Friday, February 28, 2014

Fitness Friday: The Challenge and an Upper Body Workout

After writing that this was the first year that I didn’t have any fitness/diet New Years Goals, I went and joined a “Challenge” at work. Oops.

A coworker of mine and her friends, and a friend of mine started this 8 week challenge from this blog, and asked me if I wanted to join! After checking out the challenge I realized I did most of the tasks, and it was more about encouraging healthy lifestyles than actual weight loss.

Quick summary: Everyone pays into the challenge (we chose $10) each, and you get points for doing healthy things on a weekly basis (Monday-Sunday). There are certain items that have a built in rest day (exercise up to 5 days a week), so it seemed like it is a very doable challenge. The person with the most points would get half the money (in our case $40) and the person who had the most weight loss points (based on % lost, and maintaining weight) would get the other half.

Points are given based on the following:

1 Point-Contact with a Teammate
3 Points-64 oz. of Water
3 Points-Stop Eating Before 9pm
3 Points-2 Servings of Fruit
5 Points-3 Servings of Vegetables
(6 days) 5 Points-No Sweets
5 Points-Keep a Food Journal
(5 days) 5 Points-30 Minutes of Exercise OR 7 Points-45 Minutes of Exercise

I knew I wouldn’t be winning the weight loss part of the challenge, so that wasn’t my main focus, I wanted to win the healthy living points. From week 1-3 I didn’t lose any points, and I lost a few pounds. I think the slightly increase of exercise (4x a week to 5x a week) and the no cookies helped me lose a little more weight per week than I had been in the past (0.3lbs/week vs 1lb/week).

That being said it wasn’t super easy. For me the hardest part was not having sweets (6 days a week), and not eating after 9. I realized from the challenge that I am a big night time snacker, and even though I don’t buy sweets myself, there is always temptation from free work cookies, Valentine’s Day, and sweet snacks while tutoring. Here is a sample of what I was dealing with:
Rocky road brownie, I ate the berries instead
I got those brownies on Sunday after already having a free day and eating sweets the past Wednesday. I then had to wait until Monday to eat them…yay resisting temptation by one day. I had the berries instead. Unfortunately though, the next Wednesday I also was offered delicious homemade rice pudding, and felt very bad about turning that down, so I lost some points...or so I thought.

But on that Friday, after 4/8 weeks of doing the challenge, my coworker emailed me to tell me that her friends hadn’t started and had all dropped out, and the challenge had kind of fallen apart. I was ok with ending the challenge then, but my friend wanted to continue since both of us were having success, and my coworker decided to stay on as well, and then another friend joined in…and then we decided to do it for another 8 weeks.

(Note that there was a weekend “off” the challenge. I may or may not have eaten a lot of dark chocolate).

This time the buy in was $20, and the person who loses the most weight % gets $20, and the person who gets the most healthy living points gets the rest (and yes the same person could get all the money!) So now the potential prize is $80 bucks, slightly more substantial!

We also adjusted the point system slightly, so now instead of having “free” days with working out and no sweets, everyone has a bonus 20 points for each week to decide where to use them. We have also decided instead of no sweets, we have turned the rule into no junkfood (more than 100 calories), so now we can have a small treat every day without losing points.

I know this sounds insanely complicated, but really it isn’t too bad. My co-worker made a fancy spreadsheet to track all the points, so it is pretty straight forward. Nothing too life changing, just little lifestyle changes to be SUPER HEALTHY.

To organize the fitness part of the next 8 weeks I made a little chart (similar to my triathlon training chart) that has different workouts mapped out so I can see my progress. Tuesday was a strength day for me so I adapted a workout from PB Fingers to focus on my upper body and thought it might be good to share!

Anyone else doing fitness/weight loss challenge? Anyone else have a really hard time saying no to homemade baked goods!!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thoughts of a Transit Commuter

(Yes I realize this has nothing to do with Canada winning Gold this morning, Mike is judging me slightly for this...he said I should write a hockey related post, I told him to leave me alone and get his own blog.)
I grew up in a town with no public transit. No wait I lied, we had a bus service for a month when I was in high school. My first foray into "commuting" was attempting to catch that bus for a whole afternoon with some friends from school. We drove to city hall to get the schedule, and then drove to a bus stop to meet the bus. But alas, there was no bus. So then we drove to another stop to catch the fabled bus, and still no bus. We spent the afternoon driving around to try to use public transit. How ironic (don't you think?).

This lack of a bus was probably a good indication for the overall experience of public transit: frustration and disappointment at waiting for non existent buses.

In Halifax I got more comfortable with using transit, but driving or walking was my commute of choice. Even after moving to Toronto, I stayed car dependant, and I would still walk 30 minutes vs paying 3 dollars for TTC. But then EVERYTHING CHANGED. Just kidding, not much changed except I started working downtown, and Mike started working slightly north of the city so he gets our car everyday. This leaves me, for the first time in my life, a regular public transit user.

Even though I am walking distance to work, I use the subway/bus system most days for tutoring. I have gotten comfortable with the rush hour commute, the slew of people at union station, the "schedule" of the buses. I have even downloaded a few e-books to keep me entertained. It is legit.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a slew of mishaps (accidentally missing my stop on the subway, 45 minute waits for busses etc.) but I don't actually mind the TTC (GASP!). I know it could be better (more subways/LRTs would be nice!) but compared to Toronto driving, it is a little more relaxing. I can listen to music, read a magazine/book, or just do nothing. On a positive day I look at my time commuting as "free time". On a not so positive day I miss the bus, and wait for 45 minutes is the freezing rain with wet feet, and complain about it for 3 months.

One thing commuting has given me is ample fodder for blog post material:

If you are TTC commuter you may have noticed that on the big scary exit turnstiles there is a sign that says no bicycles. I noticed this one day and had a chuckle, thinking "Who was the one goof that tried to get their bike through the turnstile"...and then I googled and found this:
From the article, this happens once or twice a week. Apparently there are a lot of goofs that make that sign worthy.

Not stopping there, normal people do a lot of strange things while using the TTC. I have witnessed seemingly average business men and women, who I assume deal with people on a functioning level on a daily basis degrade to reflections of our palaeolithic ancestors:

"Ugh. stop. next. move."
"Seat. Mine. [point]"

Or the slightly more poetic on a crowded subway/bus: "BACK THE $%!# UP"

People can get very territorial during the crowded rush hour commute. Once after waiting FOREVER for a late bus at Lawrence Station, the bus finally arrived, and people were very polite letting people get off the bus. But behind the calm fa├žade of Canadian politeness was a quick eyeing of the rest of the anxious crowd. You could almost hear people thinking "If you cut in front of me I WILL CUT YOU!" At that moment I realized if humans are near vicious after waiting for 20 extra minutes for a bus, what will happen in a hypothetical post apocalyptic world.  Hunger games could be more accurate than we all imagine...dun dun dunnnnn.

But if that is actually the future I will be prepared. Using transit has made me walk more than driving ever could. On an average week I am walking at least 10 km extra, and that doesn't even include all the in station walking. (Side note, it gives me great personal satisfaction to take the stairs and pass the CROWD waiting for the escalator..heehee).

 Plus, even though when I moved to Toronto I vowed to never run for a Subway (they come every 2 minutes, there is no need to run for one), I will still run for a bus that comes only every 20 minutes when it is -20 degs out. Who needs the gym when you have commuting!

In conclusion, as much as commuting can be frustrating (45 mins wait for a bus, sorry I can't get over it), I can use it as free time, get some exercise, and roll my eyes at the people who run for the subway.

What is your favourite/least favourite way of commuting? Feel free to share some of your best/worst commuting stories in the comments!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WIAW: 5 Lunch and Snack Ideas (Mostly Vegetarian Friendly!)

Growing up I watched my parents pack lunches for my brother and I (and themselves) almost every single day. I could probably count the number of times I ever bought lunch. So it makes sense that most work days Mike and I pack our lunches, but just to add some complexity, we normally have to pack two "lunches": one for lunch time, and one to eat on the way to tutoring for dinner/supper. They have to be portable, able to eat cold, and not a sandwich everyday.

And even more confusing: Typically I pack breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, a afternoon snack and sometimes even supper. (I will have a blog post about breakfasts at some point, but for now I will focus on lunches and snacks!) 

This means that I have packing my lunch and snacks almost down to a science! Morning snack is almost always almonds, fruit, and dried fruit. Lunch is as detailed below, afternoon snack is veggies and a protein. Packing my lunch everyday means I save some skrillz, and keeps me eating healthy. Don't get me wrong, I love a good sushi take out once and a while, but I try to pack my lunch most days!

Two things: 1. I'm not a vegetarian, however in making this post I realized most of the meals are veggie friendly! 2. I get fruit at work, so the fruit I typically eat is unpictured, but add an apple or banana or even sometimes fruit salad to the pictures below!

Lunch idea 1: Leftovers
I know it seems simple, but some of my favourite lunches are leftovers. Especially when I have to eat supper on the run (normally a wrap), having a warm lunch is pretty tasty. Most things can be packed as lunches. I like stir fry, rice an beans etc. I do not bring fish leftovers to work (only exception is tuna salad). I don't want to be that one person who makes the office smell like fish!
From lower right cc:
Breakfast Egg and Veggie Scramble
Lunch Chickpea, Zucchini and Garlic Scapes with Rice (leftovers)
Snacks: Cucumber, Almonds, Yogurt, Carrots, Hummas
Lunch Idea 2: Soups
Same idea of the leftovers, make a big pot of soup and I have lunch for days! I keep my soups full of veggies and protein (this one is Tuscan bean soup with Kale...veggie friendly). I normally either put a carb in the soup (rice, potatoes) or I will eat some pita with the soup to give me energy for the rest of the day. 
Tuscan Bean Soup
Lunch Idea 3: Salad
Just after Christmas I bought this lunch contraption to try to simplify lugging so many containers to work/around Toronto. Salad is my go to lunch, but truthfully it can be unsatisfying. I pump up my salads with FLAVOUR aka salsa. I can pretty much eat anything with salsa on it and think it is delicious. To keep my salad's filling I typically top them with beans or chicken. 

Lunch: Romaine Lettuce Salad with Sprouts, Black Beans and Salsa
Snacks: Dates, Almonds, Strawberries, Veggie Pulp Muffin, Babybel, Turkey Pepperoni stick, cucumber
 Even leftover salads have been know to turn into lunch:
Lunch: Iceberg Lettuce, Chickpeas, Peppers, Tomatoes, Avocado, Tahini Dressing
Snacks: Almonds, Dates (not pictured), Hummus, Carrots, Turkey Pepperoni, Babybel

Lunch Idea 4: Wraps
I eat a lot of wraps more for dinner than for lunch, as my dinner has to be consumed on the go! My favourite wraps include hummus and salsa (I put that stuff on everything!) and lots of veggies. Other alternatives include chicken, ham and cheese etc...oh and "Burritos" made out of veggies!

Burritos on tortilla or on Collard greens
Refried Beans, Rice, Black Beans, Sprouts, Salsa, Plain Greek Yogurt, Cheese

Lunch idea 5: Snacky Lunch
Imagine this as grown up lunchables. It is really just a bunch of snacky things thrown together for a lunch:
Turkey Pepperoni, Veggies, Cheese, Pita
Here is how that concept pans out for a full day of food, I used this concept for a snacky dinner:

Breakfast: Cereal, Greek yogurt
AM Snack: Dates, Almonds
Lunch: Open faced Burger sandwich (the burger is in the upper left container)
PM Snack: 1/4 Avocado, Strawberries
Post Hot Yoga: Granola Bar
Dinner: Small baked Potato, Snowpeas, 2 Hard-boiled Eggs, 1/4 Avocado

There ya have it...5 lunch ideas, nothing too ground breaking, but still tasty! Oh I forgot the most important bit: I make my lunches/dinners/snacks the night before, because if I didn't I would end up being lazy in the morning, and having to buy my breakfast lunch and dinner!!

What is your favourite "on the go meal"? Anyone else get super lazy in the morning and end up buying everything to eat that day?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Matrimony Monday: How Two Planners Plan a Wedding Part 1

Over a month since Mike proposed and we have been asked "have you started planning" more times than I can count. And then I give them the answer "Yes, we have it all planned" and normally that freaks people out enough that they stop asking questions.

In all seriousness though, Mike and I are both planners/organizers by nature. And we both do planning/coordinating/budgets at work and at home.  We have more spreadsheets than we can count, and schedules and routines galore...but how does that translate to planning a wedding?

In the next few posts I will detail how we have started to plan, and useful tips that we have used/found.
Keep in my mind we aren't professional wedding planners, but these are just the methods that we are using to plan. 

Starting with....

1. Think Big Picture
Mike and I had already talked about general themes/what we liked didn't like, and favourite colours before getting engaged. Quite a while back we both knew we wanted a casual relaxed vibe, and we wanted to be near the water surrounded by family and friends. No big 100K spectacle! Knowing this really helps getting focused on what to look for, and how to plan. To me the big picture can influence everything from the type of music played, to the flowers, to the food, so nailing that down early was super important!

Pinterest/magazines/google image search etc. can help with big picture planning, and helped me see what my overall pins were looking like. I quickly was able to identify favourite colours, textures and lighting, all tying into the big picture. I was also able to quickly show Mike ideas and get his opinion. 

2. Communicating with Stakeholders (hehe)
Having the big picture in mind right around/after the engagement was also important when communicating with stakeholder aka our parents. It was really easy to share our ideas when Mike and I had already had decided on our overall vision. It also lets us be open to ideas and not be focused on the small details (type of flowers etc.) at this time. Getting our parents on board early in the plan helps everyone stays focused, and happy! Thankfully our parents are pretty laid back, so that makes everything much less stressful! 

I'll wrap it up for now, the next post will have some more nitty gritty planning stuff (task identification, timelines, spreadsheets etc.), but the main things we have learned thus far is that sticking to a big picture plan/feel, and communicating that plan with everyone is the FIRST thing that should be done in wedding planning.

If you are planning something what is the first thing you do? Anyone else have too many wedding pins before they are engaged?