Sunday, September 30, 2012

Internal vs. External Motivation

During my senior year of high school, my AP English teacher assigned us an "I-Search," an independent study on the topic of our choice.  I chose the topic "How to most efficiently use my 24 hours in a day."  Being the naive girl that I was, I thought a few weeks of introspection would turn my life around and turn me into a time management expert.  While it was an eye-opening "research" endeavor, and I got an excellent grade in the end, still today I complain that I don't have enough time in my days.  Clearly, I have yet a lot to learn.  One positive finding did come about from this project, however.  I finally realized that I am extremely motivated by external sources.

I had been in denial about it.  All my life, I had taken pride in the fact that I was a self-motivated person, and I scoffed people who sought external sources of motivation.  And yet... I was the girl who used to say,
"Coach Jen, would you yell at me?" 
During gymnastics practice when I was too scared to perform a new skill on beam and couldn't motivate myself, I used Coach Jen as my motivation.  And what about grades?  I used those to motivate me to pull an all-nighter in Modern Thought in Literature (MTL) my junior year of high school... twice.  

When I first found out how motivated I was by external sources, I was ashamed.  In school, they teach you that self-motivated students succeed and all others... well, you should just try to be like those top self-motivated students.  Even interviewing for grad school, they stress the importance of self-motivation.  And it is important.  Don't get me wrong.  You can't succeed unless you are self-motivated in some respect, but that does NOT mean that all motivation must come from yourself.  If you rely only on yourself, what happens when you're having a bad day?

And so, I let go of the shame and forgot all about this internal versus external motivation in my life.  That is, I forgot about it until I had to go running shoe shopping.

This past week, I haven't done really any of my 8k training (gasp!).  I know, I ought to be ashamed of myself!  My "excuse" (call it what you wish), is that my super cute Nike running shoes hurt my feet and give me blisters... after just a 2 mile run.  I originally bought them because I thought they fit me well; apparently they don't.  I have wide feet.  (<Sigh> My name is Sarah, and I have wide feet.)  Well, I can't run in shoes like that!  So, it's time for some new running shoes.  

Nick and I went running shoe shopping at Philadelphia Runner.  The employees there are great-- they're all runners and very knowledgeable in the type of shoe appropriate for the type of foot that you have.  Last time I went, I learned I needed a neutral shoe, and I had my choice between a pair of Asics (which is the brand I had been using before) and a super cute pair of hot pink Nikes.  I went with the Nikes (I have a weakness for pink).  I also liked that the sole was kind of rounded and forced me toward my toes when I run (which is what I do anyway... I am a forefoot striker).  Really, though, I just use that to try to justify my original purchase; I bought them because they were cute.  But, there is a purpose behind that: I used my super cute Nikes as my external motivation.  I actually wanted to go out and show off my cute shoes to the world, which made running slightly more enjoyable.  Honestly, who doesn't want to look cute when they work out?  I love buying cute fitness clothes because they motivate me to exercise.  

My super cute Nike running shoes.

Unfortunately, I started running about a month after I bought my shoes, and about a month after that I realized they weren't good for my feet.  By that time, though, it was too late to return them.  Fast forward half a year, and here we are today.  The shoes were wearable before since I was only occasionally running (and when I was, it was short distances), so my blisters had ample time to heal.  Now, though, I need new shoes because I'm training for an 8k, and a pair of super cute Nikes that gives me blisters after a 2 mile run won't cut it.  

I went back to Philadelphia Runner and decided to go with the Asics Gel Nimbus 14.  They had 2 color options, and one of them happened to be another super cute (even cuter that my Nikes) hot pink and black pair!  I was in love (or as "in love" as I could ever be towards a pair of running shoes).  But... they were out of stock, and I wanted new shoes NOW!  I had the option of choosing a gray/purple/blue shoe (also adorable, but didn't give me butterflies) or waiting to see if they could order the pink shoes to the store.  I went with option 3 (wait, I thought I had 2 options?): purchase the hot pink ones myself from online.  This is going to put me about another week behind in my training.  Why did I purchase them?  Because, I hate running.  (What?)  I need all the motivation I can get, even if that means succumbing to my inner love of external motivation.  If buying cute shoes will make running even an ounce more enjoyable, then I should buy myself the cute shoes.  Luckily, I think I have enough of a base that getting behind another week in my 8k training shouldn't ruin my goal (I hope).

If only I were more self-motivated...

Wait, I AM self-motivated, and it's gotten me far.  BUT, my self-motivation wanes in situations like running, and I must then rely on any type of motivation I can get.  One "kind" of motivation isn't really better than any other; if something (whether it be internal or external) motivates you, then it's done its job, and you're one step closer to your goal.  Accept any motivation you can get.  

The moral of the story is that you need to take a moment (or your whole life) to learn about yourself and accept you for you.  Don't be ashamed for who you are or what you are motivated by; instead, take advantage of it!  Buy the cute shoes if it will help get you out of the door to go for a run (just make sure they actually fit you well...).  Also know that what may motivate you may not motivate your friend, or put another way... one person's couch potato is another person's motivation. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pool the Wisdom

At Penn, I lead an organization called GABE: Graduate Association of Bioengineers.  GABE is the graduate student group for the bioengineering department and acts as a liaison between the students and the department.  We host social events, community service and outreach, professional development, graduate student recruitment, a department research symposium, intramural softball, etc.  We aim to build a more cohesive and collaborative department.  Along these lines, this year we have spearheaded the GABE Seminar Series.  Today was the first seminar of the series: How to Manage Your Advisor.  This open discussion was led by 2 faculty members, Dr. Beth Winkelstein and Dr. Kelly Jordan-Sciutto.

I thought the most memorable quote from the discussion was by Dr. Kelly Jordan-Sciutto.  She said,
"If you seek advice from only one person, you can only be as good as that one person."
It took a minute for this to sink in, but once it did, it made sense.  One person can only give so much advice, and the advice he/she gives is based on his/her personal experiences.  Dr. Kelly Jordan-Sciutto was advocating for us to develop relationships and seek advice of many people during our career and personal development.  

As we aspire to reach and expand our potential, think of how much more efficiently we could do so if we could pool the wisdom of many people.  We can apply this concept beyond our career development.  Remember in high school when you had to write a paper and your English teachers would tell you over and over again that you need more than one reference (and Wikipedia didn't count)?  Well, the English teachers were right.  Your paper would have a very limited perspective (and would likely be missing important facts) if you consulted only one book or one internet site.  Similarly, we lead very limited lives if we do not expand our network and seek the "references" of many people.  We cannot rely on one individual for all the answers-- not your significant other, not your religious leader, not your mom or your dad, not your teacher or your research advisor, not the best-selling book, not the world's wealthiest person... you get the point.  That's not to say that these "resources" are not significant.  They are... they will help mold you into your improved self; however, they won't, or shouldn't, do it alone.  There are many hands at work in this masterpiece.  It is your duty to seek out these hands and compile their contributions of advice into one meaningful life.

When was the last time you sought the advice of someone else?  How about more than one person?  In which areas of your life are you going to focus on expanding your advice network?       

8k Running Race Training + iSmoothRun

Yesterday marked the official start of my 8k running race training.

8 kilometers = 4.97 miles.

I signed up for the Rothman Institute 8k race again this year (November 17); it's part of the Philadelphia Marathon weekend.  I did it last year for the first time.  Before then, then farthest I had ever run was two 5k races.  Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with the race.  As I've said before, I hate cardio.  I dread it, I avoid it, I enjoy most things more than cardio, or more specifically I enjoy most things more than running.  The training for the 8k last year wasn't fun, but the race itself wasn't bad.  Thank you, dear adrenaline (and all the kind people who were out cheering)!  I was happy with my time last year (44:59, putting me at 9:03 min/mile), and realized I survived the distance, so I decided to try it again... with a goal of improving my time.  

This is all so that I can build towards running a 10k race.  I signed up for a 10k race last year but kept getting sick with silly colds/flu and wasn't able to train, so I had to skip it.  A 10k race is one of my life goals.  I know... it's not a very impressive life goal for most people.  It's not an Iron Man, it's not a marathon, it's not even a half marathon... it's about a quarter of a marathon (technically even slightly less).  To many people, that's a wimpy "life goal."  But to me, it's a challenge.  I don't feel the need to run any further than that.  I know a 10k is pushing myself but is do-able.  I just need to dedicate myself to training.  Could I make myself a goal of running a half marathon?  Sure.  But I hate running, so why torture myself more than I need to?  I make goals for myself, not for anybody else... so should you.  Do you have any goals that you are embarrassed to share because you think others may judge you? I'll admit, sometimes I'm embarrassed of my 10k goal, but other times, I realize it's 10 kilometers more than some people ever run, and for me, someone who has always hated cardio, 10k is really impressive!

For the 8k race, I'm following Hal Higdon's novice 8k training plan.  I used this plan last year also.  I like this training plan because it gradually builds up to the race distance and allows me to incorporate some strength training as well.  Yesterday, Monday, the official start of my training, was strength and stretching.  Today was the first day of running: 2 miles.  It's funny to think that before last year, 2 miles seemed like a lot to me!  After going through my 8k training last year, 2 miles is a nice easy run... I'm improving!  

I was exhausted today after staying up later than usual last night; therefore, when I got home, I was so close to skipping my 2 miles... but thought better of it (who wants to start out a quitter?!).  I changed my clothes and put on my shoes before I could think about it any more.  I think encouraging yourself to exercise may be one of the only times where it is a good plan to act before thinking.  

Luckily the weather was very nice this evening.  I ran around the city, following wherever the green lights took me, which made for a more interesting run.  I used my iPhone app, iSmoothRun, to tell me my distance and keep me updated on my pace.  I love this app!  I got it for free one day when there was a special app sale.  This app is great because it speaks to you as you run-- tells you your cadence, distance, average pace, and time.  You can set it up to do a "ghost run" where you race against a previously saved run.  It records the weather, your fastest song, and your split times.  It uses both GPS and accelerometer measurements to give you the most accurate reading of your distance (and even tells you your average stride length; mine was 3.72 ft today).  There is an auto-pause feature that automatically stops timing your run if you stop moving for a certain amount of time (you set the duration) and then resumes automatically when you start running.  You can also export your run to RunKeeper.  Basically, I can't say enough good things about this app and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a phone running app.  When it told me I was "half way to my goal," I turned around and started running back home.

In the end, I'm glad I forced myself to go for a run today.  I actually don't feel as exhausted as I did before.  Now it's time to figure out what to eat for dinner... suggestions are always welcome!      


Monday, September 24, 2012

13 Exercises Condensed Into 5

Sorry for the few days with no posts!  I spent a wonderful weekend in NYC to visit some family friends and 2 other people I've been friends with since elementary school.  (How can I have lived in Philly for 2 years and not have gone to NYC before now?!)  Even the weather was perfect!  On Saturday, I saw Nice Work If You Can Get It, a hilarious Broadway show starring Matthew Broderick.  I recommend the show.  Our seats were amazing-- 2nd row!  Matthew Broderick was literally 10 feet away from me.  On Sunday, we walked outside for 3 hours, all around Central Park and the surrounding area-- I counted that as my workout.   

Today it was back to the daily grind... and also the official start of my 8 week 8k race training!  Mondays are strength and stretching days, so I designed another quick full body workout.  The theory behind this workout is that the more exercises you combine together, the more efficiently you are exercising your muscles, meaning the quicker your workout will be.  We all have busy lives, so why spend more time in the gym than we need to?  I also did not want as strenuous a workout as my previous 20 minute total body circuit since I want to actually be able to run tomorrow.  This is what I came up with:

It took me about 20 minutes to complete 3 sets.  I used a 10 pound weight for the skull crushers, 15 pound weights (each hand) for the upright rows/bicep curls, 20 pound weights (each hand) for the bench press, and 5 pound weights (each hand) for the shoulder rotations. 

This workout condenses 13 exercises into 5.  Here are the 13 exercises:
1. Lunge
2. Skull crushers
3. Glute squeeze leg extension
4. Side plank 
5. Tuck-opens
6. Wide leg squat
7. Calf raises
8. Upright row
9. Bicep curls
10. Chest press
11. Hip lifts
12. Back extension
13. Shoulder rotations

Lunge with One-Handed Skull Crusher and Glute Squeeze
1. Hold a weight in your right hand, arm raised above head, palm facing in
2. Lunge forward with your right leg, simultaneously bending elbow to bring weight behind head (try to avoid letting your elbow swing out and instead focus on squeezing it next to your head and holding it steady)
3. As you stand back up, place weight on front foot (right leg) and bring left leg straight behind you, focusing on squeezing your butt muscles to lift your leg into the air
4. Return to a lunge and repeat steps 1-3 until you have completed 10-15 reps.
5. Repeat on other leg/arm.

Muscle groups worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Triceps, Balance
Make it harder: lunge with your front foot on a Bosu ball 
Make it easier: perform the movement with no weight, hold a rail or chair for balance

Side Plank Tuck-Opens
1. Assume a side plank position on your elbow, keeping body in a straight line.
2. Lift top leg into the air, hip distance apart from the bottom leg.  Simultaneously extend top arm over head to form a straight line with your body.
3. Tuck your lifted leg into your chest while simultaneously bringing your elbow to meet it.
4. Open back up and repeat steps 1-3 until you have completed 10-15 reps.
5. Repeat on other side.

Muscle groups worked: Abs/Obliques, Shoulders
Make it harder: keep your leg as straight as you can and reach for your toes instead of your knee
Make it easier: hold a side plank without tuck opens, perform the plank with your bottom knee on the ground

Wide Squat with Upright Row and Bicep Curl Calf Raises
1. Stand with feet spread wide and toes turned slightly out.  Hold a weight in each hand.
2. Squat down and touch the ground with your weights.
3. As you stand back up, rise onto your toes and complete an upright row by bringing your hands to your chest, palms facing your body and elbows going out.
4. Lower your heels and arms.
5. Rise back onto your toes and complete a biceps curl.
6. Lower back to flat feet and hanging arms.  That's one rep.  Repeat until you have completed 10-15 reps.

Muscle groups worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Inner thighs, Quads, Biceps, Deltoid, Trapezius, Calves
Make it harder: pulse at the bottom of each squat, perform all squats on toes, elevate one leg on a Bosu ball (switch legs halfway through or for next set)
Make it easier: use lighter weights

Chest Press Hip Lift on Stability Ball
1. Lie with your upper back on a stability ball and feet planted firmly on ground.
2. Press hips high into the air, forming a "table."  Maintain this position.
3. Hold a weight in each hand and position your upper arms in line with your chest and palms straight into the air.
4. Press weights into the air by extending elbows.
5. Slowly lower arms to starting position.  Keep butt raised in the air throughout the exercise.  Repeat until you have completed 10-15 reps.  

Muscle groups worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Triceps, Chest, Core for stability
Make it harder: balance with one leg raised in the air (switch legs half way through or for next set)
Make it easier: use lighter weights, if you have problems balancing, switch to a bench

Back Extension Shoulder Rotation on Stability Ball
1. Lie with chest and stomach on stability ball and feet spread wide behind you, firmly planted on ground. 
2. Hold a weight in each hand and let your upper body hang forward.  Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees with weights pointing to ground. 
3. Lift upper body to form straight line with lower body.  Simultaneously rotate arms at the shoulder so that the weights are rotated from your chest to your ears (keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees throughout).
4. Gently lower and repeat until you have completed 10-15 reps. 

Muscle groups worked: Back, Shoulders
Make it harder: Bring legs closer together to increase the core strength required to balance
Make it easier: Use a ball that is more deflated to help you keep your balance, do not use weights, if balancing is too tricky lie flat on your stomach on the ground and lift your upper body (cannot do shoulder exercise with this method)


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exercise Your Life

I have my own ever-forming beliefs.  While I do not consider myself religious, I do consider myself spiritual.  I find a lot of beauty and truth in scripture (Koran, Bible), and enjoy reading these and related texts.  One example is Daily Readings from Your Best Life Now: 90 Devotions for Living at Your Full Potential by Joel Osteen.    

I was struck by one paragraph in the most recent devotion I read:
"Your faith is similar to a muscle.  It grows stronger through resistance.  It is exercised when it's being stretched, when it's being pushed.  That's why God does not usually deliver us from adversity overnight.  He doesn't remove us from every uncomfortable situation in a split second.  He uses those times to build our 'spiritual muscles.'"
I had never thought of the spirit-body relationship in this way before.  Indeed, the body seems to be a microcosm of the universe.  As Joel Osteen so elegantly puts it, we only grow when we push ourselves beyond our current state; this truth applies spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  We should not back down when things get tough.  Instead, that is our moment to shine; it is our moment to surprise ourselves.  We certainly won't be surprising God when we come out successful on the other end-- He wouldn't put us through the adversity if He didn't know we could succeed.  It is up to each of us however, to make the success happen.      
Regardless of our beliefs, I think we can all agree that succeeding in a challenge or overcoming an obstacle initiates personal development.  We must exercise our mind, body, spirit, and emotions as we do our muscles.  Think back to the last time you really pushed yourself-- spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally.  How long ago was that-- have you recently engaged in this type of self growth?  What kept you going?  Are you stronger now because of it?  What is the next challenge that you plan to succeed in?

Have you exercised your life recently?

Philadelphia skyline viewed from the South Street Bridge.  It was a gorgeous day today, so I spent some time walking around taking pictures in the evening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Demand Yoga and Tilapia Dinner

Recovery Workout

Remember that 20 minute total body conditioning circuit I did yesterday?  Man, am I feeling its wrath today!  I am most sore in my hamstrings, lats, erector spinae, calves, and lower abdomen.  Yes, my ab circuit really targeted that tough-to-work lower ab area commonly referred to as "the pooch!"  I could feel myself getting progressively stiffer throughout the day; therefore, I decided today would not be an intense strength day.  Instead, I wanted to focus on loosening up those tight muscles, and what better way to do that than some yoga?  Sadly, we don't have a yoga studio with private yoga master connected to our apartment; however, the next best option is On Demand!  In case you haven't already figured this out, if you have cable with On Demand options (for example, Comcast), you have access to workout videos that you can do in your own living room!  Here's what you do if you have Comcast:

Press the "On Demand" button on your remote control
Scroll down to "Sports & Fitness" and click the "OK/Select" button
Scroll over to "Fitness Workouts" and click the "OK/Select" button
Browse all your choices!  

They have everything from cardio dance videos, to yoga and pilates, to targeted core or butt workouts, to kickboxing, and even walking.  (I saw a video called "Kama Sutra Dance"... intriguing.)  The videos often change, so you always have new workouts at the click of a button that you can do in the comfort of your own home in your PJ's (that's what I did tonight).  The best part is that with Comcast cable, they're included with no additional charge!  This means that if you don't like a certain workout, you can stop in the middle and find a new one without feeling guilty about wasting your money.  Tonight I did a simple 20 minute yoga video.  Not very vigorous, but it did help stretch me out.  Just what I needed.

Go-To Tilapia Dinner

I still haven't gone real grocery shopping, so tonight I resorted to my go-to, easy, healthy, tasty meal: sauteed tilapia.  I normally keep a pack of those individually frozen fillets in my freezer-- they're awesome because they will thaw in less than 10 minutes if you run them under warm water!  Perfect for a quick weeknight meal.  I decided I needed some veggies though, so I stopped at the grocery store anyway and picked up some zucchini and baby red potatoes (and figured I might as well get some fresh tilapia while I'm there).

Sauteed zucchini: heat up some olive oil in a skillet, add sliced zucchini and a pinch of salt, heat until golden
Sauteed tilapia: (I used the same pan as the zucchini once that finished), sprinkle tilapia on both sides with lemon pepper, cook on medium heat until opaque through and easily flakes with fork
Boiled baby red potatoes: boil water and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender (I didn't even feel the need to add salt or butter)
Side spinach salad: bagged baby spinach topped with dried cranberries and sliced almonds with olive oil and vinegar



The Lesson of the Windy Day Umbrella

"I heard in 40 minutes there will be a pause in the rain."
"Is it raining now?  I don't see any rain, but I guess that doesn't mean it's not raining.  I'll take my umbrella in case."
With that, I made it halfway home in windy but dry conditions, even paused for a minute to pet a little dog along the way.  Then, it started sprinkling, but not bad enough for an umbrella.  And right when I got to the beginning of the South Street Bridge, it started pouring.  The wind was so strong that I stumbled a few times, and the bridge only enhanced its strength.  I started laughing-- aloud (though nobody could hear me with the wind and rain).  While I wasn't yet soaked, I knew an umbrella would be futile.  Too many times before I had tried struggling with an umbrella, but in windy conditions I was usually left frustrated and wet anyways.  To be honest, it usually put me in a bad mood for the next hour.  This time, I decided to learn from the past.  I decided I would choose my own happiness.  I knew I was about to be drenched, but I embraced it-- happily.  I looked across the street.  A man and woman dressed in business clothes had just pulled out their umbrellas.  They were already fighting the inevitable.  I put my head down and pushed forward.  I felt like I was on an adventure, "roughing" the elements.  A minute later I heard the guy across the street tell the woman next to him that it was time to put away the umbrellas; the umbrellas had already flipped inside out several times and put up little fight against the weather.  

On the other side of the bridge, the wind was lighter, and I could have pulled out my umbrella.  By that time, though, my clothes were already saturated, and I figured an extra few drops of water wasn't going hurt, so I continued home, still smiling.  

And so I learned the lesson of the windy day umbrella.  

Life is filled with events small and big that we have no control over.  We must accept the present moment and know that we can only control our reaction to the moment.  It's not about giving up.  It's the opposite of giving up.  When you give up, you stop reacting.  Embracing the present is about being proactive and choosing an attitude of acceptance.  It's about making the most of a rainy day.

Moral of the story: Invest in a raincoat and rainboots... immediately.  Oh, and embrace the present moment in its entirety.

Monday, September 17, 2012

20 Min Total Body Circuit and Banana Treat

20 Minute Total Body Circuit Workout

Today I was tired and had no desire to go to the gym... mostly because I dreaded doing cardio.  I generally hate cardio, and I'm not very good at it, but I do it because it's good for me.  Today, though, I realized I was dreading it so much that I was about to forego the gym altogether!  No good.  Instead, I decided I would commit to a quick, intense strength workout.  Quick because I had to convince myself to get to the gym, and the thought of putting in 60 minutes of effort overwhelmed me.  20 minutes-- doable.  Intense because deep inside I really did want a good workout.  And so, I created this 20 minute total body circuit:

Deadlift- hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae [back], (quads)
Push ups- triceps, pecs, abs
Squat to shoulder press- quads, shoulders, (glutes), (hamstrings)
Chin ups- Lats [back], biceps
Imaginary jump rope- calves, cardio

These moves are all pretty standard.  For rounds 1 and 3, I did wide-leg squats (feet turned out) to shoulder press with my palms facing forward.  For rounds 2 and 4, I did squats with my feet parallel and hip width apart to shoulder press with my palms facing each other.  I used 40 lbs for deadlifts (20 lb each hand), 10 lb each hand for shoulder press, and 30 lb assist for chin ups.  I'll admit that for the squat to shoulder press, I had to take a lot of breaks where I kept doing squats holding the weights without pressing (at least I kept moving!).

Let me tell you... this counts as cardio!  I even fooled myself!  If you move immediately from one exercise to the next with no breaks, you can keep your heart rate up.  Before beginning the circuit, I did a quick warm-up, 1 pass each:

Walking lunges
High knee running
Butt kick walks
Walking lunges
Side chasse (gallop) left
Side chasse (gallop) right

After the strength circuit, I did a quick ab circuit:

Plank with hip taps: assume a traditional plank position on your elbows, twist to tap one hip on the ground, then twist to tap the other hip on the ground
Ball pike ups: assume a plank position with your hands on the ground and feet on a stability ball, roll the ball towards your hands by piking your butt into the air, keeping your legs straight.  Easier modification: roll the ball towards your hands by bending your knees to your chest
Ball switches: lie flat on your back, holding the stability ball over your head, lift your arms/chest while simultaneously lifting your legs, grab the ball with your feet and lower back down to a flat back, lift back up (upper body and lower body simultaneously) to transfer the ball back to your hands-- that's one rep.  Keep repeating!  Today, my hip flexor was bothering me during this exercise, so I switched to suitcase crunches.
Suitcase crunches: lie on your back with your knees lifted to form a 90 degree angle, simultaneously lift your butt and your chest to crunch, gently lower back down and repeat

I ended with some light stretching.

Banana Treat

I was in the mood for something sweet after dinner, and I had a banana that was starting to get too brown for normal eating comfort.  I took advantage of the situation and made myself a quick, "healthy" dessert.  I simply cut up my banana, put it in a small non-stick pan, sprinkled it with cinnamon, and let it cook (flipping occasionally) until it turned soft and juice started to come out.  Then, I ate it.  Just like that.  So easy.  It's amazing what a little heat can do for a banana!  This would taste great on top of some vanilla ice cream or on a slice of whole wheat toast smeared with peanut butter!  Unfortunately, I was out of ice cream and bread, so I settled on 3 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses to get my chocolate fix and a small kick of antioxidants.  

Okay, I know the picture looks like banana mush, but if I could only have you smell this deliciousness, you'd understand what I'm talking about!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Daily Workout and Pork Tenderloin Dinner

Today's Workout

Jay Blahnik's 30 min Boredom-Busting Treadmill Interval Workout
(Courtesy of Fitness Magazine, my favorite magazine subscription)

10 bicep curls (15 lbs ea)
10 tricep kick backs ea (10 lbs)
10 hammer curls (15 lbs ea)
10 overhead skull crushers (10 lbs ea)
10 overhand bicep curls (15 lbs ea)
10 1-legged tricep dips (ea leg)
10 chin-ups (30 lb assist)
10 dips (30 lb assist)
20 alternating forward lunges
20 plie squats
1 min plank
20 side plank hip dips each side

This is my third time doing this particular treadmill running workout.  It's tough!  And for some reason, it particularly kicked my butt today... so much so that I did not do as much strength training as normal.

Today's Dinner

Today's dinner was delicious!
Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce (Courtesy of Chef Mommy, a Pinterest find)
Brussel Sprouts
Au Gratin Potatoes
I highly recommend the pork tenderloin.  It was so flavorful!  It's definitely a keeper recipe.  
Yes, the au gratin potatoes came from a box.  I know roasted potatoes would be a healthier option, but Nick was craving au gratin potatoes, and I'm a believer in moderation, so we agreed on it.

Dessert: Berry Cream Cheese Cobbler (Courtesy of a Pinterest find)
The recipe only uses fresh strawberries, but we had some leftover frozen mixed berries that we added in as well.  It tasted alright-- I thought the cream cheese could be left out in the future, but Nick thought it added another "dimension" to the dessert and liked it. 
*Update*: This cobbler does not keep well; it gets mushy in the fridge and leftovers don't taste so good.  I don't think I'll make this again. 

Honor Our Passions

A few days ago, I finished reading a book that a good friend of mine (knowing my love of the "Self Help" aisle) bought me for my birthday: Women, Work, & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility by Mireille Guiliano.  

To me, the most memorable line in the book was as follows:
"Emily's story (and I know several women with similar detours and tales) demonstrates that our passions (such as architecture) can be honored in unexpected ways-- we need to be open to channeling them into good and rewarding opportunities."
Don't worry about the back story; what struck me was the message.  It's simple but profound: we can (and should!) honor our passions in unexpected ways.  What does this mean?  

If you have a passion for health, you do not have to become a doctor.  You may find that is the right path for you, but for others, maybe the right path means managing a hospital, researching new anti-cancer drugs, volunteering at a hospice, becoming a medical illustrator, or simply reading a health-related magazine.

Let me repeat:
We are allowed to honor our passions in non-traditional ways.

The message is liberating and encouraging.  It allows us to stop drawing a box around our passions, trying to segment our life in a particular manner and follow the "normal" path.  It enables us to identify our strengths and combine them in unique ways.  Most importantly, taking this message to heart helps us reach our potential and give to the community in the best way we can.  

Yet... I struggle in allowing myself to "honor my passions in unexpected ways."  I am pursuing a doctoral degree in bioengineering.  Why?  Because I want to teach in a university when I finish; however, I am not sure I want to do research.  The expected pathway is to graduate with a PhD, have a 2-year post-doc, pursue a faculty position, work towards tenure, and build a large research laboratory to become the next Nobel prize winner.  I just don't think that's me, but when I am surrounded by people who make that their goal, I second-guess and feel like I'm letting somebody down, striving towards the wrong goal, or not doing my (expected) doctoral degree justice.  

One time, I had dinner with a visiting faculty member from another university.  The faculty member asked what I want to do upon graduation, and I said teach.  He told me I'm in the wrong field.  His statement rattled me until now.  

I'm sure I am not alone.  What passions do you honor in unexpected ways?  How do you cope with the views of others?  How do you stay open to expanding the role of your passions in your life?   

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome to Spire!

Hello and welcome to Spire!  Spire is a blog dedicated to enriching the health and wellness of our lives, with an emphasis on fitness.  This blog grows from my personal love of these topics and interest in self-development.  I wanted to share the knowledge I gain and lessons I learn through this journey, and so this blog was born.

Why "Spire?"  

I chose the name "Spire" for two reasons.  First, as you can see in the title, -spire is the root for four important words: aSPIRE, inSPIRE, perSPIRE, and reSPIRE.  These four words are the themes of this blog.  "Aspire" refers to the journey of self-improvement and goal of reaching our full potential.  "Inspire" emphasizes our responsibility to inspire others.  "Perspire" acknowledges the sweat and effort we must put in (physically, mentally, spiritually) to gain and highlights the fitness aspect of this blog.  "Respire" is meant to remind us to breathe and live in the present moment.  

Secondly, I chose the name "Spire" for its definition:
spire [spahyuhr] noun, verb, spired, spir·ing
1. a tall, acutely pointed pyramidal roof or rooflike construction upon a tower, roof, etc.
2. a similar construction forming the upper part of a steeple.
3. a tapering, pointed part of something; a tall, sharp-pointed summit, peak, or the like: the distant spires of the mountains.
4. the highest point or summit of something: the spire of a hill;the spire of one's profession.
5. a sprout or shoot of a plant, as an acrospire of grain or ablade or spear of grass.
6. to shoot or rise into spirelike form; rise or extend to a height in the manner of a spire. 
(courtesy of 

The irony in the definition parallels each of our lives.  A "spire," as given in definition 4, is the highest point-- our fulfillment, our potential.  Definition 5 tells us that a spire is a sprout, the premature version of the plant's potential.  Each day, we are a combination of definition 4 and 5: we are at our potential and yet we can continue to grow if we nurture ourselves.  That is the essence of this blog: to spire, to be the best we can be.