Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sweat: HOT Yoga

"Hot Yoga" views sweat as our body's natural healing mechanism.  The yoga practice, performed in a room kept at 95-105 degrees, opens your skin's pores, allowing the release of toxins.  This, combined with special breathing practices, makes for a powerful cleansing practice.


According to Powerflow, some benefits of Hot Yoga (and, in my opinion, yoga in general) include reduced back pain, improved posture, increased energy, lower blood pressure, glowing skin, clearer mind, less cravings for unhealthy habits, and improved reactions to stressors.

I've been enjoying fulfilling my June Goal to do yoga 3x/week via Courtney's Challenge, and morning yoga has become part of my regular routine.  Sooo... when an online coupon showed up in my inbox, I couldn't resist the opportunity to finally try the infamous hot yoga workout.  It was a great deal ($29 for a month of unlimited classes!), so although hot yoga is probably not the kind of thing I'd do on a daily basis, it is the kind of thing I'm happy to try out over the course of a month to see if I really feel the benefits.

Before heading to my first class, some folks on Twitter gave great advice:

Thank you Laura, Lisa, Brianne, Bex, Brittany, Rachel, Melissa, Leah, and Chelsey

With these wise words in mind, off I went to the studio.  Mind you, this was my first time at a yoga studio at all, so the whole experience as new to me. I liked the studio feel, but more on that later.

The room: HOT. wood flooring and walls give it a "sauna" feel, which it kinda is.  It started out not so bad, just standing there, but with time the heat became more and more glaring, as though the sun were directly overhead.
The people: warm (ha-ha), inviting, invested.
The class: 1 hour 15 min (my longest yoga class yet!)
My Experience: 
The instructor was very blissful, kind, and diversified her instruction across all levels, and the class certainly had students of all levels.  We started out simply, with ujjayi breathing, and then an "Om" (not typical of my classes, so makes me feel a little... ommmmmsilly), but it was nice.  There was no music for the first 15-20 minutes (out of 75), which really helped me follow the breaths in and out.

Moving into even the most basic opening-up poses, I started to feel warm.  Through the Sun Salutations, we heated up. About 5 to 10 minutes in, before even moving into vinyasas or the 'fancier' poses, I was already breaking a sweat.

Drip.  Drop.  Ouch, my eyes.

"We're all counting on you."

For this reason, it helped to have those spare towels (thanks Laura and Rachel!) nearby so I could wipe my eyes, face, shoulders.  I tried not to break out of a pose until she gave us a chance (about 4 times throughout) to push back into child's pose and grab a drink or wipe-down as needed.  Only once or twice otherwise, when turning my head down caused the sweat to sting my eyes, did I reach for the towel unprompted.  (NOTE: it is ALWAYS okay to stop and have a drink or wipe your face during ANY type of workout!  You do what your body needs, if you're hot or thirsty or simply need a break, do not be embarrassed or push yourself beyond your actual limits, especially in a new/scary/HOT workout like this.)

Read more to hear how the heat impacted the workout...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Set a New Pace: summer virtual 5k

In the beginning of the month, I signed up for Toni's "Welcome to Summer Virtual 5k", hoping it would motivate me to get running!

Every day this month seemed to be either pouring rain or sweltering heat. Not my cup of tea. So, sadly, most of my runs were on the treadmill.  However, I kept moving, I challenged myself with intervals and steady runs.  Most were in the two- to four-mile range.  Nothing amazing, but decent half-hour workouts.  

Before I knew it, it was time to be running the virtual race!  Wow, June flew by quickly.  (Every month seems to be going by quickly...)  Not wanting to run in 98-degree humidity on Sunday, I went to the gym to complete the run on the treadmill.  Better than nothing, and it turned out, one of my best runs yet.

I stepped on, set the incline to my standard 0.5%, and after a 3-minute walking warm up, set the speed to 6.5 mph and ran.  Now, usually I do 6.0 when I'm planning to just run continuously.  That's my comfortable pace.  That, I know I can do for 30 minutes straight both on the treadmill and on the road (race recap!).  6.5 mph is slightly above there, but it was time to get out of my comfort zone (see Charlotte's post for similar inspiration!).  I hoped that all my recent interval training would make me suddenly able to sustain a slightly higher pace.

So, 6.5 is set.  Now, Meredith, don't touch it.  Hands off.  Towel over the screen, you're running for the next 30 minutes.  Aaand go. 

I listened to my motivational music.  Just when I got tired after about Mile 2 and wanted to slow down to 6.0, or maybe even 5.5, "I Surrender" ("I Surrender" - Cadence, Micky Modelle RMX) came on, and it pushed me further.  From my first 5k race playlist, I knew the song was 6 minutes long.  "Keep going until this song ends."  That was easy enough, the song motivated me.  But then I just kept going.  Six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes later, why stop now?  So, powering through, I decided that I would run the entire 3 miles at a 6.5 mph pace. 

And that, I did. :)  

Final time: 27:41

I simply didn't touch it until I passed three miles. 

Two problems:
(1)  The shot above shows 27:57 but that's because, not used to photographing my treadmill, I completely flubbed in first trying to pause it, but then "Paused" replaced my data.  Then I let it keep going but had to step off so I could properly take the picture.  Fail.
(2)  A 5k is 3.1 miles and not 3.  I seem to always forget the little tenth of a mile!  Good thing I'd already covered that distance in the aforementioned 3-minute warm-up.

yayyy gross after run!
hitting the mat. 

Nice and sweaty, I went off to work my abs and stretch, thrilled with my new running time.  Is it a PR?  Kinda?  It was 3 miles, not 3.1, and it was on the treadmill rather than outside, so I'm not sure if it counts.  My fastest 5k time was 28:09, although in that race, I stopped to walk for a few moments.  

Anyhoo - I DID IT.  I increased my pace! Now, I plan to keep testing myself, breaking slowly but surely out of my comfort zone. Next, I'll try repeating this, continuing my interval runs, and taking my new pace outside. 

Accomplish one goal, adjust it, and repeat. See ya next time ;)

(One day left to enter: GIVEAWAY!) 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tangy Tuna/Salmon

Thanks for your kind words and helpful feedback on my 100th Post!  Don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY if you haven't, yet.  A lot of you asked for recipes, so I'll be sharing one today.  It's kind of  overdue, because I've been making it repeatedly for four months, now.

The other day, I posted a food photo to Instragram / Twitter and the crowd went wild.

Salmon Avocado Mash 

Yum!  What is it?  Where's the recipe?  When am I sharing? I had to laugh a little, because the caption really explained it all: "Salmon avocado slaw."  It's that simple, folks.  Not much else to it but a little dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar.  Combine, mash, and done.  Yet, the inquiries rolled in.  Well, folks, here ya go!  I'm about to give you the inside scoop on my latest favorite mish-mash meal: Tangy Tuna.

It began when I started eating paleo.  I made my own tuna salad-style tuna. It was about two or three hefty servings, and looked something like this:

Lots of tuna, celery, carrots

Add  a squeeze of lemon juice, heap on the dill,
sprinkle ground pepper and sea salt,
a few Tbsp dijon mustard, and a bit of EVOO, balsamic vinegar.

With a fork or a masher (I don't know what it's called in culinary terms),
combine the ingredients. Hence my dubbing this my "mish mash."


So quick.  So simple.  So tasty.  (And so filling!  Fish = protein.)

Then, I continued making this mish mash, using whatever vegetables--raw or cooked--I had on hand.  I stopped using olive oil and balsamic and instead swapped in apple cider vinegar and added a handful of plain, old fashioned slaw to bulk it up and eat my greens.  It started to look more like this:

Soon, multiple times a week, I found myself making a tuna-mash of some sort, now often (okay, almost ALWAYS) incorporating avocados, which made it even better.

BELOW are my typical STEPS/ingredients, almost a daily ritual now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Heed the Heat

Have you entered the giveaway yet? 

Today was the summer solstice, and mother nature celebrated with a sudden heat surge.  We saw (and felt) temps in the 90s (which felt far worse with humidity), and tomorrow is predicted to be similar.  What this indicates for the rest of the summer, I don’t know, but this head-first dive into summer heat reminds us that we must be careful when spending time outdoors—ESPECIALLY when working out!

Know your (UV) A, B, and Cs

Whether you’re sitting outside to enjoy a meal or you’re out training for a marathon, it’s important to be aware of the sun’s effects on our bodies and how we can prevent it from harming us.  So, runners, before you hit the road this week, be sure to get back into the habit of heeding the heat, with these steps: 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

100th Post Giveaway!

98... 99... 100!! This is Dare You To's 100th post, so we're celebrating by SHARING some goodies acquired recently.

Enter to Win!

First, to demonstrate your loyalty as a reader, you must suffer through an explanation of my workout.  That's right; you've gotta earn your giveaway entries!

On Friday morning, I woke up way too tired.  The night before, even after the interesting and educational Technogel Twitter chat with FitFluential (where we talked all about the importance of sleep quality and quantity, and how Technogel pillows can help with both), I had a miserable night's sleep.  It took me some time to fall asleep, and then I woke at 3-something in the morning, overheated.  After hitting the restroom and turning on a fan, it still took me a while to fall back asleep.  Then, I woke again at 8-something, even though I had not set my alarm and had no reason to be up. Blah.

BUT!  I had to run!  That was the plan, and who knew what the weekend would bring (turns out: not much in the way of working out), and I wanted to get some fitness in before things got busy.  Plus, I knew a good sweat would wake me up, helping me recover from the lousy morning.  So, off to the gym, for a 30-minute treadmill interval workout. 

The After

I set my Garmin to lead me through an interval workout, changing my speed on the treadmill as my watch beeped.  The time length of the 1:2 intervals remained the same, but I constructed a speed pyramid as I went (from 6 mph up to 10 down to 6), so my 3-mile run went like this:

The result? 

This is why I love intervals.

The pyramid-style build and descent kept me interested, and the 2-minute walking recoveries made this doable in my sleep-deprived state. My soaring heart rate and beads (/buckets) of sweat were just the wakeup I needed.  I'm SO glad I laced up and got moving instead of sitting around, feeling tired.

No matter how tired/bummed out/overwhelmed/sluggish you are feeling, you'll always feel better after your workout.  So even on the weekends, #MOVE! (FitFluential)

Always YES!

OK, you've earned it.  It's GIVEAWAY TIME! Read on...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wake up with A.M. Yoga

As part of my June Goals and the June Yoga Challenge, I've been successfully incorporating yoga into my MORNINGS.  

This was a change for me. Typically, before, this crazy month, I went to yoga regularly at my gym, once on Monday late afternoons and once on Friday mornings.  Being too busy to go to these, and also enjoying the wake-up stretching, I've begun using yoga DVDs at home.  Last week's check-in explains a bit of what I've been up to, but I'll elaborate on the morning routine here.  This week, Sunday and Thursday were the only days where I got a different type of workout in (running and weights), so yoga really carried me this week!  And it's been nice. My body feels good :)

So what yoga have I been doing?  Morning yoga.  Sometimes post-gym. Often in the morning, in my PJs.  It is nice.

In my swag bag from the Fitness Magazine Blogger Meet & Tweet, I received a DVD from element: mind & body, the AM & PM YOGA for beginners.  I didn't know what to expect, but I immediately fell in love.

"Yoga is a wonderful way to help you keep fit, relieve stress, and ease your everyday experiences. Filmed on a beautifully serene location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, these two 30-minute programs will help you realize all the benefits of yoga by unveiling a new connection between your body and mind.  
The AM sequence enhances basic poses with gentle repetitions to invigorate, tone, and streamline your body while reconnecting to your breathing in a new way every time you practice.
The PM sequence is designed to dissolve stress as it lengthens and opens your muscles.  You'll learn to use your alignment to expand your breathing capacity, nourishing oyur body, and balancing your entire being."
[back of dvd]

The first time I tried the DVD was the day after the Meet & Tweet, and I was about to become incredibly sore from the kick-butt Tabura workout run by Reign and KiwiSweat. A reminder:

So that Thursday morning, although exhausted from the previous day's events and without time to hit the gym, I knew that I needed to stretch before I became the Tin Man.  SO, I looked at my new pile of goodies and picked out this DVD.

It was morning, so I made the obvious selection to do the "AM" workout.  Both the AM and PM workout are 30 minutes long, which is long enough to really get into the yoga mindset and to do a range of poses, but isn't quite so long that it means taking an hour + out of your day to do.

Short enough to fit in,
Long enough to be effective.

The instructor is Elena Brower, Certified Anusara Yoga teacher.  She does the entire routine herself on film, with her voiceover giving instructions.  I like this a lot, because she's doing it with you, rather than looking at you and giving you orders.  She also speaks just the right amount for my taste.  Especially with something like yoga, where my mind is supposed to be at peace and concentrating on my body, it's important that the teacher speaks clearly, calmly, and concisely, while still providing enough instruction.

Ms. Brower does an excellent job explaining the positions--it is a 'beginner' DVD, after all--without overdoing it.  Although I've been practicing yoga for almost a year now, I feel my form in some poses (such as downward dog, cat/cow, and warrior) has dramatically improved since using this DVD.  My breathing, too, has benefited from her instructions for breathing in, breathing out, and moving deeper into positions.  The breathing aspect isn't stressed enough in the class I regularly attend, but the synching of breath with flow really makes all the difference.

Caveat: I like the AM program more than the PM progam.  To be fair, I only tried the PM one... twice.  I found it too slow and couldn't quite get into it.  Maybe that's MY issue; even though I always briefly stretch before bed, maybe at night, I get too antsy to do 30 minutes of stretching when I could, instead, simply get into bed for 30 minutes more of sleep.  (...or 30 more minutes to shut down before sleep.)  I'll give it another try when I have plenty of time before needing to sleep, but for now, I'll stick to the one get the most out of...

The A.M. PROGRAM: Although last week, it only got used twice or thrice, this week, I've been doing it daily!  Whether or not I work out in a different way, this yoga DVD has become an integral part of my morning routine.  If I work out (run, elliptical, spin, weights), then this is a fantastic 30-minute stretch afterward.  If I do not work out or work out later in the day, then this is certainly enough to get my blood moving, my body warm, and my limbs lengthened, all before breakfast. :)

The moves include Downard-facing dog, plank, basic sun salutations, Warrior I, II, and III, several great twists, Cobras, etc.  Most of the basics, but a lot of variation even within this short video.  I always look forward to the Warrior poses, because those are not usually done in the class at my gym, but I really like the challenge to my balance and leg strength. Her instructions for how to direct my knee forward really helped my form, too.

Level: If you're a beginner, you'll benefit from the step-by-step instructions.  If you're a seasoned pro, it could be help to hear the basics again, but she does also include a more challenging version of each pose (which I do), and reminds you to refocus your breathing.

Even better than a workout, though, the 30 minutes have become my wake-up time, my energizing time, my time to stretch and transition from sleep to awareness.  It challenges your muscles just enough to become alert, without being too strenuous or difficult a yoga workout to strain my half-asleep brain or make me sweat.  If I'm Goldilocks, this is my "just right."  

It's also been a fantastic way to incorporate more yoga into my life, without having to get out to an organized class.  This week, I did yoga every. single. morning.  Just 30 minutes, and I'm ready for my day.  

Highly recommended.

So that's what I've been up to!  I'm definitely meeting my goal of 30 minutes, 3x/week.  It's kept me grounded in otherwise busy times, so I'm hoping to keep it up next week!

I dare YOU to sneak some yoga, or even just a bit of stretching, into your morning routine. Give your mind and body a chance to ease from slumber to sunshine.  Get the benefits of yoga at the start of your day, and increase awareness and function all day long.  The benefits of your yoga practice go beyond the mat, extending into your day-to-day tasks and behaviors.  Those benefits and the practicing mindset are what make yoga such a great way to start the day.

Also, keep in mind the wise words Ms. Brower concludes with:

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Do you stretch in the morning?  
Have any other yoga DVDs I should try out? I'm already pining after Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown, but what else?  Variety is what will sustain this morning habit beyond just this month. 

Dislaimer: I received this product for free while attending a FITNESS Magazine event, but was not asked to review the product, nor was I compensated for this post. While I do thank FITNESS and Element for the gift, the beliefs and experiences shared above are purely my own. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quinoa with Greens, Tomatoes, and Feta

The winner of the SlimKicker Challenge & Kitchen Scale Giveaway is Maree!  The folks at SlimKicker loved your idea for a daily walk 20 minutes after dinner.  Maree, please email me at dareyoutoblog (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize!  Thank you to all who entered -- there were SO many great ideas, and I'll be following up on some of them for future dares ;)

Now for the yummy part: When I promised you a recipe way too long ago, I meant it.

Nothing warms my heart more than readers acting on inspiration from Dare You To.  Just so you know: your tweets, emails, and comments have meant the world, and I encourage you to continue sharing how DYT has inspired you to make positive changes!

When my friend Marcy said, "I WAS INSPIRED BY YOUR BLOG ... to challenge myself and do something new," I knew I had to share her story. 

She was referring to my dare to cook with a new food: Quinoa, and "I invented a recipe tonight" was the subject line in my inbox.

"It's a well-balanced meal," she wrote.  Yep, protein from quinoa, carbs from quinoa and vegetables, some fat from oil and cheese... 

To read how to make fluffy quinoa, CLICK for my Fluffy, Veggie Balsamic Quinoa

"It was so delish, and it made enough to be a few days' worth of lunch, perfect to pack for work."

As soon as I read the recipe, I knew the ingredients would make my taste buds dance.  Plus, she's getting lots of veggies in!

So many things I love: quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and the sweet taste of sauteed onions.

And now, you can love it too!  Read more to see the recipe...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tough Training + Yoga Challenge

Tough Training

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to spend an hour with a trainer at my gym.  I was nervous for being pushed out of my comfort zone, but glad to get out of the rut I've been in with my typical cardio and free-weights routines.  She had me doing plyometric squats, using machines for weight training, and medicine balls to throw around.  Everything was in sets of 15, paired with another move--also 15 sets--and I did two sets of each before moving on.

It was DEFINITELY out of my comfort zone, but helped that she was there to demonstrate the moves, to challenge me to finish the set, and to alternate which muscles were getting used (so that just when I thought I was going to die, we switched to something different that was ready for the challenge.)  It was great learning some new moves and surprising my muscles.  (It's Friday and I'm STILL sore!)

Which do YOU prefer for strength training? Free weights (barbells/dumbells)... pure body weight exercises... or strength training machines/equipment?  

Now, I have a few of EACH at my disposal to use to switch up my workouts.  I'd like to keep using machines a little bit so I learn better and keep my muscles working in different ways.  (I dare myself!)

Yoga Challenge Check-in

As part of my June Goals, I joined Courtney's June Yoga Challenge.  Originally the plan was to do 3 yoga sessions each week--an improvement over my once-or-twice a week trip to the few classes my gym offers that coincide with my schedule.

Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life

On Wednesday, I mentioned that, so far, so good, but I haven't been doing them as long or steadily as anticipated.  BUT!--I've been doing them more often.
  • Sunday: 10 minutes of yoga stretching, post-run
  • Monday: 15 minutes of sun salutations to wake up.
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes "A.M. Yoga", instructed by the Element DVD I received at the FITNESS Magazine event.  It's a 30-minute routine that really wakes me up, stretches me out, and prepares me for my day.  
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of "A.M. Yoga" (again)
  • Thursday: 55 minutes of yoga at my local gym's class.
Whoah!  I did at least a little bit of yoga each day so far!  This far exceeded my expectations, especially after completely failing a May challenge for daily yoga.  AND it looks like it's building up :)  The truth is, the amount I can do depends on my day's schedule, but I'm glad to slip a little in in the morning, when I can.  I really like the way it wakes up my body. 

TODAY?  Today, I will either do some yoga-based stretching after Spinning, or, if I feel like it, I'll stick around for the full hour class.  I've got a lot of work to do today, so I have a feeling it'll just be the stretching.  (Which is FINE!) 

How often do you do yoga?  Do you only do hour-long+ sessions, or do you sneak in short routines like I did this week?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WIAW: Walnut snack attacks

First: It's the LAST DAY to enter the GIVEAWAY  contest here!!!

Second: Happy National Running Day (Thank you, Fancy Nancy, for informing me on the holiday!)  Learn how to celebrate here.  And finish the sentence: "I run..." for health, for escape, for the CHALLENGEWhy do you run?

Third: How are my June Goals going so far?  So far, so good!
  • #MOVE: I made my return as planned on Sunday, getting back into my running with 3 miles in 30 minutes! Not continuous, but I'll get there.  The weather was stellar and made it enjoyable.  Today, I ran a mile on the treadmill before circuit training.
  • #EATHaven't had gluten since Sunday, when I had just a dropppppp.  But remember, I said during the week.  Yesterday, I was temped by a meal out, where I ate a delicious salad for dinner, but then we ordered cookies to share for dessert. Uh oh.  I almost caved, but the cookies did not look worth it, and I knew I committed to not eating gluten during the week.  Somehow, I exerted self control, turning down the oatmeal walnut cookie in front of me.  I was glad I held out!
  • #ENJOYIn keeping with Sweet Tooth Court's June Yoga Challenge, Sunday and Monday, I did 15 minutes of yoga each, the first being a yoga stretch series following my run, and the second being a series of Sun Salutations in the morning.  This morning I did a half hour of morning wake-up Yoga, and it felt faaabulous.  I love starting my day with yoga! 
  • #SLEEP:  Sunday night I got 7 hours, and last night I got 7 hours.  I got in bed with enough time to sleep 9 if I wanted, but my body woke me up. hmph. Well, not bad. I think my body prefers 7 these days, even if my goal is for 8. 

Finally!  Drumroll please...
What I Ate Wed(Tues)day

This month, Jenn of Peas & Crayons has charged us with a new #WIAW theme: "Sensible Snacking".  I've written before about Smart Snacking choices, regarding both quality and quantity.  Summary: Snack on real foods, and not too much. :D  See the original post for more detailed tips.

The day began with a typical breakfast...

Egg Scramble with spinach, mushrooms, 
salsa, and feta. 

Always yummy.

(I also had a camera-shy banana, but you all know what those look like, don't you?)

Mid-morning, my semi-sensible snacking began.  You see, there is only one thing I seemed to crave all day long: Walnuts plus Something Sweet.

Therefore, the morning snack was a handful of...

Walnuts mixed with chocolate chips

See?  Walnuts + Sweet.  Simple.

That gave me a little energy boost before my workout: the aforementioned mile on the treadmill followed by some killer circuit training.  More on THAT to come.

After the gym, I went straight to the supermarket for some necessary restocking, but first wanted to refuel my body after working out.  Before roaming the aisles -- or, the perimeter ;) -- I hit the salad bar to grab a mix of things that appealed:

Baby spinach, roasted red peppers, tuna,
and assorted melons and berries. 

It did the job.  And then I did mine, picking up some essentials.

Don't ask what compelled me to buy dates.  I've had them, ohh, twice in my life?  But I think I'm envisioning some dreamland where I'll turn them into gluten-free snack bars (<- Sarah's).  Again, fruit + nut.

Home --> Unload and organize kitchen --> Read for class ... ---> SNACK!

Reading for class is typically what makes my snack attacks come on.  And, once again, I wanted walnuts plus something sweet.  Fortunately, the shopping run gave me an option other than chocolate chips.

Walnuts + Prunes

I love Combining Fruit + Nut for a snack.  Always hits the spot!  The trick is taking your portion and walking away, because although very nutritious (omega 3 fatty acids!  antioxidants!), walnuts are high-calorie and dried fruit is high-sugar.  That's where I often get in trouble.  Today, I nibbled scarfed down way more the the measley portion photographed above.

Oh well!  Work in progress.  Make up a Zip-loc, bowl, or napkin, and put. the bags. away.

Dinner was quick and painless: takeout leftovers.

Salmon, tomatoes, mozzarella,
& onions, over shredded lettuce

So there you have it!  I may or may not have had more walnuts and/or chocolate chips and/or prunes later in the night.

That's what I ate Tuesday, semi-sensible snacking, and all.  

What triggers YOUR snack attacks?