Saturday, July 28, 2012

Calorie Calculator, Determining Your Calorie Needs

It can be a confusing subject.  How many calories exactly should I be consuming? You don't want to eat too little and risk slowing your metabolism and you certainly don't want to eat too much and gain weight.

I was playing around with the formula that they provided with the Insanity program for calorie needs and I found it to very helpful, so I thought I would share with you.

This is the Harris Benedict Equation, which is what is employed by the Insanity Nutrition Guide.

For women, this equation is: 655 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) - (4.7 x age)
For men, this equation is:  66 + (6.23 x weight) + (12.7 x height) - (6.8 x age)

This equation calculates out what you need just to function, then you have to use an additional factor in order to determine how many calories you have to eat based on your lifestyle.

1.2 Sedentary Little to no exercise
1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise (1 to 3 days/week)
1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise (3 to 5 days/week)
1.7 Very Active Hard Exercise (6 to 7 days/week)
1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise and/or physical job

You take your number form the Harris Benedict Equation, and then multiply it by your factor for lifestyle to get your total calorie needs. Then, if you want to lose weight, you can subtract your 500 calories a day to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

If all the math is making your head spin, I think I can help.

Because I love this stuff and I am an Excel nerd, I put the formulas in an easy spreadsheet.  All you have to do is enter your weight, height, age & activity level and the spreadsheet will tell you, based on the formula, the approximate # of calories you should be consuming to either maintain your weight or lose weight.  Please note that there are two tabs, one for women and one for men. Try it out below and let me know if you find it helpful! You can scroll up and down in the below ExcelWebApp or click on the Excel icon on the bottom right to download the spreadsheet to your computer.

Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, I am a Blogger (big difference).  These are just the calorie guidelines that came with my Insanity Program that I am sharing with you.  Please consult a professional before making any major lifestyle or nutritional changes.

Keep Running,


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Week of Easy Healthy Dinners

It is not hard for me to come up with seven easy healthy dinners, because easy is all I know how to do! I have very limited skills in the kitchen, but I have learned that eating healthy can be quick, easy and delicious, even for a kitchen dummy like me.  I think the healthy dinners that hubby and I eat these days taste better and are more satisfying than those old days of frozen pizza, boxed pasta meals and fast food.  Those unhealthy meals were just filling the hungry hole and we weren't really even enjoying them.  We told ourselves we ate them because of convenience.  Well, being fat and unhealthy is not that convenient for me. Besides, I'm here to show you cheap, quick & easy can be healthy and delicious.  As I have said before, this is not a food blog and I am not a cook (although hubby seems to think he has the skills akin to a professional chef, but that is still up for debate).  I'm not here to provide exact recipes or techniques, because I don't know them!  I'm just here to help you get those healthy eating ideas flowing.  I hope you enjoy them. 
I love crock pock meals because nothing is easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients into the crock pot and coming home from work to a fully cooked meal.  No fuss.  We usually will make a crock pot meal on Monday and eat it for lunch and dinner most of the rest of the week. The possibilities are endless and they vary, but here is a typical crock pot meal.  Yes, that is a dollop of Greek yogurt on top of my food in the picture.  It is so good, I don't even miss sour cream.
  • Chicken
  • Canned tomatoes & green chilies.  Check the ingredients on the can to make sure nothing extra is added or use fresh.
  • Low sodium black beans
  • 1 cubed sweet potato
  • Jalapenos
  • Green peppers

Spicy Chicken Crock Pot Meal
I came home from work one day a couple weeks ago and hubby had this cooking for us.  It is easy enough, we season and cook up the raw shrimp in one pan, cook veggies in another, then combine. I need to get a Wok.  Don't add extra sauces, drowning your stir fry in heavy sauces defeats the purpose of a healthy meal.  Try a low sodium soy sauce on the side, if anything.  Let me see if I can remember what was in this thing. 
  • Shrimp
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Red peppers
  • Bok Choy
  • Yellow Squash
  • Water chestnuts

Yummy Shrimp Stir Fry

An easy dinner staple in our house.  Season some fish and bake it, toss some cauliflower in olive oil and roast it.  Sometimes we have salmon and asparagus instead.  You get the idea. Done in under 30 minutes.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Roasted Cauliflower

It doesn't get much easier than this meal.  I buy all natural frozen turkey burgers.  You just cook them on the stove top, each side for 8 minutes.  I add a slice of tomato, lettuce, avocado and brown mustard and eat it with a fork and knife.  You'll see here I paired it with an orange my favorite all natural carbonated beverage, La Croix.  Sometimes I add vegetables.  Less than 15 minutes from pan to plate.

Delicious Turkey Burger
Yay! It's Friday and if it is dinnertime, that means I am done with the work week! WooHoo! Time to celebrate with this delicious dinner.  This is the only one all week that takes a little more prep work, but still super easy.  You can find my version of a recipe here.  

Turkey & Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Like most people, I love the week-ends! This is the time I allow myself to loosen up the reigns a bit in regards to my eating.  I usually have an indulgence meal for lunch one day, not called a "cheat" that implies it is not part of the plan.  For dinner, lets have steak and veggies on the grill.  Maybe pair it with a glass of vino?  Just watch your portion sizes.  Sometimes we grill vegetables, sometimes we steam frozen edamame.   Either way, YUM-O!

Steak & Grilled or Steamed Veggies

We had our fun with steak and wine on Saturday, it is time to get back on track to prepare for another healthy week of eating.  This is a fun delicious way to grill.  Chicken skewers are made with green peppers, red peppers & onions.  The shrimp skewers are made with pineapple. Season the meat, thread on skewers, throw 'em on the grill and eat 'em up.  So delicious and easy and there usually is enough left-over to bring to work for lunch on Monday.

Shrimp & Chicken Skewers
There you have it, one week of easy healthy dinners.  I hope I got your creative healthy juices flowing.  What healthy meals do you have for dinner?  Seriously, let me know, I need some ideas!

Keep Running,


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Monday, July 23, 2012

Insanity is....INSANE! Week One & Two Recap

I was starting to feel a bit burnt out in my regular routine so I decided it was time to change it up.  Too many mornings missing my early weights work-out, too many evenings of, "I'll just run a quick 3."   Running is my comfort zone.  I want results?  I want to change my body?  I have to push out of my comfort zone. Running is great, but if I want to get stronger, I need to do more.  Running is easy for me.  I needed a challenge.  I couldn't think of a better way to get uncomfortable than with a little bit of Shaun T.  On a whim, I decided to dive right into the Insanity DVD program.

I had a couple of concerns up front.  Running is my first true fitness love.  I have no plans to stop running, but I was concerned that doubling up cardio work-outs by doing Insanity and running in the same day might cause weight loss. My weight is at  the bottom of the healthy range for my height, so I can't lose any more weight.  I am OK with not running every day, but I felt like I still needed to get at least two or three good runs in a week.  My goals in doing Insanity are to gain strength and to further define my abs.  I'll have to play it by ear and increase my calories if I start to see any weight loss. 

WEEK ONE:  Day One.  Yeah, I thought I was in pretty good shape.  After all, I work out all the time, six days a week.  I run races, I do sprint intervals, I run hills, I lift heavy weights, I do yoga, I did boot camp.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  None of that matters.  Apparently, I am in terrible shape.  I just did the 25 minute fit test (which includes the warm up and cool down) and I usually don't swear in my blog, but HOLY CAMOLI,  that was hard.  It was challenging and that was just the fit test and it was only 25 minutes.  I'm a little worried about tomorrow.  I just have to remember, it is supposed to be hard.  It is kind of the point.  If it was easy, it wouldn't be Insanity.  I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for a few personal notes to myself.

Keep at it Lea.  You want to be a personal trainer? You want to motivate others to push themselves? Then you have to push yourself first.  You have to succeed first.  You have to fight first.  You can't help others be their best until you help yourself be your best first.  Pardon the interruption.  Back to the blog.

The first week was hard, great, stressful, amazing, and painful.  Every day I got home from work and hubby was waiting, dressed in his workout gear with all the furniture moved out of the way.  Every single day we hit play on the DVD and although it was challenging, the 40 minutes flew by so quickly.  Every day when we were finished, we literally had to mop our sweat off the floor.

Even the warm-up is hard.  It is almost a joke to call it a warm-up.  It should be called a "jump-right-in-and-get-your-heart-rate-up."

Shaun T!

Each day when it was over, I felt like a complete bad @ss.  I am hooked.  Of course, I can't do everything perfectly.  I can't always keep up.  I have to take unscheduled breaks, but I am doing it the best I can and that is all that matters.  Doing it is more important than doing it perfectly.  The awesome feeling you get after the workout more than makes up for any pain you feel during the work out.  I also ran twice that first week.  On Wednesday, I hit the streets in 100 degree weather immediately following an Insanity work-out and had the slowest, worst run I've had in months.  Then, that Sunday on my Insanity rest day, I ran a 15K and got a new PR.

WEEK TWO: The second week was better.  Maybe it is just knowing what to expect makes it a little easier.  Maybe "easier" is not the right word.  My legs started feeling very tired by Tuesday of the second week.  Not sore really, just tired.  Maybe because I ran a 15K on Sunday and went right back to the Insanity work-outs on Monday.  I am developing a love-hate relationship with Shaun T.  I hate him during the work-outs, I love him when they are over.  By the end of the second week I could tell I was already improving.  The last day of week two is when the work-out times start to increase.  Once we finished the Pure Cardio work-out for the normal 40 minutes, we did an additional 15 minute Cardio Abs work-out. This is intense, but I was really looking forward to the week 3 fit test.  Did I improve? 

I did Insanity six days the second week but I didn't run at all and I really missed it.  I really notice a difference in my emotional well-being when I run (i.e. I am happier).  Hubby and I still walked our mile every day, but by Saturday I was just itching to run.  After our insanity work-out on Saturday,  I went out for a three miler in the heat of the day.  It  felt good to get in some miles and I resolved that during week three, I would get up in the mornings and run at least three times.  I'll let you know how that goes.

How about you?  Are you doing Insanity?  Has anyone out there completed it? What kind of results did you have?  Do you have any advice for me as I am about to go into week three?

Keep Running,


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Saturday, July 21, 2012

#PLANKADAY: 5 Tips for Holding a Longer Plank

Hey kids,

Have you heard of this new social media outlet called Twitter? I hear it is the latest rage.  I have had a Twitter account for a couple of years but I haven't starting using it on a regular basis until  recently.  Maybe I'm behind the times.  I'm pretty sure my 98 year old grandmother has a Twitter account. Maybe not.  I started having fun with Twitter when I heard about #plankaday.  I was already doing a plank every day before I learned I could brag about my plank times all over the internet. I went from struggling to hold a one minute plank to holding over seven continuous minutes. I thought I would share my plank progression over the last few months to show you how your plank times can build slowly over time.  The secret is to do it every single day.  My abs are strong and I actually have ab definition that I credit to clean eating, regular work-outs and of course, my plank a day.

March 29: 1:00
April 7th: 1:30
April 14th: 2:00
April 28th: 2:15
May 5th: 2:30
May 20th: 3:00
June 6th: 3:30
June 16th: 4:00
July 2nd: 4:30
July 3rd: 5:00
July 7th: 6:01
August 7th: 6:31
August 19th: 7:01
August 25th: 7:30
My Record as of July 21!

Candy was the best planker ever.

Top 5 tips for holding a longer plank:

1.  Do a plank Every. Single. Day. 
2.  Turn the stopwatch over so you can't see it.  Don't look at the timer until you physically are ready to drop.  I know when I am ready to drop when my thighs start shaking. 
3.  Find something to distract your brain.  I sometimes browse Facebook on my Kindle Fire or read a magazine article during the first part of my plank.  This really helps pass the first couple of minutes.  By the end when it starts to get hard, I have to stop reading and focus because my whole body is shaking.
4. Towards the end countdown backwards in your head, really slow.  I start at 60 and count down slowly to one.  This is another way to refocus your brain and it usually kills about two more minutes.
5.  Do it until it hurts, then push yourself to hold for at least 15-30 more seconds.  Sometimes I drop in a pool of my own sweat.  It is a beautiful thing.

So let's hear it, who has got me beat? What is your plank record?

August 7th 2012 - New plank record! 6:31!

This is what #fitfluential looks like!

August 19, 2012 - New Record 7:01 (I surprise myself sometimes) The timer says 7:02 because I HAD to drop before I could hit stop on the timer.  Can I get to 10?  Stay tuned to see.

August 19th 2012 record
August 25, 2012 - New Record 7:30. 

August 25th 2012 record

What is your best plank time? Running with Ollie has a plank leader board of the top 20 plank times.  Get your plank in today and submit your time to be added to the board.

Keep Running (and planking),

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Twelve Months of Races - Recap in Pictures

I almost can't believe I did it!  I ran at least one race a month, every month, for the last 12 months, starting in August of 2011.  I ran races in good weather and in the rain.  I ran races when my diet and exercise were getting off track (see December 2011).  I ran races in the heat and I ran races in the cold.  I ran races with friends and I ran races alone. I just kept running races.  As to not to bore you with too many words,  I thought I would do a recap in pictures of the races I ran over the last twelve months.  Me? Too many words? Never!  You can click on the link of the race name if my words do not bore you and you want to read my race recaps (no pressure).

August 2011:
Name: Fire & Ice Race Series
Distance:.  10K
Time: 1:06
August 2011

September 2011:
Name: Fire & Ice Race Series
Distance: 15K
Time: 1:39
September 2011 I look like I peed my pants! If you can't laugh at yourself...

October 2011:
Name: Fire & Ice Series
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: 2:11:00
October 2011

November 2011:
Name: Fort Worth Turkey Trot
Distance: 10K
Time: 56:28
November 2011 No Turkey to pose with for this race
December 2011
Name: Winter Race Series
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: 2:13:00
December 2011 - look how chubby!

January 2012
Name: Winter Race Series
Distance: 15 miles
Time: 2:24:00
No picture for this one.  :(

February 2012
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: 2:00:56
February 2012
March 2012
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: 1:59:23 (a PR!)

March 2012
April 2012
Distance: 10K
Time: 53:32 (a PR)
April 2012

May 2012
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: 2:01:53
May 2012

June 2012
Distance: Four Miles
Time: 32:08 (a PR!)
June 2012
July 2012
Distance: 15K
Time: 1:21 (a PR!)

July 2012

It was fun to recap my year of racing and very motivating to see how much my pace has improved over the last year!  It is no coincidence that I started to PR almost every race about 30 days after I began my weight training.   I plan to continue to run at least one race a month in 2012 (and beyond).  How are your races going?  What race is coming up next for you?

Keep Running,


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Too Hot to Handle 15K Race Recap

I ran the Too Hot to Handle 15K at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX this morning.  I was a little worried that it would indeed be, too hot to handle, but the weather cooperated for the most part.  The morning started off cool enough and any heat that was felt as the race went on was nicely thwarted by the shade,  the sprinklers they had set up along the course, and the cool wet towels they were handing out.  For me, if never got uncomfortably hot and that is saying a lot for a 15K smack dab in the middle of July, in Texas.

I was a little worried about this race.  Not surprising really, I have a tendency to put too much pressure on myself and worry about things that likely will never happen.  I used to worry about coming in very last place in my age group, having to go to the bathroom in the middle of a run, if it would rain, if it would be too hot, or too cold, or too windy.  As I gained more experience racing, I've learned these sort of worries are almost always unfounded.  I still usually find something to worry about.

This week on Monday, kind of out of the blue, I decided it would be a good time to start the Insanity program.  If you have not heard of it, it is a super intense cardio and strength training 60 day program.  It is called Insanity for a reason, it is kind of insane.  I have only done the first week, I hear it gets more insane as the program progresses.  After three days of this my legs were feeling the pressure of the change in routine.  There are a lot of plyometrics (i.e. jumping) and my calves were sore & tight most of the week.  I started to wonder why I thought it would be a good idea to begin a new intense program the same week I had signed up to run a 15K.  By Wednesday evening I was itching to run, since I haven't hit the streets for a regular run since I started Insanity.  I got out there and it was the hardest, slowest run I have had in months.  My legs were tired, really tired.  I felt like I was trying to move two lead poles instead of legs.  It was terrible.  Now I had something to worry about.  Hubby suggested maybe I take the rest of the week off of Insanity to recover so that I would be ready to race.  I didn't want to, I want to do the program exactly as prescribed.  After all, reality check, this wasn't the Olympics, I wasn't under any real pressure to perform well.  What if I got to the race on Sunday and I ran slower than usual?  What if my legs were tired? The worst case scenario is the run would be hard, but I would eventually finish, right?  Who cares if I didn't PR.  Even if I had to walk or I had a bad race, I would get over it within 48 hours.  I decided to power through with Insanity for the rest of the week.  I was still a little worried.

The night before I laid out my gear for the morning:

"Flat Mama"

There wasn't really a packet pick-up location that was convenient to my home, so I opted to pick up my race number at the race site, which meant I had to get there about an hour early to make sure I had time before the race started to take care of this business, you never really know how the lines will be, not to mention parking and porta-potties.  The race site was about a 45 minute drive from home, this meant I had to get up a 5am on a Sunday.  Fun!

I managed not to get lost (a small miracle in itself even with Google maps and GPS) and parking was a breeze.  I was off to a good start.  I picked up my race bib and the only disadvantage to waiting until race day to pick up my packet was that they were out of my size shirt.  I had to choose between a men's small and a women's extra small.  I opted for the women's.  It is a pretty cute shirt.  I am always happy when race shirts are technical sleeveless shirts that I will actually wear to run.  The last thing I need is another over-sized cotton t-shirt.  This one was near perfect.
cute tech shirt!
I lined up at the start and right at 7:30am we were off and running.  The 15K and the 5K races started at the same time, so it was near impossible to run around the crowds of people.  I just hung back and patiently waited for the crowds to disperse.  I have a tendency to let the adrenaline take over in the beginning of a race and run too fast.  The crowds were keeping me in check, I was running well below comfortable pace.  After about a half mile, the 5K runners took a turn and the 15K course opened up.  I started to get into my groove, constantly reminding myself to keep my pace under control.  My goal was to run a consistent comfortable pace.  If I pushed it too much in the beginning I knew I would be miserable by the end of the 9.3 miles.  Slow and low, that is the tempo.

My legs were feeling good, I was feeling good.  Fears, once again, unfounded.  The scenery was beautiful.  I have lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area now for about 15 years and I realized today that I have never run at White Rock Lake.   It is a shame really, it is a beautiful park, a wonderful place to run.   I was filling my head with positive thoughts about how much I love to race, how much I love to run, how thankful I am for the ability to run, how nicely my legs were moving and how effortless it felt.  I found if I tell myself over and over how easy it is, it really does start to seem easy.  The power of positive thinking, it really works.

I've been saying in my race recaps for about a year now that I need to slow down my pace during races.  I always would get so pumped up on adrenaline (and caffeine) and run as fast as my little legs would take me.  I always ran races much faster than my training runs.  I would end up feeling completely miserable during the last few miles of a race, especially during half marathons.  I knew better!  You know what they say, knowledge is nothing without execution?  I knew I should be slowing down, I just never could do it.   This time was different.  I kept an eye on my GPS watch and if my pace would get too fast, I would bring it back down.  I'm learning now that the key is to do speed work and strength training to get faster during training in order to improve my comfortable pace, so that when I run races, my comfortable pace is naturally faster.  That was this dummies A-HA moment.

The time and miles flew by.  I was very thankful for the sprinklers, wet towels and water stations set up along the course, they really went a long way in keeping me cool.  After the ninth mile, as I rounded the corner to the finish, a few people standing at the curb were offering up hi-fives, which gave me a little extra pump at the end when I needed it.  As soon as I spotted the finish, I picked up the pace to finish strong.

my splits

I finished 9.3 miles in 1:21:44 at a 8:43 pace. Not too shabby!

I felt great.  I didn't feel like I wanted to die.  I wasn't miserable at the end and I managed to finish with a respectable time.  Keeping the pace slow was the key to a very enjoyable race, every last mile!  This was a 15k PR for me.  It was only the second 15k I have ever run.  The last one was about a year ago and I finished in 1:39.  I was 18 minutes faster than I was a year ago!  I mostly attribute my improved speed to strength training.  It took this dummy too long to figure out that in order to be a better, faster runner, strength training was a requirement.

As it turned out, despite my needless worrying, my legs didn't let me down and it wasn't too hot to handle after all.  I handled it.

Race Results:
I placed 12th out of 102 in my age division: old ladies females ages  35-39
Overall: 291 out of 1141
Gender: 67 out of 568

post race happiness!
Keep Running,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last Things List

Sometimes I worry I will run out of blog post ideas, that one day all fresh new ideas will just dry up.  What if nothing exciting happens next week, what if I am not struck with some kind of motivation?   Usually blog post ideas just hit me out of the blue.  If I am not in a position to sit down and write at that very moment (i.e. at work), I'll jot the idea in my notebook, but I will usually be writing the blog in my head all day until I can finally devote some time to it.  This blog motivation came from the runlikeagrl blog.  I love my fellow health and fitness bloggers and #sweatpink sisters!  I steal get so much inspiration from them, especially those that have been doing this longer than me.  I've learned so much from them. What do they say? Imitation is the best form of flattery?

I thought I would do my own Last Things List, thanks for the inspiration Megan!

Last Things List:

1. Last grocery store purchase
There are many documented health benefits of drinking raw apple cider vinegar.  Hubby calls it my nasty juice. I mix 2 tablespoons with water, three times a day. 

2. Last online purchase
Yay! My Running For Dummies business cards from Vista Print.

3. Last beauty purchase
I love this stuff.  You can apply to wet or dry hair and it really smooths out my thick coarse hair.  It smells fabulous too.

4. Last workout gear purchase
Love these shorts from Target.  They are spandex shorts that peek out from under mesh shorts! Perfect for running!

5. Last adult beverage
My usual adult beverage. I love my single serving wine bottles, so much so, I wrote a blog about them.

6. Last meal I ate
It is Saturday morning, I just had my regular morning protein shake consisting of almond milk, PB2, chocolate protein powder and a banana. YUM-O!

7. Last book I read
Well, not read.  Reading.  In process.  This stuff is dry.  Powering through.

8. Last Tweet I sent
#plankaday @gealenders

9. Last workout
Insanity - Pure Cardio and a plank.  Are you following me on Dailymile?
This is exactly how I feel about my Insanity work outs.

11. Last race I ran
The Three Amigos Run with Fort Worth Runners Club. Did I mentioned I PR'd and finished third in my age group?  Yeah, I am still bragging about it.

Well, there you have it, my Last Things List blog post.  What were your last things? I'd love to hear about it. 

Keep Running,


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