Strong is the New Skinny. And Oodles of Zoodles!

As anyone who follows us on Facebook or Instagram already knows, this past weekend, Kayte and I competed in the Civilian Military Combine in NYC on the US Intrepid. It was a truly awesome experience and we’ll be writing a full post on it later this week, but for now I couldn’t resist at least sharing a picture of our amazing team.

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Team Sparta!

One of the coolest things about this event was getting to see all of the kickass women out there. Out of 482 total participants, 188 were female. That’s about 40% – not too shabby! I think a lot of this can be contributed to the huge growth of Crossfit, which has been attracting more and more women over the past couple of years.

 However, despite this tremendous growth, there is still a lot of convincing to be done when it comes to getting women to even pick up and weight. And I don’t mean grabbing two 5-pound dumbbells and doing a few bicep curls and maybe a couple of lunges. I’m talking challenging weight. Weight that is actually hard.

But why? There are pictures of strong women with awesome physiques all over the media, and trust me, they did not get their bodies purely by doing cardio and starving themselves. I guarantee you that even your favorite spin instructor with the awesome bod did not get her “toned” arms from spinning alone. So why do women need so much convincing when it comes to lifting weights?

Well, I’ll begin with a couple of misconceptions that are unfortunately all too common and continue to keep women isolated to the cardio machines…

1.       Lifting weights will make you bulky.  This is simply not true. Women do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to bulk up. The bodybuilders that you see that look “manly” do not get that way from lifting weights alone. They are either taking some sort of supplements, or they are part of the 1% of the female population that is able to bulk up like men. Some women might say they naturally get bulky when they lift, but this is probably due more to diet and a higher percentage of body fat than it is to the amount of muscle they’re carrying.

 Often when I talk about wanting to get stronger or be able to lift heavier, people reply with, “but aren’t you afraid of getting bulky?” Well, I am currently stronger and can lift more than I’ve ever been able to in my life, and I would consider myself the “leanest” that I’ve ever been as well. Why? Because most of the extra “bulk” that I carried was actually fat, not muscle mass! And if you’re reading this and thinking that I’m bulky, then we can have a separate conversation about that later 😉

 I think Dwight sums it up best:

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 2.       Cardio is the best way to burn fat. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is important. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up, build endurance and can burn a ton of calories while you’re actually doing it. And I’m really not saying to forget about it, I just think it’s overdone. Just because you are sweating bullets does not necessarily mean that you’re burning more fat. Anyone who has lifted weights at high intensity can tell you they felt just as fatigued, if not more, than they would have from doing cardio for that same amount of time.

 Unfortunately, many women get discouraged when they first start lifting because they notice their legs/shoulders/arms getting bigger and their weight going up, and they decide to throw in the towel and resort back to purely cardio. What they don’t realize is that their bodies have started building muscle (hence the weight gain), but they haven’t necessarily started to burn the fat on top of that muscle yet. However, as that lean muscle mass continues to increase, body fat will start to decrease (assuming they are also eating well) and that newly formed muscle will start to show!

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These next two aren’t as much misconceptions as they are additional comments that you often here in regards to weight lifting…

 3.      But I just want to tone my arms. Well, any decent trainer will tell you that you cannot target fat loss. You will lose fat wherever there is fat to lose. Just like people carry their fat in different places, people lose fat differently as well, and unfortunately, this is not something that you can control. So the only way that you’re going to “tone” any part of your body is going to be by lifting weights to build muscle, and simultaneously decreasing body fat so that your muscle will show. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to target certain muscle groups, but it won’t matter if you have fat on top of them.

 4. I don’t care about muscle, I just want to be skinny. We’ve all heard the term “skinny fat.” While I don’t think that anyone wants to think they fall into that bucket, there are always going to be people who are naturally skinny and don’t care about being strong or having muscle. Well, obviously everyone has different end goals when it comes to fitness, but there are several reasons beyond aesthetics that being “skinny fat” can ultimately be hazardous to one’s health. Rather than going into detail on the topic in this post, I’ll let the good people at Tabata Times do it for me.

 So, now that I’ve convinced you all to start lifting weights (right?), you’re wondering where to start. I would say second to being afraid of bulking up, simply not knowing what to do when it comes to weight is the next biggest deterrent to women. Well, stay tuned for an upcoming post on weight lifting tips for beginners!

 In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my “zoodle” recipe!

 Zoodles and Meatballs

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Zoodles

 1 zucchini

 1 Julienne peeler (I bought mine on Amazon to save a few bucks)

Nomnom Paleo (another awesome blog you should check out for yummy, clean recipes) explains zoodle preparation way better than I can.

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Zoodles

You can either pop them in the microwave or sautee them to get them warm. I like mine with a bit of a crunch to them.

Turkey Artichoke Meatballs

 1 lb lean ground turkey

1 can artichokes, chopped

½ onion, chopped

1 cup spinach, chopped

Seasoning of choice (I used garlic, basil and red pepper flakes)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix chopped vegetables and turkey in a bowl. Roll turkey/veggie mixture into balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until turkey is thoroughly cooked.

Marinara Sauce

 ½ jar of natural marinara sauce (ingredients should be tomatoes and seasonings, for the most part)

½ bell pepper, chopped

½ onion, chopped

Basil

Black pepper

 Grease skillet and add onion and bell pepper. Sautee until onions are translucent, then add sauce. Add basil and pepper and stir. Cover and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

When sauce is finished, pour over zoodles and add a few meatballs. They even twist around a fork just like noodles!

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Have an awesome week!

 Julia

Performance Training, Plyometrics & Pizza

I’ve mentioned before that I love plyometrics. (Plyometrics, “Jump Training” or “Plyos” are explosive exercises that exert max force in a very short amount of time. For more info, check out this page.) I also love any kind of training that really gets my heart rate up, gets me breathing heavy and leaves me feeling like I might fall over or pass out! I guess it reminds me of conditioning for sports and makes me feel athletic…or maybe I’m just an adrenaline junky! Either way, any HIIT, circuits, cross-fit, sprints etc makes me feel amazing and yields results!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

I mentioned last week that I had, on occasion, received flack from other trainers about all of the high-intensity jumping and plyometric training that I previous had in my program.  While most of the jabs were well intentioned, after a while I started to question myself and began to shy away from jump-training. Instead of listening to my body and training in a way that worked best for me, I was altering my program to fit other people’s expectations.  My body wasn’t responding as well as it previously had and I wasn’t feeling as accomplished post-workout.

Last week, I came across an article in oxygen magazine about the benefits of plyometrics, that got my wheels spinning. Some of the key notes from the article were that plyos;

  1. Improve athletic performance
  2. Encourage muscle change and adaptation
  3. Increase metabolism and post-workout calorie burn

While these statements certainly support my love of plyos, it was this quote from strength and conditioning coach, Molly Galbraith, that really hit home and got me thinking:

“Plyometrics teach you how to produce force, absorb impact on landing and enhance body control, all of which contribute to stronger joints, a reduced risk of injury, and better skills when playing sports.”

This really opened my eyes and I began to notice a correlation between my training and recent injuries. Over the last 6 months I have incurred 2 injuries that have completely halted my training.  I currently have a pinched nerve (possibly a herniated disk) that started as a sore neck the day before I left to cheer for the NBA All Star Games in February and worsened during the week while we performed.  In addition to that injury, I sprained my ankle in October at practice the day before leaving for a 2 week NBA cheerleading trip around the world.

I Spy!  Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

I Spy! Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

Before these incidents, I had never really been one to have injuries.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely a little reckless and careless in a bull-in-a-china-shop kind of way, but I’m also very “durable” as my husband would put it.  I’ve spent a fair share of time in the ER for stitches, concussions and the occasional broken finger, but I’ve never really had an injury that kept me “on the bench” so to speak.  Since Both injuries happened while cheerleading, I initially came to the most logical conclusion, Cheerleading = Injury.  I thought, “Maybe this is a sign that it’s time to hang up my pom-poms, because lets face it, 29 is a little old to still be cheering!”  And while age may play a little part, I’m thinking there may be more to it.

After taking another look at my training and injuries with the article in mind, I started thinking that maybe the correlation wasn’t directly caused by cheerleading (or age,) but by the change in my program.  Since I began working out in a gym 11 years ago, I was training for my sport….Cheerleading. Everything I did in the gym was geared towards becoming a better athlete.  And while I have always kept a well rounded program, we (the cheerleaders) definitely had more plyometrics and jumping than say, a marathon runner would…and for good reason, you practice what you will perform.  Maybe these injuries had occurred because I was no longer as conditioned to perform cheerleading skills as I had been in the past.  You need to train for your sport.  If I am going to jump and flip, I should continue to train to be able to jump and flip.

Jump & Flip

Jump & Flip

Moral of the story, listen to your body. You are the one who is ultimately responsible for your health and the one who has to live with your decisions.  When it comes to training, there is so much information out there…so learn all you can, apply what think you need and make the decisions that are best for you!

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I am so looking forward to returning to my normal, balanced training program, complete with plyometrics!  If you are looking for some plyometric moves to add to your routine, check out some exercises on our YouTube channel. My friend, college roommate, and kick-ass group fitness instructor, Caitlin McGowan and I videoed some of our favorite moves after her class yesterday.

Check out our YouTube channel here!

After Caitlin's class

After Caitlin’s class

As a final note, while working through these injuries, it has been especially important to keep my diet extra clean! Check out this Egg White “Pizza” that I tried this week!

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

1.) Spray frying pan with oil, then cook egg white mixture (below) into omelette “crust.” Flip when fully cooked

  • 5 egg whites (Add 1 Tbsp water and pepper to taste)

2.) Mix the following together and spread onto cooked eggs

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano

3.) Add to following onto the tomato sauce until cheese melts

  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • sliced veggies (we chose mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

*Recipe adapted from “Clean Eating Quick & Easy Meals”

Enjoy!

Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Clean Eating…and Stuffed Bell Peppers!

“You are what you eat.” “Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

You’ve all heard it in one form or another. And it’s true, unless you have an amazing metabolism (in which case I’m super jealous of you), you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your exercise program without eating well along with it. Plus, we like our bodies, right? So why not be nice to them and give them things that will make them happy?

So what does this mean? What should you eat? Should you eat less? More? High protein? Low carbs? No fat? With all of the diets and products out there, it’s no wonder everyone is confused…who wouldn’t be?

Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you what I eat. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, but this is what works for me. And guess what, I feel good AND I enjoy what I’m eating. Isn’t that what really matters?

But before I get down to business, I have something VERY IMPORTANT to share. Ok, not really. I just needed an excuse to embarrass my friends by posting these pictures that I received via text on Saturday.


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Oh, yeah. That happened. Oh, and I’m supposed to be very clear about the fact that they are making fun of people who take “gym selfies.” Because apparently that makes this acceptable.

What’s a “gym selfie?” You know, those people who should be working out but instead are too busy taking pictures of themselves in the mirror. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Well don’t worry, I took one of my own.

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 Not laughing yet? How about  now?

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can focus on the real subject of this post, which was…oh yes, eating. Ok, here goes. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, I’ve buried it all the way at the bottom so just keep scrolling.

I’m going to list a few (relatively) simple rules of thumb that guide my eating habits. I will probably link out to other articles, especially as it regards to more “scientific” subject matter, because I do not have a science background and would probably only confuse you (and myself) more.

Eat REAL food. What does this mean? Try to avoid anything that is processed. How can you tell if it’s processed? Well, first off, if you see a commercial for it on TV, it’s probably not natural. Check the ingredients. Is there a long list of things that you don’t understand? Is sugar an ingredient? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s most likely processed. Real foods include fruits, veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc. Basically, if you stick to the perimeter of the  grocery store when you do your shopping, you’ll be able to avoid the processed things. I realize you can’t do this 100% of the time, but if you do it 80% of the time, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel. I promise.

Don’t fear the fat. This could be an entire post on it’s own. People think that in order to lose fat they need to eat fat free foods. This is simply not true. Fat plays several important roles in our diet from making us feel full to improving our mental states and energy levels. Fat is especially important if you’re on a low carb diet, because while protein will help to build muscle, your body needs something to run on for fuel! If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, I would recommend reading this.

Grain or no grain? Avoiding grains, particularly gluten, seems to be an emerging trend, and some may wonder whether or not they should jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Basically, gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, even in those who do not have Celiac disease One of my favorite bloggers, the Petite Athleat, gives a great breakdown of the benefits of not eating gluten as well as a breakdown of the alternatives to wheat flour – almond vs. coconut – here. Well, I decided to give the whole gluten free diet a whirl and have been avoiding gluten, for the most part, for the past 3 months, and I can say I’ve never felt better. My digestive issues have gone away (that alone is enough for me to never eat wheat again), I have more energy and fewer cravings and as an added bonus, I’ve leaned out a bit. 

Drink more water. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s very important to stay hydrated. This will help keep you full, give you that youthful glow you try so desperately to achieve through bronzer and blush, keep your muscle energized and mostly importantly, keep you “regular.” Need I say more? For those stuck behind a desk like me, I recommend keeping a glass of water at your desk and getting up to refill each time it’s empty. This also serves as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs every once and a while.

Limit your alcohol intake. We all know that excessive alcohol consumption leads to weight gain. Remember the Freshman 15? Yeah. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol altogether would maximize your results. But we’re all human and after a long week, we need a drink. Or two. Or three… If we’re going to drink, why not choose something that has some health benefits? I actually stumbled upon a useful article the other day that outlines the health benefits (or lack of benefits) of each type of alcohol. All I can say is, bring on the red wine and whisky.

So now you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what do I eat?!

Well, your grocery cart might look something like this.

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Ok, so what do I do with all this food? Won’t it go bad? Don’t you spend a lot of money on groceries? Have no fear! I have a solution!

Prep your meals in advance. This is crucial if you don’t want to waste food and money. I usually do my grocery shopping and prepare my lunches for the week on Sundays. I’ll cook all of the fresh food that I buy (because there’s nothing worse than wasting food), and then portion everything out into tupperware containers. Voila, 5 days of lunch! It can get a little boring eating the same thing every day, but I try to include a variety of veggies/proteins and change up the “dressings” that I use – alternating between avocado, hummus and salsa – to keep my taste buds happy.

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Freeze food. If you are afaid that something will go bad, just pop it in the freezer! No food wasted!

Portion out your snacks. This is a great way to avoid eating that entire container of mango that you bought in one sitting.

Trader Joe’s is a godsend. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but if it weren’t for TJs, I would be seriously broke. Their prices are absolutely unbeatable.

Get creative. There are TONS of easy recipes out there that you can make with just a few simple ingredients! Google is your friend people, use it. 

People often ask what I eat in a typical day. While food and nutrient intake is dependent on a million different factors (body mass index, basal metabolic rate, body composition, allergens) as well as your goals – do you want to lose fat, build muscle, maintain – here is what an average weekday of eating looks like for me. Keep in mind that I workout at 6:30am every morning (crossfit or HIIT) and then sit at a desk from 9am-6pm each day before walking the mile home to my apartment.

5:30am Pre-workout pancake + cup of coffee
8:00am Post-workout protein shake (1 banana, 1 scoop whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk/water)
9:30am 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 small sweet potato, 2 slices Applegate Farms turkey
11:00am String cheese
1:30pm Bowl of assorted roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, mushrooms) on bed of spinach or kale, 5 roasted sweet potato “chips”, 4 turkey meatballs (I make mine without the oats), topped with hummus/avocado/salsa
4:00pm Apple with almond butter
7:30pm Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and goat cheese or pancakes topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries

And finallyyyyyyyy, a recipe!

Last Friday, I had a couple of friends over and we made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. They were absolutely amazing so I thought I would share this delicious recipe with you.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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You will need:

3 large red bell peppers

Filling:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Splash of vinegar (white or balsamic both work)

Seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Wrap in foil, place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook ground turkey in skillet until browned. Remove from skillet and sautee onion, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Once veggies are cooked, combine with turkey. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to turkey/veggie mixture. Remove peppers from oven and stuff.

Place stuffed peppers back in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!

Until next time,

Julia

A Holiday Weekend Full of Clean-Eats and At-Home Workouts

I arrived in Pittsburgh last night for the first time since Christmas and it’s true…there really is no place like home!! As much as I love the fast paced lifestyle of NYC, it’s so nice to come home, relax and spend time with my family…especially my 9 month old niece Lilly.

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My niece Lilly & my dog, Bella

My older sister Emily is getting married in June, and like most brides she wants to be in the best shape possible for the big day! My younger sister Laura had Lilly not too long ago and wants to lose the baby weight. The rest of the family, myself included, also hope to look our best for the June 22nd Wedding, especially for the photos that will be displayed on the mantel for the rest of our lives! We all decided to enter into a friendly, family version of the Biggest Loser that started February 1st and will last until the Wedding.

Since tomorrow holds a family holiday dinner, complete with dessert, we decided that it would be a great idea to get in a pre-Easter at-home workout! The timing seems perfect as we’ve had some inquiries about what exercises are good for a beginner, someone who is not very familiar with the gym or for someone who may be working out at home.

Check out the full-body strength workout that we did this morning!

Full-body at-home strength workout

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Laura & Mom doing lateral band walks

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Bird Dog & Tricep Dips

To finish off our active morning, after the workout we took advantage of the nice weather and went for a family walk around the neighborhood.

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Family walk 🙂

Aside from the workouts, my family has been trying to keep a clean diet. While lunch was being prepared, we snacked on vegi’s with a greek yogurt dip (greek yogurt mixed with french onion seasoning.)

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Vegi’s and Greek Yogurt Dip

For lunch, my mom found this Tuna Salad recipe for our post-workout meal!

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Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad with Laughing Cow
• 2 cans tuna, drain and rinse
• 3 wedges laughing cow
• 2 heaping tbsp minced red pepper
• 2 heaping tbsp minced celery

Serve on bed of lettuce or as lettuce wrap with sliced tomatoes.

To keep each other motivated in the Biggest Loser journey, we have been passing clean recipes back and forth. One of our favorites is a slight modification from a recipe that we found online at bodybuilding.com, Turkey Meatloaf Muffins. I am always looking for quick, flavorful recipes that are easy to eat on the go or between training clients. I double the batch and freeze them in individual baggies so I am never without clean meal options. I’ve noted the (modifications) that we made below, but left the original in case you want to try. I hope you enjoy!

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Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
• 2 lbs ground turkey or chicken
• 3 egg whites
• 1 cup quick cooking oats
• 1/2 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 2 tsp dry yellow mustard
• 2 tsp black pepper
• 2 tsp chipotle pepper spice (Did not use)
• 1 tsp salt (Did not use)
• 2 tbsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves minced (I used 1/2 tbsp, but some might like the garlic…try both 🙂 )
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray muffin pan with canola or olive oil.
Mix all your ingredients together in one large bowl.
Roll the mixture into balls and place in muffin pan.
Muffins should be about the size of aracquetball.
Bake for 40 minutes.

I hope you all enjoy these recipes! Have a great weekend and a Happy Easter!
-Kayte

Neon Socks, Partner WODs and PANCAKES…oh my!

It’s been one of those weeks. You know what I mean? I think it partially has to do with this annoying winter that just does not want to end.  Seriously, winter, it’s been swell but it’s time to let spring have its turn. Let’s not get greedy.

The GOOD thing about this week is that I’ve had the blog to keep me distracted. I really hope y’all are enjoying it so far.

Other highlights of the week included getting to do an awesome Partner WOD.

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And doing some delicious (and nutritious) cooking with a friend. Actually, I think I mostly just enjoyed seeing him in an apron.

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Hokay, moving on to my favorite things. Hmmm, where to start…

Ah, my Zensah compression sleeves. These guys are truly awesome. Maybe the best gift I’ve ever received. I really need to get some more colors, although I do love my pink. If you follow the blog, you’ll be seeing these a lot.

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 For those who don’t know about compression sleeves, they help with everything from calf support to shin splint relief and also help decrease fatigue. They can be worn during training/running or afterwards for recovery. I like to wear them for sprints, box jumps, jump ropes, or anything else where you’re on your toes and putting a lot of stress on your shins.

Plus, they come in NEON. What’s not to love?

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Next on the list of favorites is my workout buddies.

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Seriously, I love these girls. They get me in all my craziness. They are my outlet when I need to let off steam, tell someone about a new PR or whine about being sore. People hate on “globo” gyms, but if it weren’t for mine, I never would have met some awesome people. And let me tell you, knowing that I get to see friendly faces each morning is a HUGE motivator to drag my butt out of bed at 530am on a cold winter day.

And we have matching compression socks, duh.

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Finally, PANCAKES! I love pancakes. For breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re always yummy. Top them with Greek yogurt and berries. Throw an egg  and some bacon on them. Eat one plain for a little pre-workout fuel. They’re just wonderful.

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A lot of people have requested this recipe so here it is! I adapted it from several different sources, and it can take a while to get them the right consistency, so you may have to play around with the proportions a bit.

Gluten-free (Spinach) Banana Pancakes

Yields 6-8 pancakes

1 (very) ripe banana

3 eggs

1 cup egg whites

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (I use vanilla)

1/2 cup coconut flour (sometimes I do half coconut flour/half almond meal)

1 tsp baking powder

Dash of cinnamon

Optional: Add handful of spinach to make them green!

Mix the banana, spinach, eggs and milk in a blender. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl. Pour wet into dry and mix well. Grease skillet with fat of choice, place over medium heat, pour on the batter and get to flippin’!

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YUM.

Enjoy the weekend!

Julia