Flex Friday: The 6-6-6 Halloween Workout

No matter what you’re dressing up as this Halloween, I bet you want to look HOT under that mask/cape/wig/whatever.  I also bet that if you’re anything like me, you’ve waited until the last minute to get your costume and party plans together, and now you’re scrambling for time.

No worries.  Don’t be scared.  I got you.  

Today’s workout is a quickie – three sets, increasing reps.  You hit six on the first, rest, twelve on the second, rest, and eighteen to finish out.  Whether you take the exercises I provided here or make up the workout on your own – I promise you’ll get a serious burn.

HALLOWEEN 666

Did you work out today?  What are your Halloween plans – healthy or not? 😉

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Tram Road Challenge Recap

Every year I see the Tram Road Challenge signs go up in and around Palm Springs, and every year I think, “I should do that.”  Then it’s always the wrong weekend, or I have something else to do, or I just don’t feel up to the commitment.

That ended last weekend.  I finally tackled the (29th Annual) Tram Road Challenge – and I can’t wait tphoto 4o do it again.

It all started at 7am, around 193 feet above sea level.  The vibe was relaxed – there was a funny MC recapping highlights from Challenges past, it was warm and crowded, and the volunteers were friendly.  I was nervous – was it really one 3.7 mile, continuous hill? – but ready to get going.

The siren sounded and we were off – the MC’s caution to take the first part easy was in the back of my head – and already it was steep.  The inclines were estimated at an average 12%, but I was sure I could run at least most of the race – and I was right.  I gritted my teeth, leaned into the hill, and chugged up as hard as I could – stopping ophoto 1nly to walk after mile 3, when it became a 16% incline (!).

After reaching the finish line (over 1930 feet of elevation gain later), I stood for a moment in disbelief – had I really made it?  Did I do well?  I was pacing a woman that I ended up passing in the last 1/4 mile, but I hadn’t really seen anyone else that might be in my age group, so I wasn’t sure how I’d finished.

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Turns out, I did pretty well. 

I finished in 44:05 (11:54/mile pace), which was good enough for 2nd in my age group, 11th woman overall out of over 400, and 76th person overall out of around 2000Processed with Moldiv.  YES!

Besides the finish, though, I was struck by the community of the race – from start to finish, the volunteers went of their way to inform and support the runners; the race was dog and stroller friendly; and I even met a running doc (Sports Injuries Specialist) that taught me the “runner’s hitch”; and sat on the bus back down with a few folks that wished me luck on my bridal shower later that day (post pending!) and were genuinely kind to me.

After years of running everything from 5K to a 1/2 Ironman, I have come to appreciate the simplicity, communal feel, and hometown vibe of a small race, as well as the intrigue of doing something completely different from what you’ve done before.  I will definitely be back for the 30th annual next year – and I’m going for 1st AG, dammit!

What’s the best race you’ve participated in lately?  What makes a race truly memorable for you?

Battle of the Bite: Blue Apron vs. Plated

I am sitting here drinking a glass of Dry Riesling (from our amazing wine club, by the way) and digesting the amazing salmon I just had courtesy of Blue Apron.  What’s Blue Apron, you ask?  Well, let me tell you a story.

Those of you who know me “IRL” (in real life, Mom) know that I am somewhat resistant to new ideas that aren’t my own.  For example, when I love a product or service, I will recommend it to everyone I know – and sincerely hope they take my advice on it.  But when someone suggests something to me – especially if it involves any sum of money – I will almost always pooh-pooh it.  It’s like a reflex.  I’m not proud of it, but it happens.

Two of my clients and trusted friends suggested I try a recipe delivery service – in this case,  Plated or Blue Apron – and to both of them, I said “it sounds like a nice idea but I actually like to cook.”  To which they (in their obvious wisdom) responded, “then you are the PERFECT target audience!”

They were right.

The basic idea is this: with either service, you pay a delivery fee ($12-15 per plate for Plated; $60 per 6 plates for Blue Apron), you receive fresh, properly portioned, organic, whole ingredients to your doorstep (packed in individual, labeled packaging inside a cooler with ice), and you learn how to prepare it using a (detailed, full-color) recipe card.

Sounds like fun, right?  It is!

plated1 ba1We tried Blue Apron first, indicating that we were “omnivores” in our profile, and in the first week (all three meals get delivered on Tuesdays) we received Lamb Ragu, Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Kale Salad, and Rice-Cake Crusted Salmon.  The following week, with the same lack of dietary restrictions, we went head-to-head for comparison with Plated (two meals only), and received Redfish Roti and Asian Duck Tacos.

Before I reveal our winner, some points of note:

Blue Apron in Summary

  • More complicated recipes by far; mise-en-place took an average of 45 minutes
  • Creative ingredients – think preserved lemon, candy cane beets, or black garlic
  • Beautiful, full-color cookbook-worthy recipe cards, as well as a weekly letter explaining the origin/history of the meals and ingredients
  • Three meals (two plates each for us) costs $60 weekly

Plated in Summary

  • Easy recipes; mise-en-place took a maximum 30 minutes
  • Creative ingredients – we got duck as a protein which was a nice surprise
  • Very adaptable for dietary needs – can “deselect” nuts, dairy, spicy, soy, gluten, beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, pasta, or pork
  • Two meals (two plates each for us) costs $48 weekly, but you can order as many “plates” (for as many people) as you wish each week, a la carte

Let me say this – I am an experienced home cook, which means that I am always looking for a new challenge.  I love trying out ingredients that I’ve never worked with before, and I enjoy practicing my knife skills with different techniques (julienne, matchstick, etc.).  I am also a sucker for a beautiful presentation, cost is a consideration, and the people in my household have no dietary restrictions of any kind.  So in the end, we chose…

BLUE APRON! (applause)

What pushed it over the edge for me (besides price and recipe diversity) is that Blue Apron recently partnered with Top Chef, my favorite reality show, and offers a service wherein you can get the ingredients and recipe for the show’s winning recipe delivered to your doorstep two weeks after it airs.  How cool is that?

Now I feel like a baller whipping up the meals that pro chefs create – without the fear that I am messing up or wasting expensive ingredients.  It’s a win-win for amateur but creative cooks like myself.

Have you ever tried a recipe delivery service?  If you’re an avid home cook, where do you find new ideas for recipes/ingredients?

A Day in the Life

A loyal reader asked me to break down a day in the life of a personal trainer – when I wake up, what I do all day, and how I stay fit.

Those of you who are also independent consultants like me know this: there is no typical day.  Each one is different, and plan as we may, days tend to take very different courses depending on cancellations, traffic, and a host of other “unpredictables” as the hours roll by.

That said, because my days are so varied and (perhaps) somewhat interesting, I figured I’d combine that reader request with today’s Blogging 201 assignment, which is thus:

B201 – Day 6 – Make the Most of Events

Create a recurring blogging event on your site, and/or make plans to attend a blogging conference.

Besides looking up blogging conferences in my area (not too difficult seeing as I’m in Los Angeles), I am hoping to draw some inspiration from my daily life to create a recurring but meaningful blog event (think World Fitness Day, or American Clean Eating Month [don’t take my idea – this may happen!], or something we can all participate in for the greater food).

Until I figure that all out, here’s a breakdown of what my #dayinthelife looks like this lovely Tuesday:

5:00am– alarm goes off; I groggily walk to the coffee pot and brew up some DD

5:15am – take my temperature (for fertility tracking), take my Biotin (for hair growth), and get ready (using my fave sweatproof products by it Cosmetics)

5:30am – coffee in hand, drive out to my first (outdoor) client while listening to Kevin & Bean, my absolute favorite morning radio show

7:00am – first client done, drive back to Fox Studios to teach CycleSculpt class

8:30am – class over, client at Fox

9:30-11:00am – bathe and prep for wellness presentation; breakfast of two hard boiled eggs, leftover arugula salad, and 1/2 whole wheat pita

11:30-2:00pm – give back-to-back wellness presentations at Fox (title: Exercise Intensity – The What, The Why, and the How-To)

2:30-4:00pm – work with online clients (all 89 of them!) over on FitOrbit.com; nosh on leftover Winter Day chili and pumpkin cornbread from last night

4:00-8:00pm – train more clients (both at Fox and outdoors)

8:30pm – receive Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron deliveries, prepare delicious meal (tonight: caramelized pork and congee); watch Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Tosh.0, and/or House Hunters International with the fiance

10:30pm – after a couple chapters of Lena Dunham’s new book, hit the sack

What does your #dayinthelife look like?  If you blog, what’s your favorite blogging event and/or conference?

Week(ly) Roundup

Ok ok, it’s not technically the weekend.  You win, readers.  But I have a great excuse: this past weekend was my bridal shower (post pending!) – so I didn’t have a ton of time to sit down on the ol’ laptop and get the creative juices flowing.

That said, no time like the present.  Without further ado, here’s what I’ve been paying attention to this past week:

One of my fave bloggers talks about Minted.com, which I’ve always wanted to try but never have.  You?

Burberry plaid is of course classic – but also insanely expensive.  These scarves would do me just fine.

I’m a big believer in the power of anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting spices, and the beautiful skin and healthy body of my girl Lauren Conrad suggest that she is, too.

Humor me for one last pumpkin recipe link before we move on to Christmas recipes.

He started from the bottom – and suddenly there’s three new amazing Drake songs.  Listen up!

Um obviously I love fashionable workout clothes, and I am all about mesh this season.

If you aren’t using HAC in your daily makeup routine, well, you aren’t getting your maximum ROI on cheekbones.

Ugh I hate SHAPE magazine.  But I do appreciate a strong article on the power of deep breathing.

And finally, in honor of Halloween – it makes my feminist heart cry to know that this costume exists.

What have you been reading this weekend?  Any Halloween-related links out there?

NaBloPoMo Is Coming!

Yep, it’s time for THAT awesome thing with an annoying name – November is NaBloPoMo, also known as “National Blog Posting Month.”

For the month of November, bloggers are challenged to submit a post every day – meaning November 1-30 – loosely following prompts and themes suggested by the powers that be.

Well, readers – YOU guys are my powers that be, and I want to hear what YOU want to read about in the coming month.

What health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and/or lifestyle questions would you love to know more about in a dedicated post?

Blogger 201: Day 3/5

Nope, that’s not three-fifths of a day – I am combining my B201 assignments from day 3 and 5 into one project today.  I think it’s fair, and I have SO MUCH awesome content I want to share with you guys right now (pregnancy fitness tips, a “day in the life” of a trainer, healthy baking hacks) that I want to make sure I get it all done.

That said, the assignments are as follows:

B201 – Day 3 – Create a Custom Widget

Ok, admittedly this is the hardest one for me so far – I am not great with image editing software nor do I technically need custom widgets right this second, so I dragged my feet a bit on completing this.  That said, once I got into it – it’s fun!  And inspiring!  And will (one day) be the way I do all the menus for my page.  But for now, it’s just this:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 9.44.40 AM

Yep, one little footer widget – all the way at the bottom of my blog, and linked to my “California Living” Pinterest page.  Nothing groundbreaking.  But I made it!  I sourced the image, customized the text and layout, and activated the little thing.  And I am proud.

So, moving on:

B201 – Day 5 – Drive Traffic to Your Archives

I have some amazing archives, dammit – or at least I have a good amount of posts (workout ideas, reviews, tip lists) that will stand the test of time – and should be easily discovered by new visitors to my site, even months after I post.  Today’s assignment is thus:

Integrate features to draw traffic to your older content, including widgets, related posts, and a “Best of” page.

I already do a decent job of linking back to my own posts, but I definitely don’t have any formalized way of suggesting content other than my own in-text links.  That said, I added a “related posts” section to my entries (although I can’t see it posting on the blog yet, hmmm) and I am trying to create my “Best of” page (but again, I can’t see it posting yet).

All in all, today’s assignment is a bit of a fail – but I will not give up!  More updates once I can figure out these newfangled “additives.”

Do you blog?  What widget/feature/extra are you most proud of on your page?

Blogging 201: Day 4

(yeah yeah, I know there’s no B201 Day 3 post yet, but that project is harder and tech-heavy and takes longer, so I’ll update that when I get there).

For now, a look into B201 (the blog improvement project) assignment of the day.

B201 – Day 4 – Give ‘Em What They Want

Conduct a short and simple stats analysis that will help you create an editorial calendar for the next 30 days.

  • Takeaway #1: my most popular post is Lessons From the Organizing Pro, which featured photos of my home, “before and after” documentation, and a strong theme (household reorganization) that seemed to resonate with both male and female readers.  A distant second was Top 8 Lessons Learned in a Year of Wedding Planning, which makes me think that lists are also a popular click for my readers.
  • Takeaway #2: it looks like most of my readers are checking in on Wednesdays (not coincidentally, also #AskAmanda days over on my Facebook page) and Thursdays, and not as many on Mondays or weekends.  This means I might want to think about running my strongest content on the more readable (and hopefully, “shareable”) days.

Because I am committing to blogging 6 days per week, I will continue to provide content every day (and keep up with my Weekend Roundup link posts to make sure you guys haven’t forgotten about me when the weekend rolls around).

That said, I plan to add more list-style posts, personal (vs. stock) photos, and practical, life-hack type thematics – so get ready, readers!  TFB is coming for YOU!

What keywords, themes, or ideas get YOU to actually click over to a blog?

Iobella: The Myth, The Legend, The Workout

I had the chance to check out a super-new, super-boutique fitness trend today – and it totally broke my generally skeptical stance against super-new, super-boutique fitness trends.

The place is called Iobella, and it’s an Argentinian import now located smack in the middle of Santa Monica (5th and Wilshire).  The basic concept is this: you get in a pod (they call it a thermal heat capsule), the pod is heated to 98 degrees (think body temperature, so it’s really not that hot), and you complete a 30-minute workout in the pod.  Sounds like some sort of dystopian future thing, right?  The Soylent Green of workouts?

photo 1 (1)

But I assure you – this is no gimmick.

I arrived at Iobella and was immediately struck by the vibe of the place – there’s a parking lot (no stress, no hassle – hard to find in L.A.!), the front lobby feels like an exclusive spa, and you get your own locker and sandals (hygenic!) before heading into the pod room.

Once there, you work personally with a trainer – either one-on-one (most common, that’s what I did) or two-on-one (if you need the moral support) – but never more than that.  There are straps inside the pod that are connected to 3-pound weights; the weight never changes, but the rep count and difficulty of movements do modify with practice (you do the same workout for 6 sessions, then they change it up).

photo 1

The workout begins with core, moves into legs (focusing on the most-often-heard trouble zones for women – inner/outer thighs and upper/side butt) and finishes with arms (again, targeting he problem areas – triceps and upper back).  The movements are definitely Pilates-inspired (think about a heavy focus on core engagement and alignment) but are hard as hell with even the minimal resistance – because guys, once you’re hitting 40-rep sets of ANYTHING on a single leg or arm in a 98-degree pod, that sh*t is going to get real.

photo 4 (2)

photo 5 (1)

photo 2 (1)

Besides the workout being surprisingly challenging, it was also surprisingly relaxing – the micromovements and focus on deep core muscles force you to concentrate on deep breathing, and the heat makes your muscle pain and tension melt away as you move.  The more time you spend in the pod, the more time you want to be there – an exercise-induced Stockholm syndrome.

But wait – there’s more.  A lot more.  Remember I told you Iobella felt like a spa?

Well, that’s because it is a spa.  Like, really.  They call it a spa, decidedly not a studio, because for the 30 minutes you spend sweating in a pod, you get back 30 delicious minutes of pampering: 15 spent cleansing under a rainshower with charcoal wash (a toxin-eliminating, skin-softening ritual) and fluffy robes, and 15 spentphoto 3 (3) in the most relaxing place on Earth – an oxygen rejuvenation pod.

In this second pod (in a separate, barely-lit relaxation room), alternating warm and cold blasts of purified air massage your body while you lie motionless with cucumbers on your eyes, a soft mask on your face, and headphones playing soothing music, which lulls you into a weirdly invigorating state of bliss.

Are you ready to try it yet?

I walked out of Iobella with the same calm, peaceful feeling I get from an hour-long massage but with the renewed, accomplished feeling I get from a sweaty Bikram yoga session – a winning combination, in my personal and professional opinionphoto 4 (1).  I can see how Iobella could become an addiction (albeit a very expensive one – check the site for more info on pricing, although they DO run deals every now and then), and as an athlete, I can also see how the movements practiced in the session, along with the personalized guidance of a trainer, can eliminate the potential for injury and strengthen the oft-overlooked connective tissues – no small feat for a 30-minute workout.

If you’re in the mood to splurge, tired of your current workout, and looking to try something high-end that will leave you feeling like a million bucks – Iobella is it.  I know that today’s first go-round is far from being my last.

Have you ever tried a “fitness trend” (SoulCycle, Zumba, etc.)?  What spa/studio have you always wanted to try but haven’t yet?

More Lessons From the Organizing Pro

Guys, remember when I had a professional organizer come to my house last week?  Well, turns out I’m becoming a regular customer.  Having Teresa in my house is like working through a zen meditation with a mindfulness master; when she leaves you feel calmer, more in control, and somehow like a better person than before.

That said, our project yesterday was a toughie (not the toughest to come – but perhaps toughest so far).  We worked on my bedroom shelving unit and living room bookcase.  Simple-sounding, perhaps, but you should know this: my (dear, lovely) fiance is a bit of a packrat, and moreover, has a hard time letting go of things (even objectively stupid things, like a cigarette-shaped figurine smoking an even tinier cigarette.  Nope, not kidding.).

Add to that the fact that those stupid IKEA Expedit shelving units are a hoarder’s dream, with nooks and crannies aplenty just taunting you, begging you to cram your crap deep in its dark, shadowy shelves, never to be seen or dealt with again.  Until yesterday.

photo 2We started with a 4×4 (16 “squares”) shelving unit, which seems like a lot of room until you realize it was spilling over onto our fireplace, in front of the unit, and even squished in the little side-panel area between the shelf and patio doors.

No bueno.  

There were mismatched cardboard boxes, some plastic tubs (with and without fitting lids), a useless “file box,” and all sorts of muddled attempts at organizing the square behemoth (pencil cups, Tupperware, file folders in piles) that had, ultimately, failed.  Teresa took one look at it and said this:

We gotta take it all out.

And she was right.  Because the first step in organizing a unit like this, where there are sensitive documents among sentimental collectibles amid actual trash, is to see exactly what you’ve got and create functional piles.  So we did.  We went cube by cube, throwing away trash as necessary and organizing into distinct piles: office, party & wrapping, documents, cards & stationery, tools/hardware, and gifts.

photo 3 (1)Once the piles were made (and the trash ousted), we moved anything that didn’t fit in a separate area (for example, large pieces of framed artwork that weren’t yet hanging on a wall, stacks of misplaced books, very old tax and important documents) into the living room as the go-elsewhere pile – knowing full well that we had to put those things into their proper “elsewheres” before the project was over.  Don’t be afraid to create a temporary messy pile. These things still had a nice, organized home in the end – it just wasn’t my cube shelf.

Finally, we organized the piles into workable little “stations” using cube-sized sturdy baskets, and placed the stations back into the cube where they could be easily accessed, but not visible.  Now I know when I need to wrap a gift, I have wrap, tape, ribbons, and cards all within easy reach – one little basket – yet I don’t have to see those items spilling out over my bookcase.photo 4

Finally, we addressed the go-elsewhere pile, reorganized the living room bookcase (a crazy mess in itself – we got rid of 4 boxes of books plus have some room left over for new acquisitions) and made a plan for next time – this way, I can prep my Container Store and Overstock.com runs to maximize the time we need for our next big project (da-da-daaaa): THE CLOSETS.  God help me.

For now?  A quick peek into the next stage of our organizing project and an overview of my “shopping list” for max household efficiency:

  • those amazing little velvet hangers, so everything in your closet looks uniform, and thin straps and silky shirts actually stay put on hangers
  • clear sheet protectors for the recipe cards I am already accumulating from our recent foray into Blue Apron (full post coming soon!)
  • one of those nifty greeting card storage boxes with the individual categories
  • a storage ottoman so when we unmake the bed, we aren’t creating a veritable moat of pillows and throws around the bed
  • a new minimalist desk so I don’t have to work from the freaking kitchen table; and
  • shelf separators so my piles of workout pants and tops don’t collapse all over each other

What is on your shopping list for your well-organized home?  What tips do you use to stay tidy around the house?