unfortunately, yoga is so damn expensive when practiced at a studio.  I feel frivolous when I can do it at home.  The new member fee for the first month is $75, which is reasonable.  I will have to sleep on it and see if it is something I would like to commit to for the next month.

If you are in the Reston or Great Falls area I encourage you to look into their studios.  It definitely has the aesthetic that every aspiring yogi loves.  For me, it is like a mini vacation with sweaty strangers and I absolutely enjoyed it!

Managing a Sweet Tooth

My diet is gluten free.  I eat mostly fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts.  Oh, and chocolate.

I am going to be honest, I have been going a bit overboard  lately.  Anyone who knows me knows I love my chocolate, but I decided last week I needed to get a hold of myself.  So I decided to have a little self control and go chocolate/sugar free for the weekend.  For me, the more sugar I eat, the more I crave it.  It’s this cyclical bad habit that can be tough to crack.  In order to adhere I have to tell the people in my life that I am cutting it out for a time period, so they hold me accountable.

My enabler is my mom.  I always fall into a chocolate hole after I spend too much time with her.  She has “Parties” after dinner when I come over.  These “Parties” involve buying every gluten free pint of ice cream in Harris Teeter and putting them all on a Lazy Susan.  I have been going to too many “Parties” lately.

So after a meal, instead of reaching for my frozen brownies I made earlier in the week, I ate half a pear and some banana chips or a couple Medjool Dates with raw almond butter.  Guess what? It does satisfy the craving!

Last night my partner in crime and I decided to celebrate my 72 hours of chocolate celibacy by whipping up a healthful chocolaty concoction.  We made this recipe for Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Bars from Ambitious Kitchen.  It is gluten free and also vegan if you opt for vegan chocolate chips, which I did not.  If you love gooey chocolatey goodness you should definitely give the recipe a try.  Not only is it delicious, but it is pretty darn healthy for something that tastes so decadent.  I had all the ingredients already in my pantry, and I am sure you do too!

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We had one serving with a some red wine and after we finished I froze the left overs.  I freeze all my organic concoctions for two reasons.

  1. Without all the additives and processed ingredients, they often spoil or mold before I can devour a pan.
  2. I can defrost when cravings strike, rather than spend a week noshing on chocolate every night.

I had my fix.  Now I going chocolate (and sugar) free for the remainder of the week! You can hold me accountable! Anyone want to join me?

Here are some of my tips on detoxing from sugar:

  1. Reach for fruit when you want M&Ms.  Make them low-carb fruits like berries, pears, cherries, grapefruit, etc if you can.  But don’t beat yourself up if you eat a mango.  That would be ridiculous.  If fruit wont crush the craving, have a little handful of nuts too, maybe some walnuts, almonds, macadamias or nut butter (with no sugar added). I think the combination of fruit and nuts provide the same fatty sweet satisfaction.  Even if it is not a chocolate lava cake.
  2. If I finish a meal and I want that sugar rush I quickly make tea and focus on that rather than the brownies in my freezer.  I recently discovered GoodEarth tea at Target, which is my new favorite!
  3. Avoid processed and packaged foods when you are trying to detox sugar.  Most packaged foods are full of sugar.
  4. Drink a lot of lemon water. It keeps me full.  Currently I am a little too full.  Whoops.
  5. Don’t be afraid of good fats, they will keep you full and satisfied.  Eggs, avocado, salmon, nuts, olives and pumpkin seeds are some of my favorite fatty foods.

Let me know if you try the recipe or the sugar free challenge! They are both wonderful in their own ways.