Friday, August 31, 2012

Just Exercise on the Road

“But you’re my only friend who doesn’t like to exercise”…Franny, Friends with Money

Being in the car for a long time is a killer. You get out to walk around after a few hours, and you feel as if your legs have turned to mush. On our trip, we tried to stop every few hours to do a short routine to get our blood flowing. Here is one of the variations we did.

Hill Sprints –At rest stops we found some hills and took turns doing sprints. We would run up and do a bear crawl down. For those not familiar, a bear crawl is just how you would imagine it to look. You get down on all fours and crawl like a bear. The other person would do jumping jacks while waiting.

Planks and Sit-up Variations – These are both great exercises that work your abs and core with no equipment needed. 

Kettle Bells and Mobile Equipment – I am lucky that I have a cute trainer boyfriend who has introduced me to these items. I had never heard of Kettle Bells before and they would have totally intimidated me. I have actually seen KB’s at Target, but he orders his through a serious company called Dragon Door

Totally intimidating name, right? They’re really not. I’ll explain more about Kettle Bells later, but they are awesome and work your full body! Check me out in action:

Stretching - Last but certainly not least, stretch as much as you can. Your body gets tired from sitting all day whether at work or in a car. Stretch your legs, hamstrings, etc. as much as you can when you’re at a rest stop. My favorite is the downward dog:

Most importantly, do not be too hard on yourself. It’s tough to do it all. We tried to eat the best we could and manage to fit in some work outs but there were days when it just didn’t happen. We would get to our hotel late, and I wouldn’t have the energy to think of exercise. I was in a rush so I grabbed a protein bar at a local stop, and it turned out to have tons of chemicals in it. Word to the wise – always read your labels! So there were just days that we felt better than others. However, all our efforts paid off because following these simple principals made it easier to bounce back once my plane landed in NJ.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Eat Well on the Road

“All travel has its hardships”…Madame Olenska, The Age of Innocence

There is pretty much nothing that challenges you as much to be your best self as a road trip. Scott, my boyfriend, is enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and just started classes this week. He will be working towards earning his masters in Exercise Kinesiology. It’s sad that we are not together right now, but the program is one of the best if not the best in the country….so you do what you have to do. We are trying to see if we can make the long distance thing work which I know will be tough for both of us. But awesome girlfriend that I am I had agreed to take the drive down to the Longhorn state to help get him settled.

Here are some tips to hopefully help you the next time you embark on a road trip:

Pack Your Own Food - This is a principal in our day to day lives so a road trip situation was not any different. Be mindful of what will last and not spoil too easily. Get a cooler or two and fill it will ice packs and bags of ice. The car gets hot! When you check into your hotel/motel call the front desk and request a mini-fridge if there isn't one in your room. Here are some different ideas:

Sandwiches – We took turkey breast slices and provolone cheese on Ezekiel bread and added some arugula with low fat mayo and mustard. You could try other veggies but ditch the tomato – too wet.

Salads – We packed various veggies with greens, sundried tomato, grilled chicken and a little goat cheese for flavor. If you wait to add salad dressing later the salads lasts much longer. We took along MCT oil, mustard and apple cider vinegar to make our own.

Snacks – I am a big fan of Blue Diamond Crackers so I brought a box of those. We stocked up on healthy granola and protein bars as well as nuts. Some of our favorite bars are Cliff, Luna and Kind bars. I also threw in Greek yogurts, low fat string cheese, fruit and pre-cut veggies.

Drinks – Stay hydrated with water, iced decaf coffee, Zevia which is a naturally sweetened soda and Honest Tea Kids. This is a recent discovery of mine that makes me feel like a kid again! They’re juice boxes!

It’s also important to try exercise and stretch as much possible. Here is where you need to get creative since you can’t depend on a gym. It's time to get back to the basics with some easy moves. Come back tomorrow for the routine we used on the road!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Sweet and Free Muffins

"Thin, pretty, your basic nightmare"....Marie, When Harry Met Sally...

“The Bachelor” has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years now. Every time I resolve that I will not devote my free time to this pursuit, but I fall victim almost every time. I have managed to get my mother hooked as well as my boyfriend. Ironically my boyfriend knew Ashley, a recent Bachelorette, from the gym at the University of Pennsylvania. So out of curiosity he started to watch too and got really into it…for multiple seasons no less.

Well, my favorite front runner up from the Jake season – Tenley Molzahn started her own website/blog dedicated to gluten free and healthy living – The recipe for these muffins looked awesome and they were overall very healthy with very little flour or sugar. I am not gluten free myself, but often enjoy trying these types of recipes as they are a much healthier alternative to traditional processed products you see on the store shelves.

I had some bananas that were on the brink of death last night and decided to try these out. They were quick and easy with minimal clean up! My kind of recipe – and delicious! I had one for breakfast with some scrambled eggs on the side. Here's how to make them:

Banana Walnut Muffins

3 ripe large bananas, mashed (you can use 2 if you're not crazy for bananas)
6 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp 100% maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
-Preheat oven to 350
-Mash bananas and then add eggs, vanilla, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl and whisk ingredients together
-In a separate small bowl mix together coconut flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
-Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until you have a smooth mixture
-Mix in nuts leaving some nuts behind for topping
-Pour mixture into greased muffin tins or cupcake liners in the muffin tins, fill muffin cups 3/4 full (I also recommend using some cooking spray on the liners so the muffins don’t stick)
-Before you place muffins in the oven, sprinkle leftover chopped nuts on top of batter for a topping
 -Bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown - use a toothpick to check if finished baking (Mine took about 20 minutes)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just About Me

Just About Me

Hi! Thank you for visiting my page.  My name is Lauren, and I'm a 30-something marketing manager in New Jersey.  I rent an apartment by myself but my boyfriend, Scott, is around most of the time. My goal is to share my passion for healthy food and fitness and to hopefully inspire you to Just Be Your Best Self.

How This All Started

I want to lift things up and put them down. …

This was a popular joke circa winter of 2011 on the East Coast.  For those of you who are not familiar, this was part of a Planet Fitness commercial campaign featuring a large heavy weight lifter who was just not welcome at a civilized gym. He utters this phrase to the two skinny guys showing him around the gym who proceed to show him right out the door.  This is the only thing I could think of to say when I first met my personal trainer (now boyfriend) for a free training session at my gym. He was of course asking me what my fitness goals were and why I was there.  I honestly had no idea, or at least no idea where to begin.

Growing Up: The Evolution from Chubby to Skinny Fat

I grew up a chubby girl in the suburbs of New Jersey. I had never had shown any propensity towards being athletic. I would try out everything from dance to soccer to ice skating (usually based on whatever book I was reading at the time) but nothing stuck. My movement felt awkward, and I was not very coordinated. So I shunned sports and gravitated towards other pursuits such as writing, reading and theatre.  All through my 20s, I had an on and off relationship with health and fitness. With my weight relatively stable, I was somewhat careful about my diet but knew very little nutritional information. In retrospect, I relied way too heavily on a lot of processed health foods such as cereal bars and low-fat crackers.  My clothes fit, so there seemed to be no need to break the formula. I would also join the gym on occasion and lament I was overpaying.  Whatever the cost would be, it was too much to justify going one night a week which is what usually would happen. I had been enticed by the idea of a personal trainer for years because I wanted to go to the gym with a purpose, and to actually understand what I was doing.  However, it seemed so expensive at the time that it was reserved for rich wives with a lot of time on their hands.  I would continue to move around the gym lost or try to find the solution with at home gym equipment featured on QVC or a workout DVD purchased through Amazon.  I was thin, of course, and really didn’t need to lose weight.  Was I fit or really happy with the way my body looked, absolutely not.

The Tipping Point

What changed all of this was a terrible car accident on a scary day of black ice right before Christmas of 2010. I was driving my mother’s car, and we skidded and started to spin in the middle of the highway. We were hit by a tractor trailer that pushed us off into the guard rail. The incident was terrifying and absolutely the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.  Miraculously, my mother and I appeared to walk away unscathed.  Not surprisingly, a few days later a lot of pain started in my shoulder area and upper back. It was absolutely awful sitting through a day at work feeling it getting worse. So I started seeking help through chiropractic care, and while it did ease the pain, it was not the cure I had hoped for.  Finally one day, my chiropractor told me that I would never feel better unless I started to exercise and build my upper body strength.  This meant weights and that was a dangerous road to go down for me.  Whenever I started lifting weights either at the gym or at home via a DVD, I would inevitably hurt myself and give up.  So I decided to finally invest the money in some personal training, so I could learn what I was doing. After a few months, my trainer was leaving the gym.  I still had a few sessions left on my package. I honestly really just wanted a refund for the balance. I did not feel much better and even though I claimed it was not my motivation, I felt no closer to the hard abs and tighter thighs that I had hoped would be a by-product of my dedication. Since no gym likes to lose money or offer refunds, the manager promised me I would really click with the new guy.  She wanted to give me a complimentary session.  Reluctantly, I agreed since I knew they wouldn’t give me any money back.  I was also nervous since I still felt very self conscious at the gym and did not want to work out with a guy, let alone a cute one.  There was a very adorable blonde trainer at the gym, and I was really concerned that he might be the very one this manager was talking about. Sure enough, it was. Ugh…my Target workout pants felt very un-sexy already.

So I did of course need to buy some better workout clothes to up the ante.  I felt I needed to look cuter if I was ever going to hang out with this guy outside of the gym. Oddly enough, I began to feel very comfortable with him and in the gym environment. Unlike my first trainer, he truly understood the damage I had suffered from my accident and the work that needed to be done to get me functioning again. It took a few months for him to ask me out (although he claims he never did) and for me to start to see changes in my body. I began to become hooked on a new way of thinking that had me feeling stronger, in control of my body, and looking better. A little over a year later, Scott is my go-to resource on all things training related, but he does not really have the time to train me one on one anymore.  It should not be anyone’s goal to need a personal trainer indefinitely. The goal is to have them educate you and help you access your potential. I do miss that time we used to spend together, but I also feel incredibly empowered going to the gym and working out on my own usually with the guys who are the only ones who ever lift weights.  I often think they are very confused by me.  Who is the girl with the lip gloss and the perfect manicure moving around that bar and plates?  I must confess I do enjoy being “that girl.”


My interest in training has spilled over into so many areas of my life. It has been a great gift to me. I used to be a happy hour regular.  While I do enjoy a glass of wine at dinner or a cocktail, it became hard to fit both in since I go to the gym after work.  I believe in balance. The rewards I was getting through working out were far more impactful than any $2 draft hour had ever been.  Plus all the extra drinking seemed like a bad idea once I started to appreciate how it was actually impacting my health. Not to mention the bloat and headaches. Instead, I began to care about nutrition and organic food and started to research different types of recipes in books, magazines and websites.  My boyfriend and I cook together a lot. I also began to design a lot of recipes of my own, as I wanted to create healthier versions of foods that I loved. I began to attend yoga classes to improve my flexibility, but it opened up my mind as well. At the age of 33, I started to see that I was beginning to become an improved version of what I was…looking better, feeling better, buying new clothes to reflect my individual style and searching for what would truly make me happy. I am excited to be on this path, but I still have a lot a lot of work to do. My philosophy is that nothing should hold you back from doing what makes your heart sing….so, isn’t it time you became your best self?