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TrainerTiff: September 2012 >

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tiff's October Fitness Challenge

If you're like me, you like a little challenge here and there. You know, to test yourself, and make sure you can buckle down and take care of business.

Maybe you didn't reach your goals for the summer and want to start now for next summer? Perhaps you want to get out ahead of the holiday feasting? Or maybe you just want a good 'ol challenge? Whatever your reason, I'm glad you want to take control of your fitness.

The entire month of October will be all about focusing on achieving a goal specific to you. Think of a goal you want to reach, and post it somewhere you'll see it frequently -- maybe your bathroom mirror? This will be a constant reminder of why you're doing this when times get rough -- and they will. Just hang in there and focus! It's only 31 days. C'mon, you can do anything for a mere 31 days, right?

Here are the rules.
  • Exercise EVERY DAY 
    • Do an accumulation of 210 minutes of cardio each week 
    • Weight train 4 times each week
  • Do a new type of exercise or class every week that you don't usually do (i.e. pull-ups, hiking, yoga, planks, Zumba, kickboxing, spinning, etc.)
  • Every Sunday, write out your meal plan and workout schedule for the upcoming week.
  • Eat 5-6 times each day, every 2-3 hours.
  • Never skip breakfast.
  • Drink a minimum of 64 oz of water each day.
  • Reduce starchy carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.)
  • Allow yourself ONE cheat meal each week.
  • Reduce dairy intake in half or have none at all.
  • Eat a minimum of 2 pieces of fruit each day.
  • Avoid as many processed foods as possible (see below)
  • No alcohol (you can have one serving at your cheat meal each week).
Recently, I came across the blog Eating Rules and for the month of October, people are pledging to go the entire month without processed foods. Seems fairly easy, right? Well, click on the badge below to find out more information --  it might be a little tougher than you think. 

Just about everything in a package is processed. And of course, some processed things are less horrendous than others. But I like this idea, and I think you should consider taking the pledge as part of this challenge. It'll pretty much eliminate any bad food choices and will help you stay on track to eating a clean and healthy diet.  

October Unprocessed 2012

In addition to the above rules, every day there will be a mini fitness challenge. Below is the list of the 31 challenges for each day of October.

Each number corresponds to the day of the month that you are to the challenge.
There you have it! Are you game? Can you handle it? I'm ready! I'll be doing the challenge with you. I encourage you to write out or print out the rules to the challenge and post it to your fridge. You may also want to bookmark this page for a quick reference. 

Follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page as I will post the daily challenges there. I will also post meal ideas and what some of my workouts look like. On Twitter, I'll be using the hashtag #TOFC, for Tiff's October Fitness Challenge, search for it!

Ready? BREAK! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Tasty Cake: Sweet Potato Pancakes

The other day, the family was in for a treat when I made sweet potato pancakes. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty awesome at making pancakes (toot toot!). I think the change in seasons from summer to fall made me want a sweet potato variety. So, I broke down and made some and they were delicious -- if I might say so myself!

These pancakes are better than what you may get from a restaurant and far better than any box mix because they are made from scratch and include low glycemic index ingredients such as sweet potatoes and whole wheat flour that will help reduce a drastic spike in blood glucose levels.

But make no mistake, these are definitely a treat. I wouldn't recommend eating pancakes every day. Pancakes are actually one of my cheat meals. As you start to eat cleaner, the foods you choose to indulge in will also get cleaner. Back in the day, I used to allow myself some fast food as a cheat. But today, the thought of eating fast food makes my stomach turn.

So, the next time you want to treat yourself with a fantastically delicious pancake, you must try these! Check it out.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
2 dashes of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons oil
2 cups milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

Makes 8-10 pancakes.

Directions: Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl: flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together well. Then add eggs, brown sugar, oil and the 2 cups of milk to the dry ingredients, mix well. The batter should be slightly thick and smooth.

In a food processor, add the sweet potatoes and 1/4 cup of milk and pulse until smooth. Add to batter. Mix well.


Heat a nonstick skillet to medium to slightly medium high. Every stove top is different, so you'll  have to play around to find the setting to get perfectly golden pancakes. It took a lot of trial and error in my pancake making experiences to finally get an evenly light gold colored pancake as opposed to a blotchy brown and cream colored pancake.

Having the right stove top temperature is key. You'll also want to let the pan sit on the burner for 5-10 minutes so the whole entire pan is heated evenly. Use an undamaged nonstick skillet, and no oil is necessary. If you're skillet is less than pristine*, put a teaspoon of oil or nonstick spray in the pan and spread it around with a paper towel until you barely even see it anymore. You definitely don't want any pools of oil anywhere. (You'll only need to do this oiling process for the first pancake and that's it.) I always do a tiny test pancake to make sure they come out right, before I start. Also, I find that pouring the batter from my spouted measuring cup pours the mixture well.

Pour enough batter for one pancake only. This will prevent overcrowding and ensure even cooking. Wait for the pancake to be full of tiny little bubbles/holes (2-3 minutes), then with a spatula, pull up the edge of the pancake to make sure it looks ready to flip. When it's golden, flip it. Let it cook for 30 more seconds, then move it to a plate. Repeat process until you have all the cakes you want. The batter will keep in the fridge for a day or two.


* If you have a damaged nonstick skillet, you should replace it as soon as you can. Toxic particles from the pan can get into the food and that should avoided. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to Eat Clean While Traveling

My strategy for eating clean while traveling is to take a food kit with you. Yes, that's right, BYOF (bring your own food)!

It's easier to stick to a healthy lifestyle when you're at home. But occasionally you might need to travel and having a plan to avoid diet pitfalls will help you tremendously. 

When I travel, as soon as I get into town, I hit the nearest grocery store. I'll stock up on fruit, veggies, easy to eat snacks and meals. Since a lot of hotels don't have refrigerators, I buy one of those disposable styrofoam coolers, fill it up with ice from the hotel ice machine, and store all of my food that I want to stay cold. 

Now, I know most people aren't going to go through all that. Your next best bet, is to take along a food kit filled with foods that don't need refrigeration.

Here are my food kit suggestions:

Many items you can buy in packages that make it convenient for travel, i.e., vacuumed packed tuna pouches, almond butter packets, individual almond packets, raisins and oatmeal. 

For items that don't come in neat little packages, make your own. I made my own packages for the pistachios and protein powder (which were portioned off as one serving per bag). 

To save space, I put some seasoning for the tuna in a bag instead of taking the bottle. Also, I took the crackers out of their box, opened the bag to release some air so I could stuff it inside my bowl to prevent them from getting crushed while traveling. 

Bringing your own bowl and silverware is convenient so you don't have to bother room service to bring you anything. It's also a good idea to bring a little soap and a sponge to clean your bowl and utensils. 

If you're flying with only a carry-on and are worried about getting your silverware through security, just bring plastic silverware instead. Also, in the case of flying with just a carry-on, you might want to skip storing your food in a plastic container. To save luggage space, place the items wherever they can fit in your bag. 

Meal options:

  • Fruit
  • Oatmeal with raisins. (You can use the hotel coffee pot for hot water to make your oatmeal.)

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Orange
  • Crackers with almond butter
  • Protein shake (Mix with water. Or if you want to get almond milk or juice, mix with either of those.)

  • Tea (Most hotels have coffee and tea, but sometimes we just want what we like, so bring your own.)

  • Lemon pepper tuna (If you're not up for eating it plain, ask room service to bring you some lettuce and make a wrap out of it or add it to a salad.)

There you go! A food kit that will help you stay on track while you're away from home. If you wanted to, you could eat only from your food kit while you're traveling (just be sure to load up on veggies once you return home).

But with most travel, there will be social gatherings. With that being the case, try to eat items from your food kit (keep them handy in your purse or bag) until you find yourself at a luncheon or dinner. 

At that point, don't go crazy and eat food that will undo all of your good efforts. My number one dining out food option would be to order a large mixed greens salad, topped with grilled chicken and a vinaigrette dressing. 

Additional travel tips:
  • Make sure you don't skip meals. Eat every 2-3 hours to avoid insulin spikes. Have one of your travel snacks to keep your blood glucose levels stable. 
  • When dining out, avoid starchy carbs (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) as much as you can because restaurant portions are always too large. Instead opt for and load up on non-starchy carbs (green vegetables).
  • Before heading out to a restaurant, look at the menu online. Pick out your healthy meal choice before even getting to the restaurant. This will help you avoid impulsive bad food choices. 
  • If you're visiting friends or family, let them know that you're watching what you eat. This way, if they were thinking of making a pie for you or taking you out for ice-cream, they can think of other things to do for you. 
  • Limit your alcohol. My number one choice would be to have a single glass of red wine. Avoid sugary mixed drinks like margaritas, pina coladas, daiquiris, etc. 

Happy travels! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exercise Demo: Medicine Ball V-up

Here is a challenging move to incorporate into your ab routine, the medicine ball v-up. Just grab any sized ball that you think is challenging (I used a 4 lb ball here).

When performing the exercise, make sure your abdominals stay contracted throughout the entire move. Once you reach the top of the movement (when toes and feet come together), squeeze your core muscles by trying to pull your belly button down toward the floor.

Start off doing 10 reps and then build from there. If you can ultimately get to 3 sets of 20 reps with proper form, you'll be well on your way to having a rock solid core.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Add Some Flare to Your Eggs

Sometimes we can get into a meal rut. Today, I felt like changing up my normal boiled egg breakfast option. With just a couple extras added, I gave an otherwise boring egg some flare.

Breakfast today was delicious! And I think the fact that my two-year-old twins gobbled it up, pretty much proves it.

A recipe isn't really required. Just fry an egg, add some sliced tomatoes, avocado and a dash of dried dill. There you have it.

However, I will share my tip for cutting down on oil for frying an egg. Melt on medium heat a tiny amount of oil of your choice into a small frying pan -- just enough to barely cover the bottom. Crack the egg into the pan, then after it sets slightly after a few seconds, add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Cover with a lid, then let the egg cook for a few minutes to your liking.

This method cuts down on the amount of oil you need to use because the egg cooks in the water so lots of extra oil isn't necessary to prevent sticking. A bonus is that you don't have to worry about any burned edges to your egg that can happen with a traditional fry.

If you're looking for a change to your breakfast routine, give this a try!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Workout: 500 Reps Total Body Circuit

Are you ready for a challenge?

This workout consists of 10 exercises that you do for 50 reps for each. Perform the warm-up which adds on 150 reps to the workout, then do each of the exercises as quickly as you can while maintaining proper form.

Since this is a circuit, try not to rest too much between exercises -- aim for no more than 30 seconds. Now, because this routine is a bit tough, you might have to take small breaks in order to complete all 50 reps of each move -- that's fine.

Clock how long it takes you to get through the workout and use that as your starting point. Each time you do this routine, try to get through it in less time.

Jumping jacks
Jumping rope
Alternating lunges with arm extension

Front squats with overhead press
Push-ups with rotation
Tire flips
Stiff-legged deadlifts with hammer curls
Bentover rows
Overhead tricep extensions
Stability ball knee tucks
Ab circles
Side leg lifts
Russian twists

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are Rice Cakes a Healthy Snack?

Photo by Mary Thompson via Flickr
Rice cakes seem like a healthy food choice. They are low in calories, fat and they're made from rice. Seems like a great option, especially if you get the plain brown rice variety, right?


I'm not a fan of rice cakes. Rice cakes are a high glycemic index food.

During processing, the fiber that was once in the rice is stripped down. Fiber is what we need to keep our blood glucose levels stable when consuming carbohydrates. Many rice cake brands have absolutely zero fiber and other brands have a tiny amount. But that tiny amount usually comes with twice as many carbohydrates.

You may be thinking, "So. I'm not afraid of some extra carbs."

We have to be careful of our consumption of starchy carbohydrates while trying to lose weight. And these refined processed carbs are not what you want to eat. You would basically be eating sugar. And sugar makes blood glucose levels skyrocket.

When these levels are spiked, the body is more prone to store fat. Eating a rice cake is not like eating rice. If you eat rice, your blood glucose levels do not increase as sharply as they do when you eat a rice cake.

Additionally, rice cakes are not filling at all. You may intend to eat only one, but will probably end up eating several, just to feel full.

Let's not even talk about the flavored varieties of rice cakes: butter, caramel, chocolate, cheddar, etc. I'll just say this -- all of that added sugar and those artificial ingredients are not good for our health or weight loss.

If you're looking for a healthy snack, opt for high fiber foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, apples, pears, oranges or strawberries -- to randomly name a few.