Hummus & Gym Membership

For some reason, I was craving hummus a few days ago. I’m not a fan of store bought hummus so I decided to make my own for the first time. I used this recipe from Inspired Taste, went off to the store and gathered the ingredients but discovered that a 16 ounce jar of Tahini was 9-effing-dollars at Hannaford. No thank you. I googled a substitute and found that peanut butter would work, which was perfect because I always have a jar of natural no sugar added peanut butter on hand. I followed their recipe to a T, except I replaced the 1/4 cup of Tahini for 2-3 tablespoons of that wonderful natural no sugar added peanut butter, and I didn’t add more olive oil for serving. Ugh, the hummus was so good and so easy. Better than any store bought hummus. TRY IT. I also made Quinoa Stuffed Peppers the same day, but I’ll post that recipe tomorrow.

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Now for random thoughts: I’m debating on a gym membership. I’ve never wanted a gym membership because they’re costly and I’ve never had the extra money for one, and I’ve always preferred exercising at home. I’m three weeks into my new full-time job, and I’m struggling to keep up with my exercise regimen. I tried getting up earlier to exercise but I hated it, and I wasn’t giving it 100% because I was so sluggish. I’m doing my best to exercise a lot on my days off and do less on my work days, but all I’ve been doing on my work days is 15-20 minutes of Yoga or Pilates. Yes, it’s at least something, but to me it is definitely not enough. My plan is to get a membership at HealthLinks, and while it’s expensive, I think it would be worth the money. I would go after work on my way home. I need to do more strength training, and the 10-pound dumbbells aren’t cutting it anymore. I don’t want to keep buying a new, heavier set every month. So, I think a gym membership will be worth it. Also, I heard great things about The New Rules of Lifting for Women. I bought the book the other day on amazon.com, and I’ll follow that program.

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And now, since it’s my day off, I better get my ass moving. Today’s workout: Jillian Michaels’ “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism” followed by strength training and body weight exercises. Maybe Pilates a little later if I’m feeling up to it.

If you want a challenge…

If you want to challenge yourself, try Jillian Michaels’ Killer Buns & Thighs. (BUT!!! I don’t think this is a good workout for beginners or anyone with joint issues. It’s intense, and incorporates a lot of Plyometrics, lunges, squats, and it can be hard on your knees.) Anyway, I bought it last summer, attempted level one, and I could not believe how sore I was the following 2 or 3 days. I set it aside for whatever reason and did something else for the summer. A few months ago, I dusted it off and gave it another shot. Still difficult but definitely doable. Yesterday I completed level three, and I managed to get through it without feeling like I was going to die. I already have pretty solid hammies and quads, and my legs were shaking after I finished level three. This entire DVD is, without a doubt, my favorite workout series I’ve tried thus far. Like I said, it incorporates a lot of Plyometrics, squats, lunges, all that fun stuff that I both love and hate at the same time.

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Before and after attempting level three of KB&T. Don’t I look scared?

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Tonight I made one of my favorite meals: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Recipe is coming tomorrow!

A Few Things to Know About Strength Training

This is sort of in response to pins on Pinterest, claims I hear in Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs (don’t get me wrong, I love her workouts, but the things she says are not always true) and exercise moves featured in Cosmo and other magazines.

YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE FAT.
There are no specific exercises to target areas of fat.

Crunches WILL NOT reduce your belly fat.

Bridges, lunges and squats WILL NOT melt the fat off your butt and thighs.

Tricep exercises WILL NOT reduce your arm flab.

You get the picture. There’s a quote I like: get fit in the gym, lose weight in the kitchen.

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Once again, weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. A calorie deficit with a HEALTHY diet and cardio with regular strength training WILL reduce OVERALL body fat. Your body decides where the fat comes off. (Damn you, genetics.) You may do a ton of crunches and planks and have a strong core, but if you still have a flabby belly, you won’t see the muscles.

So does that mean you should skip the strength training? Of course not! By building muscle, you’ll burn more calories overall, even at rest. According to this article from SparkPeople, “It takes more energy (calories) for your body to use and maintain muscle cells than it does fat cells. So by simply lifting weights to add more muscle mass, you’re boosting your metabolism and turning your body into a more efficient calorie-burning machine.” For best results, lift heavy with fewer reps. (And no, ladies, you will not bulk up.) Lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions will build muscle, which gives you that lean, defined and fit physique (once your overall body fat continues to reduce).

Continue doing your cardio,  but if you’ve been putting off the strength training, what are you waiting for? There are a ton of workout generators out there to help you get started. Don’t be intimidated! Just don’t overdo it, and give your muscles at least 48 hours until your next strength training session to recover. (When you’re starting a new routine or increase your intensity of your workout, you might feel sore the day after your strength training session, which is normal. This is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, which is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. This will happen less often overtime. Just because you’re not sore the next day doesn’t mean you haven’t had a good workout. Still give your muscles plenty of time to recover!)

Where Do I Start? Part 2: Exercise

Since exercise is only 20% of weight loss, you could technically lose weight without doing any exercise. I firmly believe that anyone who can exercise should do so. Besides helping with weight loss, it has a number of other health and psychological benefits. It reduces stress and anxiety and improves your mood, it gives you more energy, it reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, prevents diabetes, strength training helps build stronger bones, AND, you can get away with eating more while still losing weight if you’re torching calories. So, with that said, where should you start?

Just like with your eating habits, start small with exercise, especially if you’ve never been physically active. Don’t jump into a program like Insanity or P90x – you have a greater risk of injuring yourself and overtraining if you’ve never been physically active. Take it easy at first, go for a walk or something low impact. As for strength training, I’m all for heavy weights, but light weights are better for beginners to at least get the form down. Once you understand proper form, then move on to heavy weights. When a workout becomes too easy, it’s time to increase the intensity!

You DO have to time to exercise. If you’re pressed for time, divide your workout into 10-15 minute segments throughout the day. You’ll still get the same benefits if your heart rate is up for at least 10 minutes. Aim for 3-4 cardio sessions and full-body strength training sessions. Be sure to give your body enough time to recover after each session.

Find forms of exercise that you enjoy that you can stick with. If you don’t like it, you won’t stick with it. This takes some trial and error. If you have a gym membership, most gyms include classes for free. Try something new, like Zumba, Yoga, Pilates; who knows, you might find something you never thought you’d enjoy. If you don’t have a gym membership, there are tons of free workouts on YouTube (I’m currently doing Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown on YouTube). SparkPeople also has great beginners workouts – everything from basic stretching routines to kickboxing.

If you’re interested in running, try a program like Couch-to-5k. Make sure to invest in a good pair of running shoes! Find a specialty running store for a proper shoe fitting.

Here are some useful links for free workout videos:

Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5nyrD4eM64

BeFit YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BeFit?feature=fvstc

SparkPeople YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/sparkpeople