Sunday, 30 June 2013

What I think of the Nike Training Club App

The moment I heard about the NTC app, I got really excited. I was eager to switch up my workouts at the gym, adding more High Intensity Cardio intervals and some new ideas for core and weight work.

Generally you don't need any fancy equipment. Mostly, you'll need some sort of weight (dumbells, medicine ball), sometimes a mat to lie down on, and enough space to jump around, lunge and do pushups. I have no weights at home, so I used a juice bottle. Apple Mango got SO lifted.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the sequencing of the standard routines.

Here are the home screens:

My translation of the 4 categories:
Get Lean = "Omg that was only 15 seconds? Ican'tbreatheIcan'tbreatheIcan'tbreathe"
Get Toned = "Am I doing this deadlift right? I don't feel anything."
Get Strong = "Oh gawds THE BURN, give me some cardio I can't do this anymore!"

Each category has 3 levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Steven and I tried the "Get Focused" Ab Burner workout first. As a "Focused" workout, it does not have levels; you just plunge in and do it. Unfortunately, both Steven and I got pretty bored quickly. Once we realized that the workout is just 3 repeats of the same sequence, we stopped the workout and continued our regular P90X-inspired core workout, which has more variety and challenge. There is only one core-focused workout pre-loaded in the app, though there are other bonus core workouts you have to download.

Despite a bad first workout, I was determined to try the others before giving my verdict.

The workouts in the other 3 sections (Lean, Toned and Strong) are very good. They are challenging with diverse movements and plenty of cardio bursts (like high knees, tuck jumps, ski jumps, etc.) that work into a full range of motion. I was plenty sore after all of my NTC workouts, even if I only completed 20 or 15 minutes of them ---> I think this has more to do with my general suckiness at High Intensity Cardio though.

Here are a few things I'd like to see changed:

1) Better Warmups
Nearly all the warmups are silly things like jogging in place for 2 minutes, or straight leg lifts for 2 minutes. Do you realize HOW BORING it is to jog in one place it is?! Or Slide and Glide (which does nothing for me, frankly; I might as well stand around) for TWO minutes?! Please let me do ANYTHING else, or just skip this completely... which leads to #2...

2) Why can't I skip anything?
Usually, I'm already warmed up from a run or ab work before I start on the NTC workouts. However, there are only 2 buttons on this thing: Start and Stop (ok, there's a Pause as well). I'd like to see a Skip button please for activities I don't want to do. For instance, my most recent workout had a 2 minute recovery. By 30 seconds I was bored of standing around, I had caught my breath, and yet I couldn't do anything to speed up the damn app.

3) Shorter Workouts
All workouts are at minimum 30 minutes long. In some cases this is too long for my short attention span, or if Steven wants to leave the gym early or I'm low on energy that day. It gives me a stinking sense of failure when I see "Workout Incomplete" when I Stop the Workout. I wish there were shorter workouts where I could just get to the juicy bits and be done with it.

4)  My boyfriend won't do any of this with me
To be honest, a lot of the exercises are plyometric body weight exercises, and Steven won't have anything to do with them. Even the "Get Strong" series of workouts incorporates plenty High Intensity Cardio, which Steven is strongly against (even though he really shouldn't be....*ahem* IT'S GOOD FOR YOU BABY!). He wants weights and lifting and growling and grunting and chest-pounding... which I'm quite happy to do if it were offered.

Nike, please make an app that my boyfriend will do with me.

5) If I lock my phone, the app pauses
I'm not sure if I like or hate this feature. For instance, I can see that it's a great shortcut to pause the app and grab any equipment, like heavier weights, you might need for the next exercise. However, what if I want to stick my phone in my pocket while I'm lunging? I'm not just going to leave the screen active. Maybe this should be something each user can customize in a "settings" page, which is currently non-existent.

6) You want me to do a what?!
To get the most out of the quick intervals, you should be prepared to get familiar with the most common exercises before you start the app. For instance, I had no idea what single leg dead lifts were from the picture, so I needed to play the video before I could do the exercise. This means I basically have to pause the app, watch the video, and then restart once I knew what I was doing. Because I'm a left-right retard, I also had to play the '360 lunges' instructional video like 5 times before I caught on to the purpose of it. Now that I've done about 5 of the workouts, I'm finally comfortable moving from one exercise to the next without playing every single instruction video first (Don't worry, you will probably be better at this; heck, I didn't even know what a deadlift was when I started... still not sure I do).

Otherwise, the app is great for times you're stuck at home with nothing but soup cans or juice bottles as "weights". You will definitely get a sweaty workout, even if you only built juice-bottle strong muscles.

I'm looking forward to doing the additional "Bonus Workouts" named after famous athletes. So far, I've only done Kara Goucher's Pro Running Stretches, which I found terribly lacking. Hopefully, the other workouts are better.

Would I recommend the NTC app? 

Hell yes, I've already recommended it to a bunch of yoga friends! It's free, simple to learn, definitely gives good workout, and generally fulfills it's purpose. Like anything, it could use some improvements, but I'd like a higher IQ, and we can't get everything we want, can we?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Blogging from the phone

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my computer had been acting all screwy, flipping constantly between AC mode and battery mode when plugged in. When it decided to heal itself the day after, I believed it was just screwyness due to the Supermoon.

But the problem has come back. Calling the Asus Help Desk in Sydney just confirmed my fears--there is a deep wiring issue, possibly with the motherboard which is really the entire backbone of a computer. If it turns out that I need to replace the motherboard, I might as well buy myself a new computer or tablet completely.

So I have decided not to take my poor laptop to the doctor's office (aka the Asus shop), especially since we will be city hopping and then country hopping in a few weeks. I would be spending less and less time in front of it's luminescent glowing screen anyway.

That's why I'm taking this blog on the road. I'm sitting right now on a train taking me into the city, marvelling in the magic of technology, and blogging from my PHONE. Guys, I thought Instagram was cool...this blows my mind!

By the way here is a picture of my new pants I got on sale the other day! Skinny to the jeans, yo!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Rain, Oh, the Bloody Non-Stop Rain

The last few days here in Sydney have been pretty rainy. In fact, it's honest-to-goodness been raining for a full week, no breaks.

Unfortunately, it's not supposed to stop any time soon.

Rain has brought out the worst in me. On a good day, I spend most of my time squirreled away indoors, reading The Internet and watching too much TV. On days where it rains non-stop? All productivity grinds to a halt. Let me tell you, Steven's lucky I'm still showering (and I'm only doing so because it's the warmest place in the house! Humidity + no indoor heating = really cold house).

Yesterday, I fell to a new low.

I began watching Bachelor Pad 2012. That's right, I'm watching reality show RERUNS, and I'm hooked.

This morning, however, there was a break in the clouds.

Suddenly I got my mojo back! I was more active in these few hours of sunshine than in the past 5 days!

I took a homemade wrap down to Steven during his lunch hour.

We had some Starbucks until he had to go back to the office. Then, I went home, and decided I wasn't going to wait on my run this week. I had sunshine NOW, so I had better haul ass.

It was the muddiest run in my life.

That water was literally FLOWING down the steps, creating muddy puddles everywhere.

However, I don't think I've ever had so much fun on a run before. I was dodging puddles left and right, leaping, jumping, cross stepping like a pro. I loved the patches of sunshine and new green grass on lawns. I even loved the huge hills and massive downhills. I'm definitely going to miss these neighbourhood runs, especially those bush-walky / trail bits that are just so beautiful.

I'm lucky my Vibrams are lightweight, water-happy shoes because I got them soaked.

Post run, I did some stretching, drank about 3 glasses of juice, and showered. Does anyone know how to gracefully get out of sweaty, sticky work-out clothes without pulling a muscle? I need some sort of shoe horn for workout clothes.

My stats:
4.45 miles in 55:07
Average pace 12:22 min / mile

Monday, 24 June 2013

What a "Super" Moon Day!

As I'm sure you know, yesterday was the supermoon. And oh, WHAT a supermoon it was!

Here's what happened to me:

1. I know I wasn't "supposed" to practice yoga, but I did a short one (no drop backs) and It Was Wonderful! + 100 points

2. Went to the gym to run but couldn't shake the leaden feeling in my legs. - 30 points

3. Bought new skinny jeans that I actually fit into! + 20 points

4. Without a car, had to walk everywhere in the rain and had wet feet for part of the day. - 5 points

5. Tried to blog about my day, but my computer kept switching between Battery Mode/AC Mode in a frantic, epileptic episode. (And today, it is fine...There's Moon Days for ya!) - 80 points

6. Had delicious cake and watched stupid movies on TV. + 20 points

The score?

About a +50, which is absolutely mathematically correct (I majored in English; accurate math would only happen by chance on this blog).

But honestly, it wasn't too bad a moon day, as moon days go.

How was the supermoon for you?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Lost and Longest Run of the year

As of this week, Steven and I have lived here in North Sydney for 4 months. I've done countless runs around our neighbourhood, often venturing outside my regular run routes and discovering new parks. 

Still, my favourite run is my "same old same old" route. It is essentially a bush-walk / trail-run route that goes through Berry's Reserve, through Oyster's Bay, and a loop around Ball's Head Reserve. 

Yet, as I set out today to do this run, somehow my brain managed to turn itself "off" (as if it's ever "on"!) and....

I got lost, and somehow managed the longest run ever to record on my Garmin, which means it's the longest run I've done this year. HUZZAH! 

I've also discovered some new MEAN hills on this route, and I loved it! I went out feeling really strong and ran my energy all out. 

I'm probably not going to qualify for any crazy races with these speeds, but I'm definitely improving, both in speed and distance.

You can see where I got my water / walk break at Mile 3. The water fountain is at the bottom of a hill, which was scary to speed down; it's like at 90 degrees. I decided to walk back up for fear of killing my glutes / puking up all the water I just drank. 

Do you know that feeling of coming home, hot, sweaty, tired, thirsty, and taking that first gulp of icy cold Gatorade? Cue angels singing "Hallelujah"! I might have to seriously begin thinking about bringing water/gatorade on my runs with me; if only I didn't hate carrying things while I run.

After a sweet, hot shower, I got on my new Pro Compression socks. I got the extra smalls this time, and they still fit perfectly.

Lunch was an omlette with all the random odds and ends in the fridge (eggplant, tomatoes, haloumi cheese, and thai basil that I'll be using forever; why can't they sell smaller bunches of herbs?!).

Now I'm hankering for an afternoon snack of some sort, like a Chocolate Cake or cookie or something. I might go out for some later, but Lazy has got a tight grip on me right now, so I absolutely cannot leave the couch. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Tonight, I put on my chef's hat and made this recipe for Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

It's quite a labour-intensive process, so I won't be doing this again for a looonnnggg while. In all, it must've taken an hour to get the pizza in the oven.

It's a pretty righteous pizza though. We got eggplant, mushroom, red onion and semi-dried tomato action on this bad boy.

As you can tell, we over-did the cheese.

Anyway, you can read the link for the recipe and step-by-step process.

I didn't measure a thing because I'm a rebel like that. I used a medium-sized cauliflower, florets only, riced it up in a food processor, and put it in a pan over very low heat to cook.

Then, I put the cooked cauliflower in a tea towel to cool.

I was so surprised to see how much juice I squeezed out of it.

I added the almond meal, herbs, and an egg. I shaped it into a roundish pizza shape and put it in the oven to bake. About 20-some minutes later, I got this:

We topped it with jarred tomato sauce, cooked eggplant slices, cooked mushrooms, semi-dried marinated tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion.

You can't really expect it to have the texture of a pizza crust, so it wasn't bready or chewy. But it had a bit of crisp, crunch to it. It held up the toppings well, but we eventually used a knife and fork just because it got soggier and soggier the longer it was out of the oven.

This is a SUPER filling dinner, as the crust is packed with almonds and cauliflower.

I'm probably not going to attempt another cauliflower crust just because it was so labour-intensive, and not nearly delicious enough to justify it. Plus, it's kind of odd eating a pizza without the chewy, crispy, bready crust.

Have you ever made a cauliflower crust pizza?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

After 2 weeks without running hills, I got schooled

Since I've joined the gym, I've been enjoying the lower impact treadmill runs immensely. As such, I haven't pounded the neighbourhood pavement in a while. My legs have completely forgotten about the hills.. Oh, the hills...

Today, I took both Garmin and Run Keeper out for a bit of a comparison.

Garmin said this:

Run Keeper said this:

Garmin said:
3.50 miles in 40:12 minutes with an average pace of 11.29 minutes/mile

Run Keeper said:
3.42 miles in 38:55 minutes with an average pace of 11:23 minutes/mile

As you can see, there is really hardly any difference between the two, just the time it took for me to take my cell phone out of my pocket and stop Run Keeper while gasping like a asthmatic 90-year-old. So I'm pretty happy with using Run Keeper whenever Garmin's satellites cannot be found.

Run Keeper isn't good enough to make me put away my Garmin for good, however. Not only is Garmin lighter than my cell phone, but it's also less bulky. I track my runs on Garmin Connect, so switching to Run Keeper would be way too much work.

After my run, I put on my new Nike Training Club app and attempted the Kickin' It 30 minute workout with the morning news in the background.

 I think I made it to 20 minutes, and then I couldn't take any more burn in my thighs.

 Now I'm just chillin' in front of our beloved space heater.

Sydney doesn't get cold enough for central heating, so we have this little space heater. You can stand in front of it and watch your skin blister, or step out of it's heat ray and freeze. As a compromise, I have it mostly facing away from me, and I'll walk in front of it every once in a while.

What are your plans for the day?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

"Why Women Should Not Run" - Dude Unleashed Hordes of Angry Runners on Himself

If you haven't checked out the article, "Why Women Should Not Run", you should!

But before you delve in, be aware:

- the science is still inconclusive (as with many exercise-related things)
- the citations are dog-poop-relevant (and THAT'S a scientific term!)
- the anecdotal evidence is, in my opinion, unrealistic (Who has time to run 20+ hrs a week?! GAH!!)

My favourite part is reading the hundreds of angry comments from runners, most of whom don't run for fat loss, but for enjoyment, fitness, or for the sheer challenge of it.

And because I can, here are a few personal thoughts on the claims the article makes...

1) The article says weight lifting and HIIT is healthier than long distance running.
One of the things I love best about running is that anyone can do it. It doesn't require money, equipment (unless you want these) or expertise. All you need is a pair of shoes and the outdoors. The only competitor is yourself. The only person judging is yourself. Articles like this insist that I must join a gym ($$) and perform in front of a bunch of strong-looking, intimidating people with heavy objects (I prefer to suck at exercise without people watching me). Or, I must do Tabatas or sprints until the burn makes me cry. I don't like either option.

2) The article claims that running will suppress my thyroid.
But thyroid hormones depend on so many things, like general stress levels, lifestyle, and genetics. Sure excessive exercise MIGHT suppress my thyroid, but everyone's threshold for thyroid suppression is different: where you might be able to run 100 000 miles without thyroid suppression, others can only run one. Until I reach MY threshold for excessive exercise leading to thyroid suppression, why can't I run again?

3) Running will make me fat.
If I even believed that claim, why is fat bad? People come in all shapes and sizes. As long as you are healthy, able and fit, why does it matter how much fat you carry? Plus I need my fat to keep me warm, have boobs and make babies, all of which is more important than being super skinny.

OK, I'm done. End Rant.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Long Australian Weekend: The Queen's Birthday!

Down here, under the equator, the Queen's Birthday is celebrated the second Monday of June. That means it's a long weekend for us working folk!

Steven and I had planned to go to the Blue Mountains to do some sight seeing and tourist-ing, but Lazy, Cheap, and Car-less struck us hard. So, we stayed home.

We did all my favourite things:


Stretch (ouch):

Eat Japanese Tofu Donburi:

Eat Chimney Cakes from Kurtosh:

Eat pies from Pie Face:

Yes, there was a lot more eating than exercising, and that's the way we like it!

Now, I'm downloading Nike Training Club app so that Steven and I have something to play with the next time we hit the gym. From what I can tell, it looks like a good idea, but the initial download also took like 20 web-minutes (which is really like 3 real minutes), so I've already lost half my interest. There are bonus workouts named after (or created by) famous athletes, like the Kara Goucher Pro Running Stretches that you have to download individually.

By the way, the Kara Goucher Pro Running Stretches workout is EXTREMELY basic. It covers the major areas I always do after a run: low lunge (hip flexor), triangle (outer hip, glute, inner thigh), and IT band (twist with straight leg - she does it supine while I usually do revolved triangle). But it's missing a whole lot of other stuff, like your feet, ankles, calves, quads, piriformis, spine.... yep, the entire spine.... I don't think they did one twist....

Maybe I'll do my own post-run yoga/stretch routine to show you guys... What say you, Interwebs?

Anyway, I'll write a bigger update on what Steven and I think of the Nike Training Club app soon!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Garmin failed me, but I took my run into Unexplored Territory!

It was hard to get started today.

I wheedled and whined, caw-caw-ed and barked (even maybe howled), but I finally got off my butt and went for a run.

At 1:30 PM, I set my Garmin to find my location (like it hasn't found it a bazillion times before).

Apparently, cloudy days makes Garmin sad and confused.

By 1:46, I had decided that Garmin could suck it, downloaded and installed Runkeeper, and was on my way.

I decided to take a new route. Now that I had my phone with me, I wouldn't worry too much about getting lost. I came across a beautiful church.

As I ran along, Runkeeper kept speaking at me in her sweet dulcet tones: "10 minutes, 1.29 miles, average pace blah blah blah"... It was nice to know my stats as I went along!

It also had a nice camera shortcut inside the Runkeeper app, so I didn't have to close Runkeeper to take a picture.

I ran two loops around St Leonard's park, which was full of school kids doing some sort of activity/ athletic competition day.

Runkeeper uses Google maps, which is nice and accurate. (found GPS signals quite quickly, too!)

This is what the screen looks like on my Sony Xperia phone (which really isn't the best smart phone on the market today, but good enough for its price).

I did a total of 3.13 miles in 35:44.

By the time I got home, Garmin was sitting by the window like he was in Time Out for being naughty. But when I turned him around to look at his face, he simply showed the time and date as if nothing had if I hadn't asked him to find some if he hadn't failed me...

Anyway, I think I'll keep Runkeeper around for those cloudy days when Garmin is being a dunce.

Do you use Runkeeper? Do you run with a GPS watch or your phone?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Look at me! I'm like healthy and everything now!

I had an early start to the day this morning as I signed up for the next few weeks to teach a 7 AM led Ashtanga. It's a serious RUSH, as we only have 50 minutes to get through as much of primary as we can. I was so surprised to hear that the previous teacher had done full vinyasa, which I was enthused about, and fully support. No better way to build strength than vinyasa-ing until you can't feel your arms. 

After my class went off to their regular jobs like proper adults, I lit some candles and did my own Ashtanga practice. I have very, very much missed doing yoga on a hardwood floor without a bed or bedmate in the way. 

By the time I got home, I got hit with the nap bug again. This time, I was out for about 2 hours before I woke up with the, "WTF happened" feeling. 

Naturally, I went on the internet to read through my blogs and generally waste my time. 

That's when I came across this

I've been meaning to make better use of the 180nutrition protein powder I purchased nearly a month ago. I use it in my cereal in the mornings, but I would love to have more of it during the day. 

So I dug around in the kitchen for some sort of blending machine that could grind up some almonds and dates.

I was SO delighted to find this hand-held food processor that I literally pranced out of the house IN MY PAJAMAS (proof above) to get to the store. 

Eleven dollars and a bit more prancing later, I came home to blitz up some protein balls. 

 This photo collage makes it look a lot easier than it really was. 

The hand-held food processor is actually quite small, and I had to shake and shimmy with that bad boy quite a bit to get the dates to blitz up. I also didn't use exact measurements, so I was doing a lot of tasting and guessing. Lastly, because I'm not rolling in the green, I had to swap out some of the more expensive ingredients for cheaper stuff, like Kraft peanut butter instead of almond butter, honey instead of stevia, and instead of coconut flakes.....nothing..... I also didn't have goji, but I imagine it would be fantastic in these. As would all those other ingredients I'm too broke to afford...

They needed to set in the fridge for a few hours, so I sat down to eat this afterwards: 

You're saying leftover roast potatoes and jarred pasta sauce isn't healthy?! Pshaw, it's like 2 servings of vegetables! 

Mmm! A really delicious dessert (even though it looks like mashed up poop). 

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Snowball Maker? Really?! Because you can't do it yourself?!

It rained nearly ALL WEEKEND. Guuh...

Still, Steven and I braved the wind and rain like little waterproof ninjas and went to the gym.

 By the time I changed out of my wet clothes and into gym clothes, I felt much better. Plus, my lululemon shorts match my new Crunch Fitness T-shirt!

I did a challenging treadmill run with lots of hills and some decent speed.

I'm looooovin' how the treadmill feels on my knees. I haven't had ANY knee pain in weeks, and it's MARVELOUS! Is this what it's like to be healthy?!!?

After the gym, Steven and I grabbed some lunch at the shopping centre nearby and hit up the sales at Rebel Sport, the big chain of sports equipment, shoes, and clothes. It's End Of Financial Year sales here---yes, End of Financial Year in June because for some reason their financial year ends in July.

I found this:


There were also snowball launchers which looked like giant water guns.

The only thing I have to say is, SERIOUSLY AUSTRALIA?! SERIOUSLY?! How lazy do you have to be to take away the joy of shaping snow in your hands into little killer ice bullets? And then launching them?! You won't even swing and aim with your arm, instead you'd rather use a SNOWBALL LAUNCHER?! C'MON!

Anyway, I got over my incredulity and continued shopping. I really wanted to pick up some new running/gym shirts and possibly a pair of shorts, but I couldn't find anything I really liked, or was cheap enough.

Isn't it disappointing to WANT to buy something but not find anything?

We went home and cooked a nice dinner.

I can't tell you how delicious this dinner is.

It's literally the easiest meal in the world:
Grilled veggies
Grilled Organic Haloumi
chopped parsley and balsamic vinegar

Those are some pretty tasty roasted potatoes next to it, but the real star is the yummy yummy fresh veggies.

What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, 1 June 2013

I joined a GYM!

Last night, Steven and I cashed in our savings, sold all our stuff, and sunk our money into our local gym.

Ok, that's not exactly how it happened.

It was more like, "Oh, it's only 71 dollars in total for the month, and I can bring Steven every single time, and I can cancel without penalty?"

"Let me just transfer some money to you and sign this little piece of paper. Thanks."

I am now a proud owner of this beepy tag thing that allows me to enter the Crunch premises.

It sounds weird, but I am looking forward to running on a treadmill on a weekly basis. Not only will it give my knees a break from the unavoidable downhills of North Sydney, but I can also zone out and listen to my beloved Radiolab podcasts without tripping over tree roots, run into poles, or get hit by a car.

Also, Crunch is like the largest gym in gym history (totally made that up), so there's plenty of space for Steven and I to amaze the crowds with our AcroYoga ninja-ness.

What gym have you joined, and why?