Your average BootCampSF class feels a little like this…
We plank. We jump. We hive five. We see sunrises. We watch sunsets. We see double rainbows. We smile. We work together. We work, we work, work.
Your average BootCampSF class feels a little like this…
We plank. We jump. We hive five. We see sunrises. We watch sunsets. We see double rainbows. We smile. We work together. We work, we work, work.
This past week while attending the IDEA World Fitness Convention I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Terry Eckmann a professor from Minot State University in North Dakota. In many ways her lecture was very self-gratifying for those of us that work in fitness: exercise is good for you and it’s good for your brain. We feel this intrinsically, right? As in, it’s obvious to us because we feel this in palpable ways: we feel more refreshed, awake and are able to focus after a fantastic, butt-kicking, morning workout. But delving into the science of this matter is helpful because it provides legitimacy to these things that we think are simply feelings or nice side effects to exercise, when in fact there is some pretty powerful stuff going on in your head!
Quick Facts About the Human Brain
*The average brain weighs 3 to 4 pounds; or on average, 2% of your body weight.
*The average brain consumes 20% of your body’s energy.
*The average brain uses 1/5 of your body’s oxygen.
In terms of these quick facts, some interesting things to note are that 20% of your daily energy supply (essentially your calorie intake) is used by your brain, even though it’s only about 2% of your body weight. Food for thought, indeed!
30-minutes of Consistent Moderate to Vigorous Aerobic Activity has the following effects on the brain:
*Stimulates BDNF, which causes neurons to fire more efficiently. BDNF = Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors.
*Increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus. I.e. you generate new neurons.
*Gets oxygen and glucose to the brain faster.
*Repetitive gross motor movement strengthens dendritic branching. The more branching there is, the more communication there is between these brain cells. In the end, you have a more “active” brain.
*Reduces obesity (obese persons have twice the risk of dementia).
*Improves mood and elevates stress threshold (i.e., things don’t bother us as much).
*Balances brain chemicals and system functions.
*Prepares the brain for optimal learning.
Exercise also increases levels of key neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors, specifically: dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and BDNF.
Dr. Eckmann told us that in many ways, BDNF is “miracle grow” for your brain. And the good news is that all the research shows that exercise increases BDNF and in studies, it continued to increase even after 90 days, which is amazing, as we all assumed that it would plateau at some point. Dr. Eckmann suggested that there hasn’t been distinct research into figuring out when increased BDNF production does plateau.
I walked out of her lecture focusing on a few things, but mainly my thoughts revolved around our motivations to exercise: sometimes you may not see the precise results in your body that you are looking for. It can be a let down when your abs are not perfect. Maybe you are gunning for a sub 2:00 hour half-marathon and you’re on your 3rd attempt. But, this lecture caused me to focus on the reasons to keep yourself motivated even if you haven’t met those aesthetic or performance goals yet, that is, that your body is responding to the hard work that you are putting in out there, it may just not always be as fast to work in the areas that we want to see it (to be clear, we know you can meet those aesthetic and performance goals, too, with a little time and hard work).
We may not be able to see the changes happening in our noggins, but all this research shows us that it’s happening. And that, my friends, is as a good a reason to get out of bed and show up for your workout as any that I can think of.
P.S. If you’re interested in Dr. Eckmann’s resources, she has an extensive list of the research articles she referenced/utilized in her lecture that is simply longer than is practical to include in this post. If you’re interested in receiving this information, please just give us a shout!
Since moving to San Francisco last year I’ve been working from home which is a blessing and a curse in equal amounts. Working in pajamas gets major bonus points but having constant access to my kitchen can be a real pain in the you know what. Actually it’s more of a pain in the zipping up my jeans department.
That being said it’s not like I’m not fully aware of what types of foods trigger “snack attack” moments in me. I don’t keep sweetened breakfast cereals in the house, ice cream, or candy. My issues with Wheat Thins alone might have enough angst to fill an entire novel so those are out too. When I make cookies and other high calorie baked goods for my blog I try one and then ship the rest off to my boyfriend’s office because keeping them around the house for extra sampling is how I got here in the first place. I also live next door to a Panera and it quite cruelly smells like cinnamon rolls 50% of the time. Jerks. But in the end my one true nemesis and downfall is cheese.
How do you quit cheese?! I simply can’t do it. But I have managed to curb my love a bit via individually packaged means. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Precious Pepper Jack Cheese Sticks and the reduced-fat Colby-Jack Sargento snacks. They even make Brie Bites these days which are absolutely fantastic. These all offer just enough of a cheese fix that I can eat one and stop dreaming about gigantic bowls of macaroni and cheese and the like.
Of course a girl can’t live on cheese snacks alone so I’ve also been trying to make or have on hand a lot of the following items to keep me honest in the all things edible department.
Every time I eat an avocado I feel a little sad about the fact that I didn’t even try an avocado until I was something like 20 years old. RIDICULOUS. I feel sad about all of the amazing avocado opportunities I missed in my “I’m a picky twit” phase. My favorite way to eat them is mashed and spread on whole wheat toast or an english muffin sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a lot of spicy red pepper flakes. I sometimes also drizzle a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil but honestly that’s sort of overkill. Sometimes I also just eat all of the above in a bowl and skip the extra carbs too.
Banana “Ice Cream”
So ridiculously simple and so delicious. No heavy whipping cream, eggs, or sugar touch this dish but it tastes creamy and rich. Get the whole scoop (so to speak) on how to make this dead simple dish at The Kitchn.
Hard or Soft Boiled Eggs
When I tried to do the Paleo, Primal, and Four-Hour Body diets at various times I ended up hating eggs. I couldn’t stand eating them for breakfast and I wasn’t a big fan of having potato-less beef stew at 6:00 AM every morning so eggs always seemed like the only option. I’m way over that aversion now and will happily pop a couple of eggs into boiling water for a protein packed snack. PS: adding 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the pot really does seem to help get those finicky organic egg shells off in less than 100 tiny slivers.
I’m in love with quinoa. I can’t cook it properly on the stove top though so if you have a similar problem with your quinoa coming out in a mushy mess I urge you to try cooking it in your rice cooker. I make great big batches and then just let it cook and steam until it is fluffy and lovely. Then I pack it away in the fridge and have a cup with roasted red peppers or edamame (really you can throw anything on there). This has been a go-to lunch for me recently and I can’t rave enough about the versatile nature of this grain. There’s also a great cookbook out now that has a ton of quinoa recipes to get your started on your own quinoa kick from morning to night.
Those are a few of my favorite snacks right now. I’d love to hear about any tips or tricks you have for keeping the cookie monster at bay!
Do you own a slow cooker aka crock-pot? Chances are that you do. Here’s a hint. It’s probably hidden in the back of a closet or cupboard somewhere, and if you don’t then they’re seriously easy to come by. I’ve even seen them for sale in Walgreens and CVS. You know for all those times when your to-do list reads: pick up some gum, a Mother’s Day card, and a slow cooker.
My most vivid crock-pot memory hails from my grandmother. She used to make a killer crock-pot beef stew that I absolutely loved. Mostly because it was full of potatoes, turnips, carrots and zero peas. My mother made her stew with peas and I was a great big twit and refused to eat them. I have no idea why I thought turnip was awesome and peas were the devil. I certainly don’t feel that way now. However, as part of my dinner time argument, I often pointed out that the family dog would literally eat around peas if any happened to be on a plate set down in front of him. Matlock would have been proud of my evidence gathering skills.
So what are you supposed to do with this big plugged-in pot once you get it home? Well, there are pretty much a million-and-one things you can cook. Some of them are fantastic ideas that will yield great tasting and healthy meals while others encourage you to make macaroni and cheese and (I kid you not) cheesecake in your new kitchen toy. Let’s not focus on those right now though. I’m here to inspire you to give your crockpot another look, not make you gain ten pounds.
These get-up and get-going dishes will be the perfect thing to wake-up to on mornings when you workout. Plus, imagine how good your home will smell when the alarm goes off and you have a steaming pot of oats, apples, or eggs just waiting for you in the kitchen.
Here’s where the real fun starts. Who wants to slave over a hot stove after you’ve gotten up early to run around outside with your fellow bootcampers and slogged your way through another day at the office? Even though I love to cook I still answer with a resounding, “Not me!” at least a few times each week. Fortunately, if you own a crock-pot you can toss a few simple ingredients in the bowl, set the controls, and arrive home to a drop-dead-delicious dinner with very minimal additional evening effort.
Of course, after looking at all of these recipes I’m seriously starving! If you’d like some helpful tips on choosing a crock-pot that will work best for you definitely consider checking out this post from SlowCookerFromScratch.com. It features a great round-up of reviews and frequently asked questions. These ladies and gentleman are serious about slow cooking and will have you hooked in no time at all.
Additional Blogs to Gather Recipes From:
http://www.skinnytaste.com/2007/07/crock-pot-recipes.html [with Weight Watchers Points]
I also made a new Pinterest Board for you to follow if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s called “I Swear I’ll Use My Slow Cooker Someday.”
Are you good at making mix tapes? If so let’s chat because I’m so tragically not. I never fully understood or put into practice all of the so-called fundamentals necessary for arranging (with High Fidelity level fanaticism) music into painstaking order with proper beats per minute perfectly balanced with obscure tracks and tongue in cheek references. Also, I’m dating myself by even referencing the word “tapes.” You can’t even call them mix CDs anymore. Honestly, when was the last time you bought an actual honest-to-goodness CD that wasn’t impulse shopped from the counter at Starbucks while you clutched a latte and stared at a Top Pot Doughnut with longing?
So, yes, when it comes to mix tapes, CDs or playlists I am utterly hopeless but wow do I love it when someone else makes a mix for me. To that end I love Spotify. Are you familiar with this service? There is a free version but for $10 a month you can get unlimited access to millions of songs without annoying ads. If you already have an extensive collection of music housed in iTunes you can still sync it with Spotify for everyday streamlined use. Best of all they have an excellent mobile app that allows you to access the service (and all of that music) with wireless or you can specify specific playlists to be downloaded for use in an offline mode. Plus you can easily create playlists that you can share with friends or keep private. It’s totally up to you.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Frankly it all ties back to running and my continued inability to improve at it. I call shenanigans on my inner monologue and I suspect I can run much further and longer than my very critical thoughts seem to insist. So in an effort to block out those very loud, “let’s stop moving now” impulses I started listening to my iPod again when working out outside on the weekends.
In the meantime, something desperately needs to be done with the music currently housed on my device. Yesterday, and I’m not making this up, the Bangles came on, followed by a Whitney Houston song (too soon!), and then Sunday Morning by No Doubt. Not to even mention that I hit skip about a dozen times when something even more annoying started to play. Then I’d get distracted and usually end up stopping.
So I’m hoping to use Spotify to find some good workout mixes that I can save for later use and that don’t make me roll my eyes whenever the next track starts. So far I’ve identified these as being good possibilities to try out.
What are your favorite songs to work out to? Maybe together we can create a collaborate playlist for BootCampSF on Spotify? If you already have spotify you can access the playlist at this link or check it out below. I’ve added a few tracks to get us started and can’t wait to see what you like exercising to as well!
A Note on iPod Use From BootCampSF: For most BCSF sessions, we prefer that you not use your headphones during class so that your instructors can keep you safe and ensure you hear all the directions. But if your class is doing a run day, just check in with your instructor to let them know that you’d like to jam out during your workout!
Are you on Pinterest? In case you somehow managed to miss the major press this addictive site has been racking-up the basic premise of Pinterest is that it’s a visual way to collect, organize, and share your favorite online content. Each item that you add to your account is known as a “pin” and each of these pins can be easily organized into likeminded collections known as “boards.” I’ve been there since last March but it wasn’t until this past Christmas that it made the transition from occasional check-in to daily must-do. Want more info? Click here for an in-depth tutorial about getting started with Pinterest.
My pinning habits run the gamut from recipes to furnishing my imaginary beach house and even a board dedicated to all things Kate Middleton. It might sound like a silly waste of time initially but honestly until you’ve lost multiple hours of your day going down the Pinterest rabbit hole then you probably won’t understand the hype. I suggest you give it some time, connect to some of your friend’s accounts and see what shakes out. I’m willing to bet you’ll soon find yourself consulting the site the next time you need to make a grocery list, plan a dinner party, or buy a unique gift.
One of the key tenants of Pinterest is also that it serves as a source of inspiration for users. To that end BootCampSF has begun to curate their own boards on the site. If you’re a boot camper then I suspect that fitness and healthy living are important parts of your life, but finding information on these subjects can be time consuming. With Pinterest you can discover oodles of information in one place and easily pick and choose the items that interest you most for later consumption.
Of course, not all information is created equally online. While there are a lot of excellent tips posted on Pinterest you will also inevitably come across unhealthy and downright wacky images and ideas. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is and if an image makes you cringe move on to a better board.
In addition to the BootCampSF account (which is just getting started) you might also find some of the following boards and users great jumping off sources for healthy recipes, workout clothes, and even motivational quotes. Happy pinning!
If you’re already an avid pinned please let us know and leave a url to your profile and/or your own favorite fitness pinners in the comments on this post. We’d love to follow you and hear your recommendations!
Whenever a new bootcamp session begins you’ll inevitably hear about the importance of eating something before you come to class. Classic responses to this never-ending conundrum include everything from a piece of toast to a banana. I tend to usually make an english muffin with peanut butter as that seems to be the right amount of food that can give me a little energy at 6:00 AM and not make me feel ill if we have to do sprints in the first 10 minutes.
But boy does it get boring! What I really like to do, if I can get my act together on Sunday evening, is bake a batch of muffins. Then I can just grab one on my way out the door and eat it as I walk to class. Of course, not all muffins are created equally. My absolute favorite muffin recipe is actually for bran muffins. Sounds good for you, right? Not so much though as the batter contains an entire stick of butter and a cup of sour cream. They’re really delicious but ingredients like that sort of defeat the purpose of getting out of bed to workout so it’s probably best to save those for a weekend treat.
Thankfully there are oodles of make ahead muffin recipes that are composed of much more diet and exercise friendly components including a host of great replacements and additions to white flour and sugar. Perhaps one of the following will make it into your weekday rotation? Personally, I have my eye on the Spinach and Quinoa Muffins.
Primal Pumpkin Nut Muffins via my blog, ErinCooks.com
Whole Grain Almond Poppyseed Muffins via Amy of Nook and Pantry
Gluten-Free Mango Muffins via Marla at Family Fresh Cooking
Spinach and Quinoa Muffins via Lisa at Dandy Sugar
Almond Meal Banana Muffins via Gabrielle at Honest Fare
Beet and Oat Muffins via Sonia at The Healthy Foodie
Low Fat Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins via Gina at SkinnyTaste
You’re obvious familiar with your own boot camp home turf but do you ever wonder what takes place in other session’s outdoor spaces? I’m super nosy so I definitely do. Here’s a peek at the terrain we frequent at least 3 days a week in South Beach and some of the exercise that goes down while we’re there oh so early in the morning.
First things first. We all get to start our morning off with a lap around “the long track.” That tree and stone lined park may look petite and even picturesque but sometimes I feel like it’s some cruel optical illusion that just doesn’t end leading me to believe that objects that exist near AT&T Park are larger than we think.
Post run our next stop is a daily warm-up session of lunges, inchworms, push-ups, and squats. I like to read the engraved bricks along the wall while trying not to fall over doing my squats and push-ups.
Next we take a scenic run around the short track aka the little league ball park. I harbor serious feelings of loathing toward that ballpark as it’s where we do agility work which is a bit like an exhausting game of Mother-May-I featuring such fan favorites as sprinting, jump squats, and high skips. One day I really hope our instructor yells out, “bunny hop!” or “pirouette” just for fun.
The fencing around the park also doubles as a great place to practice your inner circus fantasy as that’s where we often do pull-ups, or in my case attempt to do a single pull-up. Also, on the last day of each 6-week session Brooks lets the group play dodge ball for half of class, but before you get excited take note that each time you get hit by the ball you’re going to have to bang out a number of push ups and squats. Pretty tricky, right?!
We also use quite a bit of more traditional equipment like kettle bells, medicine balls, and bands each day and working out outside with views like this make it possible to sometimes forget just how heavy a twenty-five pound weight can become after twenty minutes of a varied lifting circuit.
One of the two best uses of our outside space though, in my opinion, are utilizing the decorative wall for step-ups. If you can get out of bed the day after a session involving lots of this type of activity then you aren’t doing it right. It’s a good pain though. One that let’s you know you’re doing something very very right. The other is more of a beginners thing (to some extent) but I can’t do “real” push-ups yet so I really love completing them against the gigantic stone baseballs that line the sidewalk. When I’m having serious there-is-no-way-I-can-do-this thoughts I also like to pretend I’m strong enough to shove one of those granite monstrosities right into the ocean. Take that boot camp!
Any special spots in your workout areas that you feel particular fondness or disdain for? We’d love to hear about them!
Do you fit? For once the aforementioned phrase has nothing to do with an inner monologue that I’m having with my jeans or a bathing suit. The fit in question this week involves your sneakers which just happen to be the be-all-end-all of your bootcamp bag of tricks.
Right before we closed out our January winter session it became absolutely apparent that my own trusty shoes were on their last legs. You’d think “how to fix shin splints” becoming my top google search should have been enough of a red flag. Truth be told those old shoes probably should have been replaced way back in November but I put off the inevitable to the point that it essentially felt like I was trying to run barefoot. Not fun.
Needless to say new sneakers needed to be obtained stat. In the past I’d gone to an athletic store and been fitted properly for shoes but not for a few years. Instead, I’d simply been buying the same brand and style over and over again. Which you’d think would be OK but from year to year and season to season those shoes do change sometimes subtly but often times drastically. Since I’m still pretty new (and fairly clueless) to the bay area off to Yelp I went to find a store that could tell me what I needed to buy.
In the end I decided to try out Fleet Feet Sports as the reviews were stellar and it sort of resembled the small store atmosphere of the establishment that I used to shop for shoes in back east. I went on a Saturday afternoon, which I really wouldn’t recommend because it was definitely crowded, but the throng of shoe seekers were cleared out quickly by the team of knowledgable sales people.
I can’t remember the name of the individual who helped me but he was extremely kind, really listened attentively when I explained what activities I would be using my shoes for, and knew cool facts about each model I tried on. Even though the store was busy he never seemed rushed and was extremely patient about the entire process.
One of the strangest things, at least to me, about being fitted for sneakers is that it’s the ONLY time in my life when I will wear whatever I’m given and will not complain about the color or style. I simply want the shoe to feel lovely. I overheard several customers around me nixing numerous shoes because they weren’t quite cool enough and I was honestly a bit shocked. Sure, there were several pairs of shoes that I tried which were really gorgeous (lilac and pink respectively) but the sneaker that ended up making me feel like the Cinderella of bootcamp was the Saucony Triumph 9 in silver, gray, and citron.
They may look like they fell out of Punky Brewster’s closet but man do they feel awesome and I was so excited to wear them this morning. I was also absolutely shocked that I didn’t experience even the slightest twinge of pain while working out today. My entire shoe wearing life is a sea of bandaids followed by a haze of pinched toes and blisters so the fact that this shoe made me forget I had it on is nothing short of a miracle. Thank you Fleet Feet Shoes!
So where do you get your sneakers? Do you swear by another store or sales person? And would you wear a shoe you found unattractive if it fit like a glove or would you hold out for the sexier pair? Let me know in the comments!
Workouts while traveling are notoriously challenging. If you travel for work, you’re busy with deadlines and possibly jet lagged. If you’re traveling for leisure or simply to spend time with family, you are limited with time: you did just travel however far/long to spend time with them right? But the bottom line for any type of travel is the same: you are without your typical workout resources (e.g. if you’re a cyclist what do you do without your bike?).
This Thanksgiving weekend I experienced some of these obstacles myself while in Taos, New Mexico. Besides the lovely company I was keeping, Taos is beautiful, serene and clocks in around the 7,000 elevation foot mark. It’s most definitely high desert. Our house is significantly far from the city center and rests somewhere around the 7500-foot elevation mark. It’s high. For reference, it’s higher than many of the main destinations of Lake Tahoe.
Being far outside the main part of town and needing to share a car with the family, of course if I wanted to workout, I need to take my workout outside on my own terms. Given my background, it’s generally not something I view as a workout deal-breaker.
My first morning here, I mapped out an “easy” 3.5 mile route.
That road doesn’t look like much of a hill, but I can assure you when you’re at 7500 feet, a slight incline feels slightly Mt. Everest-ish. Basically, for all of the run, it sort of felt like someone was standing on my chest. While running. My lungs felt h-e-a-v-y and my breathe was quicker than usual. Very early on in the run I decided that it was not as easy of a run as I’d thought it would be. See above: “easy 3.5 mile run”.
It was the hardest run I’d done in months.
I completed this run 3 times while in Taos and it didn’t feel all that much easier each time I went out (and on the 2nd run, the windchill temperature was hovering around 16 degrees!). I watched my pace, though not as religiously as I might at home, and it wasn’t as slow as I felt. But it didn’t really matter: it just felt harder.
And it was humbling.
It reminded me of how it feels when something that feels “easy” to you much of the time, feels hard again. It was a good reminder for many things: to not skip my own workouts even when it feels “hard” and to never forget how hard exercise can feel. And how it has felt for myself in the past. It’s a good feeling to have.
I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving workouts!
See you outside,
If you want to read a little bit more about why running at elevation is “hard”, here are a few resources: