You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

I’ve been keeping very busy lately.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love to play sports and recently I have joined a couple leagues during the week to keep me active.  So as it stands right now, I’m playing on three teams (one volleyball, one dodgeball and one basketball) and then working out as much as I can the rest of the week.  On top of that, work continues to be challenging and I do my best to be social as well. Overall, I sometimes feel like this about food when I get home from a game or a workout…

All joking aside, I do feel rather ravenous after so much activity and I am tempted to eat whatever I have in my fridge or cabinets.  Luckily though, more often than not (I do have weak moments!), I find the restraint and decide to “overindulge” on something good and I would like to share this delicious discovery with you.

It’s pretty simple (aka time-efficient for me!) and may not be a “Eureka!” moment for most. In any case, I love vegetables.  Love them to the point where when I don’t have them I crave them!  But I don’t have the time or energy right now to buy fresh vegetables and clean and cut them up (I love to do this when I do have time, but these last couple weeks have not given me the opportunity!).  Even with the best intentions I sometimes waste perfectly good veggies and I would rather save some cash and not waste.  Here comes the solution: frozen vegetable steamer bags from the supermarket (cheap and filling!).


In moments of little or no time, I pop the steamer bag in the microwave, drain and pour into a bowl.  Then I pop a lean frozen entrée into the microwave right after and mix in with my vegetables, creating a larger meal and an opportunity for me to fill up on something good for my body.

What are some quick  food fixes you enjoy?

 – Kate


Ever since I joined four months ago I have been watching the women in the Zumba class having  a great time. I love to dance. In fact, it is the only kind of exercise that I have done voluntarily. However, I didn’t feel that I would be able to keep up, so didn’t join. My commitment to exercise was so tenuous at first, that I didn’t want to jeopardize it by doing anything that would make me feel bad about myself. So, I promised myself that by my birthday I would be ready to take a Zumba class. Today is that day. 


A Zumba class in full swing!

I am still a bit nervous and I am certainly not looking forward to watching myself in the mirror. (My workout clothes show every bulge!) I am also a bit afraid about being judged by the other women. I wish I could wear a sign saying “I’ve lost 45 pounds and know I’ve still got a long way to go.” I know this is stupid and most people are not here to judge others, but it still worries me a bit. I am also nervous about not being able to do all the moves. If we have to get on the floor, forget it! Getting my 200+ pounds up and down without hanging on to something is difficult and awkward to say the least.

I am hoping if Zumba works out, I will start taking other classes. I think this will be one of the best ways for me to get my exercise in. My doctor has me working toward a goal of 7 hours of exercise a week. Classes would help a lot. I’ll write later and tell you how I did.

– Cheryl

So yesterday was my 61st birthday. I had a goal of 210 by my birthday day and missed it by two pounds but that’s okay. I’ve come a long way and have even longer to go, so I’m fine with my progress. Besides, I am trying to measure success by more than just the scale–a fickle friend to say the least. I have so much more energy–fit in some size 16 clothes–and generally feel optimistic about myself and my life–so what the scale says is (almost) inconsequential.

I was taken to dinner at Sorellina by family and friends. It’s a lovely place and the food was fabulous. I had already told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted. The most difficult part was deciding what I would order. In the end, I had a fabulous raw tuna appetizer, pasta with meatballs for the entree and chocolate mousse for dessert. I also ate their delicious bread, drank champagne and shiraz–my favorite wine. Like most fine restaurants, Sorellina doesn’t serve mammoth portions–it certainly wasn’t the Olive Garden’s endless pasta bowl. So there was less than cup of pasta and while there were four delicious meat balls they were quite small. In the end, I was very full and a bit tipsy (I usually don’t drink much) but felt satisfied and not gluttonous.

Of course then this morning I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to training by 7. I came within a whisker of canceling, but decided that I would feel like I’d really let myself down if I did. I did allow myself to take a taxi–I always walk, but it was raining and I was hung over. I did the training and am now waiting for the Zumba class to begin. I had promised myself that I would be ready to take classes by my birthday. So here I am.

– Cheryl

I love the Olympics.  Love.  And I do not use hyperbole lightly. 

For weeks prior to the opening ceremonies, I have been anticipating this culmination of athletic prowess that is the Winter Olympics.  Beyond the physical displays, I am such a sucker for the testimonials and athlete profiles that even the commercials have been choking me up.  The bigger the personal tribulations and triumph, the more of a sap I get while watching the performance.  I often cannot watch the medal ceremonies without getting a little teary. 

Part of my excitement in being an Olympic spectator is derived from my upbringing.  We are a skiing family, and every single weekend, my family drove from our house in New Jersey to our ski home in upstate New York.  In retrospect, I don’t know how my mom did it; she wrangled two kids, packed clothing and groceries, planned dinners for the weekend, and had us in the car after school by 4:00 on Friday afternoon.  My parents would have dressed us in about 18 layers, shoved breakfast in our mouths, tossed us into ski boots, and deposited us on the mountain to join our clinic group by 9:00 am on Saturday and Sunday.  And then they would ski with their friends. 

I know the devotion it takes to be invested in a sport from the age of three years old to adulthood.  While I certainly was not on the Olympic track, kids I skied with have made the Olympic B team or have raced against Bode Miller.  Sometimes won against Bode Miller.  Being immersed in this atmosphere makes me aware that it’s not only the devotion of the athlete; it’s also that of the athlete’s family.  At the end of every single ski run aired during the Olympics, I look for the skier to find his or her parents.  That moment always gets me, as I remember my own parents taking turns transporting my sister and me to different mountains, getting up at 4:00 am on a Saturday, and staying at the bottom of a race course in the cold to congratulate or console, as needed.    My dad always says that was the happiest time of his life, and for his sacrifices, I empathize with all the Olympic families. 

Of course, there is more than the emotional aspect which I find awe-inspiring.  The sheer physicality of it all astounds me.  I was watching biathlon Sunday afternoon, and was fixated on the thigh muscles of those cross-country skiers.  It seems super-human, which I guess is the point of putting all those athletes together on display for the world.  The women athletes, in particular, embody all that is empowering about women in sports: they are svelte and muscular, embraced in a society where, while their body types may not be the “ideal,” are lauded for what their bodies can do for them, whether it is catapulting them in the air off a ski jump, shuttling them down a mountain at 80 mph through a super-G course, or hurling themselves in loops over an ice skating rink.  When I was in high school, Picabo Street was pretty much my role model – and she was a size 10, muscular, fierce role model.  Now, I think Lindsay Vonn, in her strength, speed, and general brazen attitude serves as a role model to girls. 

Now, to revisit my glory days, here is a picture from the racing years.  I will spare you any shots of me in a GS suit (luckily, I don’t think those pictures survived). 

my glory days

Looks just like Lindsay Vonn, right??  Oh, how I wish.  I’m going skiing this weekend, and I may just be humming the Olympic theme down the slopes.

What is your favorite Olympic event to watch?

– Joanna

With my race just around the corner, I have to start thinking about tapering. Tapering is when just before a big race or event, an athlete pulls back in training in order to start conserving energy. Some people get nervous about the idea of tapering because they’re afraid that they’ll lose all the fitness they worked so hard to achieve. But according to, tapering before a race is really important because “levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper.” You do a lot of damage to your muscles during this kind of marathon and half marathon training, and resting helps your body repair itself. Plus, tapering makes a runner less likely to catch a cold or get injured.

Sounds pretty good to me – all definite reasons to take seriously. For my last half marathon, the team tapered for a week, and then took a week off. I’m not sure what I should do this time. I think that I will probably keep working out this week (I get sad and stressed when I don’t!). I also think that my training run this weekend will be a good opportunity to really prove to myself that I’m ready. And then I’ll taper for the week before the race. I’m not going to stay off my feet completely, but will probably just enjoy walking my dog and other light activities.

What do you think? Do any of you taper or rest before a big race? Should I taper more?

– Hannah

One of my serious obstacles during my last half marathon in September was that even though I trained a lot, I never really knew exactly how far I was running. When race day finally came, I was actually more unprepared than I had thought I would be. Two weeks before the race, I ran what I thought was 12 miles (according to a website I use to map all my distances), so running 13.1 should have been a breeze. But it wasn’t! In fact, the race was brutally painful. I came to the conclusion that I never really knew how far I was going.

I have some pretty cool running gear. I recently succumbed to peer pressure and bought a Nike+ SportBand; so many of my friends have them, and it seemed like a really useful tool to have. Basically, the SportBand is a fancy pedometer – but it’s so much more! With the SportBand, I’ve been able to calculate my distances better. It also tells me my pace, which is crucial information.

This past weekend, I really pushed myself. After all, race day is in T-13 days (yikes!) and I really want to feel good about this race. I was visiting a friend in Toronto, and didn’t know the area very well, so I just started running and kept on going. It’s interesting to look at the Nike+ data after a run.

A snapshot of my results

From the website, I can see that I started out pretty strong, but slowed way down once I hit some hills, and really slowed down by the end of the run. In fact, I slowed so much that my overall pace was dragged down. From this, I’m getting that I need to be more consistent in my run. Instead of starting too fast, I need to be a little more even in my pacing, so that I can prevent myself from hitting that dreaded wall (and I definitely hit it last week. It’s terrible, my muscles freeze up and my legs feel like 100 tons of bricks).

– Hannah

Last night I hosted a fun little potluck dinner evening with three other fellow Healthworks members. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I find it hard sometimes to keep up with all the essential life-ingredients — work, relationships, staying healthy, etc. Getting a few friends together for a healthy home-cooked dinner is an easy way to socialize without making elaborate plans or spending big bucks. We stuck to an “asian flavors” theme and ended up with an awesome spread that included: brown rice, ginger, and bok choy stir fry, baked crab spring rolls, thai coconut vegetable soup, fresh rolls with hoison dipping sauce, and ginger-molasses cookies for dessert.

As per usual, I was rushing to get everything ready in time and had about 20 minutes to make my Thai coconut vegetable soup dish before the ladies arrived. It ended up being perfect timing, because it’s such a quick and simple (and delicious) recipe. It’s best when served immediately after cooking, which makes it great to share among friends 😉 I stuck to this simple version, but if you wanted to eat as a well-rounded meal, you could add protein by throwing in a few pieces of cooked shrimp, chicken, or tofu.

Thai Coconut Vegetable Soup

1 julienned red pepper

1 zucchini, halved and cut into thin slices

1 small onion, cut into half moons

2-3 carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 can lite coconut milk

2 cups chicken broth

dash of ground red pepper

Add broth, coconut milk, red pepper, ground red pepper, onions and carrots to a large saucepan on medium heat; simmer covered for 15 minutes. Add chopped zucchini, cover and let simmer another five minutes, or until vegetables are tender but still firm.

Enjoy for a quick and easy dinner, or bring to your own potluck get-together – it’s a guaranteed hit.  

– Jean

What are your favorite, easy-to-make potluck dishes?

Pumping iron in the AM

In the middle of the bicep track during Body Pump recently, I had a thought.  I was smiling out at thirty women pumping iron to rock music at six in the morning, and I wondered whether people in their lives—people they encounter outside the gym—know about their secret Body Pump life.  Do the people they work with know how good they are at push-ups?  Do their children know how they endure five minutes of squats, working their legs until they shake under the weight of the bar? It probably seems like a strange thing to wonder about.  But imagine the super hero who wears regular street clothes, walking around completely unnoticed until something requires that super-human strength be revealed to everyone’s awe and amazement!

You laugh, yet I see this in the women who take my Body Pump class.  I see how hard they work, how they wake up so early it’s still dark outside, and how they sweat through lunges and chest presses.  They grit their teeth and heave 25-pound bars over their heads.  They are tough—and determined each week to do more dips or hold a longer plank. 

 I doubt they show off their hard-earned muscles, but those toned triceps and defined deltoids are there – hiding under sweaters and business suits as these gals go about the rest of their days with energy gained from a challenging morning workout.  When strength is needed, they’ll be ready. I wish I could give them each a cape and some shiny silver boots!

– Sarah

Sadly, I’ve been sick and out of commission for the past week or so. What started out as a cold has turned into strep throat and a nasty virus. So I’m home from work, in my pjs, taking it easy with some penicillin and ibuprofen. The old adage “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything,” is so true – usually we don’t value how good it feels to be healthy until we aren’t! I’ve noticed that quite a few other people that I know have been sick lately too, so as a general PSA – keep washing your hands and wiping down the HW equipment!

If you’re sick like I am, I recommend filling up on tea and chicken noodle soup, and keeping yourself rested, but also take the time to do a little bit of stretching. As a yoga teacher and avid yoga student, I am always trying to incorporate even a little bit of yoga into my daily routine, and being sick is no exception. Laying in bed and being inactive is necessary in order to heal, but it also allows your muscles to become contracted and very stiff. Just a few gentle poses are enough to help your body feel a little more relaxed and normal. Today I practiced a little “sick” yoga routine that I recommend. It included:

– 1 slow sun salutation
(downward dog to plank, low pushup, upward-facing dog, back to downward-facing dog, then stepping forward, standing up and stretching tall)

– Rag doll (stand with your feet apart, knees bent, and let your upper body hang forward)

– A few cat/cow tilts

– Childs pose, stretching from side to side a bit

– Forward seated fold

– Fish pose (with a pillow beneath your back, to help open your chest)

– Supine twist

– Viparita kirani, preferably with legs against the wall, and a towel across your eyes

If you’re not familiar with some of these poses, you can find explanations of the poses on the Yoga Journal website. Stay healthy!

– Jean

What exercises do you do when you’re sick?

Deb walked into basic step class for the first time one Monday night nearly five years ago when I taught in Minnesota. She had never been to a gym, and she had never taken a group fitness class.  I greeted her when she introduced herself and told me that her doctor had cleared her for exercise.  She explained that she needed to lose 100 pounds, and she would start by taking my class. When I gave Deb a quick overview of class, she nodded and looked around the studio nervously.  I pointed to where the step benches were stacked, and she said, “Well, I don’t think I can use a bench yet, but I can do the moves just with my feet—in the back of the room.  And I don’t know if I’ll make it the whole hour.”

No one had ever taken my step class without actually using the step, so I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew is that Deb’s revelation about not being able to lift her legs onto that bench made me realize the long journey she had ahead of her.  I realized Deb’s incredible bravery and her determination to make a serious change in her life. Deb’s first class was scary for me as an instructor because I worried when her face turned bright pink and when she stopped frequently to wipe her brow with the sweat towel.  But she kept her feet moving the whole time.  She completed the entire class.  I was ever so proud of someone I just met.  All she said was, “I’ll be back!”

When Deb showed up again the next week, I was thrilled.  So often, women take that first step of entering the gym, a place that can feel intimidating or awkward, and they’ve already crossed an enormous hurdle, but then something painful or embarrassing happens which prevents them from returning.  Difficult as it must have been for Deb, she kept coming back.  She kept doing step class without a bench, and she always smiled on her way out the door.  Funny enough, my mom was the instructor who took over teaching my basic step class when I moved to Boston.  Every so often, I would ask her about Deb, waiting for the day my mom would tell me she used that step bench for the very first time.

I’ve lost track of Deb since my mom retired from teaching.  But I will not forget her—how great her goal was and how much heart she put into achieving it.  Sometimes as I open the front door to the gym, I remember her and how inspired I am by the fact that she isn’t afraid to keep opening that door. 

– Sarah