Archive | July, 2011

Scromelets

28 Jul

I’ll just come out and say it.

I’ve never really liked eggs.

Source

They never seemed all that trustworthy to me.

A dicey bunch, those eggs.

So much gooeyness contained within a freakishly fragile orb-shaped shell.

I just don’t see the appeal.

Even in my impressionable days of youth, the mass marketing campaigns designed to heighten the appeal of eggs were lost on me.

Do you recall the twangy commercial jingle voice that sang: “I love eggs, from my head down to my legs”?

Let’s think about this logically folks; why do the feet get left out?

If the surface area from the head through the legs is into the egg scene, what business do the feet have in getting all mutinous? Its not like the feet are ingesting said eggs.

That always bothered me.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ADVERTISING!

Eggs!

As a youngin’, the various manifestations of eggery could not win me over. Scrambled, poached, boiled, sunny side up, deviled…DIDN’T MATTER – I didn’t like them. Not one bit.

Until one day, I met my egg soul mate.

The omelet.

And not just any omelet.

An omelet that offered an intricate and oh-so-pleasing interplay of tastes and textures.

An adequate ratio of egg to veggies t0 cheese.

A noticeable lack of mushyness, replaced by a firm yet not overcooked texture.

And perhaps most importantly, a tantalizing degree of cheese burnyness. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: slightly burnt cheese is highly under appreciated.)

An omelet so powerful that to call it an ‘omelet’ would diminish its value.

What I’m talking about, friends, is a scromelet.

A SCROMELET!

When scrumptious meets omelet, the result is a scromelet.

Its like, science.

So let me introduce you to this treasure trove of taste bud entrancement.

The players:

The amounts:

  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped sundried tomaters
  • 2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Couple-ish tablespoons chopped mushrooms
  • Small handful of quartered artichokes
  • Small handful of fresh spinach

The method to my madness: crack the egg and whisk in a medium size bowl.

Add egg whites.

Mix.

Add veggies and cheese.

Mix.

Pour into greased pan on stove and cook over medium heat.

I like my scromelets to have just a touch of golden crispiness so I waited until I heard some snapping and popping of air bubbles before I flipped the scromelet over.

Or was that popping and locking?

No, snapping and popping.

Anyway, here’s the mess of ingredients, on their way to scromeletdom:

What’s so marvelous about scromelets is that you can pretty much throw in whatever ingredients are jazzing you at the time.

Or whatever you have on hand.

As long as there’s some representation from the veggie and cheese camps, you’re prettttttymuch garuanteed to elicit an exceptional product.

Sometimes I’ll crumble a scromelet on top of a salad.

Sometimes I’ll add some toast to the mix, using it as a vehicle for scromelet scarfage. Who needs utensils when you’ve got carbs?

Sometimes I’ll just eat a scromelet plain. Unadulterated. And lick the plate clean.

Oh, and a note about eggs: A lot of health conscious types whip out the hatorade when any talk of eggs comes up.

‘There’s so much cholesterol!,’ they cry.

‘Too much saturated fat!’ they bemoan.

Well dry your tears, egg-phobics. The yolk of the egg, also the part that contains the cholesterol, is a rich source of vital nutrients.

Good stuff, that’s not always readily available in other foods.

Choline, for instance.

Fat soluble vitamins A and D.

The ever-necessary Iron.

I’d launch into a diatribe on the healthfulness of eggs here, but I feel my efforts would be better spent directing you toward this comprehensive and well articulated article.

You’re welcome.

Oh, and what would a Struggle Muffins recipe be without a suggestion? I always recommend a mixture of eggs and egg whites. One egg provides all the fat and nutrients you need, while the egg whites pack a protein punch that’s light on the calorie front.

The backbone of breakfasts far and wide. The ties that bind baked goods, easing tensions between dry and wet ingredients to ultimately yield fluffy fantasticness. Like it or not, eggs are woven deeply into the fabric of American eats.

They’re here to stay.

Source

I may eat them, but I don’t have to trust them.

Are you an egg fan? Reformed egg hater? Unmoved by their powers of versatility and penchant for devious behavior (see above)?

When (Would-Be) Good Classes Go Bad

27 Jul

When (Would-Be) Good Classes Go Bad

In yet another chapter from the ‘fitness parallels life’ chronicles, I wanted to discuss what happens when (what should be) a good exercise class goes terribly awry.

Few things have the power to arouse my fight or flight instincts like bad exercise or yoga classes.

I’ve had the distinct displeasure of wanting; nay – needing to escape a poorly-directed class on several occasions recently.

So strong is the urge to escape that it can only be likened to the wild animal who, caught in a hunter’s trap, gnaws its foot off in a frenzied attempt to break free.

Yes, I have contemplated doing bodily harm to myself in order to warrant and hasten my exit from exercise and yoga classes. They say necessity is the mother of invention…

Since I don’t want to hate on the fitness community too much by blowing the whistle on some of it’s poorly-appointed minstrels, I’ll only highlight one unsavory experience, but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I have endured exercise abominations a-plenty in my day.

This particular swing-and-a-miss just so happened to be a 6am spinning class at my local gym.  I wasn’t especially jazzed about the early bird wake up call but wanted to get a solid workout in before subbing a yoga class later that morning.

Looking back, my dissatisfaction over having had to abruptly rouse myself from a somewhat peaceful slumber might have predisposed me to being overly critical.

Might have.

But I prefer to think it was the instructor’s fault. That it was an objective FAIL, all of her own doing. A massive mismanagement of expectations.

Source

See? Fitness parallels life. Let mine be a cautionary tale: always know what you’re getting yourself into. Before stepping into an exercise class or stepping down the aisle.

It all started when Geraldine breezed into the class not one, not two, but SIX minutes late.

And no, her name’s not actually Geraldine. Her real name will go unmentioned, though if I were to assign her a name based on her cheery disposition and saccharine smile, I’d peg her for a Sandy or Sally for sure.

But its my blog and I’ll take creative liberties if I want to, so she’ll be Geraldine from here on out.

And as for the timing issue, I’ll concede that life happens.

Things come up.

Impediments.

Obstacles.

But at 6:06am on a humid Thursday’s morn, I would have responded to any excuse with a resounding EXCUSES DON’T COUNT IN THE BIG LEAGUES.

Granted, early morning spinning isn’t synonymous with the big leagues, but I’m a girl who takes my workouts seriously.

So when Geraldine offered a meager explanation to the tune of forgetting something at home, turning back to retrieve said something and then heading to the gym, I didn’t exactly hop on the empathy train.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard that song and dance routine before.

Not cool. Totally lame. Weak.

When she then launched into rather unwitty witticisms about how early it was and something about needing Starbucks blahbiddy blah blah I realized I’d need to tune her out if there was any hope of salvaging the workout.

But sadly, there would be tuning out of the ever-chirpy Geraldine.

Despite my best efforts, everything Geraldine was and wasn’t doing was ruffling my feathers.

(Insert fitness parallels life lesson here: we have no control over the people we encounter and events we experience; we only control our responses to them. I, being one of the more struggley struggle muffins in the muffin tin, had a tough time with this concept on that particular day)

But let’s sweep those reflections on dealing with life aside…because…the class was bad.

To say it was lackluster would be overly generous. To call it unfortunate would be forgiving.

It was just bad.

Much to my consternation, the ride just-so-happened to be all hills.

No sprints.

I love sprints.

I hate hills.

I can get behind the whole hill thing (as I know the resistance created by hills rounds out the workout) as long as the hills are balanced by a hefty dose of sprints.

I’ll take the bad with the good, provided there’s actually some small measure of good involved.

And I get that its all relative. That the format and content of the class is largely at the teacher’s discretion.

But at least have a lil’ variety.

My love for arm balances runs deep but I don’t teach arm-balance-and-arm-balance-only classes.

There was not was not one blessed sprint in the whole class.

I desperately wanted to plead with Geraldine to throw me a bone. Bone meaning sprint. One measly sprint wouldn’t have killed anyone.

So she was striking out in terms of content but there are always points to be won for instruction and personality.

And had G-bird added any value on the instruction front, I might have been able to tough it out.  I would have been delighted if she had woven talk of perceived rate of exertion into the ride; I’m always a fan of instructors who provide a touch of context and make their workouts accessible by using words and concepts that allow the worker-outers to feel in control of their own workout.

She also neglected to provide any idea of how long the many hills would last. She’d hint that they’d be long, but it never seemed like they ended definitively because at points when I thought we might have been mid-climb, she’d chime in about gearing up for the next hill. Huh? Is this trickery? The last one ended?

Lest you think me a completely intolerant hard-ass, I can tolerate a class that’s not my particular style…as long as the instructor is sufficiently engaging. The personality factor.

But like I said, G-funk wasn’t exactly knocking it outta the park with personality. At least not for me. And judging by the abundance of grimmaces and wayward glances towards the clock and the door I’d noticed from the other spinners in the room, I gathered that they, too, were less-than-thrilled.

Anyway, Geraldine’s yippee skippee can-do attitude only heightened my ever increasing irritation with the class. There was absolutely nothing about her teaching that could even have been considered remotely motivating.

She clapped a few times.

Seals can clap.

Doesn’t mean I’d plop a seal on a spin bike and ask it to captivate me with its spin-instructing prowess.

Although that would be mighty entertaining.

I was getting too flustered. Past the point of turning my aggravation into something useful.

Trapped.

I was utterly and hopelessly trapped.

Figuratively speaking, I was in a glass case of emotion: there’s something about being stuck in a small sweaty room and taking direction from someone who’s struck a few too many wrong chords with you that just takes your dislike degree up a notch or ten. That claws at you from the inside and ignites your Jack Bauer-esque creative penchant for escapism.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t attempting to outwit terrorists. I was merely attempting to maintain a modicum of civility and get a decent workout.

So I got up and left. I waited until it was modestly acceptable to leave the class (it is neither uncommon nor impolite to the leave these particular 60 minute classes after 45 minutes have passed), and I left.

Immediately, I was plagued by guilt: should I have stuck it out? Perhaps it would have been an exercise in patience and tolerance I needed to experience. Perhaps there was something I could have gleaned from staying the (overly hilly) course?

I mean, despite her off-the-charts sweetness and complete ineptitude at teaching spin, Geraldine seemed like a genuinely nice woman, and being a yoga teacher myself, I know I’d question my teaching abilities if students slinked out of my class prematurely.

*&(*@#^$@)*^&$!

Curse you, conscience!

But then, the murky morality clouds parted and rays of sunshiney rationality and detachment shone down on me; I convinced myself that it was my workout, and therefore my responsibility to get what I wanted out of it.

And that’s the way I like to approach exercise and yoga classes.

Its ultimately your responsibility to achieve whatever goals you’d set for yourself at the outset of class, whether that means sprinting yourself into oblivion, simply raising the ole’ heart rate and working up a lil’ sweat, garnering some peace of mind or finding a reprieve from your manic or stressful day. It doesn’t pay out in the long run to heap the responsibility of delivering a good class on the instructor. That said, I do believe the instructor plays a hugely instrumental role in facilitating a positive experience for all students involved, and should take that role seriously.

Which means not arriving late.

Not using a seal as your muse for motivational inspiration.

Not stripping down to your birthday suit in the gym locker room and introducing yourself to your horrified students.

(Yes, Geraldine did just that. And if you’re the type that likes to throw caution and clothes to the wind once within the comfort of a locker room, then seriously – more power to ya, but there was just something about this particular experience that smacked of unprofessionalism. I mean, Geraldine, please – try to maintain at least a shred of refinement.)

But the larger lesson in all this?

Really crappy exercise classes can teach us something about ourselves.

About our bail-or-prevail tendencies.

About our willingness to take the reigns and go for what we want, whether that means putting nefarious thoughts aside, sacking up and powering through the workout, OR peacing out when it seems moderately acceptable and finding workout bliss on one’s own.

Have you ever taken an abysmal exercise class and lived to tell the tale? How do you deal with such unpleasantries?

Emshowerment

18 Jul

Are you familiar with that feeling of being able to tackle whatever task you set your sights on, obstacles and impediments be damned?

That sense that nothing could hold you back or weigh you down?

Going Places...

 

That reaching your goal is no less feasible than reaching for – and nabbing – a package of mouthwateringly delicious cookies on the top shelf at the grocery store?

Not that I know anything about that.

Point is, most people know that feeling.

I wouldn’t call it invincibility so much as empowerment.

A confidence and passion smoothie – packed with a determination booster – that gives you the oomph you need to obtain whatever it is you want.

Maybe it’s a long term undertaking, such as earning a degree.

Maybe it’s a goal of a more immediate or pedestrian nature, like scoring a second or third sample of Larabars from the Whole Foods sample station without incurring the wrath of the sample supplier.

(And don’t think I’m not hip to your game, all you ‘I’m too nonconformist to feed the veganist machine by buying Larabars but I’ll gladly house free samples all day long‘ types. Don’t act like you’re immune to Larabar‘s otherworldly renditions of popular cookie, pie and cake flavors.

Wooo, getting carried away there….

Larabars have that effect on me.

Alas, empowerment.

What I’m curious about is how people stumble upon, arrive at, unearth feelings of empowerment.

Is empowerment something you dig up from some inner well of fortitude and optimism?

Is it something intrinsic; implying that either you have it or you don’t?

Is it gifted to you, perhaps by a robust and directionally-challenged empowerment fairy, who sprinkles empowerment fairy dust on those he can find his way to during the night?

If This Guy's Peddling Empowerment, I'm Not Sure I Want to be Empowered...

Source

Is it the result of some external force? Is there an intermediary step between the beginning state, inertia, and end state, empowerment? Is another transaction implicit in the quest for empowerment?

I posit that there is. And methinks it can come in many forms.

Yesterday, for me, it came in the form of a shower.

(talk about pedestrian)

And thus the term EMSHOWERMENT was born.

emshowerment [ɪmˈshaʊəmənt]n
1.
the phenomenon by which one feels incredibly capable and enthusiastic after having taken a really solid shower

I’d be willing to wager that The Brain‘s first declaration to Pinky of intending to TAKE OVER THE WORLD came on the heels of an empowerment shower. That the two struggle prone mice never came even close to making good on their promise is immaterial.

http://youtu.be/iJPFSNu_QNs

I’ll be the first to admit that I see showering, along with most acts of hygiene, as a phenomenon to be filed in the ‘kiiind of a buzzkill‘ category. Not that the shower- and its cousins the bath and the Italian shower – don’t comprise a very essential prerequisite of normal social function.

I mean, I shower. I do. Doesn’t make me president of the shower fan club. Captain of the shower team. (aaaaaand I’m setting myself up for waaaaaaaaay too many raunchy jokes here so I’m going to bring this stream of consciousness to a close now, ahhthankyou)

And I could continue soliloquizing about the less favorable facets of showery, but I won’t. If you’re a member of the human race, you’re well aware of the potential showering has to put a cramp in your style so I’ll spare you the reminder.

Instead I’d like to pay homage to that rare and beautiful shower that produces not just a cleaner and, well, less dry you, but a you that is decidedly more vibrant and empowered.
EMSHOWERED.

The empowerment shower is an extraordinary occurrence; one might make the claim that it is the stuff of legend, up there with Sasquatch and the Lock Ness monster.

Being the realist that I am, I like to think of the empowerment shower as being within the every-man’s reach. That any Bill, Joe or Sally can one day amble into the shower with the simple intention of becoming less offensive to the olfactory senses of neighboring souls and leave…transformed.

But before you get your hopes up and your socks off as you scamper toward the nearest shower stall, let it be known that you can’t force an empowerment shower. You can’t will emshowerment into existence.
Emshowerment transpires all on its own. Organically. Without provocation.

No amount of wishing, wanting, envisioning, praying, rain dancing or wizardry can coax the magic empowerment factor out of an ordinary ho-hum shower.

But in my experience, I have witnessed that they tend to take place when the showeree is contaminated not only by dirt, sweat and vestiges of meals long-since eaten (and by ‘eaten’ I mean spilled), but also by feelings of befuddlement and hopelessness.

Being more disposed towards befuddlement than hopelessness, I would say that the former described my state as I entered into what eventually would become my empowerment shower.

I’d been feeling confused. Directionless. Ehhh, not directionless. Over-directioned might be a better word for it (I acknowledge that it’s not actually a word).

Sometimes there are so many avenues I want to explore that I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting out my thoughts which detracts from time that could potentially spent meandering down one or more of the above-referenced avenues. This peripatetic lifestyle I’ve fashioned for myself lends itself to uncertainty and a perpetual quest to explore the next ‘right’ option.

Anyway, yeah, I was befuddled.

And sweaty. Can’t forget that.

Much to my chagrin, the post (hot) yoga shower is generally non-negotiable, so I resigned myself to spending the next 5 minutes (7, tops) in the shower getting clean.
And I did. I scrubbed and scoured and the shower proceeded in a fairly unremarkable way.

But then, drawing back the curtain and stepping a freshly-washed toe onto the tile, I was suddenly imbued by the sensation of near-boundless energy and optimism. Clear headedness. Direction.

EMPOWERMENT.

Nay, EMSHOWERMENT.

I rushed home and poured over the To Do list I’d scribbled down earlier in the day. Started knocking down To Do’s like a fat kid taking down Boston Cremes in a donut-eating contest.

Made some career and education inquiries with the appropriate parties. Gave some lingering assignments a one-two punch, wrapping them up and then moving on to a cooking project I’d be holding in reserve for some time.

Triumphant, I was.

The fact that I was still sparkling clean was a mere (and yet not altogether unworthy of awe and appreciation) bonus.

And I owe it all to the empowerment shower. To EMSHOWERMENT.

So just bear in mind folks, that sometimes there IS a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That it’s not all glaringly bright colors and oddly-outfitted, curiously short ginger-haired men (some call them ‘leprechauns’). Sometimes you enter into a situation (or a shower) with the most simple of expectations and leave renewed.

Restored.

Redeemed.

In all honesty, I think there is something to be said for washing away negative thoughts and emotions, right along with the dirt, sweat, and if you’re me- remnants of lunch that ended up on your shirt instead of in your stomach. Its tantamount to purging, getting rid of the bad and making room for the (potential) good. Wiping the slate clean. And everyone needs to slate cleaning from time to time. I know I do anyway.

Sure, sure; all this ‘figurative meets literal’ rambling can sound a bit convenient but I, for one, am not about to question what works. If there’s some ritual -be it taking  a shower, performing a yoga posture, writing a To Do list, doing the electric slide in your bedroom upon waking, to name a few -  that makes you feel equipped to take on the world (or get through the day), then more power to ya. Go forth, and do your empowerment thang.

Have you ever done something insanely simple and ordinary that’s had an unintended and overwhelmingly positive effect, even if only for a short while?

RIGHT NOW

15 Jul

So after an extensive attempt at crafting a thought-provoking, peer-into-your-soul type post that ultimately turned out to be a big swingandamiss (not that I didn’t benefit from all the brain push ups it entailed), I decided to take a more lighthearted route with today’s post.

Inspiration came from a segment on a popular Boston morning radio show called Right Now, in which random people call in and announce things that are going on in their lives that apparently warrant public broadcast.

Many topics discussed are of a decidedly inane nature, while some are more serious, shocking, or just generally entertaining.

So at the risk of sounding inane, and with the hope of providing at least a modicum of entertainment, I present to you a Struggle Muffins version of Right Now…

*Disclaimer: since this is my very own Right Now and I’m a fanatical listifier, you’re about to be the lucky recipient of a whole list of struggley fun things to do. Or marvel at. Or laugh it. I won’t judge.

ONTO MY ‘RIGHT NOW’ FAVORITE THINGS!

HOME WORKOUTS
Sounds boring, I’m aware.

The gym is my north star; I’m continually moving towards it, seeking comfort from its well organized rows of cardio machines and weight lifting contraptions (can you tell I’m superinto weight lifting??)

In the gym I’m like a mouse in a maze. A happy mouse, merrily scurrying down the different paths, trying this avenue and that, all the while just happy to be there and be active.


Source
Kinda like a gym rat, but less horror-inducing and generally cuter than a rat, sooo….a gym mouse.

This week, however; I’ve deviated from my routine for the most part to enjoy – or endure, depends on how you look at it – a number of home workouts.

And they’ve been nothing short of sensational!

Sensational in that they’ve generated sensations of muscle macerating agony, a new found mistrust of my abdominals (I just can’t count on them like I used to, and a general inquiry as to why working out was ever invented. This, by the way, begs the question of who was the evil genius who thought to take the masochistic endeavor we know as intense exercise and market it as something hipster and healthy?

So, now that I’ve gotten that tirade out of my system, I gotta say – it’s been good to work out at home. I typically lean towards resistance work of the ‘light weight, low reps’ persuasion, but knowing that it will achieve little beyond boosting muscle endurance (as opposed to making real strength gains), I’ve decided to give heavy lifting a go.

In the comfort of my home.

Where no one can see me struggle. And then add some more struggle to my already heaping pile of struggleisciousness.

I’m saving the gym some grief here. What can I say, I’m just thoughtful like that.

A magical added bonus of heavy lifting is that it’s remarkably quick; I finished my simple routines in under twenty minutes.

So lifting to my muscles’ upper limits has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor: I’m sore in a way that feels like I’ve been productive, not wrecking-ball damaging.

Which is not to say that there hasn’t been some soreness in the ole’ legsters, which bore the brunt of my resistance training and HIIT work this week.

This brings me to RIGHT NOW fave numero dos,

THE STICK

Source
No, its not an instrument of torture.

Its not a poor man’s attempt at recreating the mid 90′s institution that was devil sticks.
(which, incidentally, doesn’t need to be recreated because they still exist…?!?! Are they now the stuff of underground cults? Of hand-eye coordination development conventions? Of unconventional self-defense seminars? The world may never know. I may never know. And I’m OK with that.)

Moving on, The Stick is one nifty little tool.

Basically, you grab the handle bars (safety first, kids!) and rake it over your sore muscles, the purpose being to remove lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles following intense exercise.

If you’ve ever wondered what causes – what IS – that soreness that follows a workout, its lactic acid.

A waste product.

And you want to get it out of your body so you can carry on with your life, free of soreness and its resultant reminders of gut-wrenching sprint sessions.

You can read more about the bennies of using The Stick here, but as far as I’m concerned, its real value lies in its lactic acid removal capacity. Like a garbage truck for your overwrought myofibrils.

Oh neat, here we are at number three – a near cousin to number one…

AT HOME YOGA
I used to despise practicing yoga at home.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. You can’t despise doing something if you don’t do it.

I’d made a handful of haphazard attempts at yoga-ing at home, each barely lasting more than 5 minutes.

Cuz, you know, things come up…
Phones ring.
Dog’s bark, asking to be walked (this might be a good place to note that I am neither a dog owner nor pursuing a side career as a dog-walker)
Grass grows.

So yeah, home practice is easier said than done.

But I’ve come to love it in the past few months. It just feels good to unroll my mat and move in a way that feels spontaneous and natural.

Lots of sun salutations.

Mayyybe a few arm balances.

Indulgent stretches.

This whole ‘embracing home practice’ phenomenon is less a yogic attempt to get in tune with myself than a necessity-induced choice.

Schedule’s tight. Can’t get to a studio.

Feeling too woozy from the hot weather to practice in a heated studio.

Enter, home practice. Enter, redemption.

Ok that’s dramatic. But back to realism, yoga-ing at home has a way of being both energizing and restorative AND I LIKE IT.

I’ve also come to accept that I’m a human and not a round-the-clock yoga teacher who needs to practice x hours a day, z days a week. If 20 minutes is all I can do, then 20 minutes it is. Done and done.

And onto the next one….

Since I can’t have a list of current favorite things without representation from the nutrition camp…

Trader Joe’s Guacamole Hummus


If I were to define this product in terms of it’s social history equivalent, I’d say it is the marriage of convenience that ultimately blossomed into true and lasting love.

A rare thing indeed. A thing to be treasured.

And then blobbed on top of any applicable foods within arm’s reach.

I’m somewhere between fairly and highly certain that the appeal of this food combination speaks for itself.

Guacamole. Hummus.

Guacahummus.

I rest my case.

And in a similar vein, I rest my phalanges. Time to step away from the computer and enjoy this beautiful summer Friday’s morn.

Oh crap, its after noon.

What’s on your list of favorite things RIGHT NOW?

Winning . . . with Spinning

10 Jul

What’s better than nomming on delicious Peanut Butter Puffins?

Better than smuggling some greens into your chocolate? (Hmm or chocolate into your greens, depending on your perspective. Hey OH!)

Better, even, than a water-skiing squirrel?

You’re ma girl, Twiggy!

Ahem.

I’ll tell you what’s better than the aforementioned and admittedly amazing things.

SPINNING.

That’s what.

No, not that kind of spinning.

I’m referring to the heart-pumping, sweat-gushing, endorphin-inducing variety that’s warmly embraced by gyms and gym-goers across America.

Spinning is no joke. Its hard with a capital ARD.

But in a good way.

And like any fitness class, much of your personal satisfaction with spinning results from how you connect to the experience – whether or not the teacher inspired you with motivational and/ or posturing cues, whether or not the music got you jazzed enough to tackle the hills, sprints, jumps and whatever else you came across during the 45 – 60 minute ride, whether or not your body and mind were up to the task at the time, etc.

You’re challenged to tough it out through the highs and lows – literally, as your ride will simulate the sensations of going up and down hills, and figuratively, as there’ll likely be points when you’ll want to jump off your bike and seek refuge at the smoothie bar.

Not that I would have done that

My oasis of preference happens to be the stretching area, where I can appear to be engaged and productive whilst avoiding pain.

Digressing….

Coming back to the subject in 3, 2, 1…

AAAND WE’RE BACK!

I used to get weak in the knees for one particular spin class. It was taught by a no-holds-barred, machine-woman of an instructor at my old BSC in Allston. The class would draw all types of people – old, young, fit, not-so-fit – and it drew them in DROVES. People came a-runnin’ (a cyclin’?) for this class, and I was one such devotee.

But then I moved away. The unfavorable proximity factor put a cramp in my ability to get to class without obscene amounts of schedule-shifting and traffic-enduring, so I stopped going.

And despite my efforts – my many trials and many errors – I couldn’t find another spin class that resonated with me. I’m a persistent little bugger when it comes to exercise, but too many dismal spinsperiences (that spin+experience, ahhthankyou) can get a girl down, I tell ya.

Ergo, a long spinning hiatus ensued.

Until recently, that is, when my renewed zest for exploring different fitness avenues (spurred on by my personal training certification quest) led me to reconsider my once-loved spinning.

Well that, and the fact that I’d promised a devoted attendee of my yoga classes and personal trainer at my gym that I’d take her spin class.

And by ‘promised’ I mean I half-halfheartedly committed without actually committing (an art at which I excel – email me for tips) to reciprocate her attendance in my class by becoming a loyal attendee of her own.

And about 983,876 bush league promises later, I finally got sick of myself and decided to go for it.

Grab the bull by the horns.

Grab the spin bike by the handlebars.

Banish the fear of uncertainty – would the ride be choc-full of brutal climbs? would the music blow? would there be ample space at the stretching area, lest my need to refuge-seeking became urgent? – and brace myself for the pain that was surely imminent.

Result?

Pain, yes. But it was tinged with exhilaration.

Sure, there were times when I wanted to punch myself in the face because it would have become a welcome distraction from the musculoskeletal massacre going on in my legs.

But all that reaching inside myself and pushing through the discomfort, that delving into untapped stores of energy and willpower brought up a whole lotta endorphins.

It almost brought up a whole lotta breakfast, too, but I’ll spare you the details from the nausea chronicles.

(Suffice it to say that wolfing down a yogurt lagoon 15 minutes before spin class isn’t really an act I would consider to be a good decision.)

But yeah – endorphins. They were there. A multitude of them.

And you, too, can flood your body with them by engaging in strenuous, interval-style exercise, like spinning.

If you’ve never had the pleasure (and pain) of taking a spin class, this is what you can expect:

  • A terrific and terrifically effective aerobic workout. Gets the heart pumpin’. Torches calories like there’s no tomorrow.
  • A well-rounded workout for the ole’ legsters, activating both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers through a mixture of resistance drills, jumps, sprints and stretches of steady state work.
  • Elimination of the motivation factor.
    • Well, partially. I should say it reduces the amount of motivation you’re tasked with personally. You motivate yourself to get on the bike and not get off before the end of class, but the teacher will play a sizable role in powering you through the ride.
    • The external motivation is especially magical for those among us who can’t quite get behind the whole self-flagellation thing but are perfectly willing to surrender our muscular and aerobic integrity (and perhaps digestive integrity… whaaaaat?) to the mercy of another person.
  • To have to do a lil’ reconnaissance work. You might not fall in spinning love with the first instructor who’s class you take. Keep at it. There’ll be someone out there who will know just how to get you engaged and committed to put yourself through 45+ minutes of ass-kickery. Luckily for me, my spin teacher this morning was a total spin rock star but like I said before, I’ve suffered through more than a few workouts led by uninspiring spin spinsters.
  • To endure a lil’ mental anguish.
    • If I may be so bold as to wax philosophical (errr, cheese-osophical) about how physical challenges parallel life challenges, spinning does force you to confront your prevail-or-bail tendencies as it throws some intense challenges in your path.
  • To feel sore afterword. Not immediately. But do expect some ‘oh heyyyy there quads and hamstrings, thanks for the burning sensation‘-type sentiments to take over your consciousness. Especially if you’re not accustomed to the joys of parking it on a decidedly small and unforgiving seat. Your legs and butt might be sore. You miiiiight even feel like you got kicked in the baby-maker.
    • I was wholly unprepared for this the first time I tried spinning – many moons ago when I lived in New York. I ambled about gingerly for days after my first spin workout not knowing why I felt the way I did, until a co-worker questioned my compromised gait and posited that spinning was the culprit. Good job, Captain Obvious.
  • To feel amazing afterward. AMAZING. Like a winner. A winner in the game of life. Also expect to feel taxed. But an amazing kinda taxed. Did I mention the part about amazing?
    • Its a ‘wham, bam, thank you m’am kind of dealy. 45 – 60 minutes and you’re done. Well you’d better be done. None of that ‘back-to-back’ spin class crap. You should have sufficiently exerted yourself to the point that you couldn’t fathom another 5 minutes on the bike. Once finished you can sail out of the gym on a fluffy, endorphin-filled cloud of exercise contentment.

So that’s it, my friends – spinning, in a nutshell. Go forth and spin yer wheels.

If you spinned (spun? done spinning? the grammar gods are going to smite me for this, I’m sure of it), what’s your take on it?
Awesomely addictive aerobic endeavor? Torture-like experience inspired by some sort of capital punishment ritual from the middle ages?

Grawesome

4 Jul

FACT: I like to categorize things.

Compartmentalize, even.

Place a proverbial label on each of the various facets and factors of my life so that I can readily file them away when not in use or grab ‘em off the shelf when I’m so inclined.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a very emotional person, that what I lack in the emotion department I make up for in terms of thinking.

Analytical thinking.

Again, categorizing.

Some activities, places, people and things warrant complex categorization.

Others slip neatly into simple categories like good and bad.

Being the wordsmith that I am, I would be remiss if I allowed the likes of good and bad to dominate my vocabulary.

I can do better than good and bad.

And for me, categories don’t really get any better than gross and awesome.

Gross.

and Awesome.

Intellectually accessible. They need little explanation.

Except in situations where something is so mind-blowing, so capable of provoking complete sensory overload that you just can’t categorically affix a gross or awesome label to it.

Situations where something is so close to transcending comprehension that it can’t not be gross, and at the same time, can’t not be awesome.

It is in these situations, friends, where the word grawesome becomes pertinent.

And so, in keeping with my insatiable thirst for categorizing (and for creating lists – bonus!), here’s a list o’ utterly GRAWESOME things.

  • Burnt cheese
    • Not seriously burnt. I’m talking semi-burnt. Pleasantly burnt. The kind of burniness you find atop the cheese in your spinach and artichoke dip appetizer. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t act like your impervious to the siren song of burnt cheese because you’re not.
    • Gross because its burnt.
    • Awesome because its burnt.
  • Tempeh bacon
    • Sometimes referred to as fakin’ bacon. Generally a naysayer when it comes to meat impostors, I make an exception for tempeh bacon. Its just so smoky and delicious. I had some recently at one of my favorite dive-y eateries and all I can say is…reeeuuunited and it feeeels so goood.
    • Gross because its a meat wannabe and falls way short of mimicking the real thing. Awesome because it tastes like AMAZING.

  • My orange-ish nails
    • The color was a delicate shade of peach in the bottle but got all Oompa Loompa on me once applied to my nails. I was not prepared for this.
    • Gross because there’s something about them that reminds me of fake tans gone bad. They’re flagrant. They’re out there. And in a way that’s what makes them awesome. Orange nails are the cosmetic equivalent of the ‘in yo face‘ statement.

Note the smudge on my pointer finger - remnants of a chocolatey snack. Whoops!

 

  • The fact that Chris Hanson, of To Catch a Predator Fame, recently was caught engaging in a tawdry and illicit affair. Irony prevails. Meghan smiles.
    • Gross AND awesome because, well, I’m pretty sure this one speaks for itself.

WHY DON'T YOU HAVE A SEAT OVER THERE...

Source/ Article

  • HIIT workouts
    • For those not familiar with them, HIIT is a very intense, balls-to-the-walls type of exercise that involves intervals of maximum effort interspersed with brief recovery periods. Deets:
      • They’re super short in duration but what they lack in terms of time they make up for with exertion. 10, 20, 30 minutes is all you need.
      • They’re supremely efficient fat burners, as they release stored fatty acids into the blood stream, which are then cleared away as you cool down
      • The after burn effect they create lasts for hours, much longer than an easy breezy steady-state cardio workout
      • They’re easily adapted to your needs – injured and can’t run? Rock out an HIIT workout on the elliptical machine, stationary bike, arc trainer or in the pool. Also, the perceived exertion is relative, so you can always be creating new thresholds for adaptation and improving your general fitness and ability to burn fat. This is a departure from steady-state cardio, which the body adapts all too easily to, forcing you to have to run longer and longer to achieve the same effects you were once able to obtain from shorter distances.
    • Gross because of the feelings they incite, chief among them the sensation that your leg muscles might burn to the point of melting off the bones. Also noteworthy is the urge to vomit and/or pass out (if only because it would be an improvement in your physical state).
    • Awesome because of the resultant endorphin rush and I-can-conquer-world sentiment that comes along with it. Maybe you can’t conquer the world. But you can feel better about conquering a BLT. With fakin’ bacon. And maybe some burnt cheese.

So there you have it. Things that are grawesome. Per moi.

ps. I’m aware that people use the term grawesome to refer to things that are both great and awesome but I find that redundant and uninspiring. Underwhelming, even. Things that bridge the (decidedly pronounced) gap between the worlds of gross and awesome though? Those pique my interest. And merit discussion. Or rambling.

Are there any things in your life that you deem to be GRAWESOME?