Monthly Archives: November 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Ab Workout!

Thanksgiving is often looked upon as an opportunity to throw all semblance of a diet caution to the wind and enjoy every fattening food you can possibly imagine. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with indulging as a special treat and eating some things you might not want in your diet every day. Enjoy the special time with family and friends – and enjoy a piece of pie if you want!

For Thanksgiving this year, my family had another family over for the midday feast. They are lifelong friends that my siblings and I pretty much grew up with, and we are still great friends to this day! Their family brought over a few dishes for the meal and we my mom made a few as well. The result was an enormous spread of delicious casseroles, green beans, stuffing, turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls, corn, and cranberry jello. Yummm!

Since I eat gluten-free, I filled up on the sweet potatoes, green beans, and spinach casserole. I’m pretty sure I had 4 helpings of sweet potatoes. My mom cubes them and bakes them in the oven with some olive oil and rosemary and they are so delicious!

I had time for a quick workout this morning and decided to knock out some abs exercises! I don’t focus a lot on my abs because they get worked in a roundabout way by other weight-lifting exercises I do throughout the week. I also find that running keeps my abs pretty naturally flat. However, I love creating ab workouts and challenging myself to “feel the burn.”  😉

Here’s the random medley I created today:

60 Second Plank on Elbows (add variations such as lifting one leg and then the other, if you desire!)

50 Crunches on Stability Ball

40 Knees to Elbows, hanging from chin-up bar

30 Russian Ball Twists, holding 15lb dumbbell

20 Scissor Legs (10 on each leg)

10 Dumbbell Side Bend with 40lb dumbbell (10 on each side)
Repeat this sequence 3 times for a great overall ab workout!

And, just for fun, I had to include some hilarious “abs ecards” that made me laugh today…

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 🙂

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

A few of the many things I’m thankful for today:

– My family, who loves me unconditionally and brings me so much joy

– My friends, who put up with my craziness and always support me and stand by me

– My adorable Beagle, Cocoa, who makes me laugh with her expressions and antics

– A safe, comfortable place to come home to

– Abundance and variety of food

– The ability to run, be active and fit

– Good health

– Hot coffee after a morning run

– Sunrises and sunsets

– The changing colors of leaves in the fall

– Huge tumblers of water to keep me hydrated

– Sleeping in and reading in bed

– Making cookies and smelling them while they bake

– Our new screened-in porch that’s perfect for summer evenings

– Technology. Enough said.

– Meeting new people and making new friends

– Celebrating the holidays with people I love!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday with lots of fun times and delicious food!  Goodnight!

Fueling After a Workout

Over the weekend, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile was asking me for some health eating advice. We got talking about what to eat after a workout, and he asked me what I typically go for to refuel after a workout.

Refueling: What to Eat

My refueling food of choice definitely depends on what kind of workout I’ve just completed. Simply speaking: if it’s a weights day for me at the gym, I focus on protein in my refueling meal. If it’s a running day or some other form of cardio, I’m more intent on getting some good carbs in my system post-workout.

Lately, my favorite refueling protein snack is an amazing combination of Greek yogurt and fruit. I start with about a cup  Greek yogurt in a bowl and mix in some cocoa powder and a dash of Stevia…which makes it taste like chocolate mousse…yum! Then I dice an apple (Fuji is my favorite at the moment) into small pieces, toss it on top of the yogurt chocolate mousse, and sprinkle on some cinnamon. To add a little healthy fat and some delicious crunch, I top the bowl with a few peanuts or cashews and munch away!

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein – one serving can contain anywhere from 13 – 22 grams, depending on the brand. Greek yogurt has less sugar, less carbs and more protein than regular yogurt, and it’s now sold in most every grocery store. I’ve tried several different brands (here’s an article comparing the various options out there) but my favorite is definitely the Trader Joe’s brand, because of the consistency and creaminess!

For my post-run carb fueling, I usually opt for a bowl of oatmeal, with some frozen blueberries, cinnamon and peanut butter mixed in. There are lots of other good options for post-run refueling options – generally anything with (approximately) a 3-1 ratio of carbs to protein is  best! In the past, I’ve tried everything from toast with peanut butter to sweet potato fries dipped in Greek yogurt (sounds weird but tastes delicious!)  Don’t worry about getting the ratios exactly perfect…just focus on getting some healthy carbs into your system!

Refueling: When to Eat

Generally speaking, it’s best to refuel as soon as possible after a workout.  A lot of fitness experts even suggest that you start sipping on a protein shake toward the last 15 minutes of your strength training workout to get a jump-start on the refueling process and get the protein to your muscles as soon as possible. As for post-run/cardio refueling, it’s best to get the carbs (and a little protein too) into your system within 30 minutes because your muscles are best primed to assimilate and utilize the nutrients directly after a workout. Your goal is to replace the glycogen stores in your muscles that were depleted during the run, and the first hour after the workout is the best time for that! Here’s some more information about this optimal refueling window of time: Refueling at Its Best!

Refueling: What NOT to Do

Refueling can be a downfall for some people because they can easily go overboard with their post-workout feast snack. If you’re truly wanting to see results in your fitness and weight, you can’t go blowing all the progress you made during a workout with a refuel meal that sends you into a food coma! I’ve talked to a lot of people who are frustrated because they’re not seeing results from their workouts. Often, I find out that they’re going home after burning 300 calories on the elliptical and devouring a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or a huge plate of mac and cheese! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional Girl Scout cookie or other indulgent treat, but again, if you want to see RESULTS in your fitness and weight, you need to be smart about refueling! You may feel ravenous after a long run or strength training session at the gym, but start by just consuming an average refuel meal, sipping some water or tea, and waiting for your food to start digesting. It’s easy to scarf down a lot of unnecessary calories as soon as you get home because you feel like you could eat the whole fridge. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and chew well. Listen to your hunger cues and stop when you feel satisfied – not stuffed. And in general, choose healthier options for refueling like whole-grain toast, milk, oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs, rather than hitting IHOP for a huge plate of flapjacks. 😉

Another mistake that is on the other side of the spectrum, but just as easy to do, is the mentality that because you just worked out (i.e., did something healthy) you’re going to continue your healthy habits by not eating AT ALL after your workout. FAIL. This isn’t going to help you in any way! You’ve just finished exhausting your muscles and pushing them to their limits…the best thing you can do now is give those muscles some protein and carbs to help them rebuild and grow! Don’t think you’re being “healthy” by denying yourself food for hours after a workout – get some good calories in your system ASAP so your body can start the rebuilding and refueling process.

Wedding Pics!

There’s always more to say and write about this topic, but I’ll end here and leave you with some pictures from my sister’s wedding last weekend! It was a blast…everything went so smoothly and we had a great time party-ing it up! 😀 So happy for my sis and her new husband!

My family!

My sister and I right before she walked the aisle!

 

Goin’ to the Chapel…

My sister will be tying the knot on Saturday! Wedding Countdown: 4 days!

This past week has been crazy – a frenzied mixture of cleaning, running errands, making phone calls, and other last-minute details! I can hardly believe my sis’s big day is almost here!

The beautiful bride-to-be!

Saturday night, the bachelorette party commenced! First, the girls all gathered at our house and we started with wine and presents:

Around 6:30, we headed over to Maggiano’s for dinner, which was delicious! My sister and I both ordered the Grilled Salmon Salad and were delighted this meal! A lot of the girls ordered pasta dishes and we all raved about how much we enjoyed our dinner. Maggiano’s is a great restaurant with a very peaceful and elegant atmosphere – perfect!

One side of the table!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple hours of giggling, wedding discussion, and delicious Italian food, we hit the road again and ended up at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square. I had never been there before, but so many people have given it great reviews. My sister is a huge chocolate fan, so this was a perfect place to get dessert and drinks! The menu at the Chocolate Bar is amazing – unique, homemade desserts, fun drinks like Dark Chocolate Martinis, and much more! The lower level is more of a bar atmosphere but upstairs is very quiet more of a restaurant feel. The Chocolate Bar does also have a full dinner menu, although we stuck to dessert and drinks. I split the Flourless Malt Cake with my friend Sarah; it came with a scoop of coffee ice cream in the middle! I nibbled away at the cake for the most part, and Sarah took care of the ice cream – perfect set up for dessert sharing! The cake was rich and filling…just the way I like it! 🙂

Sporting our tiaras at The Chocolate Bar!

We made it home around 11:30…not the latest bachelorette party in the world, but we were all pretty tired and had almost lost our voices from talking and giggling for 6 hours! Sunday morning, I woke up with the worst headache, even though I didn’t drink at all at the party! (I was one of the drivers) I joked with my dad that it was a hangover without the alcohol. Not fun at all! I lazed around most of the morning and finally got dressed to join my family for lunch at Senor Pique. I felt so out of it during lunch and my stomach felt a little off, so I stuck with a marinated tilapia appetizer dish that was served with pico de gallo and avocado.

I knew I would feel better if I got in a short workout, so after lunch I headed to the gym to spend a little quality time on the

Spinach smoothie

elliptical. I ended up feeling inspired to pump some iron, so I knocked out a great upper-body workout that I made up as I went along. It felt so good to sweat and clear my head!

I came home and made another great spinach smoothie!These are my new go-to refreshment!

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Despite the craziness with the wedding preparations, I’ve still found time to take pictures of the Beagle…

“Are you seriously taking ANOTHER picture of me?!”

Squirrel Sighting!

I’ve also managed to get my health coaching website set up! Check it out: HopeDarby.com!  I’m accepting clients now! So excited. 😀

I’m off to edit and finalize my Maid of Honor speech for the reception on Saturday! Eeek!

Sneaky Spinach

For several years now, I’ve read post after post from bloggers who swear by the awesome “green smoothies” that they drink all the time. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. Partly because these “green smoothies” include SPINACH, which sounded rather disgusting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love spinach; I eat spinach salads quite often. But, putting  spinach in a SMOOTHIE? That didn’t sound very tasty to me. Every blogger that wrote about these wonderful green smoothies would always promise, “You can’t even taste the spinach!” and I always thought, “Oh reeeeeally?”   😉

Despite the odd color, this really was delicious!

Well, I finally decided to put my fears aside and give these spinach smoothies a try! I’d read somewhere on a blog (I think it was Julie’s) that the key to “not tasting the spinach” was to include a banana in the concoction.  With some trepidation, and a whole lot of skepticism, I threw some raw spinach into my blender, added some water, and sliced half a banana on top. After I’d given the blender plenty of time to completely liquefy the mixture, I added some frozen blueberries (just for fun) and some of my favorite vanilla protein powder.

After another minute or two of blending, I poured the green somewhat purple smoothie into a tumbler and dove in for a taste test! And      it was surprisingly delicious! I truly  couldn’t taste the spinach at all, and the smoothie basically tasted like banana-blueberry, with a hint of vanilla. Yum!  The best part of the whole creation was that I ingested about 2 cups of raw spinach, without even tasting it. Not that I mind the taste of spinach, but if I can eat it through a delicious banana-blueberry smoothie, why not? 🙂

So, there you have it! I’ve officially jumped on-board the green smoothie bandwagon.  😛  If you’re looking for a simple and delicious way to sneak some extra greens into your diet, give this a try! I promise, you really can’t taste the spinach.  😉

BASIC GREEN SMOOTHIE RECIPE:

      – 2 handfuls/cups of raw spinach

      – 1/2 banana

      – 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (or other frozen fruit)

     – enough water to liquefy 

     – 1 scoop protein powder of your choice

      Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into an awesome tumbler of your depressing hometown football team, and enjoy with a straw!  😉

 

 

In other news…

– I got my VOTE on today! And I have a sticker to show for it.  😀  I went around 2pm and only had to wait 5 minutes in line! Win, win!

   – I’m going to knock out a couple more hours of studying and then I’m off to the Neon Night Run with Big River Running Company! A is going to meet me there and then spend the night afterward. Some hot tea and election-results viewing is definitely on tap for tonight!

Weekend Happenings

It’s been a full and fun weekend so far!

Friday evening, I went out to dinner with my friend Megan who was in town for the weekend. She was craving Chili’s, so that’s where we went! I chose the grilled salmon and it was surprisingly delicious! Often when I order fish at restaurants, they cook it too well-done for my taste…and I always forget to order it medium-rare. This salmon was cooked perfectly, though – win, win! After dinner with Megan, I drove about 40 minutes to a completely different area of town to attend an event for International Crisis Aid. I’ve volunteered with ICA in the past and I really love the work they are doing.

Here’s a blurb about ICA, from their website:

“International Crisis Aid’s mission is to assist in sustaining life, bring encouragement to those suffering and collaborate with other relief organizations in bringing necessary foods, materials and medicines to people in times of crisis, particularly where life and death situations exist. Additionally, we attempt to bring public awareness to these situations and to solicit citizen involvement whenever and wherever possible. All assistance and resources are traditionally secured in the country of need when possible, so as to develop relations with the local business people and foster a true spirit of cooperation.”  (source)

Specifically, ICA is doing a lot to stop human trafficking – both overseas and here in the States. Human trafficking is a huge – and sickening – problem. It’s basically a form of slavery and it’s still going on in our world today.

The stats on human trafficking even here in the U.S. are unbelievable; here are some links I found online:

Human Trafficking: The Facts

The FBI on Human Trafficking: “It’s Sad but True”

Sex Trafficking in the United States

On Friday night, Pat and Sue Bradly, the founders and directors of ICA, spoke briefly about the work they are doing and the new safe home they are opening here in St Louis for victims of sex trafficking. A couple months ago, I visited the safe house with a group from my church and helped paint and clean the house in preparation for its opening. Pat and Sue stopped by while we working and my friends and I got to meet them and hear more about the work ICA is doing.

With the founders of International Crisis Aid, Pat and Sue Bradley

Saturday

On Friday afternoon, I sent a quick text to my mom, asking if she was interested in a Saturday morning hike together. She responded with an enthusiastic “YES!” so Saturday morning we hit the trails at Queeny Park, with Cocoa in tow.  🙂  The temps were brisk but not miserably cold by any means…my favorite kind of weather! We had a great 4 mile hike and fun conversation on the trails as we walked. Love my mom!

Enjoying the fall weather!

And of course, no post would be complete without a picture of my Beagle love…  😉

Saturday afternoon, my sis and I went shopping for dresses for her wedding rehearsal and dinner! I came home with two amazing dresses but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep either one because I just don’t feel like spending the $$$ right now. I did get them both on sale (at Dress Barn) but still…I keep asking myself how much I’ll really wear them or if I truly need another dress.  Will probably end up taking them back, haha.    😛    The sister and I had a great time together, though. After our shopping expeditions were completed, she took me out for a late birthday dinner at a new-to-me restaurant: Big Sky!
Can’t rave enough about Big Sky! It’s an amazing place and I will definitely be recommending it to everyone I know. haha. The food is from local farms, the meat is grass-fed, free-range, etc etc. Everything tasted so fresh and healthy – the health coach in me was in heaven! 😉  I was in the mood for fish (again) so I went with the pan-roasted trout and my sis got the swordfish. Both of them were delicious and mine came on a bed of fresh spinach with goat cheese sprinkled on top. Goat cheese is one of my absolute favorite foods, which I largely why I chose the trout! And it did not disappoint.

I didn’t get to take any pictures inside the restaurant, but I did snap one of this cute wood plaque that came with the check:

Good rule of thumb! 😉

Not only is the food delicious at Big Sky, but the decor and ambiance is delightful as well! They also have great service and a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. I would definitely give this place 5 stars! I wish I could eat there more often, but because of my current budget, it’ll probably just be a special treat, reserved for celebrating birthdays and such. Oh well. I can still dream about relish the memory of the amazing goat cheese and delicious trout…  And if you’re ever in the St Louis area, I definitely recommend you take me there you stop by Big Sky!

This morning, I completed my “Burnin’ Leg Workout” in the comfort of my basement…and it definitely did the trick! My legs are still feeling wobbly and weak after all the lunges and squats. Love that!

Went to the late service at church today with my siblings and a few friends. It was good; the main thing that stood out to me was what the pastor was saying about being a leader. He said that we can each be a leader in some capacity – whether it’s at school, at work, in our families, among our friends. We always have opportunities to be a good example to others; to lead in a godly, humble way. This was really thought-provoking for me because I can easily grow lazy about this kind of thing and just go through the days without much thought of how my life can be a blessing and example to others. Good stuff to think about!

Off to watch some Sunday afternoon football and hang out with my fam!

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend!  🙂

Burnin’ Leg Workout!

This is what I’m planning for tomorrow morning’s workout – guaranteed to leave my legs burning! 🙂

 

Quads/Glutes:

Complete 3 Sets:

15 Walking Lunges (each leg) – with barbell (40 lbs)

15 Back Squats – with barbell (40 lbs)

15 Lunges In Place (each leg) – holding dumbbells (15 lbs in each hand)

15 Front Squats – with barbell (40 lbs)

 

Calves/Hamstrings:

Complete 3 Sets:

15 Standing Calf Raises (on each leg) – hold 10 lbs dumbbells in each hand

15 Hamstring Ball Curls  (do single leg curls to increase the intensity)

15 Hamstring Curls on Bench (strap on ankle weights for extra intensity)

 

Bonus:

15 Straight-leg Deadlifts – I use a 60lb – 70lb barbell

15 Step-ups on each leg – hold 10lb dumbbells in each hand to increase the intensity

 

“Perfect” People

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. I love the changing leaves, the brisk temperatures, the chance to wear jeans and sweaters again, and sipping hot tea without breaking out in a sweat.  😉 This morning I decided to run to my gym, which is about 2.5 miles away, workout there, and run back. It was a fun adventure! I kept a nice, easy pace on both segments of the run so I wouldn’t wear myself out too much. At the gym, I did an upper body workout in the weights room and it felt good to pump iron again. This past week’s workouts were mostly running and hiking, and I missed the strength training. After I ran home, I grabbed Cocoa for a walk and we covered a little over 3 miles together. It’s a beautiful, sunny, fall day here in St Louis and I’m loving it!

Staying warm at the Trunk or Treat

My friend A spent the night on Tuesday. She came over to do a “makeup trial run” with my sister before her wedding (which is in a couple weeks!!). The makeup turned out really well and looked beautiful on my sis. A is going to do makeup for us bridesmaids too; I’m so glad I don’t have to do it myself because I’m really not that experienced when it comes to makeup! On Wednesday night, A and I went to her church’s mid-week service and afterward they had a Trunk or Treat in the parking lot for all the kids! It was so much fun. Each of the small groups from the church had a theme for the vehicle they decorated…and then handed out candy from the back of the car. The kids were so cute in their costumes and even though most of the adults didn’t dress up, it was still a fun way to enjoy the Halloween evening. 🙂

Random thought that has been on my mind lately: 

On Tuesday, I was having coffee with a friend that I’ve known casually through church for almost a year, but never gotten together with one-on-one. She texted me a couple weeks ago out of the blue and after a short conversation, we decided a coffee date was in order. 🙂 It was really great to get to know her more and hear about her life and story. She’s an amazing woman who has been through a lot of difficult things in life. I also opened up to her a lot about my own story and the various things I’ve experienced in life. Near the end of the conversation, she cautiously said to me,

“I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, but I never felt comfortable getting to know you because I always thought to myself ‘oh, Hope seems to be living a ‘perfect’ life..we probably wouldn’t have much in common or much to connect over, because she seems to have it all together.’ But it’s been so good to get to know you more today and to realize that you’re not like that. You’re a very  normal person and very easy to relate to.”

Even though she didn’t say it this way, I think what she was basically getting at was this: “It’s nice to know you’re not perfect! Because perfect people are intimidating!”  Haha, yes, I am FAR from perfect! In fact, I’m often one of those girls who looks at OTHER girls I know and thinks, “Wow, they seem to have it all together and never have a problem or struggle in the world!”   When I look at someone who seems perfect and perfectly put together in every way, it does intimidate me and keeps me from reaching out to get to know them more. I think most people would probably agree that it’s much easier to relate to someone who seems human and flawed just like the rest of us. I definitely don’t have my life and future perfectly figured out and that’s okay! When I look at the people in my life who are my closest friends, I realize that one of the things in common with all of them is that they don’t give off an air of perfection and don’t make ME feel bad for not being perfect either! It’s so much easier to relax around people who are like that – you feel accepted, loved, and free to be yourself.

One of the things that has often bugged me about blogs – both reading them and writing them – is that it’s easy for the blogger to come across as perfect. I know I often read blogs and think, “Wow, this person never has a bad day! Or if they do, it’s not NEARLY as bad as MY bad days! And they always have the energy to work out, they always eat healthy, they always get out and do fun social activities, etc etc etc”   Then, when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, don’t feel like working out, eat a whole bag of pretzels in one sitting, and stay at home watching movies all night, I feel like a complete loser! haha.

Seriously, though, it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and feel inferior or envious. But the truth is, even the bloggers who seems to have perfect lives with perfect spouses/partners and perfect jobs and perfect eating habits (if there even is such a thing) really do have bad days, fights with their spouse, lazy nights at home doing nothing, and all of that. We might not read about it on their blog, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Everyone has bad days. I had one yesterday, in fact. I have been having some health problems lately and one of my symptoms is that I get extremely dizzy and lightheaded…and almost pass out on occasion. Yesterday I woke up feeling really dizzy, nauseous, and definitely not in the mood for a workout. I pretty much laid around all day, watching Netflix, eating food, trying to study, and snuggling with my dog. I was feeling kinda down on myself for having a bad day and for not being out and about, but then I realized how stupid that was! By the time I went to bed last night, I’d decided to stop making myself feel guilty about the tough day and instead to give myself GRACE. It’s much more peaceful and enjoyable that way. 🙂

Now that I’ve rambled on about this for quite long enough, I’ll leave you with a picture of something small that made me smile this afternoon: Freshly painted nails! Girly, I know. Oh well! 😛

My favorite nail color for fall – purple!