Sunday, December 30, 2018

5 Fitness Apps you should check out if you wanna get fit in 2019.

My last few years of New Years Resolutions have included "collect more data". This year I've done that more than ever, mostly with the help up Apps and programs. Even though I'm a doomsdayer Luddite, I have found a few apps to be really helpful in achieving my fitness goals AND personal productivity.

I will note that this year has been the least productive fitness year for me. Hopefully next year as I'm obtaining a Personal Training Certification, I will be able to get back on track of my fitness goals, but this year, amongst anxiety, weight loss and lack of life motivation, I applauded any effort to be active (and met my Fitbit calorie goal almost 50% of the time).

So this is just a post for those of you looking for some extra Apps or websites to keep you motivated and most importantly having Fun!

I have tried other apps like 7 minute workout, which was fun when I didn't have a lot of time, but because it wasn't my only workout program it would think I was lazy. I also have a fitbit, that is definitely helpful in tracking certain things, but I'm kind of over it. The first few months I had it I checked it for everything. now I forgot that I'm wearing it until I go to check the time and find it dead.
I had how easily it runs out of batteries. I was really torn between a Fitbit and a Garmin and I wish I had gone with the latter. I've gone through three new bands (one under warranty, another a month after my warranty expired), and the screen cracked the first month I got it.
This list is the 3 apps and two websites that I use regularly to design my workouts. I'm sure it will change a lot if I do this post next year.

5) (App) Map My Run.
I'm not a big runner, but this app has helped me track my progress (and share it). I typically use this app with my Fitbit running as well, and there are some definite discrepancies... but it's cool to see my route and how much faster or slower I made it. I like that I can make notes about my run if it's an especially humid day, or I have a bad cramp or something. There's also a big community piece that I haven't explored much, though I've posted some of my personal best's to Facebook with ease from the App.

4) (App) Tabata Intervial HIIT Timer by Slydroid
I typically prefer a simple timer to track my intervals and workouts. I use the interval timer on my Fitbit, but because it doesn't beep I have to focus really hard on my wrist mid-Sprint, and I often miss intervals.
I have a Gymboss timer that I love but went missing for a while, so I would use Fitlb's online Timer if I was near a computer. But for times when I would be at the Boxing Gym or outdoors, I downloaded this timer to manage my intervals. I have the free edition so I can only save one timer, which I just adjust depending on the workout. While it is a lot more complicated than the website app, I like that you can play music through the app that gets quiet during intervals. I also like all the settings and possibilities. To be honest, I haven't used this to its full potential-- maybe that should be a 2019 goal.

Whether you're a fitness professional or breaking a sweat for the first time since PE class, there's something at Darebee for you. I think it was designed for board-game-playing anime lovers who decide they need a bit more exercise, as each workout has a warrior/spartan/nerd reference. I often use their workouts as warm-ups but in my darkest days, I would click around to find a 1 minute challenge that would at least get me flexing my muscles for a minute. Again, whether you're new or old to exercising, check this site out!

2) 12 Minute Athlete.
I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this blog 3-4 years ago, but it has been my fall back even on this gloomiest of years. While her website has become less user-friendly as it now enables cookies and has ads peppered throughout the workouts, I still use the search function to find the perfect apartment friendly, boxing, or pull-up workout that I can have done in 15 minutes (including warm up and cool down).
I actually avoided getting the App for years because the website is free, and I a so anti-spending money, even though at just $2.99 it's an incredibly good deal. Cheaper than your post-workout smoothie.
The 12 Minute App is well worth the price. It offers all the workouts accessible at your fingertips, with timers built in, and it tracks your personal best. I kind of which I had this from the beginning so I could see how my workouts have fluctuated during my high and low active periods.
This isn't just a fitness app, though. I get thoughtful e-mails, protein-rich recipies and access to a facebook group of random people just trying to stay fit, all curated by Krista and a few others. As a female fitness junkie, I am often put off by other female-led exercise that are totally for newbs, but 12 minute Athlete offers a range of exercises for all fitness types and abilities, AND she shows you how to do each exercise, AND it's done in just 8-16 minutes, depending on the workout you choose.

1) (Apps) Thenics
I think I found this from someone I follow on Instagram. After months of scrolling through looking at photo after video of sexy people doing handstands, muscle-ups and front levers, I wished that someone would break down the exercises needed to work up to those kinds of things. Then lo and behold, I found Thenics. I love these workouts because they're concentrated but I don't have to break a sweat. I have done these before or after other workouts, or as a stand alone when I don't have the ability or desire to do a full workout and get really sweaty. I think I'm going to try to do these more regularly in 2019 and track the progress, so stay tuned.

Hey, here's one more plug that doesn't necessarilyhave to do with fitness, but I don't think I'll do a whole blog about it.
I downloaded the RescueTime desktop App for my browser. This is really helpful for tracking my hours spent working, because I can look back each day and see how much time I spent on work-related websites. But it's also been neat to see how much time I spend on certain websites. I think, "Oh, I'll just space out and visit buzzfeed real quick, I've earned this," but Rescue Time is telling me I'm spending 3 hours/week on that website, and that's valuable time I could be spent learning a language or cooking my own food. :)

I hope you find this helpful.
What's your favorite fitness app? What are your 2019 fitness goals?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How long does it take an Environmentalist to go grocery shopping?

The answer should probably be some sort of punchline, but in my case, it's-- "wayyy too long".

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over two years. I'm a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy (milk and cheese products) for ethical and digestive reasons. My boyfriend is an ethically-leaning-carnivore-on-a-budget, with a severe gluten intolerance. Both of use prefer organic, whole foods but enjoy things like sugar, honey, fruit, and cereal. Other than salad and frozen yogurt, I have been challenged to find foods that we can both share. So, adding that to the fact that we both travel a lot and I usually got food at work, we rarely would buy more than 2-3 meals worth of food at the grocery store.

I liked this way of shopping. Boyfriend and I have each spent some time in Germany, and enjoy the European feel of going to market, buying some fresh bread or stinky cheese that was packaged that day, then coming home and eating it. The greatest benefit of this is purchasing what you are hungry for and eating it fresh. I used to meal plan and cut out recipes, but often by Thursday my leftovers from Tuesday that I planned on Sunday weren't exactly appealing. So I would eat those leftovers, still craving something else, and over eat. (In the last two years I've got a good handle on my weight and diet by eating what I'm hungry for... a simple concept that I'm still driving into habit.)
My every-few-day market dash usually included avocado, tomatoes at any time of the year, beef jerky, and some relative an almond milk coffee drink for me. For years now we've literally lived of those main items plus a few others, supplemented heavily by the leftovers at whatever restaurant we went to that day.

This week, we made history in our relationship. We actually filled an entire cart of groceries. We had a healthy pile of veggies- lettuce, carrots, peppers, onions, sweet potatoes and fruits- apples, grapes, avocados, and limes. We got a regular amount of everything two healthy people should eat, including coffee, milk (and non-dairy milk), cereal and eggnog. Although we had a full-page list, I am wired to usually only buy things that are on sale, substituting things on sale for things on my list just to get the discount. In the end, we "saved" $36 and spent... $300! To this day I cannot understand how my mom regularly fed a family of five on $120-$150/week, except for a) inflation and b) Texas (I do miss my H-E-B). I honestly looked into how to get food stamps last year for the one week I helped feed two kids on top of our regular food on my single-person budget.

So all that is a big introduction to: here's the problem with grocery shopping as an environmentalist.
When I was in college my brother came to visit and we went shopping. I spent at least 5 minutes in front of the egg selection, weighing out the pros and cons of: vegetarian fed, styrofoam packaging, organic, free range, local and of course, cost. While I was weighing the options and how my one choice of which eggs I brought home that one week could potentially destroy our environment, my brother went to get something and came back, "you're still here?"
I felt that again this week, shopping with my boyfriend. I was pretty dilligent through the first half of the store, putting back the Nutella because it's made with palm oil, choosing organic vegetables when the prices allowed, opting for non-organics of some of the less 'harmful' ones, trying to buy things in bulk that I know we'll use up to save on packaging, choosing mostly in-season foods, or local items from trusted sources... But by the time I got to the freezer section in the middle of the store and remembered that the dog was in the car and that the store was closing in 20 minutes... my anxiety became suddenly frustrated at my environmental conscious, wishing it could just shut up.

I honestly can't empathize with people who don't pull up an article they've read while grocery shopping. I would hypothesize that most people in the egg aisle are debating in their head whether or not eggs cause cancer that week, or if it's been long enough since the last salmonella outbreak to buy spinach, etc. But for me, it goes way beyond that. Every food I buy has a footprint, a story, and a track. I strongly believe that my body is my temple and I want to put only the healthiest, most nourishing foods into it. (Sometimes, the healthy nourishing foods my body craves are Frozen Yogurt with lots of chocolatey peanut buttery toppings, but usually it's a more balanced meal.) Part of what helps me keep track of my environmentally focused shopping trips is making pledges. In 2007 I pledged not to purchase bottled water. In 2010 I pledged not to buy palm oil. I know that there are organic options, and local efforts that make the evil of monocultured giants lessened...but that just complicates my grocery decisions. Organic is supposed to be better for you, right? When I was in college I had friends that worked on an organic farm and one that worked on a 'conventional' 22-acre farm. The organic farm kept their certification by putting heavy metals and weird concoctions not found in their natural environment on their plants, while the 'conventional' farm did everything they could to keep things simple and use biologic pest controls, etc. What makes grocery shopping complicated is that every single product has a story, but they're also trying to sell something. To me, buying from co-ops helps take some of the guess work out of it, because I trust them to only stock things made with good social and environmental practices. Natural food stores should check the same block, but unfortunately stores like Sprouts, Natural Grocerers, and Whole Foods often use that knowledge to exploit the consumer. There are still good products at those stores, and often they maintain good principles, but again it's a case by case basis, and even those companies can change their principles over time (take Whole Foods, for example). Nevertheless, we persisted, and two packs of Milano cookies later we convinced someone to open a lane so we wouldn't have to self-check-out our whole basket, then returned to our happy doggo in the car.

This epic grocery shop has already impacted our lives. When we took a small one-day road trip, I packed a delicious snack of cheese and sausage, fruit and pickles and olives. (In hindsight, I should have made myself a sandwhich cause I was super hangry a few hours later). Other than two meals picked up on days we had to drive the 5-hour round trip into the big city, we haven't gone out to eat at all! (Honestly, we've hardly even left the house).
The downsides to buying $300 worth of groceries for two people, is that I'm suddenly remembering that I don't eat that much anymore. Gone are the days where I would house 3 bowls of chili and then look for dessert. Some days I'm hungry mostly for snack foods: granola and fruit for breakfast, cheese and apples for lunch, carrots and hummus and cookies for dinner... but then other days I crave a full meal offset with smaller snacks on either side.

In hindsight, I think that successful grocery shopping requires more than an army of environmental articles and your canvas bags. I am grateful to three tools in my kitchen for aiding me in successful meal planning: big tupperware, a freezer, and a toaster oven. Because I'm the only one eating most of my meals, I've taken to freezing what I won't eat after a day or two. In the freezer currently I have: cooked "meat" crumbles which make an awesome addition to anything I'm cooking in an saucepan; homemade crockpot chili; spaghetti squash with pasta sauce and a bit of tofu. Also in the freezer are my breads, which I take out one at a time when I'm ready to eat, and warm up/thaw in the toaster oven.
Since writing this post, we've restocked on cheese, and I need to buy more pickles. There are still some cabbages and a whole cauliflower in the fridge. Now that I'm getting more comfortable grocery shopping, I can work on eating. All in time.

Since you've made it this far, I'm going to tell you how to make my
go-to breakfast scramble, which I think I perfected this week.

Ingredients (for two):
4 eggs
1 slice Daiya cheese, or regular cheese (if you're into that sort of thing).
2-3 leaves of kale (I usually use the leafiest green kale I can find, not that dino kale stuff)
1 sweet potato, peeled
1/2 yellow onion
Optional: meat, vegan applewood sausages, vegan chorizo crumbles, black beans

1. Cook diced onions on low for about five minutes
2. Add diced sweet potato in about half-inch cubes
3. I season liberally with chipotle powder, salt and pepper, spanish paprika and Chimayo red chile powder or cayenne.
3. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes can be smooshed with a wooden spoon.
4. While the sweets are cooking, chop the kale. No one really likes kale (no matter what they tell you) so I chop it into little bits. (We have a running joke about my boyfriend killing himself in inventive ways every time I try to feed him kale. Not funny? Okay, I guess you have to be there...)
5. When the water is barely covering the bottom of the pan, add the kale and recover. You might wanna put on some more salt and pepper.
6. While this is cooking, I either scramble the eggs (with almond milk and a tiny squirt of mustard, + Salt n pepper) or prep the eggs for steaming (poaching?) on the kale.
7. When the kale turns a darker green, I'll pour in the scramble, or crack an egg evenly spaced out over the kale, and recover. For the scramble, I just keep scrambling until it's all cooked. For the poached? eggs, I just cover until they look solid enough to eat.

I serve it on a tortilla with avocado, sometimes fresh tomato, and hot sauce. And cheese, real or non.


Also, check out this alternative I made this week that I'm obsessed with:
Eggs, feta, black beans, onions and some amazing "sweet and spicy" green chile.