Archive for December, 2008


Life Lessons: Reflections

December 31, 2008

Day 31 of the 100 Reps Challenge

We did it! Today is the last day of December and therefore the last day of the 100 Reps Challenge. The exercises I’ve chosen today are good for the core and whole body. As I’ve said before, I love abs, so I couldn’t resist the knee tucks. Downward facing dog is a yoga/Pilates pose and that seems appropriate for this time of year because of the association with self-reflection and inner peace. Have fun!

20 stability ball knee tucks (do bicycle crunches, regular crunches, and reverse crunches if you don’t have a stability ball)
20 downward facing dog

Complete this set 5 times for a total of 100 stability ball knee tucks and 100 downward facing dogs!

Fitness Tip: Go slow. You have all day to complete these exercises so really concentrate on taking your time and feeling your body working. Relax, breathe, and congratulate yourself for having made it through this challenge (doesn’t matter if you did every day of the challenge, half of the days, or one day; moving and pushing yourself is definitely reason to be proud! And if you didn’t do any of the challenge, then thanks for putting up with me and my challenge every day for the past month:)).

Happy New Years Eve!

There’s a lot of talk about resolutions at this time of year. I think that I used to make resolutions years ago, but I haven’t the faintest idea what they would have been about. Partway through high school I decided it made more sense to make resolutions in September rather than January because it’s the start of the school year, so I did that for several years. One of the resolutions, I remember, was to be able to do the splits by the end of the year. That was, oh, four years ago? Still have yet to achieve that goal!

This year has been a lot about independence for me. Within a few days of the start of 2008 my heart got broken, so I spent the better half of the year trying to mend that and deal with the depression (and mild orthorexia) that came along with it. I began this blog and have learned more about health in the past year than I possibly ever did in all the rest of my years combined. I experimented with different kinds of fitness and improved my strength immensely and had a lot of fun cooking and baking. Then there was the traveling and moving out of my parents place and rediscovering my passion for writing. I certainly have had a lot of assistance and tons of support, but ultimately I found my way by doing things on my own and figuring out what I want.

While I was belly dancing and enjoying boot camp and taking up fitness challenges and overcoming the orthorexia and going through life in general, I was always working towards goals. I’d decide I wanted to do something and then somehow would find myself following through with it. I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who would say they’re going to do something, but then wouldn’t bother to do it. But after looking back over this year, I think that my problem in past years has been that the things I would say that I would do were things that other people wanted me to do, or things I thought I should do, or things that I only half-heartedly wanted to do.

This year was different because of all that self-growth and other cliche things we’re all supposed to go through when we’ve been around for a couple decades (and which we actually do go through- there’s a reason that they’re cliches, after all). I have been listening to more of what all of me wants and from that have been able to find something like a direction, and from there, have made my little goals and resolutions.

It’s for that reason that I do not make resolutions at New Years. Some of us need monumental occassions to get a jump-start on our goals; others of us find them too intimidating or obligatory and don’t follow through with the goals because of that. I’m one of the latter. I think that if I were to make a resolution at New Years, it would only be because I’m supposed to make a resolution, because its expected. I’d only be making a resolution for the sake of making a resolution, rather than making a resolution for the resolution itself.

Throughout the year I am confident that I’ll make lots more mini resolutions and goals, and that’s what works for me. I’ll be making them because I’m ready to make them and follow through and because I really want to do them.

What about you? Do you make resolutions? If you do, do you usually stick with them? What are your resolutions this year? And if you don’t make them, is there any reason for it? I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Enjoy the last day of 2008- here’s to another year passing and a wonderful year unfolding before us!


Day 30 of the 100 Reps Challenge

December 30, 2008

20 stability ball reverse extensions (if you don’t have a stability ball, try using a bench or chair instead)
20 standing dumbbell shrugs

Do this set 5 times for a total of 100 stability ball reverse extensions and 100 standing dumbbell shrugs!

Fitness Tip: Stretching every day is great for energizing and limbering up the body- do some shoulder shrugs (with or without the dumbbells), reach down and touch your toes, and stretch your arms high over your head while standing on your tiptoes. It’s rejuvenating!

Juliet mentioned yesterday that she doesn’t know how to do jumping lunges, and I realize that my explanation of them was an especially poor one. I’d do an exercise video of it for you all, but I attempted that once and it was just sillyridiculousbad, so I’ll spare you that. However! I did manage to find this excellent video (thank you, YouTube!), so if you’re confused by the jumping lunges, just check out the link and you’ll see a very good demonstration of them. Enjoy.


Life Lessons: Feel Good

December 29, 2008

Day 29 of the 100 Reps Challenge

20 jumping lunges (20 for each side): sink down into a lunge, then jump up and switch leg positions. If you start with the right leg forward and bent, left leg stretched back, then when you jump your left leg should land in the front at a 90 degree angle with the right leg stretched back.
20 overhead presses with twist: hold dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing shoulders. As you press up and lift them over your head, twist your hands so that your palms are facing away from you.

Do this set 5 times for 100 jumping lunges and 100 overhead presses with twist!

Fitness Tip: Use a lot of power in those jumping lunges but maintain control the whole time. You might need to pause between each lunge to correct form and regain balance.

Remembering the Past (and A Clumsy Little Christmas)


Among an array of many fantastic Christmas gifts, I received a rather special recipe book from my mum. It is her mum’s recipe book from 1952, complete with newspaper clippings and handwritten notes. We’ve talked about the recipe book before but hadn’t seen it in years; we just figured it was somewhere in the storage unit from having moved from house to condo a couple years ago. Her mum died when I was very young and the only real memory I have of her is of her standing at the door with a plate of her amazing peanut butter cookies. And smiling. Having this book passed down to me unexpectedly was so precious that I broke down and started crying when I realized just what it was. It’s such a treasure.


I have since been looking in the book and I’ve found two peanut butter cookie recipes; one is for regular cookies but the oven temperature and time is omitted, and the other is for molasses peanut butter cookies. I think I’ll wait a while before I make these cookies, seeing as we’ve still got huge mounds of other kinds, but I am so looking forward to trying her recipes.

Aside from those tears, Christmas came and went mostly without a hitch. Although there was one moment when I was moving the 3-plate cookie stand from one table to another and about 2 seconds after I was warned to “be careful, those plates are really slippery”, somehow I managed to let every single one of those plates slide right off the stand to come crashing down all over the table, chairs, walls, and floor. There were cookies everywhere! Butter tarts are amazingly resilient; those things are as strong as a Nalgene bottle.

Luckily my clumsiness did not result in any broken plates (just some broken cookies), and it was nothing that a broom and dustpan couldn’t sweep up. I opted to not hold my baby cousins after that, just to be safe, and managed to pawn off the plate of cheesecake and apple pie for the sister to carry- better not to trust these butterfingers of mine!

Know your body

Although I have yet to get on the river and go skating this year, yesterday I found myself out jogging for the first time in a long time. I have discovered that one of the best ways to fit in exercise is to not think about it and just do it. Rather than let myself think about how bored I get from running and my dislike for it, I was putting my running shoes on and locking the door behind me before I even knew quite what I was doing.

Similar to breaking down large chunks of something (say, for example, 100 reps of an exercise) into more manageable amounts (sets of 20 or 25 reps), when we listen to our bodies and let them do the work for us, it’s amazing how much sheer strength and endurance we have! Sometimes its good to let your brain shut down or get distracted and have your body take over.

Don’t think, don’t dread, just do it! It feels good.



Day 28 of the 100 Reps Challenge

December 28, 2008

We’re putting the stability ball and dumbbells away for today; let’s work with our body weight!

25 mountain climbers (25 for each leg)
25 side planks (25 for each side): hold for 20-60 seconds

Do this set four times for a total of 100 mountain climbers and 100 side planks.

Fitness Tip: Move your legs quickly with the mountain climbers to get your heart rate up. Try to hold the side plank until exhaustion hits- push yourself to the limit!


Day 27 of the 100 Reps Challenge

December 27, 2008

20 bent over dumbbell rows (20 for each side)
20 stability ball hamstring curls

Do this set 5 times for a total of 100 bent over dumbbell rows and 100 stability ball hamstring curls!

Fitness Tip: Don’t have a stability ball? Just do hamstring curls in a standing position, one leg at a time. Move quickly in a jumping motion to get the most out of this exercise if you are doing it without the stability ball. With the bent over dumbbell rows, lower the weights at the same slow speed in which you lifted them; you use slightly different muscles in raising and lowering the weights and you want to make sure that all of them are getting worked!


Day 26 of the 100 Reps Challenge

December 26, 2008

Looks as though its going to be a beautiful day out today so it’s definitely walking weather! Also am dying for some cardio and a chance to move after the wonderfully relaxing and food-filled day that was yesterday. If you care to join me…

100 passe
100 minutes walking

No, you don’t have to do all the passes in a row, nor all of that walking, but over the course of the day it shouldn’t be too tricky! Feel like some different cardio? Skating or running or dancing? Perhaps a combination of a few different activities? Let me know what you will be doing today!

Fitness Tip: Wear good shoes out there! Warm boots with solid soles and good traction is essential in the winter for maintaining balance. Pump those arms for some extra calorie burn and to stay warm (and also to provide some entertainment for the people that pass you. Throw in a few lunges at random to really make their day).


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

Have a wonderful day and enjoy the social gatherings! This year I’m especially grateful for the people in my life because my dad is unable to be with us this holiday season- he’s in Cambodia saving the world with the United Nations:) There’s a lot of other people I would love to see as well today but am unable to for one reason or another, so I am simply thankful that I do know them and that I am getting to spend time with part of my fantastic family today. The holidays are a time for thinking about and appreciating all the people in our lives, be they near or far (and blogging buddies, major hugs and much love to you all, too!).

I’m all for 100 of any combination of hugs/laughter/kisses/love/smiles/gratitude/good spirits, but if you feel like a little bit of exercise then here you go:

Day 25 of the 100 Reps Challenge

25 push ups
25 frogs

Do this set 4 times for a total of 100 push ups and 100 frogs!

Fitness Tip: Have lots of fun today in everything that you do. Laugh lots- its healthy for you (and it’ll strengthen up those abs too)!


T’was the day before Christmas…

December 24, 2008

…and Sagan still didn’t have all her presents wrapped. Anyone else work better under pressure too?

Actually, I can’t wrap presents. (There seems to be a trend here with my domestic difficulties… can’t cook, can’t bake, can’t wrap presents…). All of my presents for people wind up in bags or boxes so that I can avoid the disastrous results of wrapping. Not for lack of trying, of course- much wrapping paper and tissue paper has been damaged beyond repair in my efforts to swaddle my gifts in the stuff. Alas, my hand-eye coordination is hopeless, paper gets ripped, tape winds up sticking to all my clothes, and I disappear under a pile of bows and ribbons in the madness that is the few days before Christmas.

Whoever invented the gift bag is my hero. And Squawkfox is too- thank you for your fantastic ideas of how to wrap gifts!

Speaking of domestic difficulties and being unable to cook (soon there will be a book. I shall call it Sagan’s Kitchen Misadventures: How Not to Cook. Or perhaps (Don’t) Cook with Sagan. Look for it cross-listed under “Cooking Reference” and the “Horror” section in bookstores), yesterday I learned how (not) to make sushi!

I have wanted to make my own sushi for a long time now, so when I found out that my friend has the equipment to make sushi and has made it before, I dug out my sake set and we got together to drink sake and make sushi. Unfortunately I only have brown rice, which is a problem when you’re trying to make sushi. However, I succeeded in cooking the rice beautifully (I’m not even being sarcastic there; successfully cooking rice really is a huge accomplishment for me. (Don’t) Cook with Sagan indeed. Go find Jamie).

I burned the seaweed in the process of toasting it. Only a little, though. Then we forgot to add the rice vinegar mixture onto the rice in my first roll, oops. That roll fell apart. But it was still fairly tasty with smoked salmon, green pepper, cucumber, and asparagus. I’d bought an avocado too, but when we cut it open it wasn’t ripe at all (ever sliced right through the pit? That’s a sure sign your avocado is not ready to be eaten).

My friend forgot that the rice vinegar mixture was on the stove and it got weirdly frothy, and then when he added it to the next roll he didn’t add quite enough for it to be sticky but even so it was rather too sweet (might have been because we lost count of how many tablespoons of sugar we added- “was that 3 or 4? Oh whatever, dump some more in there, and pass me the sake while you’re at it!”).

Our last attempt was the best one yet but it still fell apart a little and once more was a bit too sweet. By then we had run out of rice so our adventures had to stop there. But it was fun and entertaining, even if it did not exactly go as planned. And nothing even got set on fire. A good experience all around!

Day 24 of the 100 Reps Challenge

There are a number of challenges to attend to the day before Christmas- cleaning the house, preparing food, trying to figure out how to answer this month’s poll, finishing up present-wrapping/bagging/boxing, scrubbing the pot that you made the rice vinegar-sugar-salt mixture in for sushi, and so on and so forth. But the fitness challenges are not to be neglected! Take a couple minutes out of your day to complete this little sequence:

25 lying external rotators (for each side)
25 back leg raises (for each side)

Do this set 4 times for a quick 100 lying external rotators and 100 back leg raises!

Fitness Tip: Keep your body aligned for the lying external rotators and move slowly to control the movement. Form is more important than pumping out 25 in a row! If you need a break, take a break. For the back leg raises, be aware of your posture and stand up as straight as possible; with shoulders relaxed and abs contracted, it will be much easier to keep your balance and carry out the exercise correctly.


Day 23 of the 100 Reps Challenge

December 23, 2008

25 squat chops (25 for each side)
25 rock the boats

You know that you just are dying to do these exercises because of the names alone.

Complete this set 4 times for a total of 100 squat chops and 100 rock the boats!

Fitness Tip: Focus on your breathing for the rock the boat move especially. It will help you to stay in control and keep your core activated.

Don’t forget to answer yesterday’s poll!


Poll: Appearances vs. Health

December 22, 2008

Day 22 of the 100 Reps Challenge

25 calf raises with bicep curls
25 jumping jacks

Do this set 4 times to complete 100 calf raises with 100 bicep curls, plus 100 jumping jacks!

Fitness Tip: Switch up the bicep curls with hammer curls to engage different muscles in the arms. With the jumping jacks, bring your legs out as far as they can go and try to touch your hands together over your head for maximum effect.

Last month’s poll

It’s been nearly a month since our last poll and the results are once again in! We had three questions regarding health inspections:

1. 87% of us believe that health inspections are under-played in the media and should receive more attention, but 12% don’t want to know what’s going on in those restaurant kitchens (33 total voters)
2. 39% weren’t aware that health inspection information was even available to the public, 35% supposed it was out there but didn’t bother to look for it, and 25% were fully aware that the information is out there and check into restaurant inspections before going! (28 total voters)
3. 34% say that the restaurant review is the most important part about choosing a restaurant, 7% say that the health inspection is their priority, 38% are concerned with both the review and the inspection, and 19% don’t really care either way (26 total voters).

That seems like an awful lot of us who weren’t aware that all of this information is available to us and can easily be found on the Internet, yet nearly all of us want to see the health inspections having more attention. But even though we want to see that information, it won’t necessarily sway our judgments and deter us from going to those restaurants that don’t pass inspection. Bottom line, for the majority of us, it seems that we want to be aware, regardless of whether that information will have an affect on our decision in which restaurant we go to.

This month’s poll

The holiday season, a time when we are surrounded by loved ones but also a stressful time of year in which we are likely to let our good exercise and eating habits slide, is when we really start thinking about what matters to us and why we do the things we do. Physical appearance is prized very highly in our society and it is something that we are all, I think, often working to improve- after all, why else would we spend so much money on the fashion and beauty industry?

This article shows where women’s priorities in particular lie between our health and our looks. What drives us to make lifestyle changes? Is it to ward off cancer that we eat certain foods, or is it to hopefully clear up our skin? Do we exercise to make ourselves stronger and build up our immune systems, or do we do it to tone our trouble spots? Are we trying to lose weight to prevent health problems in the future or are we doing it in an attempt to achieve a supermodel body? And is there anything wrong with placing a certain value on our appearance- especially if it causes us to become healthier in the process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this. Don’t forget to answer the poll!

What has had the most influence for your reasons behind eating nutritiously and staying active?
( surveys)