The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way

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The Business of Fitness

I think it will always be a struggle to promote fitness/nutrition without accusation of trying to take people’s money. There are plenty of “specialists” out there who have put their names on books and products that promise quick fixes and other lies, making it hard to find a trustworthy and credible source of information about fitness. So when there is truthful information to be shared, how can the industry spread the word without being lumped in with all the other false information out there? And, how can you expect to be found if you don’t promote yourself? In the end, everything comes down to money, whether you’re a fitness magazine publisher or you own a gym. But can money be made without being manipulative?

This post sparked my thinking because until Reebok came along and attached a brand to it, I think Crossfit did a really good job of maintaining credibility while also promoting itself, at least in my experience. Crossfit studios allow anybody to come try a class for free and decide for themselves if it’s right for them. They don’t try to manipulate people into joining, but let the “product they sell” speak for itself. As a fitness enthusiast, I appreciate that.


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There’s an app for that

I was kind of late to the world of Smartphones, especially for a journalism major. But this May when I got an iPhone, I was quick to catch up. Immediately I dove into the world of apps, and after Facebook and Twitter, I naturally began searching for health and fitness apps.

After several months of experimenting and testing out several apps from all kinds of sources, it’s clear what fitness apps are my favorites.


FOR RUNNING: Nike+GPS is by far the coolest app for running. I really just wanted something to tell me how far I’ve run and also play my music. This app goes beyond that. It maps my route, alerts me my pace and time at every mile, and allows distance/time goal setting. A friendly voice quiets your music to announce your pace and, if you set a distance or time goal, the progress you’ve made and how far you have left to go. Also, if you sync the app with Facebook, the app automatically posts to your wall when you start a run, and when friends like or comment the post, you hear applause through your headphones as you run along. It never fails to put a smile on my face! And, at the completion of your run, the voice of a professional athlete lets you know if you set a new personal best time or ran more miles than last week.

FOR THE GYM: Nike Training Club has provided the best workouts for my gym routine. You can choose from a variety of categories like cardio drills, light weights, and target area workouts. You can also choose your intensity level,  beginner, intermediate or advanced. There are hundreds of options to choose from, and every routine leaves me feeling it the next day. Each workout includes a warm up and cool down, and lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. You can pause the workout at any time to watch a move be demonstrated, and recovery periods are built in. A trainer talks you through each step, reminding you of proper form and spouting encouraging words every so often. The app plays with your music and is very easy to use.

The only flaw I have found is the target area workouts. There is only one routine for each target area, and I would prefer more options. The full body workouts never disappoint, however.

FOR BIKING: Once again, I was really just searching for a way to track my distance and pace. iMapMyFitness allows you to do that, track your progress, map your route and listen to music, too. It’s similar to Nike+GPS, but allows you to choose between a run, walk, bike, swim, hike, sport, or gym workout. It is a comprehensive wellness app that even has a calorie tracker component.

FOR GROCERY SHOPPING: One of the most exciting finds was Fooducate, an app that you can use to scan the bar code of products, get a nutrition analysis and grade of the product, and compare it to similar products on the shelf. It’s the best thing that ever happened to grocery shopping! Now, when I’m faced with a decision between two boxes of whole grain pasta, I simply scan their bar codes and compare the two to see what’s better. The grade is based on other foods in the same category (i.e. juice, granola bars, pasta) and points out vitamin and mineral content. It offers alternative products with better grades and other product details. You can like products and share them by email.


What’s your favorite app? Got any good apps for ab workouts? Let me know what I should try!

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Adaption and conquering the treadmill

It was only recently that I overcame my fear of the treadmill. I was convinced that my clumsiness would send me flying off the back end of that never-ending path. My first run never broke a speed of 5 and had my shirt attached to the little safety stop clip–which I later learned no one actually wears.

Months later, I am a huge fan of the treadmill for the sheer control. I know how far I’ve gone, how long it took me to get there, and how many calories I burned. I can even control how many hills I climb.

However, I never use any program options. I only ever press the “manual” option and come up with workouts myself. While I initially spent my 30 minutes completing a flat run, once I got a handle on the machine I began to experiment.

  • Intervals–Warm up for five minutes, run hard for two. Walk for one. Run for three. Walk for one. Run for four. And so on. Speed play will help to keep your heart rate elevated and also helps the time pass.
  • Goals— Set challenges for yourself. I try to run 3 miles in my 30 minute run. And for the middle mile, I try to make my best mile time (8 minutes).
  • Hills— Don’t forget about the incline setting. I realized today that the calories per hour on a slow speed but high incline is equal to a flat run at faster speeds. Vary your incline to simulate the outdoors and walk or run up hills.

After years of swimming, my transition to gym workouts left the sets and workouts behind. It only recently occurred to me that a swimming workouts can be modified and applied to running workouts, to an extent. Take what you already know and adapt it to new exercises. For example, 4 x 50’s mixed sprint can translate to running laps just as easily as swimming them.

Of course, program options can do all of the work for you.

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“Spynga,” an all-around exercise combination

In my daily exercise routines, I typically aim to combine cardio with strength training. My roommate and I will complete a strength-training type group fitness class like Pilates and head over to the ellipticals to finish out our workouts. Now, it seems as if this combination of fitness class + cardio has become a national trend.

In a unique combination, a Canadian-born fitness trend combines Spinning and yoga, or Spynga.

The workout begins with a Spinning class, and then transitions into a Yoga class to finish out the workout.

It seems to me that it would be quite a complicated transition.

One time before a yoga class, I used the elliptical just beforehand. My muscles were so tight and shook with every position we were told to hold. I can’t imagine coming straight off of a Spinning bike and onto a yoga mat.

Although, I would bet that it would be a great cool down for mind and body. Muscles get a great stretch and your mind can relax and de-stress. It seems like a smart combination of exercises!

In an article from the National Post, one Spynga instructor says:

“It really is a yin-yang approach to fitness. You’ve got the cardio of the cycling and then you get off the bike and find that same intention and mindfulness for yoga. You release toxins, de-stress and find that sense of balance.”

Read about a typical Spynga experience here

A fitness studio in Cleveland Heights, OH (Buddahful Spin) offers Spynga classes, while it originated in Canada. I wonder how far the trend will extend?

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What everyone should know about exercise

The extent of common knowledge and what people actually know often surprises me.

I guess techniques and types of exercises have been drilled into my head for so long that it might seem like common knowledge, and I assumed everyone knew what I consider to be the basics of exercise. But, as I recently learned, that is not quite the case. Not that I consider myself an expert by any means, but I want to share what I do know to as many people as I can.

Here are a few things I think everyone should know about exercise:

  • Using a stability ball in your abdominal workout helps to alleviate lower-back pain and target your core muscles. As I’ve mentioned before, any time you add balance to an exercise it is intensifies that exercise by engaging your core.
  • Any time you do ab work, you should complement it with a lower-back exercise. Just like when you work on your triceps, you should do the bicep machine as well to balance your workout and avoid straining your muscles. (These machines are usually located nearby in gyms for this reason.)
  • Cardio/Aerobic routines should last about 30 minutes to have an effect. Whether you run, walk, elliptical, dance, swim or climb, any activity that gets your heart-rate up will speed up metabolism and help you lose weight. It also improves your overall health by working your cardio-vascular system and strengthening your heart, lungs and increasing bone density. Most recommend at least 3 days of cardio (any activity where heart rate is elevated) for at least 30 minutes a week for a healthy lifestyle. (The American College of Sports Medicine recommends anywhere from 3-5 days of 30-60 minutes worth)
  • Alternate exercises from upper body to lower body during your workout. Switching from one area of the body to another is considered to be more effective than spending one day on all arms and one day on all legs. This is because going from an arm exercise to a leg exercise increases blood flow from one area of the body to the other.
  • Warm up with cardio before strength training to prepare your muscles for a work out. A New York Times Article offers some suggestions:
  • “Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery. (Sprinters require longer warm-ups, because the loads exerted on their muscles are so extreme.)”
  • STRETCH. Do so after a workout to increase flexibility, improve range of motion in your joints to prevent injury, and improve circulation. (The above article also mentions something about dynamic stretching, something I have not heard phrased this way but will look into!)
  • Don’t focus solely on target areas. Full body workouts and exercises are more important than working only one area of the body. Many exercises have secondary benefits to other muscles of the body and are more effective for weight loss and health than singling out one muscle. You should aim to strengthen your whole body, not just your “problem area.”

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Reebok EasyTone

my well-worn favorite tennis shoes!

A shout out to my new favorite tennis shoe: The Reebok EasyTone.

I first heard the idea of such a shoe when Sketchers “Shape Ups” were advertised. I thought it sounded like a great idea, but I didn’t want the world to know I was wearing them… their design wasn’t exactly subtle.

So, I will admit, the commercial for Reebok convinced me. Props to their ad department, they target their audience very well. But most of all, they satisfied my needs while maintaining the look of a normal tennis shoe.

EasyTones have “balance pods” built in to the bottom of the shoe. Reebok’s site claims that the design activates muscles in the Gluteus Maximus 28 percent more than a regular tennis shoe, as well as the Hamstrings and Calves an additional 11 percent.

After wearing them for a few months now, I haven’t seen any incredible results, but I definitely feel my muscles engage more while walking, especially up staircases and hills, of which Ohio University has plenty.

The only drawback to the Easytones are an occasional foot numbness after prolonged wear. I am not sure about the cause of this, but I would guess it is a design flaw somewhere in the toe of the shoe.

I also use my Easytones to work out on the elliptical and jog, which is not exactly recommended by Reebok, but definitely intensifies my workout.

When my schedule doesn’t allow a work out or a work out that is long enough, my EasyTones help to alleviate my guilt just a smidgen.

I decided today that it is almost always a good idea to wear my EasyTones!

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Group Fitness

“You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone”: a truly accurate idea summed up by Joni Mitchell in her frequently covered song “Big Yellow Taxi,” and precisely how I feel about the group fitness classes offered at Ohio University’s Ping Recreation Center. Not because they are no longer offered, but because my schedule no longer allows me to attend them!

For much of my sophomore year, I have gotten my exercise through sports as a member of the OU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team as well as the OU Swim Club. This quarter, however, I focused solely on swimming and exercising on my own. In absence of the direction provided from a team sport which practiced every day, I quickly missed being told what to do.

It is always easier to reach your potential when you have work-out partners or a “coach” of sorts, even for the most motivated of people.
So, what could be better than fellow work-out partners AND an instructor?

In my freshman year, I took full advantage of OU’s group fitness classes. I attended at least two weekly, on top of swimming practice and my own work-outs. When I started ultimate, I decided that two sports was plenty a work out for me, and only occasionally attended a group class.

Now that I have ceased participation in ultimate to focus on my studies, I have also forgone participating in group classes and worked out solely on my own as well as swimming in order to work around my schedule.

I now realize that this is simply not smart.

After attending a Pilates class and a yoga class, I have a whole new appreciation for the opportunity OU’s recreation center is providing me, and any OU student. It took a quarter and a half for me to realize what I had given up!

These classes are an excellent opportunity to try an array of new, exciting ways to strengthen, tone and sweat. The value of an instructor is not to be forgotten! It is both easier to motivate and safer to learn new exercises with an experienced guide.

I take a little something away from each class and incorporate it into my daily workouts. In Pilates, I reinforced my knowledge about core exercises. I learned different, challenging and effective ways to engage core muscles in moves such as leg circles, the hundred, and side kicks. Who knew rolling like a ball could be an exercise?

In yoga, stretches to open hip joints truly relieved joint-pain for me. In preparation for the crazy difficult pose pictured here, you take your bent leg up between your arms, so that your foot and your knee are between either arm, and push back and forth. This helped alleviate the tightness in my joint from an injury last quarter.

There are hundreds of benefits from relieving back pain to posture improvement that come from classes such as these, and a lot to be learned from a trained and experienced instructor to guide you through them.