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Crock Pot Experiment

17 Jan

The other day my sister and I were brainstorming about what to cook for the week.  We had some frozen chicken breasts and originally planned to throw them into the crock pot with chicken stock, a little white wine, and some shredded zucchini.  But I then got the idea to use crushed tomatoes.  We didn’t want to buy them in a can so we bought fresh tomatoes along with a few other veggies and experimented with our own version of Chicken Cacciatore.  Turned out pretty good!  Next time I’ll add a little chicken stock & basil

[addendum: since the original writing of this post, I made the dish again… this time I added fresh basil, a chopped onion, as well as some frozen ground beef patties.  I omitted the olive oil but added some low-sodium chicken stock.    Still delicious!]

crock pot recipe


– 4 frozen chicken breasts

– 2 pkg. Campari tomatoes on the vine, crushed up by hand

– 1 & 1/2 bell peppers, chopped

– handful of mushrooms, chopped

– liberal amount of finely chopped fresh Cilantro

– 3 cloves of garlic, whole

– 5 caps full olive oil [yes I used the cap to the olive oil bottle as my means of measurement]

– liberal amount of Italian Spices, Garlic Pepper, Black Pepper

– 1 tsp sea salt

We set the crock pot on Low for 10hrs and cooked it overnight.  I’ve been shredding the chicken and putting into a bowl with a big helping of the sauce and heating it in the microwave.  Delicious on these cold nights!


Gym Etiquette: what to do & what NOT to do.

1 Jan

rules of the gym

I recently got a request from a Lucky13’er to write a blog post about gym etiquette.  I thought it was a great topic, and what better time to address something so important than the New Year.  January 1st brings the biggest influx of new members to the fitness world, full of ambition to fulfill their resolutions of getting fit.  Whether you are brand new or a seasoned vet at the gym, this post is for you.  My goal here today is to inform/remind folks of the often unspoken gym etiquette.  Read and heed!

The “DO NOT” list:

1) DO NOT sweat all over any type of equipment without properly and immediately cleaning it.

I am a firm believer that a GOOD workout means a SWEATY workout, so I’m definitely not telling you to refrain from sweating.  However, once you are done using a piece of equipment WIPE IT DOWN.  Be sure to use the cleaning solution and/or towels provided by the gym.  People hit the gym to get fit, not to get ringworm.  There shouldn’t be a trail of sweat behind you during your workout.

2) DO NOT sit on a piece of equipment while resting between sets.

Unless you are in a private training studio, you are likely sharing the equipment with many other patrons who want to get their workout done in a timely manner.  If you are doing multiple sets using one piece of equipment, do not occupy it while you rest.  Get up and allow others to use it while you’re not.  You can even let someone else know you’re planning on returning in a minute by saying something like “I have 2 more sets left but you’re welcome to work in with me”.

3) DO NOT drop or slam weights.

If you can not put the weight down properly, then don’t pick it up in the first place.  Trust me, nobody else appreciates or cares that you can drop heavy things repeatedly.  If you’re trying to gain strength, find a spotter to help you lift heavy.

4) DO NOT talk/text on your cell phone.

This coincides well with #2.  Do not, under any circumstances, take a rest between sets and strike up a conversation on your cell while occupying a piece of equipment.  This accomplishes one thing- establishing yourself as “THAT guy/girl” in the gym.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wants to “work in with you” on your sets after that.

5) DO NOT do what the guy/girl next to you is doing.

By this I mean, do not try to duplicate the exercises that people around you are performing.  This is for several reasons, the most important being your safety.  Not everyone in the gym knows what they’re doing; copying someone’s improper form can be a recipe for disaster.  Need another reason?  The person who you’re attempting to copy might be a very skilled & very fit.  So fit, in fact, that they could make a difficult exercise look easy as pie.  Incorrectly assuming you can do it just as well, only to pull/tear/break something is definitely not worth your while.

The Please DO list:

1) Please DO be courteous and respectful of those working out around you.

Let folks have their space and try not to cramp people’s style.  During peak hours, the gym can get very crowded but it makes all the difference when everyone is attempting to be respectful of other patrons.

2) Please DO oblige if someone else asks you to spot them and you can safely do so.

If the load is too heavy or you do not know how to correctly spot someone, now is NOT the time for trial and error.  Simply let the person know that you don’t think you can do it safely.  They will be happy you did.  If you CAN safely spot them, take  a second out of your own routine to do so.  Why? There’s this thing called karma…..

3) Please DO return all equipment to its proper “home” in the gym.

Pick up heavy things & put them back down…..but do so in the proper place.  There’s nothing worse than reaching for the 30lb dumbbells and instead finding 65lbs instead.  Re-rack all plates, barbels & dumbbells when you’ve finished using them.  Put away medicine balls, tubing, mats, jump ropes, etc. after your workout.  Take it from me- the gym staff will like you a LOT better if you do!

4) Please DO remember to clean up after yourself.

I realize I’ve mentioned cleanliness several times already, but I can not stress this enough.  The gym is not yours to sweat all over; it is a public, shared space that should be clean for all patrons.  Clean up your dripping sweat, put your sweat-soaked towels in the proper bins, and take all of your belongings home with you.

5) Please DO consult a certified trainer if you have questions about proper form.

Instead of watching those around you & trying to mimic their routines, ask a trainer your questions.  Yes, 99% of the time it will cost extra money, but paying for a safe and effective program is well worth it.

Anything is better than nothing

27 Dec

Hello Lucky13’ers!!  I hope you all are having a wonderful, joyous holiday time!!  I had a really nice Christmas with all my loved ones.  Birthday celebrations for my parents, Christmas Eve & Day gatherings, and lots of laughs.  It was great to indulge in the company of those I love, and take a breather from the hustle and bustle of every day life.  I let myself splurge and enjoy some champagne as well as homemade desserts.  I took Christmas Day off from working out but found myself busy doing lots of other things. 

Even though Christmas is over, the spirit of the holiday season is still very much alive: holiday parties, gatherings with family and friends, New Years celebrations, etc.  There’s not a moment of this week that’s not filled with one outing or another.  As much as I appreciate having the opportunity to do so much, I also get weary that I will not have enough time to keep up with my regular workout routine.  I workout for approximately 45-90 mins per day, 6 days a week.  It takes a lot of planning and discipline to fit my workout into my routine as it is; fitting it in during the holidays seems nearly impossible.  It seems that this seems to be an issue for most people, especially at the holidays. 

Instead of having an all-or-nothing attitude I have been trying to remind myself that when it comes to exercising during the hectic holidays, anything is better than nothing.   Maintaining the routine of exercise is more important during hectic times than the duration of the exercise.  For example, this morning I only had time for a short workout so I did 30 minutes on the ARC trainer instead of my usual 45-60 minutes.  I could’ve easily rationalized that 30 minutes wasn’t worth it and scrapped the workout altogether, but I reminded myself that 30 minutes is WAY better than zero minutes and I went hard!  I got a pretty good sweatfest in that 30 minutes & felt much better at the end of my workout.  Not just physically but mentally as well; I knew I would’ve mentally felt awful if I’d skipped it.  I may not have done what I usually do but I maintained my routine of exercise and started the day off on the right foot.

I know there will be other similar situations before the holiday season comes to an end, and I will try to remind myself that anything is better than nothing.  I encourage you to do the same: keep up the routine, do as much as you have time for, and maintain as best you can!

MONSTER Monday, Music, & Makeover

13 Dec

Howdy Everyone!  I have 3 topics I’d like to cover today!

exercise music

***1)*** First things first… I had a fabulous MONSTER Monday workout yesterday!  It was a solo workout but what I lacked in motivation from my workout pal, I made up for in some kick-ass tunes!!! (more about this below)  My workout consisted of the following:

Dynamic warmup & 20 mins on ARC trainer to start

– 20 box jumps

– 55lb overhead barbell carry

– Reverse lunges on Airex pad carrying 25lbs  x12/leg

– Bent over rows using 25lb plates  x10

– Single arm chest press using 25lb DB  x10/side

– Rotational chops w/tubing  x10/side

I originally was going for 5 rounds, but decided to give it a little extra push and did 6 rounds.  All in all, it took me a little over an hour.  My heart rate monitor clocked me burning around 1,000 calories.  I use that as a ballpark estimate [it’s never 100% accurate], but regardless of what it said I KNOW I got a kick-ass workout!  It felt great to start the week off on a positive note!!



exercise motivation

***2)*** As I mentioned above, I had a FABULOUS music selection for my workout yesterday.  And it absolutely made all the difference.  I got the new Mary J Blige “My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1)” CD and there are some songs with GREAT beats.  My favorite 2 tracks are Feel Inside feat. NAS & a remake of an oldie but goodie, Ain’t Nobody.  I put the CD on in the car on my way to the gym, and with each beat of the bass I got more and more pumped up.  It reminded me just how important good music is when I work out. 

When your energy is lacking & you just don’t feel like truckin’ it to the gym to work out, put on your favorite jam and let the music move you!  It is always just a bit easier to work out when you’ve got a good soundtrack.  You will push yourself to work faster, harder & stronger.  So if you’ve been working with the same ol’ stale playlist, go download some new tunes and SWEAT!!!!


***3)***  I have developed a new initiative for Lucky13’ers called “Monday Makeover”.  This is not a makeover in the traditional sense, but a “Makeover” of one small & achievable goal toward being the BEST version of you!  The Monday Makeover goal can be on any topic: fitness, nutrition, health, finances, friendships, etc. 

 I have always considered Monday to be the beginning of a fresh start and clean slate.  It is a new opportunity for improvement and reaching goals.  Last week I decided to start my week with a small yet important goal.  Beginning on Monday, I aimed to get to bed earlier and sleep for 7.5-8hrs per night.  It took a lot of planning, but I did it!  This week, I incorporated a new goal: drink 1 gallon of water each day.  So far, so good.  Next week, it’ll be something else small yet achievable.  Each week building upon the previous week.  At the end of a month, I’ll have made 4 positive, healthy changes.  Over time, this can add up to some serious transformation!  The key is to keep the goals achievable & sustainable [refer to SMART goals picture above].

I encourage each of you to bring positive and healthy change to your lives by starting Monday Makeover!  Start thinking of goals of your own, and prepare yourself.  And when next Monday comes, BRING IT!!!   Share your goal with a friend, workout pal, or on the Lucky13Fitness Facebook page.  Having the support of others will encourage you even more & hold you accountable!


You Are What You Eat

7 Dec

You are what you eat.

What was the last thing you ate?  Did it come in a package of some sort? If so, read the ingredient list.  What’s on there?  Are they words that you can pronounce?  Words that you recognize and understand?  Or do you see long, complicated words that you can neither pronounce nor define?  Does the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle or cleaning agent look similar to that of your latest snack?  If so, what does that mean for your body and health?  If the food and drink you ingest has an ingredient list composed primarily of chemicals, additives and preservatives, what does that mean for your body???

unprocessed natural food

 When you eat and swallow food/drink, your body immediately goes to work breaking it down, digesting, extracting nutrients and sending them to the proper places.  Then it gets rid of what’s left over.  All of the nutrients your body needs to function are derived from the food (fuel) you put into it.  The quality of the food you put in directly affects the quality of your body’s makeup.  Put in clean, whole, natural, REAL foods and you will find that your skin and hair look healthier, you have more energy, you feel less weighed down and bloated.  Your body is running efficiently because you’re fueling it with foods as close to their natural state as possible.  Your body is easily able to digest, and extract vitamins, minerals, nutrients and energy naturally existing in the foods.  But put in processed, preservative-laden food and you are forcing your body to try to function using chemicals and manufactured flavors.  Not gonna happen. Not very well, anyway.  Chances are, you will feel constantly tired, sluggish, bloated and even hungry.  In addition, your hair and skin won’t have a healthy glow.  I’d also bet your cholesterol, blood pressure and body fat percentage would register at unhealthy levels.
 Organic fruits and veggies, nuts & seeds, organic meats, eggs, and dairy; unaltered, unprocessed and unmodified, these are the best sources of fuel you can put in your body.  Alternately, Kit Kat’s, Pringles, Low Fat Veggie Chips, Chex Mix, Diet Coke and Chicken Flavored Ramen Noodles are NOT.  Eating a McDonald’s hamburger and fries for dinner is not the same as having a baked potato with grass-fed, organic beef.  Rice-A-Roni is NOT equivalent to brown rice.  And sliced peaches in syrup are not comparable to a fresh peach.  Why? Just look at the ingredient list; the box equivalent of the REAL food hardly compares.  The processed versions will have preservatives, artificial flavors and coloring (made of chemicals), and loads of other things that can be damaging to your body.  Some of them may not even contain ANY of the items in the title on the package!  The REAL foods, on the other hand, hardly come in packages and don’t even need an ingredient list!
The examples are endless but it all boils down to the same thing.  What you choose to eat and drink matters.  The food and drink you put in your mouth is the only thing your body is able to use to function.  It can not miraculously change chemicals into vitamins and additives into minerals.  If you put in junk, you will get junk in return.  If you put in top-notch food and drink, expect to be feeling better than ever before.  The slogan is simple, and so is the message.  So, next time you’re about to eat or drink something, think twice about what you are actually about to feed your body.  After all, you are what you eat. 


Mediocre MONSTER Monday

29 Nov

I’m back!! It sure has been a while, huh?  I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus due to my recent vacation to Las Vegas [AWESOME trip…I had a fantastic time] & the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Truth be told, blogging wasn’t the only thing from which I took a week-long break; I didn’t do any formal “in the gym” exercise AND I deviated from my normal clean, natural, organic food intake.  Basically, aside from one yoga class at the Bellagio & lots of walking in Vegas, I took a complete “vacation” from my normal way of living.  It was…..interesting.

The first day I found it very difficult to break away from my normal eating habits and workout routine.  My body craved salad, grilled chicken, water, and a challenging workout.  But after a day or two, I was alright with having a less-than-ideal meal, a few cocktails, and a 2 mile walk workout.  Throughout my vacation and long Thanksgiving weekend, I was well aware that I was taking an extended leave of absence from my normal daily routine; in fact, I can not recall the last time I went more than a few days without exercise.  I was glad that I took a few days to relax and let myself indulge and enjoy while on vacation, but having that directly segue into Thanksgiving was a little excessive.  By Sunday evening, my body was begging for exercise.  I was SOOOO excited to get back into my routine & kick it off with a MONSTER Monday workout. 

I knew my workout pal wasn’t going to be able to make it, but I thought I’d power through and do one of our Crossfit Inspired crazy workouts.  I don’t know what planet I thought I was from, because I half expected myself to be performing with the same level of intensity as before my vacation.  Boy was I WRONG!!!!  Here’s what I mapped out for myself

5 Deadlift/Pushup combo (95lbs)

5 Pullups

20 Box Jumps

25 BOSU Ball crunchs

10 Burpees

5 rounds for time.

The first round was okay but I started to feel fatigued pretty quickly after that.  I definitely didn’t have the endurance I had before my vacation.  I powered through as best I could, recording an unimpressive 38min 17sec time.   I attribute this mostly to my lack of exercise and less-than-ideal eating habits, but also to the fact that I did this MONSTER Monday workout alone.  Having a workout pal there next to me, cheering me on & toughing it out right alongside me TOTALLY helps.  I sure as hell missed her on Monday!  When I was done with my circuit I finished up the workout with 30 minutes of hill intervals on the ARC trainer.  I managed to get in a good sweat & a mediocre workout; I was just happy to be back in the swing of things!

If nothing else, this Mediocre MONSTER Monday workout reminded me that while a few days off & a little indulgence every once in a while is much-needed, too much is just that- TOO MUCH.  Next time, I’ll definitely be incorporating more activity into my vacation and will plan it so that it does not come immediately before or after a major holiday.

How about you? Did you deviate from the norm this Thanksgiving? Did you get back on track??

the moral of this MONSTER Monday mishap

16 Nov

Yesterday’s MONSTER Monday workout started off much like any other.  My lifting pal and I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and do our workout in the park.  We did a bit of TRX, some body weight training, tossed a football and included some hill sprints; it was all so far, so good.  Next, my lifting pal suggested, we would run up the stairs and at the landing do a lateral shuffle and chest pass back and forth with a soccer ball, then continue running up the stairs to the top.  Same story on the way down.  Going to the top was just grand, however on the way back down I managed to step into a deep sinkhole as I caught the ball on the last chest pass.  As is the case with most falls/injuries, I could see it happening all in slow motion and the thought going through my head was “Oh S***!!! I am going to smash my face into these stairs!!!”  Without even thinking about what to do, my body automatically reacted; I let the ball go and somehow managed to put my arms out to catch my fall, my face landing a mere 3 inches away from the cold concrete steps.  It was SCARY.

monster monday mishap

Ok Here’s a glimpse at the damage.  [I opted to include a link to another post, rather than just put a big ol’ picture of my bloody leg up here, just in case anyone gets queasy easily! 🙂 ]

After checking to make sure I was okay, my lifting pal (and I) burst into a roar of laughter.  Together we sat on the stairs for well over a few minutes laughing like a couple of hyenas.  She gave me her best reenactment of what she saw in slow motion, and I recounted mine.  We both could not believe that in the split second of my misstep, I managed to catch myself from totally falling and getting VERY hurt.

Here’s where the moral of MONSTER Monday comes in….We decided that it was thanks to lots of functional training that I was able to do so.

[Functional Training, in one description, is “Multi-joint, multi-planar, proprioceptively-enriched activity that involves deceleration (force reduction), acceleration (force production) and stabilization; controlled amounts of instability; and management of gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum.”  

In plain English, “Functional training involves movements that are specific — in terms of mechanics, coordination and/or energetics — to one’s activities of daily living (ADLs).]  **source**

I have read myriad articles outlining and explaining in detail the many benefits of functional training.  I have heard well-known and respected fitness professionals advocate for this modality of training over others because of its benefits in everyday life.  I, myself, have explained to clients how and why functional training is superior to many other modalities.  Training in planes of motion & training the body to work in a cohesive manner through movement patterns simulates real life actions.  In other words, training the upper body, lower body, and core to work in unison while IN the gym will automatically improve mobility outside the gym, doing everyday things.  In addition, working in this fashion is more efficient and effective in terms of reaching fitness goals.  Conversely, training a single muscle in isolation while the rest of the body is immobilized is not realistic in nature [think using a bicep curl or leg extension machine].  It is also a much less efficient way of working out, given the goals of most individuals.  Some people buy my explanation, and others don’t.  Bottom line, without functional training, I probably would’ve ended up with a broken nose, some missing teeth, or worse.  I was quite happy to walk away from the “scene of the crime” on my own two feet with a few cuts and scrapes.

I now have a new (and favorite, #1) reason in support of functional training: IT LITERALLY SAVES FACE!