Archive for the ‘Workouts’ Category

I know Halloween was yesterday, but I had to share these pictures from past Halloweens. Luckily my mom is awesome and sent them to me since I don’t have any childhood photos here in Chicago. Thanks Con! (That’s what I call my mom, Connie.)

The other cutie in those pictures is my older sister, Sallie.

And now, moving on to a completely different subject. Fitness and the use of deception for training purposes.

We train, we race, we push ourselves to the limit. Or, at least we think we push ourselves to the limit. However, an article published in the New York Times has revealed that an athlete’s personal best may be more of a “mental best.”  Dr. Kevin Thompson, head of sport and exercise science at Northumbrian University in England, conducted experiments to see just how significant an athlete’s mental state can be when racing.

Dr. Thompson asked cyclists who knew their personal best times for a certain distance to race against an avatar (a figure of a cyclist on a computer screen in front of them). Each rider was shown two figures that would virtually pedal along a course – one was himself and one was the avatar.

The cyclists were told that the avatar would move at the pace of his or her personal best; however the avatars were actually programmed to ride faster than the cyclist had ever ridden with a one percent increase in speed. When cyclists were told they were racing against their personal best time, they kept up with the avatar, therefore actually beating their personal best time.

So, what really determines an athlete’s ability? Obviously, physical elements play a huge role; however, the article suggests that when an athlete is pushed to race at a pace within reason, mental beliefs are a determining factor in success.

Dr. Thompson conducted another experiment in which a group of cyclists was divided into two groups. The first group was told that the avatar would be moving two percent or five percent faster than their personal best. These athletes did not even try to keep up with the avatars and simply raced at their personal best pace. The second group was told they would be racing against an avatar that would be moving at the pace of their personal best, when it was actually programmed to move two percent or five percent faster. The cyclists racing against the avatar moving two percent faster kept up with them the entire race. The cyclists racing against the avatar moving five percent faster kept up with them for half of the race and then dropped off.

So, there is a limit as to how fast an athlete can go, but mentality and a belief in an athlete’s own ability is a key factor to his or her success.


This is fascinating! I definitely think that a bit of deception would push me to race faster. (Side note: I absolutely HATE being chased! Even if it’s just in a game of tag…I hate having someone speeding up behind me. So, I would race my butt off even if it meant going two percent faster).

Do you think deception would work for you? Maybe once I can start training again I will try to deceive myself during a run, like make a playlist for 10 minutes longer than I would usually run, or something like that. If you’ve tried this technique, let me know how it worked for you!


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Pumpkin Cookies: Mix It Up!

First of all, check out the beautiful flowers John brought home to me. He sprung for the $9.99 bouquet from Trader Joe’s! I’m so lucky 🙂

I recently had my first baking experience with pumpkin. I know I’m a little late to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon, but I am telling you, this stuff has been hard to come by! I finally found it at the grocery a couple of weeks ago and was determined to try out some recipes.

Before we get to that, let me just start by saying I still cannot walk due to one of Sara’s workouts I tried last Friday. My quads started spasming (is that even a real word?) in the first set of the circuit, which I’m pretty sure is not normal, but I went ahead and finished the whole workout. Not sure if that was a wise decision or not, but oh well. I figure it’s just because I rarely never do circuit workouts. I definitely pulled some muscles, so I’m hoping that as I continue to do the routine, the post-workout “awkward walk” will not last as long 🙂

Here is the circuit, with 12-15 reps for each exercise:

  • Squats (I used a 15 pound bar)
  • Sky dives
  • Walking lunges the length of the weight room (7.5 weight in each hand)
  • Chest press (30 pounds)
  • Back extensions
  • Incline chest press (30 pounds)
  • Tricep dips (body weight)
  • Lateral and front shoulder raises (7.5 pound weight in each hand)
  • Various ab exercises

Repeat the circuit three times and call it a day! (Or a week if your muscles are as sore as mine!)

Now for the good stuff. Cookies. Seriously, what could be better? I had a big day ahead of me…most of my girlfriends from Indianapolis were in town to visit and I was hosting the sleepover. Bye John! So I got up that morning to make some pumpkin goodies.

As a first time pumpkin baker, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I love pumpkin pie though, and the food blog world is exploding with delicious pumpkin recipes, so I figured pumpkin sweets would be right up my alley. I started with Julie’s Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice cookies.

These babies were good and were so easy to make. I knew I couldn’t mess anything up too terribly because there were only two ingredients for the cookies. Unfortunately, the grocery didn’t have a Spice Cake mix, so I used a Carrot Cake mix. I figured it was the next closest thing to a Spice Cake.

Mix a can of pumpkin with Carrot Cake mix and there you go ladies (and gentlemen if any of you are reading this). I actually ended up freezing half of the dough because it made so much! I also ate at least a cup of the dough. I like to pretend dough eating doesn’t count 😉

These cookies were the fluffiest things I have ever baked. A decent number of my previous baking products have come out flat or burnt, so these were definitely more on the successful side.

I modified Gina’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting to put on the cookies. This would be a great recipe if I had used pumpkin, but I didn’t want to open a new can and only use half of it, so I left the pumpkin out. I’m so frugal! The pumpkinless frosting was okay, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If I had to do it over again, (which I’m sure I will), I would either make the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting properly, or I would would use Gina’s Regular Cream Cheese Frosting recipe. I should have thought of this earlier, but obviously I didn’t. So, I’m giving you both of the recipes.

Recipe (Regular Cream Cheese Frosting)


  •  8 oz 1/3 fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Mix everything together. Spread on cookies. Top with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Enjoy!

Recipe (Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting)

  •   8 oz Philadelphia 1/3 fat cream cheese (do not use fat free)
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 tbsp packed brown sugar


Mix everything together. Spread on cookies. Enjoy!

 Recipe: Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

  • 1 Box either Carrot Cake or Spice Cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix and pumpkin together. Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Have you done any killer workouts lately?

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Last night Chicago had a fall storm. Who has ever heard of a fall storm?! I haven’t, and I’ve lived through 25 falls now. The lakefront path was closed down due to extremely high waves, high wind (around 50 mph) and heavy rain. Book your tickets to visit us in Chicago 😉  It’s really great!

The rain was insanely loud on our windows last night but stopped just in time for us to make it to our morning workout. I more or less did a repeat of the 3-2-1 treadmill routine that I completed yesterday. Then, I rocked some new ab moves that I got from Sarah. Come on abs! It’s your time to shine! I know you want to 🙂

So, last week I read this article on Self about exercise and appetite and thought it had some valuable information about, well, appetite and exercise.

It’s true, exercise makes us hungry. It’s a slippery slope, this exercise thing, because on the one hand, you have to exercise to be healthy, but on the other hand, you can’t reward yourself the way you completely deserve (a large soft serve ice cream with health bar topping).

Holy cow. This has 940 calories. Enough said.

Actually, this is exactly the type of thinking that Self addresses, along with many more helpful tips on how to properly fuel your body for your workouts and not destroy all of your work with poor eating choices.

So, after a workout our bodies crave the energy we just used up (i.e. a large soft serve ice cream), and guess what folks, this desire to eat tends to hit women harder than it hits men. They have it so easy! Self identifies a few thought patterns that should be thrown out the window if you really want to reap the rewards of your workout.

  1. The “exercise halo.” Most people overestimate how many calories they actually burned, therefore thinking that a candy bar will burn right off. Not so. Drop the Snickers.
  2. The “afterburn effect.” Even very intense exercise lasting more than 45 minutes only burns 100 calories (or less) post-exercise. Bottom line: skip the post-workout snack. Put away the chips and salsa, save 100 calories. In a week, you’ll save 500.
  3. “Last thing eaten is the first thing burned off.” Wrong. Women eating sugary foods (candy, white bread, sugary cereal) before exercising burned 55 percent LESS fat than those who had non-sugary food (oatmeal, yogurt). And really, a candy bar before a workout?!

So, it’s pretty obvious that what you eat can have a significant effect on how much your body really gets out of a workout. Here is an outline of the most beneficial snacks and meals pre-workout:

Intensity of workout Length of workout How long before workout? What to eat
Low intensity Less than 60 minutes Less than 1 hour Piece of fruit or bottle of water
Low intensity Less than 60 minutes More than 1 hour Low-fat yogurt with granola, piece of fruit, or turkey on whole wheat bread
Low intensity More than 60 minutes Less than 1 hour A few whole wheat crackers, 1 string cheese, or Luna bar
Low intensity More than 60 minutes More than 1 hour Whole grain cereal with skim milk, blueberries or hard-boiled egg
High intensity Less than 60 minutes Less than 1 hour Toast with jelly, or sports drink
High intensity Less than 60 minutes More than 1 hour Whole wheat wrap with veggies and eggs, or PB& J on whole-wheat
High intensity More than 60 minutes Less than 1 hour 1 cup dry cereal with raisins, or regular crackers with jam
High intensity More than 60 minutes More than 1 hour Whole wheat bagel with reduced fat cream cheese, 2 slices of turkey, or 1 cup cooked oatmeal with skim milk and sliced banana or raisins

Note to self: Nowhere does it say Fiber One bar, my personal favorite. Bummer. Bring on the toast!

For me, avoiding the pre-workout munchies is easy. I don’t really eat anything since I get up at 6 am (except on weekends. See Fiber One bars.) Post workout? Now that’s a different story. Chips and salsa? Yes please! A handful of animal crackers? Of course. A few bites of a homemade pumpkin oatmeal muffin? Absolutely. I’m beginning to think this is one of the reasons my abs haven’t made themselves visible yet.

Post workout bites (here is where I really need to pay attention):

Running or biking: Have a carb-rich snack, like whole-grain cereal or fruit within 30 minutes of exercising. Your body needs to refuel quickly.

Swimming: Swimming really works up an appetite because your body loses heat, which prevents the release of hormones that suppress appetite. So, when you’re finished swimming, have a hot drink to warm up first. If you’re still hungry, opt for a healthy snack.

Strength training: Protein! You need 10-15 grams of protein within an hour of your workout in order for your body repair muscle and to prevent wear and tear. Egg on whole wheat toast? Yum.

So, there you go. And, there I go. Its time the hard work paid off. Even if I don’t exactly follow the recommendations in this post, I’m going to try not to completely negate the sweat sessions by using more common sense when it comes to food. I’m on a mission. Who’s with me!?! Anyone?! Bueller?!


What do you eat pre-workout and post workout?

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The alarm went off at 6:03 this morning. John told me to sleep in. At first I thought it was a great idea and planned to go to Zumba tonight. But, my mind was already awake. I tried to go back to sleep for 10 minutes and just couldn’t. I hopped out of bed, threw on my workout clothes and went to the gym. Note: It was freezing and raining, and now I’m remembering why I struggle living in Chicago during the colder months, which typically take up a good 75% of the year.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to kick my own butt in the gym since I’ve realized I rarely do and completed Kristin’s 3-2-1 treadmill workout. If you haven’t seen her blog, check it out! It’s one of my favorites! I made a few speed changes (no shock there), so mine looked  like this, at 1% incline:

  • Minute 0-1, Speed 4.0
  • Minute 1-3, Speed 6.0
  • Minute 3-5, Speed 6.2
  • Minute 5-8, Speed 6.3
  • Minute 8-10, Speed 6.7
  • Minute 10-11, Speed 7.0
  • Repeat minutes 5-11 three more times
  • Minute 29-32, Speed 4.0
  • Minute 32-35, Speed 6.3
  • Total Distance: 3.5 miles

I loved this workout! I was pushing myself and definitely worked up a sweat. Oh, and about two minutes into my run I saw in the reflection that my shirt was on backwards again! Seriously, who does this?!? I just left it until I finished my run and turned it around before doing some abs 🙂

Now, on to one of my most recent creations in the kitchen. Get ready to drool.

I cannot say enough about Gina’s recipe for Lightened Up Chicken Divan. To be honest, I don’t even know what chicken divan is…but it looks like a casserole and that was enough to send me running to the grocery for ingredients to make this bad boy.

Casseroles have such a bad wrap…and rightfully so. (Pause: I just looked up whether I should say bad rap or bad wrap. Turns out, it’s bad rap (with an “r”). A bad wrap (with a “w”) is just a sandwich wrap that’s not very good. But, I think “bad wrap” is more appropriate for a food and health blog, so I’m using it.) Most of them are loaded with fat, salt, cream, butter, flour, etc. And that’s what makes them so good! But I tell you, this has loads of flavor, is completely filling, could feed an army (okay, so it only lasted for two nights in our house…for two of us) and is healthy!

Hallelujah! Let’s eat!

To get started, season four chicken breasts and grill until just about cooked through. About five minutes on each side. Cut into bite size strips.

And now, let’s talk blanching. Raise your hand if you know what this means? Good for you, smartypants. I had heard of blanching but had never actually done it until now. Basically, you boil your vegetable (in this case, broccoli) for 2 or 3 minutes and then drench it in cold water to stop it from cooking. Check it out…my first blanch!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Now you’ll want to get started making the sauce. Oooh the sauce! Rich, cheesy, creamy…

Heat a medium skillet and add the oil and butter. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic and onions. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until smooth. Stir in the broth, milk and wine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and load on the cheese (well, half of the cheese). Stir. Mmmmm. It’s perfect!

In a 9 x 13 pan, put the broccoli in the bottom. Cover with half of the sauce.

Then, add the chicken and add the remaining sauce. Add the remaining mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on top. I’m giddy just typing this post!

Bake for 30 minutes and devour.

And, if you’re like me, your plate will look like this when you’re finished.

Mom, aren’t you proud of where my fork is? Four o’clock. I still have good manners 🙂

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. John requested it for dinner again this week!



  • 1-1/2 lbs broccoli (3 large heads) chopped
  • 24 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 18 oz cooked)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced (onions would work too)
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 2 oz dry sherry (white wine would work)
  • 6 oz shredded reduced-fat mozzarella (original recipe calls for swiss)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Using a grill pan or Forman grill, saute chicken on medium-low heat on both sides until browned, and just about cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and transfer chicken to a cutting board. When cooled, slice chicken into bite sized pieces.

Heat a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the butter and oil until melted and then add garlic and shallots. Sprinkle the flour and whisk until smooth. Stir in broth, milk and sherry and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in half of the mozzarella cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the broccoli in a casserole dish and pour half of the sauce over the broccoli. Arrange the chicken on top and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan and top with breadcrumbs. Spray a little oil on top.

Bake 30 minutes, serve hot.


Have you ever noticed you were wearing a piece of clothing the wrong way? What did you do about it? Leave it and make a fashion statement or change it?

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Throw it in a Bowl

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not one who likes change. I love having a schedule, having a routine and feeling comfortable. Some may call this boring. I don’t necessarily think being consistent is boring, but there are days when I think, “Seriously Mollie, you take the same thing to work every day for breakfast and lunch. It’s time to step out of the box.” So that’s just what I did yesterday.

First of all, the day was definitely off to a slow start. When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. to go to the gym, I was definitely not feeling it. I was secretly hoping John would want to sleep more, but he said he was going to work out, so I figured one more hour of sleep wouldn’t do much good…until I walked out of our apartment and realized I had put my shirt on backwards. Maybe I did need more sleep?

Anyway, I cranked out 40 minutes of speed intervals on the elliptical. At resistance 8, I repeated: two minutes normal, one minute sprint. The end result: sweaty! A few minutes of abs and I was on my way.

In an effort to not be so boring, I made a salad for lunch instead of my usual turkey, spinach and cheese on a sandwich thin. The result? Actually pretty good! I really just threw a bunch of things in a plastic container bowl that I thought might go together:

  • Four handfuls of spinach (A lot, I know.)
  • 1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • One handful of slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • Chopped onion
  • Sliced turkey
  • Topped with Trader Joe’s Champagne Vinigarette

And a side of delicious green grapes. I think grapes are in my top three of favorite fruits. Such an easy little fruit- no work involved. Just pop ’em in your mouth and enjoy.

Side note: I finally found pumpkin at the grocery! Tonight’s agenda: baking. Come back to see what I came up with!

Side note 2: Most people say “grocery store,” but I just say “grocery.” I never thought it was weird until my friends in college pointed this out to me. Your thoughts?


Question: Do you eat the same thing for breakfast and/or lunch everyday? Am I really that boring?

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