I’ve been meaning to share a find I recently made: the spice Sumac. My friend Mastaneh had us over for dinner a few months back and we had seriously, the most delicious grilled chicken kabobs. They were flavored with Sumac. I had never heard of it — but apparently it’s a commonly used spice in the Middle East.
From my research, The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. The spice was long used in Europe to add tartness to many dishes until the Romans introduced lemons to the area. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.
It also has antioxidant health benefits and is an anti-inflammatory. I was able to find it at Whole Foods, but like almost anything – it can be found online via Amazon too!
I sauteed chicken thighs, onions and garlic and add Sumac to the chicken as they are cooking. It’s so so good even my kids like it. And the leftovers even keep their flavor which is a bonus. Here are some ideas for using Sumac when you are cooking!
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I am not super religious but take this day (Yom Kippur) to take stock of things and see where I can improve, and think about situations where I could have been kinder, could have helped more, could have been more understanding. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” and it’s a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year. Some Jews fast and/or refrain from using technology. So, as a way to atone for my sins, I hit up an afternoon class at Solidcore. I struggle through each minute of the class and am generally uncomfortable, so I thought it wasn’t an inappropriate way to acknowledge Yom Kippur.
One of the moves we do during the class hammers the hamstrings. Not many people realize that tight hamstrings cause a lot of people’s lower back issues. And I have super tight hamstrings, so every time we do something that focuses on them – my back starts to feel uncomfortable. You know how to prevent that though? Specific stretching for the hamstrings!
Here are some great hamstring strengthening exercise resources:
- The 7 Best Mobility Exercises You Haven’t Tried Yet
- San Francisco CrossFit Hamstring stretch: Hold for 10 seconds, generate peak tension for 5 seconds, then move into a new range! Spend 5-10 minutes doing this stretch every day and you will see an improvement. I have seen it happen!
- The Perils of ‘Sharenting’:All those Facebook photos are cute—but how are they affecting the kids?
- The 15 Most Underrated Exercises, According to Trainers
- More Muscle, Please: The Evolution of Women’s Arms
Weigh in again this week — I’m down 1.5 more pounds and about .5% lower in body fat (2.5% lower total). So, it wasn’t a whirlwind amount, which bummed me out a bit, but it is lower. And before anyone lays into me, I realize that in the grand scheme of how much weight I have to lose, it’s actually a good amount to be down. I know this! But you know how you focus and stay on point and then get that sort of let down feeling when you see the number? Yeah – i felt that. It’s so damn easy to put weight on, but to take it off – seems double the effort.
And earlier this week, I craved some carbs big time. With the focus on more protein and no crap food — I haven’t been super hungry and for the most part, not even a little tempted to go hog wild. But the other evening, I wanted nothing more than carbs – so I had them. I opted for some crunchy rice rolls. So while not the worst thing I could have chosen (no gluten, soy, GMOs) – it was empty calories and I of course ate the entire package because stuff like that are like potato chips to other people. I can not eat just one — But the next day was a new day and I moved on…
I know that if I want to reach goals I set for myself, it’s all about focus, patience and acknowledging any and all steps that get me there and that set me back.
12 day stats:
- 4.5lbs lost
- 2.5% loss in body fat
- More energy
- Better Sleep
- Skin looks better
Working out with a personal trainer has been challenging and fun. I am learning to appreciate as well as just get used to having individual attention throughout 30 minutes of training. There is no where to hide or skirt around the reps or exercises which has me pushing myself farther than usual. For some of the work I am doing, Wayne has me lifting lighter weight for higher reps to increase muscle tone. Previously, I was used to going heavy for strength training. I am now learning to incorporate both concepts into my training to improve my overall fitness.
Here’s a good article about low vs high rep strength training and which approach is better (or are they?): High Reps vs. Low Reps: Which is Better?
And here’s info on some recent research about low weight, high rep training: LOW-WEIGHT, HIGH-REP EXERCISE INCREASES BONE DENSITY
Currently, I am scheduled for 2 weekly training sessions with Wayne and then I hit up boxing 3x a week, including one 12 round (1hr 15min) class. As I mentioned before, working out has not been an issue for me for years now. I can’t imagine not being active. My challenge has always been eating — and the reality is, it will be always be a challenge whether I like it or not.
This pic is me after my 30 min session with Wayne. I was crushed. Fair to say it was a very long day. I did a 6A intense boxing workout, then worked my day job, and then went in for my PT session (add in parenting duties too!) Wayne didn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable or unfamiliar with — the focus was strength training – dumb bell arm work, back squats, push ups and a few other things, including a long session of db walking lunges. When I say long — I mean it felt like it was miles. After the session, my muscles twitched for quite some time, i drank a ton of water and I felt the soreness start within minutes. Now that’s a good session.. Wayne said that he could tell I was a ‘worker‘. Truth.
As for my clean eating — I am now on Day Three. The first two days weren’t that big of a deal, but today I woke up with a headache and just feel sluggish and cranky. I am warning everyone that interacts with me that cranky Steph has arrived. Fair warning to them all. I’m not starving, but I am craving sugar and carbs. To combat them, I am drinking water and/or herbal tea whenever I feel the cravings creep up. I am peeing a lot more thanks to that strategy…
Wednesday evening I got out the good ole crockpot and made some Cilantro Lime Chicken, which I figured would last me a few days but my family liked it too –so it only covered me for dinner that evening and lunch the next (because I packaged some up right after it was ready to eat!). I am going to make some more – it was that good!
As I sit here, I can feel the soreness every time I move. It’s not immobilizing or anything but it’s a sign that I worked hard. And although I am bit achey and cranky from this clean eating detox period, I can feel the excitement start to flood back with this challenge – which is a good thing.
My next session is Sunday, so stay tuned…
After sharing my last post, I read this article: I’m a Fit Chubby Girl and I’m Sick of People Telling Me I’m Unhealthy which I thought was relevant and timely. While I see the point she is making, I am not necessarily of the same mindset when it comes to my own health. For me, I don’t want to be the chubby fit girl because I know mine is caused by the nutritional choices I have been making. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a fanatical nut about it all either. It boils down to I am not happy where I currently am and I don’t feel my best. If the author feels she is at her best –more power to her. Healthy living is what matters in the end – not the number on a scale. Keep exercising and moving your body on the regular.
We decided to adopt a puppy. We have been thinking about it for a while – and the kids are at an age where they can help at least a little with him. So, without further ado – Meet StormTrooper aka Trooper. He’s a 5 month old White German Shepherd and full of energy. He calms down nicely though and seems to be scared of everything around him which is a bit of a bummer. I am hoping it’s the new surroundings and he needs time to warm up. Almost everyone that has seen him, has shared that German Shepherds were their favorite dog growing up, and they make good family dogs. I’m going to enroll him in training in January which should help. He’s super smart and already sits and fetches – and we are training him to sit and wait at feeding time. We figured with the kids out of school for a few weeks, it would be a good time to get used to him being a part of the family. It will be interesting to see how he’s going to be next week when we all go back to our regularly scheduled routine and he will be alone for a block of time during the day.
Post Holiday Reset
Let’s talk about the holidays shall we? I have been out of control eating. I consciously know that I shouldn’t be shoving 80 bazillion cookies in my body, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The past few days I have been getting back on track though – becoming more mindful of what I am choosing and my plan is to start eating according to the Whole 30 approach in January.
The Whole30 program is a good option for those looking for a way to do a healthy reset or discover what food sensitivities you may have. For those interested in learning more about it, here are some great Whole30-related resources, compliments of Melissa Joulwan, author of the Well Fed book series, including 4 weeks of food plans, no recipe required meal ideas, motivational tips, and more.
One of the great things about doing the 30 day program is you can break your sugar habit if you follow the program religiously. It’s not easy, but craving sugar is one of the biggest issues for most people. Once you break that, which makes the first 10 or so days of this program the most challenging, you will begin to feel completely amazing. Your skin, your hair will look healthier. You will sleep better, wake up feeling better. Food will taste better. The list of benefits goes on and on.
In the coming year, I am going to spend more time working on my flexibility and mobility. I can feel the tightness in my shoulders and neck and have been having issues with my lower back. Nothing serious but I am smart enough to know it’s only takes an off balance move or a quick jerk and I could be feeling more than tightness. I started rolling out my shoulders and back with a Lacrosse ball after my boxing sessions. I have been introducing some friends to the painful joy of myofascial release after my sessions to. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t realize how important and effective it can be. I know many people use a foam roller, but I have found that using a Lacrosse Ball gives you a deeper roll out which is what my tired, tight muscles need.
- The Best Tool for a Deeper Self-Massage
- Hurts So Good: A Beginner’s Guide Self-Myofascial/Trigger Point Release
I love sharing information about working out and giving back. This weekend, in gyms across the country you can participate in: The 5th Annual 2015 Crush Cancer event to benefit Stand Up to Cancer!
The 5th Annual 2015 Crush Cancer event to benefit Stand Up To Cancer’s collaborative cancer research. This year, Crush Cancer will host one main event that will be held in Culver City, California, on Saturday, October 10. In addition, gyms from across the country and around the world will be hosting their own events—all with the goal of raising as much money as possible for Stand Up To Cancer.
THE GOAL: Raise awareness and fund accelerated cancer research while providing a motivating and challenging workout experience.
While this is not a CrossFit sanctioned event, it resembles a CrossFit WOD type of workout.
- Power Cleans (95/65)
- Kettlebell Swings
- Double Unders
- Shoulder to Overhead (95/65)
Tally your reps each round and your score is the cumulative number of reps at the end of 3 rounds.
CRUSH CANCER EVENT DETAILS:
- o Washington DC
- o Saturday, October 10th 2015
- o Location: 1525 Half Street SW, Washington DC 20001
- o 9:00 am- 12:00 pm
This past month has been pretty stressful for me – and I’m not going to sugar coat it. My eating has gone to shit. The little excuses I have made have added up and now are full blown standard operating procedure and it’s not good. It’s being triggered by stress and emotional stuff going on but sliding back into old habits is not the path I want to revisit so it’s time to refocus. I am heading out on vacation next week. My long road trip will give me time to think about what’s going on and some much needed time away from what is triggering all of these feelings. Not to go into detail – it’s related to professional career issues and I know it’s only a matter of time before I need to make some hard choices.
But, let’s talk about refocusing on health and wellness…
I have mentioned before that I am a big fan and a long-distance friend of Christmas Abbott. She has always been kind to me and has embarked on an amazing path of helping others in a big way. She recently sent me a copy of her book: The BADASS Body Diet. I haven’t gotten all the way through it but when I am back from vacation, I plan to start the diet and workout plan recommended.
I already am appreciating that she doesn’t write for a one size fits all body type. She identifies three types of dieters -—Modifiers, Gainers, and Maintainers—and the suggested approaches can be tailored depending on which one you resemble. From the reviews I have read, many mention the suggested approach is simple and you aren’t left feeling super hungry. Although I have heard that many times from many other fitness and wellness advocates, I trust Christmas. She comes from the same world I am used to – women who lift and aren’t afraid to be strong.
Some of the book is fluff and entertainment but, that’s all part of selling the approach to those who still believe thin is better than strong. Those that live and die by the number on the scale. Just like any diet or approach recommended, one size does not fit all. My advice is to read the book – ‘meet’ Christmas, learn her story and understand how she approaches diet and fitness. From there, you can tailor it or not – to meet your own health and wellness goals.
I’ll share my experience from time to time as I start to incorporate her advice in my own fitness and wellness approach…
Buy the BadAss Body Diet by Christmas Abbott directly from Amazon and let me know what you think!
Christmas Abbott: The Badass Body Book (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I hit up a boxing class last night and then headed to Ashburn CrossFit this morning to workout with a dear friend I havent seen in over five years. I have written about Lidia previously and what an inspiration and kickass chick she is. It’s one of the greatest things about finding my fitness passion – meeting and bonding with the most amazing people. Many of them have become very dear to me and even though I don’t see them regularly, they continue to inspire me and motivate me to be better than I was yesterday. I mean – come on now, these are strong, bad ass chicks. If I let myself go to pot after all this time – I think they would kick my ass. Not only are they amazing people – they help keep me accountable. It’s a win that keeps on giving…
As you probably know, I don’t do CrossFit regularly anymore. The change was brought on partially by burn out. I was not getting the joy or seeing the results I used to from CrossFit. I also felt that my body wasn’t recovering like it used to which was causing me to not have as much fun while I was there. My shoulders weren’t healing either because of the constant stress on them. It’s only been since I stopped completely, have I regained range of motion in my right shoulder.
It is nice to revisit CrossFit every now and again and today it was quite a workout – a chipper.
In CrossFit, a chipper is usually a combo of 5 to 10 exercises designed to push metabolic conditioning. This morning’s chipper looked like this…
- 50 Wall Balls (20/14)
- 40 Push Ups
- 30 Medball Cleans (20/14)
- 20 Burpees
- 10 Pull Ups
- 20 Burpees
- 30 Medball Cleans
- 40 Push Ups
- 50 Wall Balls
(20 min cap)
I chose to do it with a 10# med ball and finished at 19:37. Yeah, Ouch. I am now at work and the soreness is creeping in. It hurts just to walk. I don’t know why, but it always surprises me at how sore I get when I switch up workouts even though I workout all the time!
I have to admit it was a great way to start my day. A group of strong ladies, a lot of laughs and creating a sweat festival.
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As a final sign off on today’s post – I want to wish my smart, sassy and super adorable niece Amelia a Happy Birthday. I wish I lived closer so I could be in her life more, but here I am living in ‘Grassyland’ (that’s what she calls Virginia bc we have a lot of grass and San Fran does not).
I love her to the moon and back…
NPR just published Learning To Move, Moving To Learn: The Benefits Of PE – encouraging schools and communities to bring back real PE classes. It’s no secret that “neuro-cognitive development is associated with exercise and can benefit from exercise”, so why aren’t we demanding that our children get more exercise??
Watch the video below that highlights the La Sierra High PE program in the 60’s. It’s exactly what our kids need to be doing today– real physical fitness classes in school. Not only will it help them physically but mentally as well! Our kids will learn to deal with the stress of life. Also look at the people featured in this video –they look younger and healthier overall. I bet it’s because they have been fit most of their lives, starting early on.
PE 50 years ago…compare to today! Help us bring quality PE back to our schools: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/la-sierra-high-pe
In 1962, JFK gave a speech to the nation challenging them to make a “great national effort.” He held the La Sierra High PE up as the model for the nation to follow. 4,000 high schools followed this program. This is the only known digitized copy of his speech. The footage shows one high school PE class. Remember, this is a normal PE class at the high school. This was PE 50 years ago in America! Help us make this happen again. Ron Jones, MS, founder of The Lean Berets (Executive Producer), Doug Orchard (Producer/Director).
I know I’ve been a bit behind in posting new updates for everyone. Real in person life has gotten busy – which is not necessarily a bad thing!
The next few posts will give you an idea of what I have been up to…
Saturday and Sunday, I did two a day workouts. Not because of any larger reason. I was given opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and try some new workouts.
After my early boxing session, I tried [Solidcore] in Ballston.
What is it you ask? Someone online described it as “Pilates on Steroids”. Ive never done Pilates, but I can tell you it was the kind of workout where I literally hated it while doing it but when it was over – i felt great and wanted to do it again to challenge myself to get the hang of it. You use a megaformer machine for the 50 minute class. It’s all slow, controlled movements focusing on core muscles. The classes are kept small so the instructor can give everyone the attention needed. Depending on the movement, you would do a 4-6 count to ensure you are really working the muscle. Have you ever tried to go down in an lunge slowly to a 4-6 count on one of these machines? Talk about using core strength!
I’m in pretty good shape, and this was probably one of the hardest workouts I have done. I wanted to stop ten minutes into it. If you aren’t already in shape – this may not be the workout for you. They suggest that if you cant hold a solid plank for 1 minute or more, it will be too challenging. I do not disagree with their suggestion. Almost from the start, I was sweating buckets even with no cardio and my muscles were twitching and I was shaking. As much as I didn’t like it – I loved it and that feeling. It meant that I was really challenging my body. Call me a glutton for punishment!
My friend, Mastaneh, who set up the class for us and who I was mad at the entire time (Just kidding!), felt the same way afterwards — we left with a love/hate feeling. A few days later, I am still feeling the burn. Not the “oh my gosh, i can’t sit down” type but the “that really works” type of soreness.
I would definitely go again if there were one closer to where I live. For now, It may have reignited my motivation to do yoga again and try a Pilates class.
[Solidcore] Create the Strongest Version of Yourself