Friday, March 29, 2013

Psssst, Easter Bunny, How About Something Different For The Kids?

With Easter coming up this Sunday, I thought I'd give some ideas for egg and basket fillers for your children and grandchildren that don't come laden with empty calories and artificial colors. Let's face it, our kids really don't need the junk and most likely, we're going to end up eating some (or most) of the candy they get. So let's set everyone up for a healthy Spring with the following:

Egg Fillers:
1. Legos -- A few years ago I bought a lego starter kit and filled a bunch of the plastic eggs with a few pieces each.

2. Plastic crystals -- My kids still get so excited about finding "treasure"

3. Coins -- Who doesn't like cash? And when you shake the eggs they sound like maracas :)

4. Stickers -- Kids love stickers!

5. Vouchers -- Come up with something that would be important to your kids that you could write on a slip of paper and then roll up and put in the egg. A few options might be picking what's for dinner, a special outing, a small item they've been wanting that wouldn't fit in an egg.

6. Clues for a scavenger hunt: Write a clue on a slip of paper that you'll roll up and put in the egg. Number the clues so that when the kids have found all of the eggs, they can work together to find a prize. One year I did this and it led the kids to a soccer net I had hidden in the bathtub.

7. Balloons: Last year, I put balloons in some of the plastic eggs and a balloon pump in each of the kids' baskets. They had a lot of fun pumping up the balloons and then playing games in the backyard with them.

8. Actual, decorated, hard-boiled eggs. Great source of protein and a lot of fun to prepare :)

Easter Basket ideas:
1. Jump ropes and hula hoops -- you can challenge them to a contest to see who can jump or hula hoop the longest.

2. Any water toy that will get them moving. Last year my mom made water bombs out of cut up strips of sponge that she then tied together. The kids soaked them in a bucket and then had a sponge fight. Of course, we live in Southern California, so anyone living in a colder climate probably thinks I'm crazy!

3. Dumbbells or resistance tubes. Believe it or not, last year the Easter Bunny brought the kids 3 and 5 lb. dumbbells because they always want to lift weights with mommy. They were the biggest hit in the basket!

4. Sidewalk Chalk -- when I had the daycare I used to use sidewalk chalk for all sorts of running and learning games. My favorite was drawing letters and numbers all over the driveway and then having them run to whichever one I called out. It's not just for hopscotch!

5. Balls, balls and more balls!

6. Bubbles: my kids are 8 and 5 and they still love chasing bubbles. Especially the mega ones you can make with some of the cool bubble toys available in stores.

If you have any other ideas, please share below!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting Started

I was recently interviewed for an article about fitness and the reporter's questions prompted me to consider the advice I'd give to someone who is ready to make a lifestyle change but isn't sure where to begin. Here are 4 simple ways to get started with a fitness routine sure to help you achieve your goals:

1. Think of what you enjoyed doing as a kid. If you loved the feeling of freedom and speed you got when you were riding your bike around the neighborhood, then dust off your bike, put on a helmet, and go for it! If you loved being part of a team, join an adult league and start training for your sport (just watch out for the culture of beer and snacks after the game). If you were a dancer or gymnast like me, and loved the way the music made you want to move your body, find an exercise class like Zumba or Boogie Body and start shaking it! When you choose an activity you enjoy, especially one that brings back happy memories, you are much more likely to commit yourself and follow through. When it comes to fitness, the best workout is the one you'll do consistently!

2. Start small. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they embark upon a new fitness routine is going too big, too fast. When people finally reach the action stage in making a change, they are highly motivated and excited to see results. Often, this leads to taking on challenges that are greater than their bodies are ready for. This is especially true for people who have been active and fit in the past. I've dealt with this a lot as a personal trainer. People come to me saying, "well I was an athlete in high school" or "I used to ride my bike 250 miles a week" or "I used to bench press 200 lbs.".  So they begin by working out too frequently, or too intensely, and then burn out. This has many physical, emotional, and psychological consequences. A better approach is to figure out what your fitness level is TODAY and then set modest goals that allow for rest and recovery. Personal trainers are a fantastic resource to assist you in formulating a plan that is reasonable and will still get you the results you seek. 

3. Find a buddy. I finally did this again and it has helped me be more consistent with my own workouts than I have been in a LONG time! My friend comes to my house early in the morning and we work out in my studio. Knowing that she will be at my front door gets me out of bed even on the toughest of mornings. I also push myself much harder when I'm working out with someone else. We've even inspired a few other friends who are now planning to join us. I am a social person and having both the camaraderie and accountability of working out with others keeps me focused and consistent.

4. Think "Functional Fitness". There are a lot of really fantastic ways to exercise. I recently took a series of classes that were clearly effective at body shaping, however, none of the movements matched the way we move in every day life. While I love the idea of looking good, I primarily work out to make life easier. I want my workouts to make it easier for me to carry groceries, lift my kids, move furniture, walk my dog, play with my kids in the backyard, and fight ninjas or zombies. To create a functional fitness routine, think about how your life affects your body and how changing your body can help you live a better life. If you sit all day at a desk, you are going to have a different set of challenges than someone who works at a retail job. Just as athletes train for their sports (specificity), you should train for your life. If you work at a computer all day, your primary needs will probably be to strengthen your back, abdominal, and gluteal muscles, and to stretch your chest and hip flexor muscles. Again, a personal trainer can be a fantastic resource to help you figure out how to get started on an exercise program that will fit your life and be effective for your body's specific needs.

Now it's time for you to grab a friend and get moving!!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Shake It" Zumba Routine

This is a routine I do in my Zumba and Zumba Gold classes to "Shake It" by Michael Franti. It is usually the last song before the cool down. People are usually a little hesitant to freestyle on the chorus at first, but they really get into it once they let loose. Huge shout out to the participants for mustering up some energy to tape this after already doing an entire Boogie Body class! You can view by clicking here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Creamy Italian Polenta - Gluten-free and Vegan!

This recipe is hearty, delicious, and has a low Weight Watchers Points Plus value. Best of all, Dwayne and the kids liked it! Since I have little time or desire to cook, I made a very big batch so I could have some for the week and freeze some for later. I just put 1/2 cup servings in muffin tins in the freezer so, fingers-crossed they do okay! You could easily cut the recipe if you just want enough for a single family meal.


3 small heads of Cauliflower

2 packages of cooked Polenta (I bought mine at Trader Joe's, they sort of look like a sausage roll)

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup fresh rosemary

1 bag of Sundried Tomatoes from Trader Joe's (NOT packed in oil)

1 bag of Vegan Mozzarella cheese (again TJ's; you could replace with part-skim mozzarella if you are not avoiding dairy)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

I steamed the cauliflower and then blended it with the polenta in my cuisinart. I put that mixture in a pot and then added the cheese, the garlic, and the finely chopped rosemary, basil and sundried tomatoes. I kept the pot on low heat, stirring frequently until the cheese was melted and the ingredients were thoroughly incorporated. This is a recipe that tastes better the next day because the flavors have a chance to "marry". The way I prepared it, a 1/2 cup serving came out to 3 Weight Watcher Points Plus. One day I stirred in some mushrooms I'd sauteed in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Delish!