Getting (less) Serious with Myself

I’ve posted in the past about how busy my life gets, and in light of the medical problems I’ve been experiencing over the last 8 months, I’m just not sure that it’s worth it anymore to run myself ragged.  My husband and I have some big decisions to make in the next few months, but no matter what we decide, one thing is very clear:  I need to take better care of myself.  That includes exercising and eating well – which I’ve already been doing for quite some time – but it also includes making more time for me so that my head does not explode in some crazy mental breakdown.  This is a distinct possibility if I don’t make some serious changes very soon.

REALLY? This isn't what comes to mind when I think of exercising with my dog - if I tried this with Jax I would definitely fall over.

Though I always manage to fit in some form of exercise, some weeks I don’t get to sweat nearly as much as I would like.  So in order to combat that, this week I indulged scheduled in some “me” time for running with my pups when I should have been doing school work.  I am working very hard to retrain myself, including making changes to my vocabulary.  The word should is a giant load of shit – there is absolutely nothing I should do except be true to myself, and that simply doesn’t include drowning myself under a giant pile of prep work and marking – so I’m going to attempt to eliminate the should.  I also plan to stop viewing the time I schedule in for exercise as an indulgence, because it isn’t one.  Exercise is a necessity and I have every right to value my own health at least as much as I value doing my job well.One way that I plan to take better care of myself is to stop trying to be perfect at school.  Perfection is unattainable, especially in a career where more things are added to the To Do list than are ticked off of it each day.  I am not exaggerating about this in the slightest – if you don’t believe me, go befriend a high school English teacher.  In order to actually meet her, you will likely have to lurk outside her vehicle in the school parking lot from 7 to 9pm, as she isn’t likely to be spending much time anywhere else…but I digress.  The point here is that the ridiculous expectations of my career are not going to change (at least not for the better – we’ve already been told that staff cuts are coming next year and class sizes will only get larger).  Since the expectations aren’t going to change, I will have to focus on the things that I can control.  Maybe I have to mark less assignments, or have kids do more peer editing.  Maybe I have to just go home, even if tomorrow’s lesson isn’t fully planned.  Maybe I have to ask for an altered teaching assignment so that I’m not teaching every single English class in the high school.  Maybe I have to accept that I just can’t do everything, and that is okay.  This will be extremely hard for me, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Vacuuming DOES NOT make me this happy

As part of this “taking care of me” business, I made a snap decision this week that literally filled me with joy.  I decided to hire a cleaning lady.  I am sure that there are going to be people who judge me for that, but I just don’t give a rat’s ass.  Between prepping, teaching and marking, I work around 55+ hours per week; I also teach two fitness classes (soon to be three), run with my dogs as often as possible, fit in a yoga practice whenever I can, and take care of all the regular things involved in running a household, like paying bills, doing laundry and keeping the house clean.  On top of all that, I’ve been doing Yoga Teacher Training every few weekends, and making room for a bunch of crappy medical appointments (which means making sub plans!), so something’s gotta give.  That something is cleaning the toilet.  Oh, and vacuuming.  I can do without the vacuuming.

This is how I actually feel about vacuuming

The cleaning lady starts just after we get back from our Jamaican holiday.  I am beyond ecstatic about this…probably much more excited than a person should get about housework.  I deserve this.  It is time to get serious, and stop taking myself so seriously.

Mixed Berry Smoothie

There are grapes in with the bowl of strawberries; I did not put these in my smoothie, though I'm sure it would still be tasty if I had!

This is what I put into my smoothie yesterday:Okay, it wasn’t actually those particular pieces of food that went into the blender – I didn’t even think to take a picture until after I’d already blended and poured into my smoothie cup.  When I’m hungry I am usually thinking about eating the food rather than taking pictures of it…but I’m getting better and usually remember to snap a picture before I scarf down all the food.  Except for today at lunch.  I forgot to take a picture of my omelette until there were literally only two bites left.  I decided to forgo the picture because it seemed a little pointless…sort of like the rambling that I just realized I’m doing now.

Back to the smoothie.  I love smoothies and I make them a lot.  Like, I drink one six days a week, and on day seven I’m a little sad that I’m not drinking a smoothie and I wish that I had made one before leaving the house, a lot.  This mixed berry one is my favourite and I’d say it’s the one I make the most often.

This is a 16oz/470ml smoothie cup from Tupperware. Notice how the orange colour matches my new Lulu Run: In the Rain Jacket? I did not do that on purpose, I swear!

Ingredients:

strawberries – I slice the green bits off and then cut the big ones in half to make it a little easier on my blender; I probably don’t need to do this, but my blender is old* and I really don’t want to have to buy a new one anytime soon (those babies are expensive!)
blueberries
raspberries
blackberries
a big handful of spinach
I throw all of these ingredients in the blender until it is pretty much full up to the top, then I pour in some unsweetened almond milk, add a scoop of Mila*, and blend it all together.

What was left in the blender after I filled up my smoothie cup

Filling the blender right to the top before blending usually gets me two days worth of smoothie.  I could stretch it to three servings, but I’d feel like I was cheating myself out of fruity goodness, and who wants to do that?  If I really need to have three days worth of smoothie prepared in advance, I will blend to reduce volume, and then add in more fruit and blend again.  I don’t do this three-day prep very often, though, because by day three the mixture has a darker, greyish tinge, and it’s starting to be less than optimally fresh – sort of bitter, if you will.  Two days’ worth is perfect, though – I just pop the top back on the blender, and stick the jug into the fridge overnight.  I give it a super quick blend before pouring on the second morning, just to mix it up and keep it smooth and even.  Quick, healthy and delicious!

*When I say my blender is old, I mean old.  I have had this blender since the very first time a boy lived with me (my first year of University – 2000).  His mother gave it to us, and she had already owned it for a very long time (for some reason I think she actually got it as a wedding gift, or something like that).  Things didn’t work out really well with the boy, and when we split up he didn’t take the blender, so I’ve still got it.  She is a really nice lady, and sometimes I think about her when I make smoothies.  So if for some crazy – strange things are happening in the universe – reason you are reading this, thank you Lila Kinaschuk for the blender 🙂
*Mila is a great product – Chia seed – and I put it in a lot of things, including my daily smoothie.  It deserves some more attention, so I plan to write a whole post about it soon!

Eat and Tell: Some of the Meals I’ve Been Eating Lately

Two posts in two days…apparently it’s the weekend and I actually have a teensy bit of time for writing to you!  On that note, I feel like I have taken pictures of food lately, but then not had any time to write about my meals…so I thought I’d roll a few posts into one.

Sesame Fish:
Tilapia
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp rice vinegar
2 tblsp lite/low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp chopped garlic (I use 3 or 4 cloves)
2 tblsp sesame seeds
Spray broiler pan w/ olive oil cooking spray and place Tilapia.  Whisk together liquid ingredients and garlic, then pour over fish.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and broil at medium heat for about 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
I made this for dinner when Rob was still here, and he left for work up North on Monday morning…so I’m guessing this was dinner on Sunday.  The Sesame Fish recipe is straight out of the 17 Day Diet book, and it’s one of our favourites.  Healthy, quick, easy and delicious – what’s not to love?  As you can see in the picture, we ate this with steamed Broccoli and Cauliflower that had been sprinkled with a bit of Mrs. Dash and some KRAFT light 4 Cheese Italiano, accompanied by a tossed salad and a mug of green tea.  Delightful meal – super filling and perfect for next day leftovers!
Fajita Soup:
In a large soup pot sprayed with olive oil, saute:
Coarsely chopped onion
Chopped red, yellow & orange peppers
Finely chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds too!)

Sprinkle in a packet of low sodium fajita seasoning and stir, then add:

Baked chicken breast (I use whatever I have on hand – this time it was about 4 large breasts that I had sprinkled with Mrs. Dash, cooked, chopped and frozen last week)
Broth (I go for low sodium or no salt added whenever possible; this time I used 3 tetra packs of chicken and 2 of veggie)
796 ml can of no salt added diced tomatoes
540 ml can of Aylmer Spicy Red Pepper tomatoes
127 ml can of chopped green chilies
540 ml can of black beans (rinse these first to get rid of the goopy sauce and a LOT of unnecessary sodium!)

I let the soup simmer for a while (usually 1/2 hour or longer) and give it a little stir occasionally.

I usually make a giant pot of this soup so that I can freeze a few containers for quick meals when I’m rushed; it is one of my all time favourites!

Turkey Taco Salad:
Spray a large frying pan with olive oil and add ground turkey breast (I use 2 packages of Lilydale that come as a combo pack at Costco – I’m not exactly sure how much that is).  Fry, stirring occasionally, until browned fully.
Add a packet of low sodium taco seasoning mix and about 1/2 cup of water and stir.

While turkey is browning, wash, dry, and chop your salad veggies.  I use green leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery, cucumber, red onion and Roma tomatoes, but you can feel free to add whatever salad ingredients your little heart desires!

Add salad to a large bowl and top liberally with turkey, then sprinkle a bit of Light 4 Cheese Italiano (occasionally I leave out the cheese), and finally add a few spoonfuls of your favourite salsa.  Mix it all together and enjoy!

This was last night’s dinner (I actually ate TWO bowls of salad), and as you can see, I enjoyed it with a large green tea from Timmie’s.  Although I’ve won 7 free coffees (which I always sub with green tea), I was not so lucky last night.  I’ve been picking up the tab of the vehicle in line behind me pretty regularly, so I’m hoping good karma comes my way and I win a vehicle before Roll Up the Rim is over…positive thinking, right?!

Welcome to Spring!

This whole winter has been unusual in Alberta, Canada (where I live):  we typically have very cold temperatures and get a lot of snow, but for some reason, that didn’t really happen this year.  It hardly snowed at all, and we had a very mild winter, temperature wise.  In fact, Spring seemed to have arrived early, in that temperatures were consistently above freezing, and all the snow had melted from our yard by last weekend.  But alas, it was not to be.  On Monday, we experienced a freak snow storm so severe that it took me over two hours to drive home from a city about half an hour away, AND the highway was shut down for the evening (thankfully I was able to get home first!).  Tuesday was the first day of Spring, but it certainly didn’t look like it in my yard.  It didn’t just snow Monday, either – it KEPT snowing…and I had to shovel FOUR times this week!  And when I say “I had to shovel,” I don’t mean a little skiff of snow; I mean wet, heavy snow up well over my boots that needed to be cleared so I could walk to the dog run, get to the garage, and get my SUV (equipped with good winter tires) out of the gback yard.

This is what my back yard looked like after I finished shoveling on Thursday night – and the picture doesn’t really do justice to the amount of snow that was actually there.  The snow itself doesn’t really bother me, especially because it’s not really that cold out right now.  The crappy part?  My husband is working out-of-town for two weeks and left Monday morning.  He didn’t even see any of the snow, let alone help me shovel it…nope, the shoveling has been all mine!  So aside from one yoga class, and the two circuit classes I teach on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (come to think of it, I cancelled Tuesday’s class because many of my participants weren’t able to get out of their yards after the snow on Monday night), my workouts this week have been simply running with the dogs and shoveling.  You know what, though?  Shoveling heavy snow works up a sweat, so I’ll take it!

Bruisy McExercise Tube

So I tried some new equipment with my Sunrise Sweat class earlier this week, and it was an eventful enough session that I thought I should write about it.  We used resistance tubing for some partner exercises, and in theory, it was an excellent class.  There were a few issues, but I’ll get to those later.

After our warm up, we got down to work with the exercise tubes.  1. Lat Pulls – To start, the partners stood a few feet apart, facing each other with the tube folded in half between them.  Partner A held the tube in the centre fold at chest height, while Partner B held both handles and did lat pulls by drawing elbows straight back and squeezing shoulder blades together.  Completed 12 reps and switched partner roles. 

2. Chest Fly – Partner A held tube in same manner as previous move, while Partner B turned around to face away from Partner A.  Partner B held handles at shoulder height out to the side, and drew hands toward each other in front of chest.  Completed 12 reps and switched partner roles.

3. Horse Race – Partner A placed resistance tube around hips, while Partner B stood behind her and held onto both handles.  Partner B crouched into a squat and pulled backward on the handles to provide resistance, while Partner A ran to the opposite end of the gym, pulling Partner B forward.  Switched partner roles and returned to opposite end of gym.

4. Bicep Curls and Lunges – Partner A stepped on centre of tube with instep of front foot and lowered into a static lunge.  Partner B stood with feet hip width apart, engaged core, and pulled both handles from waist height up to shoulders in a standard bicep curl.  Partner B completed 12 reps, Partner A switched feet, and then Partner B completed another 12 reps.  Switched partner roles.

5. Tricep Kickbacks – Partner A engaged core and held centre of tube high above head while Partner B held handles at waist height with elbows pinned at sides.  Partner B lowered handles to thighs (palms facing downward), while keeping elbows pinned in.  Completed 12 reps, then switched partner roles.

6. Repeat the Horse Race

7. External Shoulder Rotation – Partners faced the same direction, and each held a handle in outer hand while standing a few feet apart (far enough to keep the tube from being slack, but not stretched).  Keeping elbows of outer arms pinned to their sides, partners simultaneously rotated their shoulders outward by moving their hands away from each other. Completed 12 reps and turned around to switch arms.

8. Upper Body Rotation – In the same original position as previous move, partners each held a handle in both hands.  Simultaneously, both partners stepped forward with outside leg into a lunge.  While in lunge position, both partners rotated upper body at the hips, and pulled tube handles away from each other.  Completed 12 reps and turned around to switch sides.

9. Repeat the Horse Race

We repeated the entire sequence one more time, but eliminated the horse race – not because I wanted to, but because it was necessary for safety.  The third time we did the horse race, two of the tubes broke – one of them so severely, that it actually came back and whipped one of the participants in the butt.  She’s a trooper, but I’m pretty confident that she’ll have a bruise (good thing my participants sign waivers!).

I have done all of these moves before in other fitness classes, and never had any problems whatsoever, so I was not even a little bit concerned that the tubes would break.  The tubes we used were brand new, and very recently purchased from a reputable fitness equipment distributor, so I was confident they would hold up to all of the moves I had planned.  I guess not.  I WILL be taking them back, and finding new tubes that are of higher quality.

Tabata:  After we did the tubing moves twice through, we moved on to the cardio portion of our workout, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) known as Tabata.  If you aren’t already familiar with Tabata workouts, you should give it a try; Tabata is AWESOME!  This is how it works:  you do 20 seconds of a move (say skipping rope, or burpees, for example) as hard as you can, recover for 10 seconds, then repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 sets in 4 minutes.  Tabata gets your heart rate up fast and torches calories in a short amount of time.  I like to do 5 different moves for an intense 20 minutes of calorie burning.

The first time I did Tabatas with my Sunrise Sweat class, however, it became quickly apparent that 8 sets were a bit too much for my participants.  After the first two sets, a couple of my participants told me outright that they couldn’t do 8 sets of Tabata Mountain Climbers; so we stopped at 4 sets.  We will work our way up to 8 sets eventually, but I want to make sure the workouts are accessible for ALL of my ladies, so 4 sets are good for now.

This week we did 4 sets each of 20 second work/10 second rest of five moves:  Burpees, Jumping Rope, Squats with Overhead Press, Butt Kicks and High Knees.  Even though I reduced the number of sets to keep the Tabatas accessible for my participants, we had a little more equipment injury in this section too; one of my ladies somehow managed to whip herself a couple of times in the arm with her skipping rope.  I advised her on a way to adjust the rope, and she was fine for the rest of the sequence.  We work together, and she showed me her arm later that morning – still sporting a few red welts – poor girl!

Overall, it was an effective workout, even though we did have a few minor injuries.  In the future, I will use a different, stronger type of resistance tube, and maybe test them out myself before using them with participants.  Please don’t let my negative experience with the tubes deter you from trying them out, though; resistance tubes really can be a very effective piece of equipment, both on your own and with a partner.  Just make sure to choose a high quality tube that is the right tension for your ability…happy sweating!

Emerging from the Hibernation

Hello lovely blog readers!

I have not gone into hibernation, I promise – although I’ve certainly been away from you for far too long, and the gorgeous weather of late reminds me of hibernating creatures waking from their slumber and stumbling out into the glorious sunshine.  Sincerest apologies, but sometimes a mini hiatus just cannot be helped.  The life of a High School English teacher (who has zero prep time) simply does not lend itself to blogging daily.  Especially during progress report time.  In addition, I’ve been dealing with some other “time suckers;” I believe that I mentioned some medical issues a few posts back, and they are exactly what I’m referring to.  I’ve got two entirely separate, but fairly serious medical problems right now.  One of them I am not quite ready to speak about publicly (but it is not life-threatening, so please don’t worry!), and the other is a tumor on my liver.  Now, I know that the word “tumor” can be awfully frightening, so let me start by telling you that my specialist DOES NOT believe that my tumor is cancerous.  He does, however, think that it needs to be surgically removed.  I had a biopsy this past Friday so that we can learn more about the mass, but I don’t have the results back yet, so I am still not sure when I will need to go for surgery.  I don’t imagine that the surgery will be scheduled immediately, as Cancer patients with more pressing needs will obviously take priority, but other than that, I have no idea about timelines.

What I do know is that the recovery period from such a surgery can be a rather lengthy process, where intense physical activity must be avoided.  That likely means no running, no yoga and no weight training.  Yuck.  Now is not the time to stress about these things, though – I will cross that bridge when I get to it.  For now, I will focus on being as active and healthy as I can, and I’m sure that everything else will fall exactly into place in due time.

With all of that being said, I hope that you can forgive me for not posting in over a week.  While life in the next while will still be nutty for me, it looks as though it will slow down at least a tiny bit.  I will try to post at least every 3 or 4 days from now on…and if I don’t, well, I think you can handle it.  🙂

I hope the rest of your week is fabulous!

Purslane Fruit and Veggie Wash

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about how “dirty” fruits and vegetables often are – and earlier this evening I read a post over at Natural Knowledge 24/7 about the 10 Dirtiest Fruits and Vegetables.  Obviously we should opt for locally grown organic foods whenever possible, or even better – grow our own – but that is not always do-able.  My husband and I do try to purchase locally grown food when we can, and I frequent the farmers’ market in my town when it runs during the spring, summer and fall.  We live in small town, Alberta, Canada, where our growing season is something like 3 weeks*, however, so in order to have fresh fruits and vegetables year round, imported foods in the supermarket are a necessary evil for us.

Even if you have to buy fruits and vegetables that are not organic, you CAN do a few things to lessen the impact of pesticides and other contaminants.  Fruit and vegetable washes have become much more popular in recent years, but it seems to me that most of those are really just additional chemicals that you put on your food to get off the dirt.  Kind of counter-productive.  Instead of the typical fruit and veggie washes you might find in your supermarket, my husband and I use an all natural fruit and vegetable wash that is made right here in Canada, just a few hours away in Saskatchewan.  Natural Plantation makes a fabulous fruit and vegetable wash from Purslane (from the Portulaca plant), and it is so safe that you could drink it if you wanted to (though I’m not sure it would be the most satisfying beverage).  This stuff is good, and I mean good.  We use it for all of our produce, and simply put a pump or two into about 1/2 a sink of water, then let the food soak for a while.  It takes off a LOT of dirt and grime; you should see how gross the water is when you take the fruit and veggies out of the sink.  The nice thing is that you don’t even need to rinse your food!  We also sometimes use the wash to clean off meat and seafood before cooking, and one bottle usually lasts us for a couple of months or longer.

Even if you buy organic food all the time, your fruits and vegetables probably still have dirt and other contaminants on them – including animal feces…yum!  So no matter what type of produce you buy, you can benefit from Purslane Fruit & Veggie wash.  You can buy this product in both Canada and the United States, and I really believe it is worth it.  Check it out!

*Yeah, okay – I’m exaggerating, but not by a lot – I swear!