Easy Arm Moves

It’s no secret that we are all sensitive about how our abs look when it comes to beach season. However, I think arms another key area of concern for most women. I personally feel that the way our arms look is a reflection of strength as well as inflammation. My point is that as much as exercise is important, I believe that good nutrition is hugely influential too.

I wanted to share a few key exercises that I typically use as part of my warm up when I work out. They are also very helpful if you are new to working out and are not ready to tackle weights just yet. I also used them as strengthening tool when I was recovering from my shoulder injury. All you need is a band and these exercises can be done anywhere. Including outside!

Underhand Band Pull-Apart – You want to stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Draw in your abs and tuck your bottom under. The band should be in front of you with the ends grasped with an underhand grip. Pull the band into your chest and release back to the starting position.

Underhand Pull Apart Cropped

Underhand Pull Apart Cropped (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Overhead Band Circumduction – Start with the band held in an overhand grip at waist height. Extend and bring the band overhead and behind your back to chest or weight height depending on your comfort level. Pause and bring the band back in front of you to your starting position.

Overhead Circumduction 2

Behind the Neck BandPull-Apart -Bring the band behind your head so that it is resting behind your back at shoulder height. Raise the band to the middle of your head (about the height of where a ponytail would rest) and then return to the original position.

Behind the Back Cropped

Downward Dog Isolated Hold – The yoga favorite. This move strengthens your shoulders using your own body weight. Hold the position for 30 seconds and build up to one to two minutes as you feel you can progress.

Downward Dog Iso Hold Cropped

Repeat the sequence 2-3 times. Let me know in the comment section if you try it out!

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Jazzing Up Yogurt

Hello! I hope that everyone enjoyed a lovely Memorial Day Weekend. It was so nice to see the sun come out even if it was only for a short time. Does anyone else feel that holiday weekends are super quiet? I guess with people traveling and the NJ shore season starting everywhere I went felt a little bit like a ghost town.

I was a terrible slacker with taking pictures yesterday so I do not have a WIAW recap to share. However, I was thinking about easy quick healthy snacks options the other day and one that immediately popped into my mind was Greek Yogurt. I always ate yogurt growing up, but never really cared for the watery consistency. Well, that has changed with the introduction of Greek Yogurt. I honestly cannot remember a time when I could not find it in the dairy section. I mean, really, what did we do? I remember I saw a Fage yogurt on my boss’s desk years ago and had no clue what was so special. Well, with such a surge in popularity there was bound to be a ton of companies rushing to come to market. For the longest time, I was very addicted to flavored yogurt despite the amount of sugar they contain. I loved the combination of the tangy yogurt and the different flavors.

Gradually I did come to embrace plain yogurt more and more and now it is pretty much all I consume. Of course, the secret with Greek yogurt is to find ways to add flavor since it naturally is almost more like sour cream than a tasty dessert. Word to the wise, I usually buy Fage or Stonyfield Organic Brands. There’s been some news floating around about Chobani using milk from cows that are fed GMO grain. No bueno. You can read more about it here.

Some great ways I like to sweeten the deal?

  • Add fruit. I usually add berries to my yogurt, but a half of a banana or apple are also good. When I buy the berries frozen I will sometimes sautee them over low heat on the stove with coconut oil. It makes them surprisingly delicious. Cinnamon is a nice choice also if you decide to chop up the apple and mix it in.
  • Add sweetener.  Stevia is a bit of an acquired taste, but I typically use half of a packet or a few drops of liquid to my yogurt creations. If you do not have Stevia or do not like it, I would recommend a touch of maple syrup or honey or perhaps a small amount of all-fruit jam.
  • Nuts or nut butter. I buy the nonfat variety of yogurt so it’s good to add fat in the way of some nuts – almonds, walnuts or sunflower butter are some of my favorites.
  • MCT Oil. I try to have 2-3 teaspoons a day so this is another way to add it to my diet and also makes me feel fuller longer from the yogurt. MCT is great for inflammation and has a whole host of over benefits.
  • Lemon or lime juice. Very simple, but lemon flavor yogurt used to be a personal go-to purchase of mine so sometimes I will mix in lemon juice and some stevia to create the same effect.
  • Chia Seeds – Ok, so I would not exactly call chia seeds sweet, but I think they add a nice crunchy texture to yogurt. I will add about a tablespoon especially since they also possess a lot of health benefits.
  • PB2 & Chocolate Chips – I love this combo and it is actually one of my favorite late night snacks if I get hungry after dinner. I had it last night in fact.
  • Granola – I think a little granola adds some great texture. However, granola is very dense so you only need a little bit if you are adding it to yogurt. Stick to the serving size on the package which is usually about a quarter cup. Beware of the brands you are buying here by reading the labels. I like the granola products by Kind because they are are lower in sugar than many out there and also gluten-free.
  • Yogurt CroppedQuestion of the day: Do you have any favorite yogurt combinations?
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5/23: Friday’s Favorite Things

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! This is the official kick off to summer and as usual it looks like it is raining. This is a tradition that seems to happen every single year. Whatever your plans may be I hope you enjoy some fun and relaxation.

I do not have any huge plans myself. However, I was invited to a local wine festival on Sunday which I think is a definite possibility. Since there is one more day to go before the holiday weekend begins let’s focus on a few things that I think deserve a little shout out this week.

Blue Nail Polish – I am such a sucker for nail polish and I think an easy way to transform your look from season to season is to update your colors. I have been relying on a lot of dark grey and red shades since it’s been winter. Well no more! Spring flew by and now it is almost summer so I say to lighten up! Your nail polish that is. I have never used blue before, but I felt like going out on a limb and buying it. I am a huge fan of the Zoya line and use all of their products. Since I do wear nail polish a great deal of the time I stick to the organic choices that are available. The polish lasts as long as any of the drug store or salon brands, and I feel it is better for me. The prices are comparable too.

Zoya Blue Polish in "Yummy"

Zoya Blue Polish in “Yummy”

Green Superfood – Alas, I officially turned into someone I never thought I would be. I would never have thought I would become one of those “weirdos” who drinks green shakes. I have tried spinach in the past, and even though you cannot taste it I still get chunks of it. Blame it on my lesser blender, but I wanted to find something else that could get me an extra serving of greens thoughout the day. Even when you eat a healthy diet it is easy to be low on your vegetable intake. Since I usually do a protein shake a day after my workouts I have been adding a scoop of the good stuff to my drink and I have grown to really like the flavor. It is gluten free, vegan, raw and contains plenty of extra vitamins that I feel I miss on certain days.

Amazing Grass Green Superfood

Amazing Grass Green Superfood

Natural Calm – I guess this is the week for various powered supplements from Amazon. I have been drinking natural calm for a while now typically right before I am about to go to sleep. There have been studies that have shown that the magnesium helps to lull you to unconsciousness. Since our diets are typically lacking in magnesium there is an extra benefit there as well.

Natural Calm

Natural Calm

Tom’s Shoes – Oh Tom’s, how I love thee! These shoes are so darn comfortable and while I would like to own them in every color these are my sole pair. They have been great as the weather has transitioned to being a little warmer, but not totally hot enough to be wearing sandals or flip flops on the regular.

Tom's Cropped

Tom’s Shoes

Nashville– I have a huge crush on country music and play it frequently in the car, on my Pandora and sometimes even in my workout mixes for the gym. I started watching the 2nd season of Nashville recently and it totally got me hooked. I ordered the 1st season last week, and I am making a very concerted effort to not totally binge watch. It’s very difficult.

Nashville Season 1

Nashville Season 1

Question of the Day: What is one thing making you happy this week?

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Rainy Day Workouts

There are some days when it is just not possible to get to the gym. I know I suffered through a few really bad snow storms this past winter when I was feeling stir crazy at home, but it was too treacherous to drive. Sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Today it’s overcast and rainy in my neck of the woods and that pretty much puts the kibosh on getting outside for me. I am always baffled when I see runners scampering along in the rain. I’m sorry, but it does not look remotely enjoyable.

The good news is that there are ways you can still fit in a workout at home if you get creative. You do not need expensive equipment or tons of space. In fact, I have purchased many things I own at places like TJ Max, and they were all probably under $20. Below are some of my top picks for a quick workout at home.

Exercise Mat – Unless your floors are carpeted it is a good idea to have a mat for stretches or doing ab work. I shared a quick ab circuit last week that you could totally do at home and does not require anything extra. You can find these in sporting goods stores or online.

Exercise Mat

Exercise Mat

Jump Rope – Another cheapie. Jump roping is fun and you can do it outside or inside as long as your ceilings are high enough. Again, I think I paid about $9.99 for mine and they last forever. If the jump rope is not an option the act of jumping in place also has its benefits. Set a kitchen timer and jump for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds and repeat for 5 minutes.

Jump Rope

Jump Rope

Stability Ball – Ok, so getting the pump to work to blow it up was a little tricky. Once I got past that stage I really like having a stability ball on hand. I like them for hamstring ball roll-ins which work your legs intensely and also for stability ball crunches. There are a ton of videos out there on You Tube that offer short routines where you can follow along. I found several including the this one when I just did a quick online search for “Stability Ball Workouts.”

 

Stability Ball

Stability Ball

Stairs – So this will not work for everyone, but many of us do have access to stairs in our homes or apartment complexes that can make serve as a really effective workout. Run up and down these a few times and you will totally know what I mean.

IMG_1421

Lots o’ stairs!

Workout DVD’s – I am totally aware that there are lots of You Tube Channels out there dedicated to fitness. However, I think there is still a place for DVDs as well. From yoga and stretching to circuits and strength training there are tons of choices out there!

Workout DVDs

Workout DVDs

Question of the Day: What workout equipment do you have at home?

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WIAW #5: Chocolate Addiction

Hello and Happy Hump Day! This week seems to be flying by. I realized the other day that this weekend kicks off the official start to summertime. How did that happen already? I am waiting for an email registration from the NSCA so I can finally sign up for my personal training exam. My original goal was the end of April and that did not happen obviously. However, as soon as that email finds its way into my email box I’ll be finding a date at a local test center. Every day is about moving forward even when your progress feels slow. Since it’s becoming a new weekly thing around here…below is another round of what I ate yesterday.

WIAWbutton

Breakfast – My day started with a breakfast classic – oatmeal. I ran out of my favorite brand which is the G Free Harvest Oats that I usually buy on Amazon. They were out of stock so I settled for rolled and gluten-free oats from Trader Joe’s. I cooked the oatmeal on the stovetop (I very rarely use a microwave ) and once it was done I added half a scoop of Vanilla Sunwarrior Classic Protein, 1 teaspoon of MCT oil, a splash of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and some blueberries and walnuts as a topping. Low and behold this concoction was not sweet at all so a little bit of Stevia came to my rescue. I also always start my day with decaf coffee, but I drink it black so I’m not sure if that’s really food.

Oatmeal with Blueberries

Oatmeal with Blueberries

Lunch – A salad which I was not really in the mood to eat. It sounded good at the time, but I was not really hungry enough for it but I was eating lunch so I could head out the door to an appointment. The salad included spinach, celery, purple onion and grape tomatoes tomatoes. I added half a can of tuna for protein and a quarter of an avocado for flavor. Dressing included olive oil, rice vinegar, oregano, parsley and salt and pepper. I enjoyed a half a kombucha on the side of course. Are you starting to see I’m a bit a creature of habit?

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

Afternoon Snack – I was out and about running errands so I grabbed a bar to throw in my purse in case I got hungry. Since I was gone longer than expected I found I needed a little something, and ate it while I was driving. Have you seen these bars? I usually always have a few Lara Bars on hand, but this was a variety with more protein that I decided to buy recently. I had the Peanut Butter Cookie which was tasty and had more of a crunch that their regular bars. This had been sitting in my pantry, but when I saw it on Heather’s blog the other week I knew I wanted to try it soon. I really do love bars, but I try not to consume them all the time. However, they are definitely the most convenient snack to have on the go in my opinion.

Lara Bar Alt

Lara Bar Alt

Post Workout Snack – A protein shake with Chocolate Classic Sunwarrior Protein, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, collagen powder and MCT oil. Like bars, I also have a soft spot for protein shakes.

Chocolate Protein

Chocolate Protein Shake

Dinner – I was not in the mood for a complicated dinner last night and I dare say the sight of the frying pants on my stove was making me feel rather tired. So I chopped up two Applegate Farms Organic Hot Dogs (they are Grass-Fed and so good) and cooked them in coconut oil before adding a ton of veggies to the mix – spinach, mushrooms, purple onion, zucchini and red pepper. I added a quarter of an avocado too. What does not taste better with avocado I ask you?

Applegate with Chopped Veggies

Applegate with Chopped Veggies

I ended the day with chocolate as usual. I think my addiction is getting a tad out of control. I currently have three bars in my refrigerator which is most likely a bit excessive.

 

Trader Joe's Chocolate

Trader Joe’s Chocolate

If you liked this WIAW post, head over to PeasandCrayons to view lots of others or to add your own!

Question of the Day: Any current food addictions worth sharing? No shame.

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Grain-Free Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Hi there! Hope your Tuesday is going well. I was featured yesterday on the blog, Loving on the Run, with a little info about me and why I started writing. Check it out here if you get a chance. I actually did a guest post on Sara’s blog last month about healthy food shopping on a budget.

Loving On the Run

Today I was thinking about almond flour and why I like it so much. In a small way it has become my new best friend. Not really, but sort of. It’s opened me up to a new world of baking that I never knew existed. Since most muffins and breads have a wheat flour base I always tread cautiously. I do not have a gluten or wheat intolerance. However, I have noticed that when I eat a lot of wheat in my diet, especially the processed white kind, that I feel quite puffy and not very bikini ready. Almond flour is amazing because it consists of ground almonds which contain their own host of benefits.

When I shared my day of meals and snacks last Wednesday as part of the WIAW link up I got a request to share the recipe for the almond flour muffin I had consumed that day.

The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cook Book

The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cook Book has become an amazing resource for me for recipes. It was authored by Elana Amsterdam who is also the creator behind the blog Elana’s Pantry. The cake and brownie recipes are simply awesome. I must caution that these foods are still treats and should be enjoyed as such. However, they are much better than a commercial cupcake and certainly taste better too. These muffins are perfect when you need a snack or a small meal on the go. I often put them in the freezer so that they stay fresh and take them out to defrost as I need. Almond flour is on the pricier side so I make sure not to waste any of it! I like them with almond butter or grass-fed butter as a topping.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins (adapted from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam)

Makes 10 muffins

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4 inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, arrowroot powder, and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla extract.  Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined, then fold in the apples.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then serve.

Almond Flour Muffins TBE

Question of the day: Do you bake with almond flour? If so, what’s your favorite recipe?

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