Monday, January 31, 2011

I'd Rather Watch Football By Myself

This is my first entry in Project Tasteless and while I probably shouldn't change the spirit of the challenge, I have no interest in infiltrating a man cave right now. I love cooking and watching football and have thrown some pretty awesome Super Bowl parties. To me, the key to party food is a mix of healthy and unhealthy. I usually buy the unhealthy (pizza rolls) and make healthier food. This spinach dip definitely falls in the healthy category since it's nearly all spinach, but it's so delicious you may decide to eat it all while you watch the game (or whatever else) by yourself.

Spinach Dip and Pita Chips

1 12 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach, thawed (a 10 oz box could be substituted)
1 can quarter artichoke hearts in water, chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers packed in water, diced
1/4 cup reduced fat Caesar salad dressing
1/2 cup Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano cheese blend, plus extra for topping

1 package pita pockets halves, opened and cut into triangles

Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat and add spinach. Stir and cook until spinach is dry. Add the artichoke hearts and roasted red pepper, stirring until well mixed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat oven to 400°. Place cut pitas onto baking stones or cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, switching racks half-way through baking. Pitas should be crisp when removed from oven. Cool.

While pitas are baking, add Caesar dressing and cheese to spinach mixture. Stir until evenly distributed. It will hold together slightly, but not look like a typical dip. Place spinach dip in 8 or 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with extra cheese until top is mostly covered. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

Since the only football on this past weekend was the Pro Bowl, I took this to bunco Friday night and received many compliments. The little that was left became part of my dinner Saturday. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Run of Firsts

The weather this weekend was so beautiful. It was sunny with a high in the 40s both days. I'm still taking swim lessons on Saturday (a recap is coming) so a run was on the agenda for today. It was a good run and I enjoyed some new experiences during it.

It was my first outdoor run in 2011. I actually haven't ran outside since the Run, Run Rudolph the day after Thanksgiving.

It was my first run across the Second Street Bridge. I've walked across this non-interstate bridge between Indiana and Kentucky several times, but have never run it. The view both ways was nice, but the wind was so cold as I came back across.

It was my first time to do an errand while running. I needed to pick up a new group exercise schedule and knew the YMCA was about 2 miles away. I ran there, picked up my schedule, and ran back.

My pace was slower than I would have liked, but I ran the first 1.75 miles with no walk breaks. I need to play around with the frequency and amount of walk breaks so my pace doesn't slow as I go. My total distance was about 4.25 miles and it was mostly in sunshine, so I will definitely categorize it as a good run.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Art of Eating In

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway

While I was browsing the library for new cookbooks, this book caught my attention. One of my goals for the next 2 1/2 years is not eat out for 1 week. The author of this book didn't eat out for 2 years.

The book starts with an introduction of the author and gives her reason for deciding not to eat at restaurants. Her main reason is that it is expensive to live in New York City and she realizes she is not saving any money for the future. Thinking about all the money she spends on eating out, she decides to she decides she will prepare all her own meals.

The book is a collection of stories describing how not eating out affects her life and relationships. It is well written, humorous, and touching. She shares many descriptions of meals she prepared which are descriptive enough to make you interested in trying them. Unfortunately, only a few of the recipes she describes are given in the book and the recipes that are presented seem very labor intensive and highbrow.

The author also shares her food-related adventures, including a trash tour of bakeries and groceries after they close for the night, foraging tours in city parks, underground super clubs, and food competitions. She also discusses other ways not eating out influenced her, such as developing more concern for where food comes from. The book ends with her decision to end the eating out ban after 2 years.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to those who like to read about other peoples adventures with food and cooking.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Swim Lesson #3

I hope to be mixing the posts up again soon, but my life has been mostly work and trying to stay warm recently. Just in cause you're new, here's Swim Lesson #1 and Swim Lesson #2.

Today's lesson was great. The 3 of us that can swim are all at different points now, so Mary (the instructor) works with us individually, gives us something to practice, and then works with the next person. I started out with a freestyle lap and a back stroke lap for warm up. After that, I worked on flip turns more. I started by practicing the flip and pushing off the wall, which is where we ended last week. It took me a while to get the feel for the proper amount of rotation to push off with the most power. You want to be about 3/4ths of the way around so your legs are parallel to the surface of the water as you push off.

When I was comfortable with the flip and push, Mary had me add turning over onto my stomach as I came off the wall. That wasn't too difficult to add in, although I'm trying to decide which direction I prefer to turn. Once I was able to complete all the steps - flip, push, turn, I practiced swimming to the wall and then completing the flip turn. This was actually quite difficult because you have to time your strokes so you can take a breath before the turn and be the proper distance from the wall as you start your turn. On my first attempt I ended up with a large quantity of water up my nose. It did get better after that and soon I decided to swim an actual lap. I'd started out in shallow water, swimming the width of the pool.

I got to the wall in the deep end and was rewarded with more water up my nose. I practiced the flip and push off a few times in the deep end so I couldn't use the bottom of the pool for support. When I felt comfortable with the turn in the deep end, I added swimming back in. Finally, by the end of class, I was able to swim to the wall, complete a flip turn and keep swimming. This is a lot harder than stopping to rest at the wall as I had done previously.

This was a pretty difficult move, but I'm glad to have the basics down. I especially like that it will allow me to develop more endurance since I won't be stopping every 25 yards, which will translate to being able to better complete an open-water swim.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Swim Lesson #2

I had my second swim lesson yesterday morning. This the recap of lesson #1 which includes my reasons for taking lessons.

This week we started by practicing freestyle again. Mary, the instructor, recommended I try to just breathe on my dominant side. I had thought I was supposed to alternate my breaths, so I would breathe every 3 strokes. Breathing just on the right side made a huge difference in how much energy I was expending. I think in trying to wait until the 3rd stroke I was holding my breath longer, which made me feel more tired. Now, I'm breathing every other stroke (every time my right arm comes out of the water) and it feels so much better. I practiced for about 10 minutes and then Mary decided it was time for me to move to back stroke.

She had me start out by holding a kickboard over my head and just practicing the kick. That went well, so she had me add arms, trying to keep them close to my ears as I stroked. She also taught me how to count strokes so I wouldn't crash into the wall. I feel pretty good about back stroke. It can be a nice break since you don't have to hold your breath.

We ended the class by learning to flip turn. Like everything else, this was broken down into parts. First I learned to do a forward flip in the water. The hardest part of this for me was breathing out as I went under so I didn't get water up my nose. After I was able to flip without difficulty, we moved close to the wall to practice there. Mary was impressed that I wasn't scared to flip close to the wall since most people are. I appreciated the complement, but after she said that I got a little more nervous. I didn't hit my head, but I did get some more water up my nose. After several times flipping by the wall, she had me start to push off the wall with my feet mid-turn. Unfortunately, we ran out of time as I got comfortable with that, so the rest of the turn will have to wait until next week.

This week's class was a little more chaotic since there were a lot of people in the pool that weren't taking lessons. I spoke to the aquatics manager after the class since the pool is supposed to be closed during lessons except for 1 lap lane. She said that the issue would be addressed during their staff meeting today so hopefully it will be better next week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pole Fitness

Have you tried Groupon? Basically, it's a website that sells gift certificates to local businesses for a discount. I signed up last summer for a discount canoe trip. They email you a deal each day and you decide if you want to buy it. When an email came a few months ago inviting me to try an intro pole dancing class, I bought it. I tried to get a couple of my friends to join me, but the deal was sold-out before we could work out the details. So, tonight, I joined 3 other ladies for an Intro to Pole Dance Fitness class at Modern Day Fitness. Just so we're clear, pole dance fitness is "artistic dance movements using a vertical pole" (

Our instructor was Ashauna and she was fabulous. We started the class with a basic stretching routine that Ashauna led us through it in a slow, relaxing manor. Then we moved onto some difficult ab work involving our legs. After the warm-up, Ashauna showed us the routine we would be learning. Watching her, I was unsure if I'd be able to do all the moves, but I was determined to try.

We started by learning where to stand in relation to the pole and how to hold and walk around it. We practiced walking and turning around for several minutes, until everyone was comfortable. Since the class size is small (4 people), you get a lot of personal feedback. Next, we learned the flamingo, a move that has you wrap one leg around the pole and lean to the opposite side. Surprisingly this is easier on your non-dominant side.

After the flamingo, was the fireman, which is spinning around the pole in the air. This was the move that worried me the most since I can't jump. Ashauna taught us how to use momentum to start the spin and lift our legs into the correct position. I did manage to achieve a spin, but for most of the class, I hit my shins during this move and have some lovely bruises today.

We also learned the 180° turn, the snake, the bunny, and the pole squat. We practiced everything separately, then practiced them to music as a routine. We preformed the routine to several songs and each time Ashauna would give it a slight variation. I finally managed to preform the fireman without hurting myself during the last song.

Ovarall, I really enjoyed the class. The workout was more toning and strength than cardio, but we got some cardio at the end as we danced. Ashauna was very skilled at explaining how to preform a move and then giving you specific feedback to improve. Her personality made me feel very comfortable and secure. I'm not sure if I'll continue taking classes, but that's only because of time constraints. They also offer parties and I would love to get a group together for one sometime.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Swim Lesson #1

Saturday was my first adult swim lesson. I took lessons as a kid, but never really learned to how swim well. Last summer before my first triathlon, I read Triathlon Swimming Made Easy,practiced the drills to learn the basics, and started swimming laps. I never got to the point where I could swim long distances comfortably or easily. I would usually rest after completing a lap (50 meters) and my form got worse as I got more fatigued. However, I was able to complete a half mile swim during the triathlon without stopping to rest. There was some backstroke, side stoke, and a lot of doggy paddling though. This led me to my decision to take swim lessons before entering another triathlon. I have an idea of what to do, but I need someone watching me to improve my form.

We started the class by telling our goal. My goal is to develop efficiency and ease in the water. There are 2 people in the class that have never swam, so they worked with one of the instructors, while the other 4 of us that can swim, but want to get better worked with the other instructor, Mary. The first thing we did was swim freestyle the length of the pool. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt good doing that and was the fastest person in our group. After our first swim, Mary gave us kickboards and had us practice kicking. This is something I'm actually pretty good at. The key is keeping your leg straight and ankle loose. Next, we practiced arm circles. This is something I need improvement on. I don't lengthen my arm enough before pulling back. Then we practiced breathing. Mary told us to keep our cheek in the water as we turned to breathe. I can do that about 50% of the time, but then I swallow water and want to lift my whole head. Mary recommended breathing out until my mouth is all the way out of the water. When we practiced everything together, I felt ok about how I was doing. I asked Mary about getting tired and she told me that would get better the more I practiced. We finished up by treading water and floating, which are useful skills in open water swimming.

Overall, I think the first class went well. I already feel like I can do more than "not drown" and I look forward to continuing to improve over the next 5 weeks. I'm planning to practice Wednesday and we'll see how I do at keeping all the tips in my head when I'm by myself.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Don't Have to Plan the Whole Year

Is anyone else sore today? As I discussed in my last post, my workouts in December were sporadic. So I greeted 2011 with the same idea as many people, let's get moving. I haven't developed full New Year's Resolutions and I'm not sure I will. I really don't know what's going to happen in some areas of my life this year and don't feel like I can commit to a long term plan. Instead I am going to break the year into sections and develop goals and schedules to support those goals. The first part of the year started Jan 2 and goes through Feb 12.

We changed our gym membership to one with a pool, mainly because I want to learn to swim. Since I did a triathlon last year, you might think I can swim, but really, I only know how not to drown. While I can move forward slowly, I want to be comfortable and efficient in the water. I'd also like to not be afraid to put my face in. So, starting next Saturday, I'll be taking swim lessons. It's an adult class and I'm excited to see how it goes.

Sunday I ran on the treadmill, which I've decided is tolerable for about 20 minutes. I can push myself farther, but don't really enjoy it. After the run I realized that the new gym has an indoor track. I'm planning to try it out later this week. Yesterday was time to start my other fitness goal for the 1st part of 2011 - weight lifting. I took Group Power, a weight lifting class off and on in 2010, but haven't done it at all since October. The new place has Body Pump instead, which I've done before. Having re-started weight-lifting multiple times, I knew I'd be sore, so I kept my weight light and scheduled today to be a rest day. This was a good decision since getting out of my chair kinda hurts. I also know the key to not repeating this pain is consistency so I'll be back next week.

For the first 6 weeks of 2011, I'll be focusing on swim lessons, weight lifting, running, and cycling. I may work in a few fun aerobic classes, like Zumba or belly dancing, but I don't want to introduce too many new challenges at once. At the end of these 6 weeks, I will be able to swim 800 meters comfortably and take Body Pump without needing a complete day off from exercise. Then I'll decide what my next challenge will be.

I hope your 2011 is off to a great start. And, if the thought of a New Year's Resolution is overwhelming to you, I hope you'll join me in developing goals for a shorter time span.