Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Issue 55! Workout Partners and Motivation!

Melissa's tip of the week is designed to help you and your family to live happier, healthier lives through good food and exercise.
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Have you ever considered a workout partner?

What about using your exercise as a way to bond with your partner, best buddy, or one of your kids?

As a trainer, it's my job to motivate my clients to exercise, but I know (and you do too) that if you don't work out in between our sessions, it's not going to work nearly as well.  In order to increase your fitness level, consistency is KEY to your success.  So as I sit here and contemplate how to motivate you all to work to your best potential, it occurred to me that a partner workout might be an option.

Maybe you start with a program designed by a trainer (like me), and then you work out together to achieve your fitness goals together.  I have worked with mothers and daughters, sons and dads, best friends, and spouses, and I think it's great to have that extra motivation and comraderie to keep you going!  When one person doesn't feel like working out, the other can help to motivate and encourage.

Small group training can help to fit that bill, as well.  I've had this happen several times over the past 10 years--the group gets close, friendships develop, and it's so good to come in to a club where you not only know the other members, but also work out with them on a regular basis.  In between team workouts, you can then meet a couple of your friends for those extra workouts!
This week begins the new session of Small Group Training!  Wednesday at 9am, we will have a group starting in the main fitness center, and finishing each session in the Performance training center.  Saturday's group will be at 11:30, and we will meet in the Performance training center.  Both of these groups are focused on generally increasing fitness level, weight management, and working around known injuries, while preventing any new ones!

TRX Yoga...I'm not quite sure if this will run, yet...I need to check the roster!  It sounds like it might make its debut, though!  Focused on form, increasing strength, body awareness and breathing, we will go through basic yoga poses using the TRX as our main prop.
Melissa's Black Bean Brownies, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Lower Carb
Minutes to Prepare: 20
Minutes to Cook: 30
Number of Servings: 16


  • 1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
    3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
    3/4 cup Egg Substitute (or 3 whole eggs)
    1 tsp Vanilla Extract
    1/2 cup Sugar Substitute (My fave is Stevia Baking mix, with erithritol)
  • 1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa (Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa)
    1 tsp Instant Coffee (Nescafé Instant Clasico)
    1/2 tsp Baking Powder
    1 pinch Salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour drained and rinsed black beans onto clean paper towels and pat dry. Process black beans, until smooth. Combine egg, vanilla extract, butter, and processed black beans, mixing thoroughly. Add sugar substitute, cocoa, coffee, baking powder, and salt, and mix, until well combined and smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate chips. Pour into greased/lined 8" X 8" baking pan. Add additional chocolate chips and/or nuts, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of pan comes out clean. Turn oven off and let cool in oven w/door cracked for 5-7 minutes. Place on rack, until cooled. Cut into 16 brownies (2" X 2"). Place cooled and cut brownies in refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Refrigerating the brownies diminishes the bean flavor and enhances the chocolate flavor. After refrigerating, store at room temperature in sealed container. Best served at room temperature or slightly warm.

Serving Size: Makes 16 brownies (2" X 2").
Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 16
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 52.1
  • Total Fat: 3.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 5.9 mg
  • Sodium: 170.2 mg
  • Total Carbs: 5.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
  • Protein: 2.4 g

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rainy Days

Melissa's tip of the week is designed to help you and your family live happier, healthier lives.
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Rainy days are a great time

to try out a new workout regime.

You can do that right in your living room, or your basement (provided it's not flooding), or if it's just a gentle rain, try taking a jog outside in the mist.  I figure it this way:  I'll need a shower anyway, so if I get wet, it's not really a big deal.  Below, you'll find a rainy day workout to keep you working out, even when the weather has you staying in.

Let's try this workout--each activity will be 1 minute, and no equipment is necessary, so get out your timer, and let's go!

1 minute, Walking lunges, body weight
1 minute, squats, body weight
1 minute, plank, body weight
1 minute, mountain climbers
1 minute, curtsy squats
1 minute, side plank
1 minute, push ups
1 minute, side plank (other side)

Repeat 2x through for a 20 minute workout, or 3x for a 30 minute workout.  Stretch!
Or how about you go jump in the puddles?!  Tap in to your inner child.  Have fun.  Today is your day.  Live.  Love.  Laugh.  And jump in the puddles!
Broccoli Cheese soup for a rainy day!
4 servingsBroccoli Cheddar Soup
4 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound chopped broccoli*
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar, plus more for garnish
Saute onion in butter until translucent. Stir in flour until a thick paste forms. Add stock and simmer until thickened. Add broccoli.
*If only making soup, use raw, fresh broccoli and simmer for at least 10 minutes until tender. If making baby food, it’s best to steam all of the broccoli together and then add cooked broccoli to soup just to warm through.
Add milk and cook just a minute or two to warm through. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender. Stir in cheese. Garnish with additional cheese and any extra broccoli.
Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose


A great pose for loosening hamstrings, and lengthening the spine, Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose is challenging.  You can begin with the feet 3-4 feet apart (wider is better if you struggle with the hamstring flexibility).  Try to keep the legs straight, and only go as far as you can.  The ultimate goal is to have your hands under your heels, so that you can pull.  Actively pulling in this pose helps to activate a contract-relax technique which essentially fools the muscle into stretching just that little bit extra, so that over time, you are improving.  As you pull, you are trying to bring your forehead to the floor.  This may not happen the first or even the 500th time, but it's the goal.  Yoga is a practice, not an exercise in perfection.  We are all a work in progress, so just keep working toward the goal, and you will get there.

Foam Rollers

Melissa's Tip of the Week is designed to help you and your family live happier, healthier lives through good diet and exercise.
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What are those foam roller things, and what on earth do I do with them?

Foam Rollers are basically a cylinder of foam that we use to relax tense muscles in the gym, without needing to go get a massage all the time.  Technically, the term used is Self Myofascial Release (SMR), but that seems to be a misnomer, at least according to some researchers.  There is widespread disagreement on fascia, which is basically tough connective tissue that protects and sheaths the inside of the body.  It's true function is two-fold--it provides a protective layer over the muscles, nerves (basically every structure in the body is covered by this tough web), and it protects against infections, much like the skin.  It's most critical job is as an infection barrier--layers of fascia limit the spread of infections.  (Ingraham, 2013)
The main disagreement in all of the research is whether foam rolling is efficacious, and what it actually does to fascia, if anything.  For our purposes, it doesn't really matter that much.  It highly depends on what effect we are seeking.  Because this is a new field of research, there is bound to be disagreement, and even conflicting studies.  Schleip, 2003, found that in neurophysiological models, which are now becoming more widely accepted than the older, mechanical models, myofascial release is thought to stimulate intra-fascial mechanoreceptors, which cause alterations in the afferent input to the central nervous system, leading to a reduction in the activation of specific groups of motor units.  This basically means that rather than affecting the physical muscle or fascia, rather it sends signals to the brain through afferent nerves, which then signals the brain to relax the tissues' excessively tightened state.
All research aside for a moment, does a massage feel good to you?  Does is seem to loosen and relieve sore muscles?  A foam roller will give you the same effect, but you do it yourself.  So the next time you are in the gym, pick one up and give it a try.  Below is a headache remedy utilizing a foam roller.  Give it a shot!
Rolling, rolling, rolling...
Upper back and neck rolling helps to relieve sore muscles that hold stress and give you tension headaches.  Above, I've pictured my favorite way to relieve this.  Tuck your chin in toward your chest, and press your neck and the back of your head into the foam roller, turning from right to left, and back.


  • Preparation(6-ounce) red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup prechopped onion 
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour//arrowroot or rice flour will work
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided 
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • bacon slices, halved 
  • 1.5 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/3 cup) 
  • 4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
  1. 1. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on HIGH 13 minutes or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.
  2. 2. While potatoes cook, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth. Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk; add to pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil; stir often. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.
  3. 3. Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon.
  4. 4. Discard potato skins. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup. Top with cheese, green onions, and bacon.
Garland pose:  the yoga pose of the week--
Known as a hip opener, garland pose is a deep squat that you can achieve either by coming from the floor, or from a standing position.  Bring the hands to prayer, and use the elbows to help push your knees out to the sides, opening the hips.

Breaking Through Mental Barriers

Melissa's Tip of the Week is designed to help you and your family live happier, healthier lives.
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Many of us have lost weight at some point in our lives.

But not quite so many have kept it off.  So today, let's explore one of the reasons you might be on a roller coaster.  Sure, food tastes good, and thankfully, here in America, it's plenty, at least for now.  We are, for the most part, genetically programmed to store fat, so that if there ever is a time when there isn't enough food, we have reserves for survival.  Which means in a time of plenty, we need to actually be careful not to eat too much.

 We're also programmed to prefer sweet foods that provide the sugar our bodies need to make energy.  So those processed high carbohydrate foods like breads, crackers, cookies, chips--they taste particularly good to us.  Notice that 3 of the foods I mentioned could be savory tasting, but to your body, these are easily processed into the glycogen (sugar) needed to make energy with your muscles.

But I digress.  Despite all of that, assuming you have a good food plan, and you have begun exercising, you may still be struggling to take weight off and keep it off.  These are the true culprits and demons that prevent you from reaching your goals.  Some of these are uncomfortable, but we need to delve deeper in order to try to be healthier. 

1. If you have been sexually assaulted, you may have put weight on as a shield--the fat makes you less attractive (you think, deep down, perhaps without realizing it), so you can't take the weight off, because it leaves you vulnerable.  This falls under the category of fear of pain (or possible repeated pain you've already experienced).

2.  People (your friends, your mate) won't like you if you lose weight/they like you now, so it follows that if you change something drastic, they will not like you then.  This falls under the category of fear of change.

3.  You'll never be able to eat the foods you love again, so you just don't even try.  (fear of change, fear of pain)

4.  You've accepted that you're fat, so that will never change, and you're ok with that--except your health is failing, your knees need to be replaced, you have diabetes, you have heart disease, etc.  (fear of change)

So you can see, that most of the thoughts you might encounter fall under a couple of main categories, and they are valid.  People are afraid of change, especially big ones.  But surgery is scary, and diabetes is frightening (I personally know a woman who had lost most of her fingers and toes, plus her eyesight, before she died), and having a heart attack is no great shakes, either.  Your quality of life is you new focus.  You will now look at every meal as an opportunity to make good choices that will nourish your body, and help you live a better quality of life, whether that's better walking, or not needing a surgery, or better mobility.

Fear of pain is another biggie.  Let's face it, very few folks out there are looking to be actively in pain.  I would warrant, though, that surgery is painful, a heart attack is painful, walking with 100 extra pounds is painful.  I know when I weighed almost 300#, it really hurt to start exercising!  I even got a stress fracture in my foot from low impact aerobics, and that really hurt!  So how do we get past it?  If you were abused at any time in your life, get help sorting through this. You can't heal in denial.  If you are afraid of a reccurence of an assault that was random, first understand that it was random.  Then look into boxing, self defense classes, or martial arts, all of which will help you to work on self confidence and inner strength, as well as your overall fitness.  And yes, you can do this at ANY starting weight.

Believe in your heart that you can, and you will achieve your goals.

One step at a time, one day at a time, we keep plugging along...and then, suddenly--you're there!

Focus on making small goals first, like these:

1.  Today, I'll eat one extra vegetable.
2.  Today, I'll walk for 5 minutes.
3.  Today, I'll climb the stairs, one extra time
4.  This week, I'll add one extra class to my regular classes
5.  This week, I'll focus on adding quality food to my diet--fruit and vegetables that I love and are in season
6.  This week, I'll explore the farmer's market for new and exciting healthy items for my menus


  • Preparation
  • poblano chiles 
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears) 
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (if you need fresh, I have a TON in my garden!!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • large ripe tomatoes (about 4 pounds) 
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 ounces colby-Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 cup packed)
  1. 1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. 2. Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place chile halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel chiles. Coarsely chop chiles; place in a bowl. Add corn and onion to pan; broil 10 minutes, stirring twice. Add corn mixture to chopped chiles; stir in oregano, oil, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, and black pepper.
  3. 3. Cut tops off tomatoes; set aside. Carefully scoop out tomato pulp, leaving shells intact. Drain pulp through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract liquid. Reserve 1 1/4 cups liquid, and discard remaining liquid. Sprinkle tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Invert tomatoes on a wire rack; let stand 30 minutes. Dry insides of tomatoes with a paper towel.
  4. 4. Place quinoa in a fine sieve, and place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, rub the grains together for 30 seconds; rinse and drain. Repeat the procedure twice. Drain well. Combine reserved tomato liquid, quinoa, 1/4 cup water, and the remaining salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Add quinoa mixture to corn mixture; toss well.
  5. 5. Preheat oven to 350°.
  6. 6. Spoon about 3/4 cup corn mixture into each tomato. Divide cheese evenly among tomatoes. Place tomatoes and tops, if desired, on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil the tomatoes 1 1/2 minutes or until cheese melts. Place tomato tops on tomatoes, if desired.

Exercise Helps Depression

Melissa's Tip of the week is designed to help you and your family live happier, healthier lives.
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Treating depression with exercise? You Bet!

Want to learn more about the benefits to your mental health that exercise provides?  Read on...

Many studies show that folks who exercise regularly get a positive boost in their overall sense of well being, and lower rates of depression.  Benefits like improved self esteem result from exercise, because your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. They also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. As an example, after a run or workout, the feeling people describe is "euphoric." That feeling, known as a "runner's high," makes you feel good long after the workout or run.

When you stimulate your endorphins through exercise, they act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain, and as sedatives, aiding sleep.  They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. Unlike many medications, though, exercise typically isn't harmfully addictive (there are exceptions to this, of course, usually accompanying bulimia or anorexia).

Exercise in underused, yet very effective as an adjunct therapy for depression.  Any kind of exercise can stimulate the release of those "feel good" substances, so get moving!  


Happy Baby pose/Ananda Balasana seemed to fit my theme today of happiness!  This pose gently brings greater awareness to your joints, and opens up the lower back, as you shift your weight side to side, just like a baby would.  Lying on your back, reach for your feet (if you can't reach, no problem, just grab the closest bit--your ankles, your calves).  Then you can hold, or shift your weight side to side, 
Cooking spray
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pitted dried dates
1/2 cup powdered nonfat dry milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with
cooking spray.

Place all ingredients except the
syrup and eggs in a food processor
and pulse until the mixture is finely
chopped. Add the syrup and eggs
and pulse until the mixture is well
combined. It will resemble a coarse paste.

Transfer to the baking pan and
spread evenly. Bake until just done,
about 20 minutes. Cut into 20 squares.

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Above is a mini workout to make your week extra fun!  Here's the list of exercises:
crunches 25
squats 25
side plank 1 at 15 seconds per side
bear crawl 25
push ups, 25
jumping jacks, 25
plank, 1 at 30 seconds
mountain climbers, 25
REPEAT twice more