Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Colorado Travel Tips: Ice Skating on Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake on New Year's Day 2016
Happy New Year!

If you stop by Evergreen in the Winter, put ice skating on the Lake on your must-do list. Once Evergreen Lake is frozen over to 12" of ice, it is open for ice skating, hockey, and broomball! This Winter, Evergreen Lake made it on CNN 10 of the world's most beautiful ice rinks.

As an overly cautious person, the thought of walking out onto a frozen lake freaked me out at first. What if the ice cracks and I fall through? What's the protocol for when I do fall into the lake? With reassurance from my other half, who is just as cautious as me, I waited for him to get on the ice first. (Read: Ok, he didn't fall through.) I was pleasantly surprised by the sturdy feeling of the ice. I had imagined the ice to be wobbly and completely translucent.

I'm standing on a frozen lake in ice skates. What?!
If you plan on skating the Lake, here are a few pro tips:

  • Parking is terrible at the Lake. There's a clear sign that says no parking for sledding. Next door the Lake is the golf course covered in snow. There were lots of sledders walking from the parking lot to next door. I recommend parking in downtown (street and paid lot) and walking to the Lake. 
  • When you get to the lake house, you have to buy a ticket to use the ice and a ticket to rent. To buy tickets to get on the ice and to rent skates, is one line. This line is separate from the line to get the rental skates. We split up in the lines. One of us staying in the line to pay for tickets. The other stayed in the rental line. 

Private rink areas available for rent. 
Advertising hidden in an ice sculpture.
  • Watch out for the cracks in the ice. The ice wasn't groomed very well. I saw so many skaters eat it when their skates got caught in cracks. Pay attention to cracks and notches as you skate. 
  • The middle of the rink is smoother than the outer edges. 
This year's Christmas Card picture.
  • Wear warm socks with your ice skates. It's significantly colder on the ice. I had fleece leggings on under my jeans, a base layer shirt and a thermal under my hoodie and jacket, but I had on a pair of regular gym socks. My toes got cold really fast. Gloves are also important. 

Happy Skating! 
N.


Monday, October 19, 2015

High Altitude Baking: Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes! I finally did it. I made Thomas Keller's ad hoc chocolate cookies... at high altitude.  Baking cookies from scratch has been a battle for me. Granted, I haven't spent too much time trying to perfect a recipe because the last thing I need is to have piles of cookies laying around.

My well-loved copy of Ad Hoc At Home. It's still one of my favorite Christmas gifts to date.
If you haven't heard of Thomas Keller, he's a popular chef with fancy and delicious restaurants and bakeries in California. None of which I made it out to, while I lived there. One of the restaurants, you had to make reservations six months ahead of time! In any case, years ago, one of my brothers gifted me ad hoc at home. The chocolate chip cookie recipe from ad hoc make the most delicious cookies. Since we have been living at high altitude, I've made these cookies completely flat, crispy and burnt or big and cakey with no flavor. But this time, at a smidge over 8,000 ft, I made them right!

Boom! Thomas Keller chocolate chip cookies just right!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
adapted from ad hoc at home for baking at 8,000 ft

Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups of flour + 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp of baking soda (that's how I measured it out)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup of packed dark brown sugar, reduce by 2 tbsp 
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, reduce by 1 tbsp 
  • 2 large eggs and 1 egg white
  • bag of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips - TK recommends using a mix of 55% and 72% chocolate bars broken into chips. That's hard to find in the mountains :) 

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 365 degrees. 
  • In a medium bowl, sift flour and mix in baking soda. Add in salt. 
  • In mixer, beat half the butter until its smooth. Add in the sugars and the rest of the butter. Mix them in until mixture is light and creamy. 
  • Add in the eggs one at a time to the mixture. Make sure the first egg is completely mixed in before adding in the second egg. 
  • Add in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Then stir in the chocolates.
  • Shape into balls and place onto cookie sheet and put into oven. The cookies will spread quite a bit. My dough balls were about 1.5". On the sheet, there was about 2 inches of space between them.
  • Bake at 365 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. 
  • Remove from oven, place onto cooling rack. 
1.5" dough balls yielded about 30 3" cookies, According to the book, well-wrapped dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and frozen for up to 2 weeks. 


As for macros per serving, I didn't have time to calculate that before I ate them. Oh well, life goes on.


Happy baking,
Nat
Monday, October 12, 2015

Finally, A Challenging Total Body Workout

Sometimes I need a break from creating my own workouts. I want to go into the gym with a plan, hit play on my podcast, and just lift (like a beast of course).

On the internets you can find a plethora of total body workout ideas, but they usually have the same lifts that I do regularly or they have an insane number of bodyweight movements, which I was not looking for at this point in my plan. After hours of searching (ironic, right? Too lazy to create a workout, but spend days searching for a workout, lol), I found inspiration from Ashley Conrad's 21-day Clutch Cut program on bodybuilding.com. The workout is a fun mix of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises.

I gave it a try, and 4 rounds kicked my butt!

Here is how I modified the workout for myself:

12 reps per exercise, 4 sets with 1 minute break in between sets

Exercises:

  1. dumbbell clean and press with 25# db
  2. walking lunges
  3. push-ups
  4. bench dips
  5. OH squats to work on my core strength and balance
  6. assisted pull-ups 
  7. medicine ball jumping jacks with 15# medicine ball
  8. incline push-ups with hands closer to chest to work on chest strength
  9. dumbbell bicep curls with 15# db
  10. side lateral raises with 15# db
  11. single-arm dumbbell rows 25# -30# db


Review of the workout:

  • Definitely recommend it to anyone - you can modify the difficulty of the workout by increasing the weights, types of squats, types of pull-up and push-ups or number of  reps and sets.
  • Easy to do at the gym or at home - you just need to acquire the dumbbells, a ledge / bench, pull-up bar or machine availability, and small space to do the exercises, you don't need to wait around for machines to be available. 
  • Efficient - you work every major muscle group AND get cardio conditioning at the same time!

Anyone else have a good TBW to share? If you gave this one a try, let me know if it kicked your butt too.

Happy Training,
N.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Plan B Workouts

I can say that I've been working out 4 to 5 days a week over the last month. Go me! I can't say that I have been making it to an actual gym for each workout. I avoid driving in major thunderstorms when possible and I've been car-less a couple days a week. My lazy self would have normally written these days off, but this last month, I have discovered the power of at-home workouts on good ol' YouTube to supplement my lifting workouts. Having a plan B for workouts has helped me stay on track.

Here are a few finds on YouTube:

Superhero Fitness TV with Keaira LaShae - Many, many moons ago, I attempted to live my dream of being a hip hop dancer. After the first session at a hip hop dance studio, I realized it would only be a dream. I am not ashamed to admit that I have no rhythm and coordination when it comes to moving my limbs while doing 8 or even 4 counts. Keaira LaShae is a high energy choreographer, singer, and trainer who has fun and intense dance/hip-hip workouts. She demonstrates beginner, intermediate and advanced modifications for her workouts and is feeling the burn with you. My two favorite Keaira workouts are hip hop tabata and 90's throwback dance workouts which I usually do back to back.

For the yogis, YouTube is a haven for yoga workouts. Every time I feel like I need a good stretch, I think, "yoga is a good idea". Every time I start a yoga class or a video, I am thinking, "this is so boring. I can't do this entire class." Of all the types of yoga out there, I prefer Vinyasa yoga over the others because it's a constant flow of movements. If you are interested in yoga, I recommend yoga with Adriene or with Tim. I did 20 minutes of yoga from their Vinyasa videos to stretch out, and they are excellent with explaining the movements as they go.

Befit channel has tons of videos, including all of Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shreds and yoga videos. It's a great resource for beginner workouts or for a change of pace. I tried one of the extreme workouts on the channel and it reminded me of a P90x or Insanity workout. There's a lot of fast movements that aren't fully being explained, so unless you have some workout experience, don't injure yourself trying to keep up with the fast talking host.

FitnessBlender is an awesome channel. It has great at-home workouts for almost anything you want. I recommend this for at-home HIIT or boot-camp type workouts and for exploring new workouts. I stumbled upon the channel when looking for a barre workout. Barre was all the rage in the Bay Area, and I wanted to check it out. After doing the workout, barre isn't for me. I don't like doing a ton of sumo air squats with no weights, it wasn't enough of a challenge for me and most of the moves were tough on my knees. It was fun to try it though.


Next time, you want to make an excuse to not workout or go to the gym, check out these channels for inspiration and motivation. Try a new workout without leaving your home. How awesome is that! Granted  most of these workouts won't replace a good hypertrophy lifting session, but it will help you stay active and burn calories... better than watching HGTV during your gym time :)

Happy training,
Nat
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#IIFYM #flexibledieting... What Are You Talking About?

About a year ago...

Scrolling, scrolling through Instagram, stop..."#IIFYM, #flexibledieting, ... #sciencebitch ... WTH are these hashtags?" Further hashtag searches led me to pictures of ice cream, cheese-topped proteins, and carbs (and I mean hundreds of grams of carbs) being eaten by incredibly lean and muscular people. My mind was blown. Who were these people and why I hadn't I heard of this sooner? The thoughts that followed consisted of skepticism.. this has to be some sort of marketing ploy, this is a fad diet....After a search on the internets, I learned that the crux of the diet is to eat to meet your daily macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) and fiber. You decide what to eat to fulfill your macros. Simple enough. My interest was piqued.

I soon started reading about how IFBB athlete Ava Cowan was doing a macro-based prep and so was my friend Kristy (NPC Physique athlete). These two ladies have physiques that I have been admiring for years. I needed to learn more. What about the non-competitor, would flexible dieting be sustainable? Short answer, yes.

I calculated my own macro plan based on an article I read by Sohee Lee. I maintained my a great off-season weight by gaining 10-15 pounds the first 8-weeks post show. I was eating at restaurants again and enjoying desserts. Macros was working.

Fast forward to maybe 6 months

My diet was improving. What hadn't changed was my habit of binge eating. I needed to teach myself that it was okay to eat what I wanted because it fit into my macros and to not eat as much as possible before I got caught, lol. I enlisted the help of Metabolic Evolution to help me with calculating my macros. The plan helped me get back on track. My nutrition coach helped me better understand how to build an efficient metabolism. Learning sustainable eating habits is not a race. It's a learning journey and a slow and sustainable process.

Present day

After quitting my job to move, I was a bit loose on my macros. Adjusting to this life change and the month of manual labor doing house projects was enough for me to handle. No biggie. Life happens. It's not the end of the world. It happened and now that I am adjusted here, I can work on my goals of increasing strength and decreasing body fat, along with optimizing my macros for lifting and non-lifting days.

Here are my recommended reads and resources if you are interested in IIFYM nutrition plans:
  • "How to Count Your Macros" ebook by Sohee Lee - The article I read a year ago turned into a great ebook with more details and examples on how to calculate a macros plan for yourself. The book is straightforward and practical. Bonus - Sohee responded to my tweet about reading her book! She told me to tweet her if I had any questions... how awesome is that?
  • "3 Keys to Dialing in Your Macronutrients" - Informative article on bodybuilding.com about how to calculate macros for your body type.
  • "IIFYM v. Clean Eating" - Video by Dr. Layne Norton on his opinion of IIFYM and clean eating. Dr. Norton, in my opinion, is one of the pioneers of flexible dieting and breaks down flexible dieting, metabolic damage, etc. with science.
  • "Diet Doesn't Need to Mean Denial" Article on bodybuilding.com by Sohee Lee that breaks flexible dieting myths.
I am an advocate of flexible dieting because with macro guidelines I have the most flexibility to go out and eat a restaurants or social events without feeling guilty. I haven't been dropping pounds like I did with a strict clean eating plan, but that's ok. My long-term goal is to have a sustainable fat loss. Long-term health is what is more important to me than fitting into a smaller dress size next month.

Flexible dieting is not a "quick fix" to fat loss or gaining lean muscle. It may take a couple weeks to adjust your macros to meet your goals. You are the one who has to stick to the plan, so do your research and figure out what will work for your journey.

Any thoughts on IIFYM v. Clean Eating or recommended reads about nutrition?


Happy training,
N.  





Monday, August 25, 2014

When Is Your Next Show?


I got asked this question practically weekly after my last show in June 2013. Sometimes it was followed with an "oh, you really lost your muscles" or "are you even training". Eh, I am not one to let these remarks or questions bother me because having competed for over three years, I know my body and the prep/non-prep cycle. I wanted to answer the question with basically what is in this post, but I knew it would take a long time to explain my total thought process about competing again and really people just wanted to hear about how crazy prep is.

After my June show, I was happy that I competed because 1.) I got to wear that expensive a$$ figure suit that I bought the year before and 2.) I met my long-time goal of doing a figure show! Who cares about a second to last place finish? I didn't. I was just happy to be doing quarter turns instead of model turns.

June 2013 NPC LA Figure Show with my awesome teammates
After the June show, I did a post-mortem of the experience to figure out how I could have done this prep better. The post-mortem lead me to a few conclusions:
  1. There definitely has to be a more flexible way to prep.
  2. I want to be stronger. I want to get back to 1- max rep glory days.
  3. I cannot function on a strict meal plan because off season, I have a difficult time maintaining weight and social and work functions are difficult to manage. More knowledge on nutrition is needed.
  4. I do not want to spend half of my nights lifting, doing second round of cardio and doing food prep because now I have a significant other to think about.
  5. I cannot put my significant other through the hangry prep experience again. Seriously. Although I warned my significant other of the strict guidelines for prep, I don't think he was prepared for how it actually played out in real life, nor did he know what he was in for travelling to LA with three hangry competitors.
Knowledge is power so over the past year, I've been reading, learning, and testing out new methods to expand my tool set.  Hence the break from competing or even thinking about competing until I do what I need to do.

To answer the question, "when is your next show?," I don't know. It will be when I am ready. Remember competing is a big time and mental commitment, compete when you are ready and to meet your own goals. Arm yourself with knowledge and a great support network.

Happy training,
N.








Monday, August 4, 2014

Colorado Travel Tips: Hiking Maxwell Falls

Beautiful Sunday afternoon! Maxwell Falls Trail is in the Forest ahead.
Each weekend there's a line of parked cars along the side of a main two-way road in our neighborhood. If you follow the line of cars, it leads you to the overflowing Lower Maxwell Falls parking lot. According to my neighbors, this trail has only recently gained popularity. Scott and I have been meaning to make our way over the Falls. The house projects have been taking up our free time on the weekends.

This weekend was an unexpected two days of pure blue skies and sunshine. Plus we completed our house projects on Saturday! Sunday = perfect day for a hike :) Our neighbor offered to be our guide on the hike.

If you plan on hiking Maxwell Falls, here's a few tips:
  • Middle trailhead is unmarked and is about two miles further up the road from the Lower Maxwell Falls entrance. This is the best place to find parking.
Saw this mushroom on the way to the car.
  • The trails are a worn out and washed out in some areas because of the heavy foot traffic and recent storms. Pay attention to the trail to make sure you stay on it.
  • If you start from the middle trailhead, you can go left to an awesome lookout point on a huge boulder. If you go right on the trail, it is an easy 15 minutes to the waterfall.
Lookout Point
  • If you are doing the entire loop from the Middle Trailhead, start by going left. There's less uphill and you can finish off the loop with the Falls. The entire loop is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. According to my HR monitor, I burned approximately 650 calories on the hike.
Scott in front of the Falls. The best view of the Falls is by this wooden marker.
  • Check the weather forecast the morning before you go. A sunny morning is not predictive of a clear afternoon. You don't want to be stuck in the forest during a lightening storm.
  • There's rattlesnakes in the Forest. We heard a couple of them as we were walking through. Stay on the trail!  
Happy hiking!
N.