30 Day Fitness Experiment

What can you do for your body in 30 days?

Market Day: 5 Delicious Ways to Use Fresh Asparagus

fresh asparagus for lunch
Image by annethelibrarian via Flickr

We’re half way through May, and asparagus is in season! This beautiful vegetable is often featured in decorative art as a sign of spring and good food. But how on earth are you supposed to cook and eat it?

First of all, choose thin, tender stalks. Asparagus starts to get tough and woody as it matures. Trim the cut ends and rinse well with water, then steam, roast, etc. Yum!

  1. Simply roast it. All you need to do is toss the asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast alone or with onions, garlic, and potato on a baking sheet for 10 minutes at 400F. (Potatoes and other vegetables will have longer cooking times, so roast them until they have only 10 minutes left, then add the asparagus.)
  2. Add it to a wrap or pita sandwich instead of lettuce. Toss the asparagus into a pot of boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes, let cool a bit and then chop. (You can also rinse under cold water to cool.) Mix into salads like tuna or chicken. Ta da!
  3. Make a simple salad. Steam asparagus in a vegetable steamer for 5-6 minutes, then toss with arugula, chopped bell peppers, minced garlic, lemon juice, and whatever other yummy greens or herbs you have on hand. Add a bit of oil or vinaigrette, and you’re all set.
  4. Enhance a simple risotto or couscous: Cook rice or couscous in vegetable broth instead of plain water, and add roasted garlic, steamed and chopped asparagus, lemon juice, and chives. A tip for making a creamy risotto: brown the dry rice in oil for a couple of minutes before adding boiling water and steaming.
  5. Use up leftovers in a creamy soup: Chop up only the stalks (saving the tips), and add to a hodge-podge vegetable soup. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, then add the tips back in and reheat for 2-3 minutes. Presto! (Even if you don’t want to puree all of the soup, consider pureeing some cooked rice with some of the broth, and then adding it to the soup. It adds creaminess without dairy or extra fat and calories.)
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May 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Ways to Work Out For Free: No Gym Membership Required

Beach Stairs @ Opal Beach
Image by live w mcs via Flickr

Are you on a budget? Have you had to give up your gym membership in order to cut costs? That’s ok. There are tons of ways to get in shape for free!

  1. Walk. You already know it’s good for your body. Just keeping active works wonders and keeps obesity and a host of health problems at bay. But what if you want more?
  2. Do Pilates. Yes, you can do Pilates on a mat, at home, without a studio or equipment. It will improve your posture, your breathing, your core muscles (which will tuck in your tummy), and will help you relax. Don’t be mistaken, though, it’s not all stretching and relaxation! Find a DVD with the basics at your local library.
  3. Find a flight of stairs. Yes, climbing a flight of stairs is good cardiovascular exercise, that’s not all you can do with them. Try this: Step on the lowest step with the ball of your right foot, heel hanging off the step. Tuck your left foot behind your right ankle (hold onto the rail or wall for stability), and raise up onto the ball of your right foot. Lower, repeat, switch sides. This strengthens and stretches your ankles and calves. To work your triceps: Do standard triceps dips, using a stair step instead of a bench. Sit on a step, arms at your sides, palms down on the step. Scoot your booty off the step, and lower yourself by bending your arms until you’re almost sitting on the next step down. Don’t sit down! Use your arms to push yourself back up to the starting position. Ta da! There’s a great video series on eHow called “Stair Exercise Workout.” Check it out!
  4. Go hiking. Even if you’re used to walking regularly, hiking or trail walking will work different muscles and give you a totally different workout than walking or running in town or on a treadmill. Bonus: You get to see new sites, breathe fresh air, and hang out with friends and family! Throw some camping in there when you get the chance. Most stunning spot for wild and beautiful camping: Carpinteria State Beach in Carpinteria, California. But there’s a place near you, too! Check out the hiking resources, including links to State Parks and National Forests by State, at americanhiking.org.
  5. Do push-ups. Yep. They’re not just for the military, and they’re not just for your arms. Push-ups work your shoulders, back, abs, several muscles in your arms, and your chest. There’s an amazing workout program at hundredpushups.com. It covers good form, etc., and then you start out with an initial test (how many push-ups can you do in a row?) and follow the program depending on the results of your initial test. The goal is to work up to 100 consecutive push-ups by working out three times a week for several weeks. Once you can do that, your upper body is going to be in much better shape than it was when you started!
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May 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Open Forum: California’s Best Biking City?

The Mister and I are in the process of moving to California, but we’re not sure exactly where. We want a place where we won’t need a car for most things. So far Davis, Sacramento, and San Diego have been suggested to us. Do you know of a more bike-friendly city in California? Help us out! We want to know what you think!

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Forum: California's Best Biking City?

The Mister and I are in the process of moving to California, but we’re not sure exactly where. We want a place where we won’t need a car for most things. So far Davis, Sacramento, and San Diego have been suggested to us. Do you know of a more bike-friendly city in California? Help us out! We want to know what you think!

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Fitness Sunday: Your Own Two Feet

Uncertain
Image by Brian Auer via Flickr

A few resources for starting a simple walking program:

UK: Walkit.com, the Urban Walking Route Planner, lists walking routes by city, with options like “Point A to Point B,” “Circular,” “Via,” and “direct” or “less busy.” Also contains a wealth of resources on walking for health, walking to school or work, and going green. Great articles and blog no matter where you live.

Los Angeles: 10 Best Walking Neighborhoods on RentedSpaces.com

Midwest: Chicago Park District Walking Trails, complete with maps and mileage counts. Milwaukee Without a Car includes How-To articles for biking, walking, and ride-share, safety tips, and links to trails. Go! St. Louis, “Inspiring Fitness One Step at a Time,” has tips on preparing and training for a marathon, walking for fitness, and a host of personal stories (look for “My Story” under the Getting Started tab) for all the inspiration you’ll ever need.

What area of the world are you in? What area would you like to see covered in a future post? Please comment below.

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May 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beginner's Guide to a Car-Less Commute: Public Transportation Edition

"Just use an open standard that already e...
Image by Todd Barnard via Flickr

This is Part 2 of the Beginner’s Guide to a Car-Less Commute. Read Part 1 here.

It’s National Train Day! Make plans to commute by train, bus, or subway. First of all, what are the advantages of using public transportation?

  • You don’t have to find a parking space.
  • You can read, work, knit, etc. while you commute.
  • You don’t have to pay for gas, insurance, or maintenance directly. One flat fee and you’re on your way.
  • You meet lots of interesting people.
  • Sharing the ride means fewer emissions and less pollution.

Tips to make the process flow:

  • Plan Ahead. Map out your route ahead of time, and then do a trial run. Figure out when you have to arrive at your destination and work backwards from there. This is especially helpful if your commute has multiple segments, like if you have to catch a bus and then a train. Try to do your trial run at a realistic time and day. If this is not possible, keep in mind that weekday rush hour is a lot more crowded than other times, and that trains, buses and ferries usually run less frequently on weekends.
  • Have a Backup Plan. If you plan on taking the train, keep a bus schedule with you, too. Become familiar with alternate routes. For example, in Washington DC, I’ve found the Yellow and Green lines to be much less busy than the red line at certain times of day. Know which trains or buses are going your way, and you’ll be able to quickly assess which one will get you there sooner or which one is less crowded.
  • What to Take With You: Take some reading, computer work, an iPod with an e-book, and some comfortable shoes. Trust me- you don’t want to be running around on stairs and escalators in high heels. Depending on your chosen method of transportation and the time of day, you may have to stand for chunks of time, and if you were planning on typing or knitting, you may be disappointed. So plan for something to do while standing, and something to do while sitting. You’ll also need water, hand sanitizer, deodorant and possibly a change of shoes. Keep in mind that restrooms may be few and far between.
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May 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beginner’s Guide to a Car-Less Commute: Public Transportation Edition

"Just use an open standard that already e...
Image by Todd Barnard via Flickr

This is Part 2 of the Beginner’s Guide to a Car-Less Commute. Read Part 1 here.

It’s National Train Day! Make plans to commute by train, bus, or subway. First of all, what are the advantages of using public transportation?

  • You don’t have to find a parking space.
  • You can read, work, knit, etc. while you commute.
  • You don’t have to pay for gas, insurance, or maintenance directly. One flat fee and you’re on your way.
  • You meet lots of interesting people.
  • Sharing the ride means fewer emissions and less pollution.

Tips to make the process flow:

  • Plan Ahead. Map out your route ahead of time, and then do a trial run. Figure out when you have to arrive at your destination and work backwards from there. This is especially helpful if your commute has multiple segments, like if you have to catch a bus and then a train. Try to do your trial run at a realistic time and day. If this is not possible, keep in mind that weekday rush hour is a lot more crowded than other times, and that trains, buses and ferries usually run less frequently on weekends.
  • Have a Backup Plan. If you plan on taking the train, keep a bus schedule with you, too. Become familiar with alternate routes. For example, in Washington DC, I’ve found the Yellow and Green lines to be much less busy than the red line at certain times of day. Know which trains or buses are going your way, and you’ll be able to quickly assess which one will get you there sooner or which one is less crowded.
  • What to Take With You: Take some reading, computer work, an iPod with an e-book, and some comfortable shoes. Trust me- you don’t want to be running around on stairs and escalators in high heels. Depending on your chosen method of transportation and the time of day, you may have to stand for chunks of time, and if you were planning on typing or knitting, you may be disappointed. So plan for something to do while standing, and something to do while sitting. You’ll also need water, hand sanitizer, deodorant and possibly a change of shoes. Keep in mind that restrooms may be few and far between.
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May 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Come Ride With Me, Girlfriend!

Description unavailable
Image by Iván Santiesteban via Flickr

Update: 18 June 2010 I’ve moved to California! No Girlfriend Ride for me this year. <sigh> But for all you ladies pedaling through Columbus Indiana tomorrow, I’m wishing you the best. Stay hydrated out there!

So remember how I got a bike? And how I just had to get it now before we move to California, so I can get comfortable riding again and not put it off too long? It’s that whole anxiety thing. The more something looms before me, the scarier it is. On the other hand, for some reason if I schedule something ahead of time and commit to working towards it, everything works out ok.

I doubt I will ever be a competitive cyclist. In fact I am almost sure of it.

But, just for kicks, I signed up for the “Girlfriend Ride” in Columbus, Indiana on Saturday, June 19th. It supports Turning Point Domestic Violence Services (shouldn’t it be Anti-Domestic Violence Services?), and it’s only $25 for early online registration (like, right now, at GirlfriendRide.org). The only problem for me is that it’s a girls-only thing, and I don’t do anything without my Mister. Also, my sister is on the other side of the world (I mean country), so I have NO ONE TO DO THIS WITH ME! Well, no one I know, anyway.

So I’m enlisting your help. Do you ride? Do you know some female who rides? Do you live within a 100 mile radius of Columbus, Indiana? No? Will you come anyway?

Also, if you or anyone you know is already planning on participating in the Girlfriend Ride, please comment below and let me know who you are!

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May 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Teacher Appreciation Day: Thank You, Brooke Siler

If you can read this, thank a teacher. It's Teacher Appreciation Day. If you can't read this, never mind.
I laughed at this, and then I thought: “Wait a minute, only 1 of my 19 students can read.” Hmph. Preschool.

Being a teacher and an ed major myself, there are a bazillion teachers I could thank today, but I choose Brooke Siler. She didn’t teach me how to read, how to ride a bike, or even how to teach others effectively. She taught me to take 10 minutes for myself each day, to insulate myself from the hateful environment I once existed in, and to find energy within myself and even spread it to others. How did she accomplish all of these things? She taught me Pilates.
The Pilates Body Kit
I was overweight, depressed, and still reeling from the abusive relationship I had just fled, and I knew I had to do something. Every morning I awoke in a fog, and I didn’t want to take a walk because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I looked at the few exercise books and DVDs I owned, but they all looked too hard. Then I remembered the little box I had picked up somewhere, called The Pilates Body Kit: An Interactive Fitness Program to Strengthen, Streamline, and Tone . It sounded like a quite a promise, and quite a workout, but it did have a Beginner’s section. I popped in the audio CD, and Brooke Siler’s voice came on, calm and steady, reassuringly explaining everything. There was no video, no group of fabulous bodies behind the voice to show me what I was supposed to aspire to. You might think that was a drawback, but it wasn’t. Being able to relax, listen, and follow the very clear directions was much better than straining my neck trying to see a screen and figure out how to move my body the way the people on TV were doing it.

Still, it was hard. The beginner’s program, where you learn to master the techniques you’ll use in the later Mat Class programs, is a lifesaver. Mastering Pilates breathing might be the hardest aspect of it all, and it’s an ongoing challenge. Still, after just one week of Pilates practice, I found myself feeling taller, more centered, more alive, and more relaxed. Eventually it made me stronger, better balanced, and helped me start my day with mental clarity.

If you haven’t tried Pilates yet, try it now. Commit to at least one week of practice. No giving up on the first day! Listen to the instruction, and really visualize what you’re doing. When Brooke says “Button your belly button to your spine,” visualize the change in your body. When she says to roll up the wall, “vertebrae by vertebrae,” see the bones in your spine sticking individually to the wall.

Also check out this YouTube video where Brooke talks about how Pilates changed her whole approach to fitness, and the role that physical exercise and body balance plays in a healthy life.

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May 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Walk Your Way to Portland, Oregon

Day 096 - Manoa Falls Hike
Image by CharlieBoy808 via Flickr

I’ve been fighting off my previous sedentary existence for 6 weeks now. That seems like a good chunk of time, but it’s only 42 days. I don’t know why 42 days seems like a shorter time than 6 weeks, but they are in fact the same. What difference has 42 days made? 42 days into this project, I can do so much more than I could when I began. For example, on Day 1, I vowed to walk “at least 15 minutes per day.” That first week, it was really hard to get up, go outside, and walk. I wanted the 15 minutes to be over so I could sit down again. Now I regularly walk for at least an hour at a moderate pace without feeling like it’s going to kill me. I enjoy it. I can even carry on a conversation.

Can you walk for an hour? Would you enjoy a three hour hike? If you started walking every day, could you build up to an all-day hike or even walking a 5K or 10K? (A 5K walk is a little over 3 miles, and can be done in about an hour at an easy pace. A 10K is twice that, or about 6.2 miles.)

If you answered yes to the above questions, try this: Take two easy 45-minute walks per week. On two other days each week, take 60 minute walks, one doing some interval speed work– see point #5 on this post, and the other, do intervals again but go even faster and include some hills. So you’re alternating a 45-minute walk, a 60-minute interval walk, another 45-minute walk, and another 60-minute interval walk. Take a day off somewhere in there, and every weekend do progressively longer walks, starting at 40 minutes and working up gradually to a 5 hour hike. Oh, and take up to 22 weeks to do this.

Do you know what I just described? Marathon training. Yes. I said a marathon. 26.2 miles. If you are able to walk for an hour on a regular basis, you are ready to train to walk a marathon (after you talk to your doctor about it, of course). Check out these 18-week and 22-week training guides from PBS.

Guess what else: The Portland Marathon, known for being very walker-friendly, is scheduled for October 10th this year: 10-10-10. That’s 23 weeks away!

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May 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment