Friday, May 30, 2014

Peak Fit System: Pure Cardio (Review)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Michelle Dozois is the master of fun cardio workouts.  And she doesn't disappoint with this video, Pure Cardio - part of the Peak Fit System. 

This workout follows the HIIT intervals Michelle Dozois designed for her Peak 10 workout with one exeption - there's no "peak" move (crazy jumping HIIT move) at the end of each interval.  Therefore, this is a lighter workout when compared to her Cardio Interval and Cardio Strength videos.  But even though it's lighter, it still packs a punch.

Michelle gives you a good warm-up and then eases you into the ascent and climb phases of the Peak 10 intervals.  At first, I thought this workout would be too easy.  But, no.  Michelle keeps ramping it up and up...until you're sweating bullets.  The basecamp at the end of each interval is still very much appreciated, even without the peaks. 

At the end, you get a lovely cool-down and stretch.  No equipment is needed and it runs for about 55 minutes.  Michelle combines kickboxing, dance, plyometrics, and HIIT into this fun video.

Even after having done so many of Michelle Dozois' workouts, I'm still loving her style and her ability to stay fresh and innovative.  Her videos just keep getting better and better! 

Bottom Line: This is a great intermediate workout.  As long as you can follow some varying choreography, you'll be good!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Skinny Potato Salad (2014:19)

Mr. Higgins loves potato salad.  Actually, he loves all things potato.  On cruises, he'll occasionally have a meal that consists entirely of potato-based dishes.  Ha! 

I've never been into potato salad because I don't like mayonnaise, which usually coats the potatoes.  But when I found one potato salad I loved at a local BBQ place, I decided that it's not all bad.

When I saw this recipe for Skinny Potato Salad, I was curious to try it.  I followd the recipe exactly....and I didn't love it.  It lacked a good flavor.  Mr. Higgins really liked it - and ate 99% of it - but even he admitted it could use some.....umph - something. 

And so I'll keep looking for a good recipe.  I'd like to find a low-fat keeper to serve with my pork BBQ!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Week One: Peak 10 Challenge

And we're off!  My first Peak 10 Challenge, lasting eight weeks.  I was so excited to get started with this, especially after my Q&A with it's creator, Michelle Dozois. 

Every week, I'll give you a run-down of my workouts and progress.  Along the way, I'll give you my complete reviews of the workouts, usually after I've done them a few times.  I'm following the schedule, mostly, provided in the Peak Fit Challenge kit, with a few modifications of days and a few extra workouts thrown in, mainly in the beginning.  (I'm used to working out 7 days a week and the first few weeks of the Challenge schedule have a day of rest.)  The only other factor regarding weight loss is the diet.  I'm not following the diet plan, but I am trying to get the right amount of protein every day - something that's not always easy for me.

I'm also going to try to incorporate some little goals each week.  First up: no candy.  I tend to keep a stash at work and, though I limit myself, I'm going to give it up entirely for a week.  Instead, I'll munch on something healthy.

So, here we go....

Sunday: Pre-Challenge Fit Test (Peak Fit)

Wow.  I knew it would not be easy  Michelle walks you through about ten of her most commonly used "peak" movements - HIIT moves - and you see how many you can do in a minute.  Write that number down and hope to see improvement at the end of the eight weeks.  So, 60 seconds of crazy jumping/movement, 60 seconds to rest, 60 seconds of HIIT, 60 seconds of rest.....  The test takes about 30 minutes and I was sweating bullets by the end.  Michelle gives you a good warm-up and cool-down.  When I finished the test, I did 30 additional minutes of her Cardio Strength Remix....   And I was exhausted

Monday: Pure Strength 1 (Peak Fit)

I tested out this workout a few weeks ago...and it hasn't gotten any easier.  After a warm-up you go through weight circuits.  There are four circuits that you do twice: back, chest, legs, arms and shoulders.  You need your band provided in the kit, light and heavy weights.  I love the band and how versatile it is, but it does not like me.  I can barely get my arm up high enough with curls for it to qualify as a curl.  Ugh.  I'm really hoping I see some improvement after eight weeks. 

Good news for the day: no candy!  Low-fat popcorn sustained me and I ignored urgings for sugar!  Yay!

Tuesday: Pure Cardio (Peak Fit)

This morning's workout was especially hard since I only slept for about two hours the night prior.  Ugh!  But I made it through Pure Cardio, which I had done once before just for a preview.  There are no "peaks" in this workout but that doesn't mean you don't work.  I was dripping with sweat.  It's good, pure, fun cardio!

No candy today - but it was tougher to abstain.  I went to an HR training talk at lunch.  I avoided 80% of the pasta in the chicken and pasta dish and also went past the garlic bread.  I loaded up on salad and splurged with chocolate cake, which I fully accounted for in my calorie count for the day.

Wednesday: Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout (Peak Fit)

For some reason, this workout almost killed me.  The "ascents" were much shorter and, therefore, the frequency of the "peaks" was much higher.  I had to shorten some of my "peaks" to get through this.  Dang.  I can already tell that this will be the video I dread out of all of Michelle's workout videos.

No candy today, outside of two peppermints to settle my stomach.

Thursday: Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped

On the Peak Fit schedule, there was a day of rest, which I chose to ignore (flexibility tomorrow is enough rest for me!).  For some additional strength training, I turned to Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped.  There is no cardio in here but your heart rate gets up there with the challenging compound moves Jari leads you through.

Instead of going for candy today, I tried pepitas for a snack. 

Friday: Dynamic Flexibility and Core Dynamics (Peak Fit)

I really needed a light day and Dynamic Flexibility was wonderful!  I can see how Michelle Dozois went from this workout to creating BodyFit 360.  After this 30-minute video, I did the warm-up and first circuit of Core Dynamics.  Not easy at all!  Despite all my crunches, I still can't do a real sit-up.  Ugh.  Must work on that!

No candy today!

Saturday: Cardio Strength I 

Before the Peak 10 Challenge, I'd been doing a cardio interval burn and cardio strength video (of Michelle Dozois') about 3 out of 4 weekends a month.  I know them all pretty well now.  But just now am I trying my hardest to do ALL of the workout.  I used to skip an interval.  I did all of Cardio Strength I (also known as Peak 10 Cardio Strength) today and it was not at all easy.  I was sweating so much….  Now that it's summer, the house is much warmer and it's really had an effect on my workouts.  I tire more easily and sweat buckets.  Literally.  But I got through this entire workout.  It felt great - afterwards.

Peak 10 More Cardio Interval Burn

After almost dying with Saturday's workout, I was nervous about doing this Cardio Interval Burn - the second Peak 10 cardio that Michelle Dozois released.  But I got through it with less pain, but just about as much sweat.  And I got through all of it.  I did not skip a section like I normally do.  Yay!  

Calorie counts:
Sunday: 1370
Monday: 1486 - due to going out for book group
Tuesday: 1389
Wednesday: 1397
Thursday: 1391

Friday: too much (out to eat)
Saturday: 1886 (I know, I know - holiday weekend)
Sunday: about 1600 (I'm not sure due to eating out)

One week down.  Seven more to go!  I'm loving this Challenge so far!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Calorie Intake

Now that I've almost completed the first week of my Peak 10 Challenge, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about calories.

The Peak Fit System comes with a meal plan...but I generally don't like meal plans.  They so often consists of foods I don't like.  According to the formulas provided in the meal plan, the amount of calories I usually hold myself to is the appropriate amount I should be eating during the Challenge - under 1400.

In theory, this is not a problem for me, during the week.  But I have a tendency to not count some foods in that candy at the office.  Or a drink at night.  So, for the Challenge, I'm buckling down and forcing myself to account for everything.

The biggest challenge regarding food, for me, is getting the recommended amount of protein that is suggested in the meal plan.  I don't buy a lot of meat; I don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen, during the week.  But I'm trying my best to incorporate more protein. 

All this being said, I've learned that I must have two days, usually Friday and Saturday or Sunday, to eat what I want.  I'll generally allow myself more calories - 1500-1600 on that Saturday/Sunday.  And I don't count calories on the one night we go out to eat: Friday.  I still try to make smart choices regarding what I eat but I still want to eat good food.  And, honestly, after being hungry almost every waking minute of Monday-Friday, I'm ready to feel full.

My goal for the Peak 10 Challenge is simple: to lose my cruise weight (about five pounds) and become stronger.  My arms need some serious work and I'm still trying to get the legs I want. 

I hope my journey encourages you to actively pursue your diet/weight goals.  It's all about feeling better about yourself.  And to know you're not alone in that journey.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PeakFit System: Pure Strength 1 (Review)

I'm loving Michelle Dozois' PeakFit System...which isn't a surprise given my love of her Peak 10 videos.  But I was a bit nervous about the Pure Strength videos, of which there are two.  I followed the recommended schedule of workouts and began with Pure Strength 1.

This workout uses a resistance bank (provided with the System kit), light weights (I used 6.6), and heavy weights (I used 8).  I was excited about using the resistance band...but the band does not like me.  I can barely do curls with it, the resistance is so tight.  I'm hoping this becomes easier as I progress but as it is....I'm definitely using my muscles!

Michelle begins with a warm-up that targets all of your muscles.  She then starts the workout with back exercises.  My arms were almost shaking after all the bent-rows Michelle takes you through.  Eek! 

Next up, your chest.  You go through pushups and chest flies, which I hate.  I could barely get the band extended enough to do a fly properly.  Good grief!  Repeat the back and chest series. 

Legs is next and I was excited.  Michelle takes you through squats and lunges using the band. Wow!  I didn't think my leg muscles could hurt so much!  And then your aching legs must do step through lunges with heavy dumbells.  Oy. 

Arms are next, beginning with tricep side push-ups.  My arms were shaking again in no time!  Tricep kickbacks, lateral raises, and curls follow.  Along with some pain - ha!  Repeat legs and arms. 

Michelle then lets you, thankfully, cool down and stretch. This workout clocks in at a little over 50 minutes.  Even though there is no cardio, it made me sweat a lot.  I like it but it's definitely tough.  My arms have always been a struggle for me to strengthen so maybe this will help.  In the meantime, it'll be painful.  For a clip, click here.

Bottom Line: This is a great strength workout - tough but never boring and always effective.

Monday, May 19, 2014

One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes (2014:18)

I've been wanting to try some different grains - rice is so boring - and when I came across this recipe for One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes, I was instantly intrigued by farro.

It turns out that farro is an ancient grain that fed the Roman armies.  Well, you know me and therefore, you know this would catch my attention.  Italians have dined on farro for centuries.  As I read about this history of this grain, I wondered why I had never seen or heard of it. 

The search for farro in the grocery store was not easy.  It was nowhere to be found - except at Central Market.  They sell (in the grain aisle) a pre-cooked pearled variety of farro that cooks in 10 minutes.  Cool!

On Saturday, I made my 18th new recipe of the year - One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes.  I made one adjustment: I used drained, rinsed, petite diced tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes (which I don't like). 

The dish was delicious - though a bit salty for my taste.  Next time, I'll scale back the salt and let the farro cook for a few additional minutes.  But this is a great meal or side dish; Mr. Higgins even approved the dish.  If I make it again for a meal, I may add some chicken.  I'm learning that my body is not satisfied with mere carbohydrates, even if they're complex, for a meal. 

Next, I want to try some farro salads!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mocha Double Fudge Brownies (2014:17)

I was craving something chocolate for dessert recently.  Since this flavor is not Mr. Higgins' first choice, I asked his permission before making these Mocha Double Fudge Brownies from Cooking Light.

To lower the calories even more, I used half Splenda and half sugar.  Since I could not find fat-free chocolate fudge topping, I had to go with sugar free.  These two changes brought the calories down to 108 per serving.

I knew these wouldn't be the best brownies ever, but they're good for 108 calories each.  Mr. Higgins likes them and I like the chocolate.  It's always hard not to reach for my mother-in-law's fabulous brownie recipe....but sometimes you have to be good, especially after a cruise.

So I'll keep this recipe as a good chocolate alternative.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cat Tree

A few months ago, I finally convinced Mr. Higgins to let me get a cat tree.  Our couch has been the cat's scratching post and now it's shredded.  We get to go couch shopping in the next few weeks - oh, joy!  

Sidious, the obstinate stuck-up thing, has refused to go near the cat tree.  Sigh.

Dooku, however, took to it immediately, with the help of some catnip.  He's been scratching happily away.  My boy makes me so proud!  He also loves to sit on it and watch the birds in the birdbath.  


And now to find a new couch and hope it lasts longer than the current one. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Mistress of Rome

I took two novels on our cruise last week - Geraldine Brooks' March and Kate Quinn's Mistress of Rome.  I've now finished the latter and it was good!  It was actually hard not to read it all in one sitting on the ship!  I had to pace myself and take in the sights - the ocean, beaches, and islands - instead.  Ha!

My Goodreads review:

I had no idea what to expect from Kate Quinn's novel about ancient Rome.  After studying Roman history for so long, I generally find historical fiction regarding that time period....lacking.  The exception is Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series.

Quinn's style is much different from Saylor's - her writing is more action-focused and dialgue-heavy, whereas Saylor goes above and beyond with his descriptions and tireless research to bring Rome to life.  Quinn's characters come to life through her witty dialogue and non-stop action. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the tale of Arius, Thea, Vix, Paulinus, and Ledpida during the reign of Domitian.  The Flavian emperor is just as I would have imagined - a bit mad, a bit smart, and balding.

Before finishing the novel, I ordered the next of Quinn's in the series. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

March (Novel)

My book group chose to read Geraldine Brooks' March, after having read Little Women last month.  I've liked Brooks' other works so I was excited to pick this novel up.

Here's the review I posted to Goodreads:

Given my lukewarm reaction to Little Women, I was a bit hesitant about March, even though I've liked Geraldine Brooks' other novels. March, however, quickly caught my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Mr. March is such an obscure character in Little Women; it was a pleasure to see him as an idealistic, passionate youth. It was also refreshing to see Mrs. March as a real, flawed person given to furious outbursts and headstrong actions. I can see why this novel won the Pulizer.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Three Years

Three years ago today, this happened.  These years of married life have been a whirlwind of travel, adventure, and nesting in our new home. 

I truly cannot believe that three years have passed!  We've been on eight cruises in those three years!  Unbelievable!  We've been very blessed and I thank God every day for Mr. Higgins and the joy (and cats!) he's brought to my life.