Monthly Archives: January 2009


I’m mulling over the idea of adding a new element to this blog. Kind of.

I’d like to add a simple video element occasionally that shows how I prepare simple foods with clean eating in mind. Not just how I cook greens, but showing me cooking them, how I finish the dish off, what I eat it with. Get people thinking about how to combine flavors they like to make their dishes yummy.

If I were to do this, are there are any foods you’d like to know about?

The easiest first vids would likely be the greens and oatmeal. And likely ideas for combining foods in a delish salad. Of course, I fear that everyone will discover that my main trick is sprinkling a lot foods with balsamic vinegar or soy sauce.

Workout Plan for the Week 1/25/09

I’ll be heading away from home on Thursday, so this is a short work out week.

Sunday: Interval training cardio. Two minutes walking @3.8 MPH, 1 minute running at @6.2-6.3 MPH. For 20 minutes.

Stability work: Plank, Bridge, Balance

Strength: Upper body: Dips, Press, Rows, Pulls, Push ups.
The entire thing unstable.

I am working on doing ball bench press with only one leg on the ground. The steps before that are all easy for me, but I can’t even simply do the bridge part with one leg! Keep rolling off. At least I laugh as I’m rolling off the ball…

Cool down, stretches and foam roller massage.

Monday: Steady state cardio -30 minutes.
Stability: Incline plank, glute activation moves, ankle stabilization moves.
Strength: Lower body: Dead lifts, Leg Press, Lunges, Step Ups. Abductor/Adductors.
Core: Capt. chair, incline ab bench.
Cool down, stretches, foam roller.

Tuesday: rest day.

Wednesday: Cardio. 30 minutes steady state.
Stability: Plank, Bridge, Incline plank. Dynamic stretches.
Strength: Full body workout: Squats, Bench Press, Pull Ups, Back Extensions, Tricep, Bicep. Leg Raises.
Cool Down: stretching, foam roller.

Thursday through Sunday: rest days.

Welcome to the Fountain of Youth!

(crossposted at BlogHer)

You cannot imagine how happy I was when asked to write about Exercise and the Middle Aged Woman.  Really.  It’s one of my favorite topics of conversation because I think being active is the real fountain of youth.

If you believe that by fountain of youth I’m implying that exercise can stop hair from graying or make those lines at the sides of your eyes disappear, then I’ll disappoint you.  What I mean is that anyone who looks at you will know that those lines come from smiling; they won’t as easily notice the gray because of the glow on your face. Exercise can imbue you with wonderful energy that makes you forget how many candles were on the last birthday cake.

It might also give you sufficient breathe to easily blow those candles out next time they come.

So, what is it about exercise that makes it so wonderful for we middle-aged women?  Exercise can:

  • Strengthen Bones.
  • Control Hormones.
  • Increase muscle mass and decrease body fat;
  • improve the immune system;
  • fight stress and and improve mood;
  • aid with sleep;
  • improve mental acuity;
  • improve sexual endurance and pleasure.
  • Given these benefits, who could wisely choose to ignore physical activity?  Not me!

    What is the “right” exercise to undertake, though?  My first thought is to keep this answer very simple: WHATEVER YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO.  The USDA recommends:

    • Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
      • To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
      • For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
      • To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
      • To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
    • Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

    Did you notice that section I put in bold type?  Engage at least 60 minutes a day.  I don’t believe anyone would sustain exercise over time unless it was something they enjoyed doing. Whether that be walking or dancing, yoga or weight training… find some activity you enjoy and keep doing it.

    If you’re new to exercise, you might be know what you like.  In that case, consider what might keep you from regularly exercising.

    Does the idea of going to a gym and having strangers see you working out completely intimidate you?  Then check out some DVDs from your library and work out at home.  It might be that a salsa-exercise tape encourages you to find a salsa dance class.  Or Tae-bo draws you to the neighborhood karate studio.  You might find that these classes at home fit your schedule and lifestyle perfectly.

    Me?  I know myself well enough to know I must go leave the house to get a serious workout in.  Whether it’s walking my dogs around the hills and open parkways or pushing weights in the gym, if I don’t  remove myself from the distractions and responsibilities of the household, I will do everything else first before I exercise.

    Building an exercise habit takes a little time, but it is not hard.  I mark my workouts on my calendar, just like any other appointment.  Then do not allow myself to cancel.  I know people who get up early to utilize that quiet time before family and employment demands.  Others work on lunch hours or after work.

    Find a time and a way that works for you.  Then continuously push yourself to change things up a bit and progress.  Because when you’re busy growing, changing,  and moving, you’re living.


    We all know the importance of eating colorful foods.  Researches regularly tell us that eating the color wheel – bright oranges, deep reds and purples, and ofcourse greens- insures we get all the phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals we need.

    In the summer, I will easily eat a salad for lunch most days, getting those greens.  Wintertime, however, I’m reluctant to eat cool moist foods.  It’s this time of year that I cherish steamed greens.

    I don’t have a family experience of eating or cooking greens, so when I came to these several years I had to teach myself.  I rejected the idea of boiling these leaves for several hours – it just didn’t seem right to me.  So I learned how to make quick steamed greens that are both tasty and healthy.

    Usually I pick up a package of EURO GREENS in the produce department of grocery store.  It’s already chopped chard, mustard, turnip, and kale.  Sometimes I can pick these greens up fresh at the Farmer’s Market, which I prefer.  In that case, I roughly chop the greens myself into pieces about 1″ square.

    My dutch oven is placed on the stove with about 1/2″ of water and a very small amount of olive oil in the bottom.  This is then turned on medium high.  While the pot is heating up, I rinse the greens and shake them out lightly, leaving some of the moisture on the leaves.  Then I half fill the pot with some of these greens.

    For the next 10 minutes I use tongs to toss and flip the greens, adding more to the pot as the they cook down.  Quickly, they are reduced to a much smaller amount of bright green deliciousness.  At this point, I remove the pot from the heat and drain off any remaining water.  I drizzle more olive oil over the lot, and continue the flipping to make sure I coat the leaves.  Many of the nutrients in these greens are not absorbed by the body except in the presence of a fat.  Then I splash the lot with a good balsamic vinegar.  There is usually enough to give me a dish for 2 or 3 days.

    That’s it.  Ten minutes of steaming/stirring, some oil and vinegar and I’m set.  I may grate some cheese over the greens when I’m ready to eat or season with salt and pepper.  It’s yummy, simple and very very good for me.

    How do you get your greens in the winter?

    Real World Workout

    Today is the MLK National Day of Service Holiday. In past years, I’ve tried to find volunteer opportunities for this day with little success.

    This past fall, however, a group that originally organized to get to Barack Obama elected, wisely realized they had a contacts and commitments for change. The focus turned overnight from election activities to community service, and Citizen Hope was formed. They have taken an active role to keep us involved in the process. This includes regularly putting out volunteer opportunities.

    In December I helped to hand out food, toys and personal care items to disadvantaged in San Francisco as part of Miracle at Pier 48. Besides the genuine feelings of thankfulness from those we assisted, the lasting memory was the discussion of the volunteers:

    First hour: I won’t have to go the gym tomorrow!

    Second hour and beyond: I won’t be able to go to gym tomorrow.
    That’s because we lugged large heavy boxes for several hours, getting incredible full-body workouts and killing our arms, backs, and legs.

    Today as part of Citizen Hope, I have volunteered to help 3rd graders in a poor neighbor work their plots in the school farm. They’ve suggested that we will be moving loads of mulch, helping to prepare the soil and helping the students in planting seeds.When the crops are ready to be picked, each child will have fresh, organic produce to take home and share with their families.

    How cool is this?

    However, based solely on my previous experience, I am confident that I will be getting a real world full-body workout today, with no need to hit the gym.  I’m cool with that, but pray that I recover quickly.

    Not Enough

    I’ve given the NROL template a short play. Done both of the first workouts twice and still have the same impression: it’s not enough.

    I don’t know if I need to remind myself that you don’t have to kill yourself to get fit. I think it’s that I have been lifting for almost 2 years, and I’m beyond the point of this template.

    I’m going to say now: the program would be challenging and worthwhile for someone who has been lifting for a few months. But not a way to workout for the experienced.

    Going back to my normal routines next week.

    Alwyn, Please Forgive Me.

    Sunday was my first workout using the New Rules of Lifting for Women Stage 1 template. (NRLW-ST.1A from now on.)  I enjoyed the workout and came away with a couple thoughts:

    This is the acclimitization phase of the workout, where you get used to the strength moves and the supersets.   I’ve done all but one of these exercises as part of my regular routine, so I’m already familiar with this.  Only new move is the deadlift, which is easy enough to learn.  Because this is designed to get one used to the idea, it’s also twice as long as the other componants- aiming at 6-8 weeks to complete.

    However, since this isn’t physically new to me, I will be shortening this to 4 weeks, changing the reps/sets each time I do a workout. This is giving me time to get used to the ideas of this workout and to get my baseline strength established.  Alwyn, I hope you understand and forgive me.

    The second thing that struck me: this is a shorter workout than I usually do.  Each of these workouts is a full-body workout (no working 2 days in a row here).  When I’ve done full-body in the past, I’ve followed Gunnar Pederson’s 11 moves idea.  Would take about an hour  to an hour and fifteen minutes to work through the entire thing.  Cosgrove’s workouts are FIVE MOVES.  I’ll be able to complete the strenth part of my workout in about 20 minutes!  Add the  warmup, cardio and stretching, and I’ll be in and out of the gym in about an hour.

    More time for LIFE!  It’s gotta be all good!

    Now what did I do?

    Started with a 10 minute cardio warm up, then lunges to warm up the muscles.

    The Program:

    Squats: 2 sets of 15 reps with appropriate warm-up set.  Warmed up with bare bar (45#), then set 1 at 75# and set 2 at 85#.

    Pushups: Set one: 12, Set two: 10.

    Seated Rows: Two sets of 15 at 50#

    Step Ups: Two sets with 15# DBS, 15 reps. each foot.

    Ball Jack Knife: 2 sets of 10 each.  (could have done more)


    Because this really didn’t feel like enough to me I added more to my workout.  This is one of the temptations I’m going to have to fight, but the gym on Sunday afternoons is delightfully empty, leaving equipment easy to use.

    Bench Press: warm up with bare bar (45#), set 1 12/65# set 2 10/75#

    Leg Extensions on Incline Ab Bench with a twist: 2 sets of 15.

    Home.  And I’ll be walking the dogs for additional cardio.

    Changin’ It Up

    I mentioned a couple weeks ago that January was going to be a month of unstable workouts.  Well, I’m scrappin it.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy these -they are whole lot of my favorite workouts.  Rather a couple things coincided to make me change my mind about the focus for the near term.

    #1.  My training sessions with Adam have run their course.  And I’m back to working out on my own again.  Not that ‘s that a problem.  While I LOVE the challenges and the different techniques brought in when working with Adam (he’s a major cross-cable workout kinda guy), I enjoy planning my entire week out and know what I’m doing when.  The control is satisfying.

    #2.  I got another email from someone who found my review of  The New Rules of Lifting for Women and questioned if I had ever done the workouts.

    I’m sure this questions was partly in response to my reaction of this section of the book:

    I HATE that the workouts for women are labeled Stage One, Stage Two, etc.  What the heck does Stage one mean?  And why couldn’t the authors simply have equated to the men’s “initial skill” level?  What am I concentrating on in Stage Two?  Is it stability, endurance?

    Quite frankly, I think I owe it to myself to sit down for a while with the provided template and work it. See what I like and don’t like.

    I know what I thought when reading it (besides hating that they labelled it A, B, C, D.  Firstly, I didn’t (don’t) really know all of the moves.  Which means reading the instructions and/or taking the book to the gym to figure them out. Is it “uncool” to sit with weight trying to figure out if I’m doing?  If I take this route (book to gym) I’m pretty sure I’ll head in there during the slowest part of the day.

    Secondly, and this is the BIG ONE, the workouts don’t seem to be enough.  Each workout is only 5 or 6  moves (for example,  squat, a seated row, a push-up, lunges, and crunches.)  You start out with 2 sets of 15 reps.. and in 4-6 weeks move to 3 sets of 8 reps by the end of the first set of exercises. I know it gets harder from there.  And parts 2-5 include 15 minutes of interval cardio at the end.  Also?  They recommend uppin the weights each time you exercise.  So a month later, I should be lifting 10# heavier or more.

    If you progress straight through with 4 workouts/week, this undulating periodization workout will last 6 months. At 3 workouts a week, it will last about 9 months.  The final set of workouts look truly challenging. And this program was designed by Alwyn Cosgrove – who certainly is no slouch when it comes to program design.

    So there’s something that I have to discover.  Have I let my emotions take over instead of addressing this  experience?  I think they have.  And I think I owe it to myself to give these workouts a try.  I’m  starting this experiment on Sunday and will blog about it as I go through the process.

    I suspect that I will miss my “old” way of working out and between each segment of this program will give myself a couple weeks to return to my old ways.  Ya know I’ll tell you about those times, too.

    Anyone else in on a change up routine?  Want to turn this into a challenge?

    Can’t Fool Myself Any Longer

    A medication I’m on has, as a side effect, an increased craving for simple carbs. While I was in an emphasize weight-loss phase, I fought to eliminate this craving by substituting more complex carbs and making sure I was well hydrated.

    But I’ve gotten a bit complacent and the last 7 weeks I have not been succeeding. For a while, I fooled myself into believing that the weight gain had to be muscle. But I really can’t fool myself any longer.

    I’ve got to take this craving on head on. More attention to hydration, more careful food planning, and eliminating most of the simple carb foods in the house will be my first steps.

    Next? A re-emphasis on harder cardio.

    How many others have had small set ups while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle?


    While I often think my workouts don’t really change much, if I’m honest they change just a little bit almost every week or so. Often it’s determined by the available equipment: no single handles for the cables, I’ll do a seated row; no flat bench open though I’ll do incline presses; adjust the DBs based upon what I can find.

    The big changes happen every month, though. I choose a type a workout to concentrate on and make sure that at least 1/2 of my workout each time applies to these goals. Some of these are the standards that you read about in books or on websites: strength or endurance. Others make sense even if they haven’t made it popular books yet.

    Last month, I concentrated on unilateral exercises: exercising one side of the body at a time. As Gubernatrix pointed out these exercises help you improve weakness that exist in us all between the sides. Because these exercises always take me more time, I did a lot of split workouts and spent a bit more time in the gym.  But I actually LIKE unilaterals and make sure to return to this method at least once every 3 months.

    So what am I doing in January?  I’m dedicating myself to unstable workouts.  Switching things so I have to rely on core stabilazation and balance while doing moves at a lower weight is what I’m all about this month.  Again, these are challenging enough that I’m looking at splits instead of full-body workouts.

    Today was chest, bi/tri and core.  Thank goodness I could find a stability ball at the gym  This is going to be my BIG challenge this month as they tend disappear or be claimed quite quickly.

    Chest press in bridge position on the ball; incline bench press rolled down on the ball, military press while seating on the ball.  Plus an assortment of planks and crunches filled the first half of the workout.  Then some tricep pull downs (2 kinds) and bicep curls while standing on one foot kind of finished off the instability.

    Why choose to do these?  First, these make me concentrate in a different way than when I comfortable position myself on a bench or a seat.  Because I’m thinking “tighten your core, lift your hips, press through your heels” while I’m counting the tempo for a press or lift, I’m not thinking so much about the move itself.  It happens naturally and organically and I’m usually more successful at the exercise because I’m looking elsewhere.

    I think I read somewhere that these type of exercises actually can strengthen brain connections.  And let’s be serious about this, we can all benefit from more brain connections.  Strong brains B Good!

    Also (just between us), unstable exercises kind of freak out the guys.  There simply is no way you can do them with as heavy a weight; guys are all about the heavy weight.  Many would love the idea of the challenge, but few are willing to give up 10 pounds or so to get a better/different workout.  So to see a woman doing something that scares them just a little.  Macho freak time.

    If you aren’t doing some kind of unstable exercise regularly, give it a try.