Whole-Wheat Oat Banana Cookies: Get a Padlock Ready

I’m pretty upset I didn’t take a picture of the banana I used. It was bad. Like really really bad. Like not even brown and black, but a gray-black color, desperately begging to be used. So instead of the normal banana bread route, I wanted to make cookies (Chris was all in favor of this, for some reason, I think he might like cookies?). And I definitely wanted needed to use that banana. So I found a recipe from another blog and always…altered it! And for the padlock comment? Let’s just say…Chris may have substituted one of his meals with these, but…more on that later.

There is no reason to feel guilty about eating these cookies, barely any butter or sugar, with lots of oats to keep your fiber count happy! Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cup oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup regular sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips 

It may seem like a long list, but it goes by very quickly. I think this whole process (including cooking) maybe took 20 minutes max. Pretty nice, and I find cooking/baking relaxing and cheerful anyhow. Okay, let’s get started! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter up baking pan.

Instructions:

  • First, in a medium bowl (please note: this will not be your final mixing bowl, I don’t know how many times I’ve short-sightedly followed a recipe thinking it was going to be the main mixing bowl), get your dry ingredients ready. Mix together the  flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. 

  • Next, in your large mixing bowl (this is it, folks! This is the bowl that everything will end up in!), we will combine the butter and the two sugars. Whisk that puppy up.
  • Then, we’ll put the egg, vanilla extract, and (MASHED) banana into the mixture. Good to use a whisk.
  • In comes the dry ingredients, rudely interrupting the wet-ingredient get-together. Slowly pour in the medium bowl ingredients into the large bowl (flour, etc. –> sugar, egg, butter, etc.). Mix that up.

  • Now, for the (almost) final step! Fold the chocolate chips into your mixture, make sure they’re evenly spread out so one cookie doesn’t greedily get them all.

  • Take gobs of the beautiful cookie dough (again, I ate too much of it and afterwards could not eat enough of my Mexican dinner twenty minutes later) and place upon your greased up baking sheet.

  • Set timer for 10-12 minutes. Mine took 12 minutes because I always make HUGE cookies. And voila! You’re done.

So for the padlock comment expanded…while I was working at the assisted living home yesterday, Chris ate five cookies (and they are BIG). Choosing to eat cookies instead of a real lunch. So, baker, wherever you are, keep a close eye on these cookies, they are sure to disappear rather quickly…

Family Addition: Two “New” Bikes

With Alana getting a full time job in Longmont, which is roughly 15 miles away from our home, and us only having one car, it looked like I would have to find an alternate form of transportation. With my job being only about a mile(?) from our home, there were a few choices.

Obviously, we could buy another car but that isn’t exactly in the budget, although it might have to be in the winter. The bus takes too long and is too risky for a mile commute. Walking is an option but is still a bit of a waste of time. And I only have my motorcycle permit, not my license… plus they’re expensive too. So it seemed like a good old bicycle (so rare in Boulder!) was the best choice. Unfortunately, on our cross country trip… my Schwinn Frontier, the bike love of my life thus far, is stuck with my sister in Pennsylvania because of a broken bike rack. Obviously, there was only one thing I could do… Craigslist!

The Classic Schwinn Headbadge

Schwinn!

So to make a not-so-long-but-boring-story nice and short, I bought two bikes in the last week. The first one I bought on the way to work Monday so I wouldn’t have to walk, and the second I bought on Tuesday night because it was a much better bike.

MagnaNickname: Not Given Yet – This is one of the worst bike brands in the U.S. It’s very used with lots of wear and tear, as well as a flimsy kickstand and unstable gears. But is was only $60 cash and it was being sold a block away. The bike is $125-150 ish new from Target, so it’s really not a horrible deal, just an awful bike. But it got me to work two days.

TrekNickname: Packhorse– I paid $120 cash for this one and it was well worth it. Trek is arguably the most reliable bike brand around (and still reasonably priced). This one has lots of miles and character to it but it still rides better. It’s got Shimano gears and brakes, along with a mountain rack/splash guard, and a retractable metal grocery bin. The front suspension makes for a very smooth ride and although it doesn’t have a kickstand and the brakes are very squeaky, it has a cute little bell.

Today, Amazon via UPS will deliver my new helmet, light, and two bike locks ( a u-lock and a cable lock). Bikes are very popular in Boulder and although mine are not going to be stolen first, I don’t want to risk it. I also think you’re not being intelligent if you ride with a high risk of injury and do not wear a helmet. The lights are a law after dark in Boulder and ten dollars is much better than hundreds in tickets.

Oh well, I’m getting between 2-8 miles a day commuting from different jobs so it’s been nice but my knees are hurting. I’m not cycling expert but I think it’s either because I have bad knees or because I’m not high enough on the bike. The frame is a little small for me, a 17.5, but I put the seat far enough up to create about a 30 degree angle when my legs are fully extended towards the ground. Adam, any advice?

Thanks everyone and support green transportation!

A Walk to Remember

No, I am not talking about that overly-sentimental book/movie by Nicholas Sparks. I’m talking up uphill, climbing rocks, push to get to a Flatiron. Remember that time I talked about how you can use other exercises than using machines for a good leg workout? Forget that. Climb up to the freaking Flatirons. I may have done a leg workout the day before, but that hike accentuated my leg ache more than I can explain. I was hurting the next day, which is always a great thing (if it’s the good kind of pain).

We climbed up to the one on the right

I had made a date with a friend from the nursing home I work part-time at to go for a hike. She told us about Chautauqua Park (where we saw the Reel Rock Film Festival) and how it had tons of trails. We had never gone there to explore any hiking–we had just adventured there once to see those films. Well, let’s just say it wasn’t what we were expecting or what we were prepared for. I, sadly, forgot water for Chris and I (good job there, bud) and we had bellies full of food eaten at the dining hall at the park.

According to my pedometer, it was 4 miles up. It was a steady slow incline at first, and then at the actual flatiron base, it got rocky and steep. My friend was doing it pretty well (she brought water) and suggested we do this at sundown for an amazing scene. Well, we got pretty amazing views without a beautiful sunset to coat the sky. Since it was a Saturday, there were lots of other people, from a group of twenty college boys to couples to dog walkers. Everyone had great trail etiquette and was very friendly.

View to the East

It took about an hour to get up to the top of the flatiron, winding around it, up rocks, and steep hills. Though we were sucking in oxygen the whole time, having a serious case of dry mouth, and cursing our legs for being so sore, we had a great time.

View to the West

The views were absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to see it during sunset and also when more leaves change.

Leaves slowly starting to change…

We were exhausted afterwards and pretty sore the next day, but it was definitely worth it and we will do it again very soon.

Made up to the top!

Oh and just to throw in here…Misty’s gotten quite adept at walking on small surfaces. Who doesn’t like a kitty picture at the end of a post?

Help, I’m adorable!

Restaurant Review: Conor O’Reilly’s? O’Neils?

This Sunday, after feeling sick with a sore throat and congestion but still trying to do chores all day, I went to pick up Alana at work. After a shift that started at 6:30 a.m., you could imagine how tired and hungry she was. While at the grocery store picking up some staples (not actual metal staples, but staple foods), we were not looking forward to our scheduled 6-8 o’clock workout at the BRC (Boulder Rock Club). I commented that I would much rather have fish and chips than work out… and Alana agreed. So, we googled “best fish and chips in Boulder” and the results were pretty clear. Conor O’Neils. Even though its Yelp page made it look more like a bar that was mostly popular with the college kids, we decided that the menu, which boasted a $12 fish and chips (so cheap!) was worth a try.

Awaiting Consumption

We drove and walked there and boy were we surprised. It’s tucked in right in Downtown Boulder, on 13th between Pearl and Walnut. It was MUCH bigger than I imagined it would be, based off pictures and reviews. There was the bar as we entered and then there was a “dining room”… and another… and another… and another. Seriously, this place had tons of seating and not all the rooms had huge tv’s, some really seemed that they were there for dining. Since it was post-happy hour Sunday night, and post-football games (I assume), it was pretty empty. We sat in the back, in one of the many beautifully decorated rooms. The decor reminds me of a mixture between the Shire and a fishing restaurant… and a log cabin. Very interesting at the least, not to mention the unique tree in the middle of the restaurant covered in warm-lighted Christmas lights.

Skipping some steps, we got the spinach dip for an appetizer, I got fish and chips, Alana got the Boulder Salad and a side of pub chips. For dessert, I got the Brownie and Bailey’s, and Alana got the strawberry rhubarb cobbler.

The spinach dip was good, and a decent value for the serving size. Would only serve 2 though. The fish and chips were WELL WORTH 12 dollars. My fish was slightly under-cooked, and I had to get my own malt vinegar, but the pub chips were top notch and required no condiments. Alana’s salad was blah… very bland, nothing special. Wouldn’t recommend it.

Alana’s bland salad

Same with the cobbler, too much sweetness killed what we ordered it for… the bitterness of the rhubarb (Alana’s mom makes the BEST rhubarb pie, hands down). My brownie dessert was ridiculously amazing and I have wanted another every night since then. No, seriously, I bring it up at least every six hours a day. Worth every penny. So I would obviously say go and get the fish and chips and Brownies and Bailey’s. We didn’t drink that night so nothing  for that. However, their selection looked vast enough, especially if you’re in the mood for whiskey. The bill was reasonable and the service good enough to garner our usual 20 percent tip. (My water was always nearly full.)

My Brownie and Bailey’s…I want more

Now the real treat. Sunday nights at 8 p.m., there is some form of an Irish cultural event, I believe. We got to see and hear, in the room we chose to dine in, luckily, a little Irish jam group? Now it was very traditional with strings, percussion, raw vocals and all the tunes were pure and classic, but they kind of just threw everything together in a very relaxed way. It was lovely with the exception of one string that was always a little off key.

Attempted creeper shot at the Irish group playing awesome tunes

I would completely recommend this place for a nice dinner for a small party on a Sunday night, especially a date for a new or old couple, like ourselves. For a new couple, there are lots of conversation starters that might help spur some conversation and it’s not too fancy or too casual/boring.

  • Decor: 4/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Food: 3/5
  • Value: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5 (Good!)

Imitating a Table: How to do the Perfect Plank

I hate nothing more than bad form when people plank. Okay, that previous sentence is ridiculous, I hate many things more, for example, olives (maybe). People do this in all sorts of exercises, rush to try to get the “best pump” or the “longest duration” and completely compromise their form. I don’t know how many times I will tell you this, but this will not be the last.

(taken from this blog)

Form is more important than any other part of the exercise or workout. 

You screw up form, you screw up your body. It’s very simple. Yet big meatheads or beginners too will push past that to either try to get heavier weight or have no clue what they’re doing. So this will not be a long post. I just want you to perform a plank (one of the best core exercises, reaching the entire core from the upper thighs to the upper abs and everywhere in between.

1. Don’t wear socks. Just don’t do it, there’s no reason, even if your feet are smelly. Take them off or plunk on some shoes.

2. Put your forearms down flat on the floor, in a comfortable position, lining up with your shoulders

3. Ease your legs back, ‘standing’ on your toes

4. Lower your torso and upper legs, so you’re not making a ‘bridge’ with your body, but a nice flat terrain, hmm, somewhat like a plank a pirate would force you off.

5. Hold for as long as possible. Beginners, 30 seconds. Then move to 1 minute, then 2 minutes, then 3, etc. etc. You get the point.

Other tips:

  • Don’t stick your butt up
  • Don’t lower your hips
  • Don’t lower or raise your head
  • Keep tight

There are variations, too, like side-plank, watch-dogs, and twists. But remember GOOD FORM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE!

Ashton Parson in Artist Spotlight 1

(Foreword: Written as a friend, like an older brother)

I love music, and I have a very very personalized taste in music. Alana has started to get used to it. I’ve assimilated her to K-Pop already! While my favorite genres are probably R&B, k-pop, and soundtracks (video games, anime, and movies) there is tons of other stuff I like to listen to. I have my favorite artists like everybody else and then there are tons of songs that I can just listen to and never need to know the artist, such as all those easy-listening-natural-waves-in-the-background ambiance tracks. Eventually, I’ll do some posts on favorite workout songs and favorite artists in more detail, a introduction to k-pop so that people new to it don’t just associate it with PSY, and who knows what else.

In the meantime, I would like to introduce to you an artist on the rise, a truly talented vocalist whose passion for music cannot easily be matched. When you watch American Idol, X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, or the Voice, you see countless passionate individuals that just unfortunately don’t have the vocal prowess or musical skills to live up to their desire to succeed in the music industry. Nowadays, it’s hard to support yourself as a singer. Even if you have the vocals, the skills, the ability to write, the ability to play an instrument, and even the charisma to get up in front of a crowd… you need a lucky break. There are tons of deserving individuals that are far more talented than successful artists in the industry because they haven’t had that break. And then you have individuals that work endlessly to create their own lucky break. More of less, that is what I see when I think about my friend, Ashton Parson.

Ashton grew up in Cheraw, South Carolina, raised by his absolutely amazing and loving mother. Ashton was born with raw talent in the form of an unexpected voice that you would never see coming. Ashton’s love for music and ability to stand in front of a crowd brought him to various competitions as he grew up in the South. With a vast interest in the music industry and artists from all genres, especially those from Great Britain (Ashton knew who Jessie J and Adele were before anyone else), Ashton sought to live his life doing what he loves.

With that, Ashton came to the Bronx and attended Manhattan College, hoping that being in New York City would lead to his lucky break. While at Manhattan, Ashton’s vocals were featured at countless sporting events, as the school’s go-to-guy for the National Anthem. Ashton sang everywhere, making sure to maintain and improve his ability. Ashton even entertained one of his RAs, me, with some amazing sessions in the residence hall. We spent hours singing, making acoustic versions of every good British and American r&b or pop songs. I felt lucky enough to be able to sing with him, since we were in totally different leagues.

And I knew, that one day, he would be famous. 

Ashton left Manhattan and the Bronx to attend the New School. He found himself in Brooklyn, a great place for aspiring artists. Ashton is one of the most likable people I have ever known, and he used his charm and well-mannered self to gain friendship’s with prominent individuals in the music industry. Nevertheless, Ashton kept grinding, working shows downtown and in the Village, performing every week whenever he could to do what he loved and get his name out there. Ashton started loading his Myspace and YouTube channel with amazing new videos and track recordings. Some tracks, that I thought were pure gold, were never even released. His Twitter never stopped… tweeting.

And finally, I was relieved to find his tracks on iTunes. I have studio versions and raw recordings from our sessions and his professional sessions, but these are mastered and top notch. You can find his first single, Rolling Stone, and his first EP, a four track classic entitled Walk on the Water, on iTunes now. It’s a well spent four dollars. The songs are all different, unlike some of the recent platinum albums that feature recycled beats, like Kanye’s 808&Heartbreaks. His vocals are rich and his range is grand. The lyrics are meaningful and honest, the beats are catchy, and the feeling is good.

He should record the next soundtrack for True Blood. You can feel the South in his music. Hopefully, this album can pick up some steam, months and years after being recorded, like many greats in the past. And hopefully, Ashton can find himself signed to a label that can support him in the near future so that we have the opportunity to listen to his amazing voice.

Please consider watching his YouTube videos and buying his music on iTunes. It’s well worth it, especially compared to the garbage on the radio now.

How to Get Thor-Like (or Wonder Woman-like) Legs without Machines

Sometimes in life, you don’t have all of the resources you would like. When it comes to fitness and gyms, you may not have all the equipment you would like (or think you may need). This is actually something we’ve stumbled upon as the Boulder Rock Gym doesn’t have many (or any) machines, not counting cables. It is very tough to do a leg workout without machines because it’s difficult to isolate and work each muscle of the leg. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and honey, we’ve got it!

All you really need is 30 minutes to 1 hour. Not bad! As you might have read in our last postwe’re not in the shape we’re used to, so this was a relatively light workout for our standards, but nonetheless, a good leg workout (without machines). Let’s get started.

1. Start with a warm up. Since this is a workout “without machines,” ignore what we did (biked), and go for a run or use a real bike. Try for 15-20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio.

2. Strength time. Get some weights, a barbell, whatever you have. You can always be flexible and substitute for what you don’t have. It’d be great to pull out a jump rope too.

Start with squats. This can be with dumbbells, barbell, or just with your body. I wanna see 10-15 reps, 3 sets. 

Chris performing proper exhalation. VERY IMPORTANT

3. We did a superset (meaning performing a squat and then, with no rest, another exercise), matching squats with jumping rope for however long the other did squats.

4. After that, we did (explosive) step-ups with weights. Get something you can step up onto, at least a foot high. You could use a bench, a chair, whatever. I used our couch the other day (oops). So basically, step onto the platform, weight in hand, and raise your other knee as you do so. Let’s go for 8-15 reps, 3 sets, reps depending on what amount of weights you use.

5. And, for a superset, we did box jumps. You can see the “box” in the left part of the picture above. Basically, do as many jumps over that as you can while the other person finishes their step ups.

6. By this point, we’re feeling pretty tired because most of our exercises have been high-intensity cardio. We move onto plie squats, which I covered here. Turn your feet out with wide horse stance, squat, turn left lunge, then turn right lunge. That’s one rep. Again, look at the other post for more details. Try to get 8-10 reps, 3 sets. 

7. Finally, we end with deadlifts. This is basically a squat, but you start at the bottom position. Keep your back straight and form pristine. 8-12 reps, 3 sets. 

And there you have it. Afterwards, we were pretty exhausted, but we did bouldering for 25 minutes anyways, making our forearms scream. You just need to push yourself to your potential, you can make something great out of any workout. And you didn’t need any machines for this great leg workout! Remember, this workout does not take long. Again, let us know if you have ANY questions, we would really love to help out.

Cheers!

How We Are Going to Get Back in Shape (and you can too)!

So after figuring out our job situation, for the most part, we finally decided that it was financially reasonable and responsible to sign up for a gym membership. Ideally, as a personal trainer and a swim instructor, it’s a common perk of the job to (depending on where you work) get a free membership. As I work at a small scuba diving and swimming school, there is no fitness facility other than the pool, unlike the YMCA that I worked at before moving. Alana has a free membership to the YMCA that she works at but as it is over fifteen miles from home, it’s not worth me getting a membership, so she has that. As I look for another job for some extra hours on the extended weekends, it would be great to find a place with a lap pool where I can start some swim workouts, but until then it’s going to have to wait.

Looking around Boulder of all places, and trying to maintain a budget, we passed up on what seemed the logical choice in 24 Hour Fitness and joined the Boulder Rock Club. 24 Hour Fitness is not the kind of gym that I like to work out at because I am against that chain-feeling in general. At this location, I really got that feeling and, unless I am travelling and need a week pass to a place with everything, I don’t feel any sense of attachment to a place like that where it seems members are more so a person that is counted as they walk through the door. Again, since we’re in Boulder, we wanted to start climbing, but we also wanted a location with a general gym feeling… a locker room, a fitness center, weights, machines, etc. At a reasonable monthly rate for all these services, we took a chance with the BRC. Obviously I sacrificed a pool for the time being seeing as I am still very much so in a second job hunt.

So, having signed up two days ago we made our first trip yesterday. Time to try to get back into shape. Now, to go a little bit more in depth, there were some other factors that made us decide on the BRC. This location was a bit of a premature impulse decision but, in theory, we have no regrets because one of the best ways for individuals like us who are out of shape, but were once in shape not too too long ago, is easing back into things. We were athletes and we have ton of injuries that have healed and some that haven’t healed.

Joining a climbing club, and this location particularly, motivates us to do more body weight exercises and start to re-develop what really matters: joint strength and the like. You can have the biggest strongest muscles with amazing muscular endurance, but that doesn’t matter if your joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and everything else supporting and interacting with your muscle systems are not prepared to handle the routines that you put yourself through. I know from experience. So we took yesterday at a snail’s pace as an opportunity to ease back in and make sure nothing was acting up before we start to kick it into higher gears.

Here’s our workout, then we’ll talk some more.

At 8:40 a.m. with an empty stomach I applied some Tiger Balm Muscle Rub to my shoulders, upper back, lower back, and neck.

Then we went through about a 30 minute bouldering session at a relatively light pace, doing novice level routes, and earning massive forearm and hand pumps in the process.

Next we moved to the weight room, which is modest, and went through a short and VERY modest shoulder routine. (I have a superior lesion from anterior to posterior in my left labrum so this is always a cautious day, especially first day back.)

1. Standing Resistance Band Rear Deltoid Flies: 3 sets with a fitting band, 15-20 reps a set

2. Standing Lateral Dumbbell Flies: 3 sets with 15 lb weights, 10-12 reps per set

3. Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets, ascending weight from 35-45 lbs, 8-12 reps

4. Olympic Bar Shrugs: 3 sets, ascending weight from 95-115 lbs, 16-18 reps

5. Roman Chair Dips: 3 sets, body weight, 6 reps

6. Back Extension Apparatus, 3 sets, body weight, 10 reps

Now obviously, this was more or less our workout. We had to keep it short because we had to get to work and because we wanted to ease back into a fitness routine, and this was very much so easing. We hit most of our major and minor muscle groups in our shoulders, namely neglecting our front delts, scaptions, and rotator cuffs, which I rarely miss. It was not a tough workout because our warm up was not complete so I did not want to risk anything. I always warm up my shoulders before an upper body workout, especially shoulders, in order to prevent injury.

Also, we always try to incorporate some core-specific exercise into every workout, even on isolation days. Here is was the back extensions, because my lower back is very weak right now. The Tiger Balm also acts as a sort of warm up although it’s not meant to be a replacement. Why didn’t we isolate back, chest, arms, or legs first? Because I need to make sure my shoulder can withstand a workout before moving to another body part. It is extremely difficult to properly workout any body part when something is not working properly. Your muscles work tandem with one another. If something is out of whack, your whole body will be screwed up.  When I further ripped the tear in my labrum, my squat numbers plummeted because I was no longer able to balance the bar with one shoulder. So that is why we started with shoulders.

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

Weight training, brah

Now that it more or less passed the test we are prepared to hit the other body parts, and once they are all conditioned well enough we will begin complex circuit training routines. So my path I am hoping to follow, if all resources are in place, and always injury pending:

1. Mix isolated muscle group workouts with light bouldering and climbing

2. Increase weight and rep range within isolated muscle workouts

3. Increase duration of isolated muscle workouts

4. Begin to build cardio vascular capacity through cardio based workouts (run and bike)

5. Add cardio to muscle workouts through super sets

6. Begin full body circuit training 

The ideal workout week: ( I never allow for enough rest)

  • Isolated muscle workouts every/every other day, i.e. chest and triceps/back and biceps/lower body/shoulders and forearms
  • Full body circuit training, i.e. Spartacus workout version 1, three times a week
  • Bouldering and climbing every day in the gym, with these workouts
  • Cardio-based workouts (bike and run) three times a week

So that might look like: (in no particular order for each day)

Monday: Chest and triceps in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Tuesday: Back and biceps in the gym, 20 mile stationary bike ride, top-rope

Wednesday: Lower body in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Thursday: Shoulder and forearms in the gym, 3 mile treadmill run (probably not), top-rope

Friday: Core in the gym, basketball in the park

Saturday: back to the start…

I am never good at following those and I kind of ran through that but more or less we will want to start incorporating everything, easing back into our routines while adapting to our new lifestyle and workout resources. In terms of sleep, I try to get seven a night, and I take my vitamins and minerals and try to eat healthy, lots of fish… and dairy. I try to load carbs in the morning and taper off throughout the day, having a protein filled meal at night. I won’t include the scientific explanation for that process unless it’s requested.

But seriously, feel free to ask any questions about our workout or nutritional plan, and PLEASE feel free to ask for some help finding a way for you to get back into shape. Give us your background, resources, and goals and we can make it work. I love helping people achieve fitness goals.

Email us at alana.ppowell@gmail.com

Eating Kale: Fear the Bitterness No Longer

Most people turn up their noses when it comes to kale (unless it’s kale chips, which are great), including Chris and my dad. I don’t blame them, really, it is a pretty bitter vegetable if you don’t cook it right. It’s a very dark green green, and, if you have experience cooking (or…eating), you know that dark greens can often be a bit bitter. But, kale was on sale at the grocery, and I had never really cooked it before, so I picked up a HUGE bunch (it actually took 5 minutes and two of us to get it into the bag).

Kale

Kale, still planted

It sat in the fridge for a few days as I was unsure what to do with it, and I knew Chris was even more unsure and not looking forward to it. Then, one day for dinner, I got out the kale. I was on a mission. This was going to be cooked and it was going to LIKE IT! My planned dish was pasta with kale.

Spoiler: It turned out great.

So, let me share with you how to easily make your kale taste great. Encourage your family members and friends to come out of hiding when they hear the word ‘kale’ with a great way of cooking them. I learned a few tips from this article here.

Directions:

  1. Wash your kale
  2. Cut the stems off
  3. Fold your kale in halves or thirds
  4. Shove them (I literally pushed them down) into a pot that they barely fit in
  5. Fill that pot 1/3 up with water
  6. Bring water to a boil
  7. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring
  8. Drain the kale
  9. Pour cold water over it until it’s cool enough to handle
  10. Get those leaves right back into a pot or pan; at this point, it’s up to you, get creative, cook with spices you enjoy (I cooked it with oil and lemon juice, lots of garlic, salt, pepper, and basil)

And serve! You really want to get some flavors in on that last step, so don’t be afraid to go wild. It tasted wonderful and went beautifully with the oil-and garlic pasta I made for the ‘main dish.’ Try it out. I promise it’s not awful. And remember, the trick is to BOIL IT. This is what gets the darn bitterness out that turn so many people away.

(picture stole from here, I sadly didn’t take any pictures that night)

Core vs. Abs: the Smackdown

Many people are obsessed with doing abs. What they don’t know is that they should be obsessed with doing core instead. So what’s the difference?!

Abs” refer to a part on your torso. The rectus abdominus and the obliques are what are targeted when people say “abs.” Sometimes, it doesn’t even include the obliques.

Ignore the body shape on the bottom, I know he’s scary. 

So…then, what is core?

I’ll leave it to Chris to rant now.

So basically, we can look at this conceptually, as what we’ll refer to as our “abs” and then our “core.” For abs, I am referring strictly to the upper abs, lower abs, and we’ll say side abs, or–more fittingly–obliques. Then we have our core, which is much more important, and we’re going to include everything in our “mid-section” that acts as important stabilizers for strength and balance in either strength-training sessions or fully-interactive sporting sessions. So let’s break down the abs first.

Basically, as we already mentioned, we will look at and focus our workouts to our upper and lower abs and our obliques. Now, there are two major ways to workout abs when we focus a workout on them. First, is what I would think as the more common method, doing as many repetitions of as many abs exercises as we can find in magazines and online. Let’s do 3000 reps, 30 reps of 10 different exercises ten times over in an hour. I hear that one a lot, and I’ve done it a lot. 9000 reps on serious days. Will this work and will you feel it the next day? Sure, you probably will. But you could also feel some serious pain in your lower back or have a bruised tailbone if you don’t make sure that you are spot on with form and focus for thousands of reps, which is not an easy task. While you don’t need weight to train and break down those muscle fibers, it does help in its own ways. And while this is a great endurance workout that can really get your heart rate jumping, there is another way of working out those abs.

The alternative I speak of is strength training your abs. Abs are a muscle group, just like biceps, quads, lats, etc… so of course you can train them with a little extra resistance. I am not offering workouts here, just stating how I feel on this matter, but I would still keep rep ranges relatively high, over that 15-18 rep mark, going still towards 25-30 reps per set. So please, don’t take this as a suggestion to max out on an ab exercises. If I had to choose one exercise for each of our three ab groups, to do 25-30 reps while increasing my weight each set for three total sets, it would be: a kneeling cable crunch for upper abs, a weighted reverse crunch with our legs in a declined position for our lower abs, and an inverted weighted twist for our obliques.

Don’t yell at me if you do these wrong and they don’t work because I’m not putting my actual workout up for another few weeks when I’m a little more back in shape. (FYI, your obliques are a muscle group that tapers from the side of your body towards your hip area, and if you were to “bulk” these up through strength training there is a great chance that your waist size would increase, making you look thicker, just a side note) But I wouldn’t leave it as this, because I personally don’t ever do abs… EVER… I always do core, and this is why:

As a former athlete that works out not to feel good, or for appearance, but for performance, I know the importance of maintaining a strong core. I consider my core anywhere under my chest down through the upper leg. So to be in more detail, muscle groups that I hit when I do a core workout include: upper abs, lower abs, obliques, lower back, hip adductors, hip abductors, and even upper glutes. While I will isolate these muscle groups with free weights, and unfortunately on some machines (mainly for hips) , I always try to incorporate them on some heavier and more complex exercises.

For instance, when I do firemen carries with friends, it is a leg workout picking them up waking with their weight, and it is a shoulder workout holding them in place, but it is also a GREAT core workout trying to keep all those muscles in your abs and lower back tight to stabilize your body throughout the workout and prevent any injuries and accidents. Deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, and squats really require you keep that core tight and that form precise in order to target your muscles properly. Most hanging core exercises require that you do not swing so that your core finds that stable position, making you constantly work harder.

Stronger core means stronger everything else.

Someone could have a massive set of legs, but when they put that loaded bar on their back and try to squat 600 lbs, their lower back might want to snap causing them to lean to far forward and not only fail to complete a rep, but also potentially and likely hurt themselves. Watch the crossfit fails video on YouTube and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Crossfit will be a serious rant post, and total immersion swimming, but back on track.

And remember, my favorite way to work out core is integrate it into something FUN, like sports. Rock climbing, swimming, soccer, frisbee, football, baseball… really any sport at any competitive (meaning people are actually trying) level is an amazing core workout, and you don’t even have to count reps, because it’s so integrated in what you’re doing. One of the recommended doctors that contributes to Men’s Health in some issue over the past few years said his favorite lower back workout was pickup soccer (we’re in the US :/). Strengthen that core!!! Abs will come naturally if you do.

And finally, since this is all over the place, and I think I hit most the points I wanted to… if you’re trying to go from not having any visual abs in a pack to a certain goal like a six-pack you need to consider everything. In no particular order…

  • Build the muscles through strength training so that they are there and defined, wanting to be seen. 
  • Cut the fat covering those nicely defined muscles through PROPER NUTRITION (SO IMPORTANT!) and fat burning exercises (CARDIO TO THE NEXT LEVEL) so that you can see those nicely defined muscles that you built through strength training.
  1.                   a. Proper nutrition means stop eating garbage. I’m not asking you do some silly diet like cut carbs completely. Just eat  healthy, and if you don’t know what that means, then ask.
  2.                   b. Fat burning exercises doesn’t just mean putting on three sweaters and hitting the elliptical. Sweat all you want, a lot will just be water weight. Seriously, get a trainer or join a class where someone can observe you if you have any health concerns and go to a point where you want to throw up. But do not be reckless, always stay in control. It’s all about confidence.

Do what you need to do in order to strengthen that core and look and feel how you want.