Thursday, June 22, 2017

Secret Formula....


     
Anyone who knows me can tell you I have trouble sitting still for long. I have the attention span of a puppy, and can usually be found whirling from room to room at home, or back and forth across the store at work.


     So when it comes to my workouts, you are not going to find me slogging miles on the treadmill or repeating the same set of exercises over and over. On a good day, I can usually only last about 10 minutes on a cardio machine. I’ve always loved circuit training and fast paced fitness classes, but had to create my own combo to put the two together. It’s fine for a while, but sometimes you just need the motivation of a class full of people to push you a little harder.

      Enter my new favorite workout: Formula Total Body at The Fitness Formula in St. Louis’s Central West End.

 They offer both classes and personal training. The staff of instructors, trainers, and physical therapists have a wealth of experience, enthusiasm and  fun (yes FUN) that I don’t see in many of the chain boutique fitness studios. Each class is a little different based on the instructor, but the Formula Total Body classes all incorporate interval training with machines and weights. 
The intensity is based on your heart-rate and all exercises are modifiable, so everyone trains at their own pace.


     It’s total body, one-hour, heart-rate based interval training using free weights, kettlebells, TRX, sandbells, boxes, and a variety of machines, including the incline trainer, Versa Climber and a water rower.

-The incline trainer is a treadmill that goes up to an incline of 30%. You can walk or run at your own pace, adjusting the incline. Even at lower speeds, you burn more calories but avoid injury risk. 

-The Versa Climber is a low impact machine that simulates what I describe as crawling up a wall without the fear of heights. It uses both your arms and legs in a kind of cross-crawl pattern, strengthening your inner core and balance. 

-The water rower gives you the feeling that you’re actually rowing on the water. The low impact, smooth, rhythmic, and meditative movement of water rowing works 84% of your muscle mass during one exercise while lengthening contracted muscles. 

-The mix of free weights, TRX, kettlebells, sandbells, med balls and jump boxes build strength & power, define muscle, and build bone density. While the machines help build your cardio endurance.







     The daily workout mix is posted as you walk into class on a whiteboard. You have an idea of what’s coming, but the instructor leads you through the workout. Dividing into groups and teams, you alternate strength work and cardio throughout the class.  As I said before, the workouts are different every day, but they all move smoothly between sets. Some switch quickly and repeat, others are longer and fewer.
   They incorporate the MyZone Fitness tracker, so your name, heart rate and level of work show up on the screen in class, encouraging you to push a little harder to get into a higher zone. It's not mandatory, so if you're not into the numbers, you can still take the class and push at your own pace.

     My favorite days are the one-minute intervals, switching from cardio to weights every 3-6 minutes. (It speaks to my short attention span). For those who like to get a little distance on the treadmill, rower or climber, some classes use longer intervals. Some days you use all of the equipment, other days it’s more kettlebell or TRX. But each workout hits all of the muscle groups without overtraining.

     
Best of all is the support you get from the instructors and owners. They will be your biggest advocates, keep you accountable and cheer your successes.  My husband has been training with both of the owners and they constantly assess his progress, modify his workout to fit specific needs (he had knee replacements a few years ago), and update and revise his workout program. All with a sense of humor and tough love. 


They are located at 4630 Lindell Blvd in St. Louis, 63108.
Phone is 314-696-2700 or you can email them at info@fitnessformulastl.com.
Your first class is free and you can sign up on their website at: www.fitnessformulastl.com

     If you live in or near the Central West End, it’s right in your backyard. But it’s worth the drive from all over STL, especially now that summer is almost here. Because after a great workout, who doesn’t love a healthy lunch or dinner at a CWE restaurant patio?





Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Got to Keep On Walkin'...."

I’ve always enjoyed going for a walk, but never really saw it as a exercise.  It’s worked to clear my head, diffuse my anger, and give me a healthy glow, but over the years it’s been kind of an add on to my “real” workouts.

But this spring, my husband and I moved out of our house in the suburbs to an area of the city that is infinitely walkable, and I feel healthier now than I have in years.

I’ve always liked exploring when I’m visiting a new city. After visiting Chicago, New York, or even cities out of the country, I’d always expect to gain weight from all of the foods that I try. But, because of all the walking, I usually come out even when I get home.I never made the connection that maybe it’s because I was walking so much !

I’ve already written about my Fitbit obsession, and this move has taken it to a new level. The move itself involved cleaning, packing, running bags of clothing to donate and lots of stairs. I thought I’d hit my highest step goal then.

However, moving day brought a lot of surprises. My storage closets are on the other side of my building, as is the trash bin, so it’s quite a few steps back and forth just for that.  

And once we are home, we don’t have to drive to all of the places I used to go daily. The grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, bars and shops are all walkable. I now justify getting a Jeni’s ice cream cone by the fact that it’s 1,000 steps each way walking , so I must burn off at least some of the calories!


The best part is that we live one block from Forest Park in St Louis. I had been to the park before and driven by many times. I had driven to it’s museums, zoo, and theaters, and went to specific events, but I had never actually walked through the amazing landscape and pathways!

And as much as I still love my gym workouts, the health benefits of walking are many! Harvard researchers note :

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.


It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking    reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.


So grab your fitness tracker, lace up your shoes and get out there. No equipment needed. Even a daily walk around the block can boost your health and clear your head, so why not give it a try?

"Got to Keep On Walkin'...."

I’ve always enjoyed going for a walk, but never really saw it as a exercise.  It’s worked to clear my head, diffuse my anger, and give me a healthy glow, but over the years it’s been kind of an add on to my “real” workouts.

But this spring, my husband and I moved out of our house in the suburbs to an area of the city that is infinitely walkable, and I feel healthier now than I have in years.

I’ve always liked exploring when I’m visiting a new city. After visiting Chicago, New York, or even cities out of the country, I’d always expect to gain weight from all of the foods that I try. But, because of all the walking, I usually come out even when I get home.I never made the connection that maybe it’s because I was walking so much !

I’ve already written about my Fitbit obsession, and this move has taken it to a new level. The move itself involved cleaning, packing, running bags of clothing to donate and lots of stairs. I thought I’d hit my highest step goal then.

However, moving day brought a lot of surprises. My storage closets are on the other side of my building, as is the trash bin, so it’s quite a few steps back and forth just for that.  

And once we are home, we don’t have to drive to all of the places I used to go daily. The grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, bars and shops are all walkable. I now justify getting a Jeni’s ice cream cone by the fact that it’s 1,000 steps each way walking , so I must burn off at least some of the calories!


The best part is that we live one block from Forest Park in St Louis. I had been to the park before and driven by many times. I had driven to it’s museums, zoo, and theaters, and went to specific events, but I had never actually walked through the amazing landscape and pathways!

And as much as I still love my gym workouts, the health benefits of walking are many! Harvard researchers note :

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.


It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking    reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.


So grab your fitness tracker, lace up your shoes and get out there. No equipment needed. Even a daily walk around the block can boost your health and clear your head, so why not give it a try?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Blue (Apron) is the New Black..."

My Spinach and Butternut Squash Pizza
Cooking is something that I am learning to enjoy. However, I like to get things done quickly, so I’m impatient with recipes that require any more work than grilling or roasting. I also tend to stick with salt and pepper and one or two “go to” herbs for seasoning. Rarely do I go outside of my comfort zone any time besides a holiday meal.

When I started reading about some of the subscription meal prep delivery companies, I was curious. Was it worth the money? Would I be able to make the recipes? Would I like the food?  I finally settled on Blue Apron, and tried some of their meals last week.

According to a 2014 article in Forbes Magazine, Blue Apron was founded in 2012 by Matt Salzberg, a Harvard M.B.A. with venture capital experience, and Ilia Papas, an engineer and former consultant, and chef Matt Wadiak. The company creates meal kits: precisely portioned ingredients and specific instructions needed to cook exactly three dinners a week and sold on a subscription basis.

Portioned ingredients
Blue Apron’s approach, the meal kit, offers the convenience of delivery while keeping home cooks in the kitchen. The precisely portioned dinners minimize waste and allow consumers to try ingredients they might not otherwise buy, at a price they can afford–about $10 per meal per person.

Originally named Part & Parsley, Chef Wadiak insisted that the new name be based on the traditional garb worn by French chefs in training: blue aprons.  He wants home cooks to learn new techniques and get comfortable with “different cultivars.”

I tried two recipe kits that served four people, and one kit that served two. (The kit for two, Asian Cod, belonged to my daughter who does NOT like fish). They contained all the ingredients needed to cook the meals, complete with recipes and step-by-step photos.

The meals came neatly packaged in a cardboard box lined with ice packs to keep the contents fresh for a few hours. The meats, fish and chicken were vacuum-sealed, which gave me an extra week or two to use them, just in case I couldn’t be home to cook one of the nights.

Each recipe was well explained and included all ingredients needed, so making dinner was almost as easy as ordering carry-out, without the guilt.
The photos included with the recipes showed the major steps in the process with instructions below the picture of how to prep and cook all the ingredients.


They post the upcoming two week's menus on the site, so you have the opportunity to make sure the menu looks good before ordering. Nutritionally balanced, each meal comes out to around 650-700 calories per person. In a restaurant, you have no idea how much oil, butter, salt or other secret calories are going into your meal, so you definitely have more control.

Although Blue Apron is a subscription service, you can opt out of any week or skip a few weeks depending on your food preferences or eating plans.

And even if you don’t order one week, the recipes are free to anyone browsing Blue Apron's website and aren't restricted to paying customers. So you could potentially pick up the necessary ingredients at your grocery store (But that kind of defeats the purpose of having everything you need right at your fingertips).

So my take on the meal kits:

Packaging: I’m obsessed with food freshness and tend to buy the food I’m going to cook that same day, so I was a little wary of the “packaged” produce and proteins, but I was pleasantly surprised. The kale and spinach were bagged, but still tasted delicious. The herbs were plentiful and free of any spots. Vacuum sealing the proteins made them taste like I had just purchased them at the store and the quality of the cheeses, and condiments was superb.

Variety: You can list your preferences and dislikes when you sign up, so they won’t send you something you are allergic to or don’t eat. But, there are six choices for three meals and I don’t think you can pick the exact ones you want delivered.
The ingredient variety was outstanding though. I used spices, marinades, herbs and veggies that I haven’t cooked with or tried before. Tamarind on the cod, jasmine rice, kale in a casserole and squash and spinach on a pizza; I never would have considered those combinations.
Cod with tamarind over jasmine rice


Convenience: Delivered to my front door, everything I needed, and exact instructions. What could be better?

Taste: Ok, this is the most important and the meals didn’t disappoint. Blue Apron uses high quality ingredients and the flavor combinations are outstanding. I never would have thought to mix honey, ricotta cheese and black pepper and dollop it onto a hot pizza, but the flavor was incredible.
Lime zest in jasmine rice, freshly grated white cheddar and Amish chicken in a casserole. Yum!!
It’s really like going to a new trendy restaurant in your own kitchen.

Chicken and Kale Casserole with White Cheddar 
Will I subscribe to the meals? I’m pretty sure I will try a week of meals from time to time. I’d be more likely to subscribe if I could choose the exact meals I wanted delivered from the week’s menu.
If you are looking to cook more at home in the new year, or, like my friend Sarah, who cooks like Martha Stewart, but is tired of planning and shopping for meals. Or, just looking for more interesting ingredients,  check out their website, www.blueapron.com  for information and sign up for their emails to get the weekly recipes and delivery choices.