April 30, 2012

Workout Tunes: From Crappy to Happy

Strangely enough, this is not on my playlist.

Can you enjoy an exhilarating and rewarding cardio workout without musical accompaniment?

You can?

Well congratulations on your inner resourcefulness! Because I sure as hell can't. I have been known to actually cry upon discovering that my mp3 player failed to charge and I'd have to exercise without it.

 Artist's rendering of Crabby without functional iPod: rafa2010

Caffeine and music are, for me, the two magic ingredients that can transform intense aerobic and anaerobic exertion from a hideous form of torture into a blissful state of grinning idiocy. (Which, though it probably looks disturbing, is actually a good thing if you happen to live in my brain).

Crabby's Constant Struggle: Can You Help?
Here's the problem: finding the right workout tunes to engineer this motivational miracle! That can be tough. Especially if you are prone to being an obsessive-compulsive inflexible freak very particular about your musical selections.

Not only must a song align with my very odd musical taste, but the beats per minute must coincide with my footfalls. Which would be fine, if I exercised within the more typical workout playlist bpm range of 120-140. But I love sprinting on an elliptical at 160-200 beats per minute, which not only adds to the lunatic impression I give off, but also renders a typical workout playlist suggestion pretty much useless.

Of course, this is only the 3,743rd time I've talked about needing fast workout tunes here on the blog, and I also mentioned it at Shape Magazine's web hangout. So if you've got any suggestions I'd love to hear 'em.  But since Lee from Fitville innocently asked about my playlist in the comments last week, and she's got some great biking playlists over there, you'll just have to blame her if I couldn't resist spouting off yet again.

And so what are my latest discoveries in the workout music world?

New Hunting Grounds!
After, much unsuccessful rooting around "exercise" playlists, I've discovered that certain genres like country/bluegrass and "drum 'n bass" have more in the way of tunes at my target tempo. However, I suspect the number of people who have workout playlists like mine, with these both heavily featured, is probably... hmm... about 1?  Both these sorts of music have the potential to drive some folks nuts: bluegrass can feature whiny vocals and depressing lyrics; drum 'n bass can sound monotonous, overly synthesized and somewhat relentless.  I also have mindless pop tunes, funky retro stuff, Latin tunes, and even gospel, though as described below, with some important limitations.

The second discovery I've made? I'm getting even more sensitive to musical lyrics than ever, especially  now that I am wondering about the impact that earworms may be having on my impressionable brain.

Yep, I'm one of those folks who actually listens to the words in songs. Though  somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if Cranky Fitness readers are more prone than average to have this rare and abnormal compulsion.

Ready to Get Offended?
Even aside from possible brain-impacting implications, I find offensive lyrics... offensive! So as someone who is easily annoyed, I've already removed a lot of songs with icky messages. One can naively download something based on a thirty second clip and find all sorts of lyrical atrocities awaiting once the full version is played.

However, I'd be willing to bet that my criteria for what's offensive is not exactly typical. ( In fact, this might be a good time to mention that while I'm totally grateful to the folks at Frugal Dad for listing this blog as a "top fitness" site...

Thanks, Pops!

...I'd like to immediately warn any Frugal Dads who may have arrived here to stay the hell away from the rest of this post if they've got any of their Frugal Children anywhere near the computer monitor.

No, Really, Watch Out...
See I have no objection to swear words, or drug references, or or sexual innuendo. I saw no reason to remove the song "Bad Touch," for example, in which a typical verse starts off: "Love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket..." and ends with "And then we'll do it doggie style so we can both watch X-Files."  The chorus: "You and me baby we ain't nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery channel."  Some of the lyrics make me giggle--sex is pretty damn funny when you think about it.

But Even I Have My Limits..
However, racist, homophobic, or misogynistic lyrics?  Eek! Even the catchiest of tunes is ruined for me if I have to listen to crap like that.  "No homo" popped out of one tune unexpectedly and that sucker was gone the next day.

And I can't do most religious music either, at least the kind that features a "Capital H" He or Him. And I know that sounds weirdly intolerant! But no matter how prevalent the belief may be worldwide that there's some powerful Guy up there who controls everything, I find the notion of a gendered deity who just happens to be male (and often petty and vengeful) pretty darn oppressive.  And something of a coincidence considering which gender has put itself forcibly in charge of everything throughout history.

photo: iansand
Yikes, what was that noise just now? Kinda splashy?

Was that the sound of hundreds of Cranky Fitness readers suddenly jumping ship?  Ooops! Sorry, by-the-book religious folks... though I'm guessing most of you didn't make it past "doggy style" anyway.

"Upbeat" Messages? Seriously, Crabby, Have You Lost Your Mind?
So a further wrinkle is my recent attempt to keep positive phrases running through my head as much as possible, on the off-chance that they may help reprogram my habitual cranky neurons into firing in a more optimistic direction.

A perky tune like Claire Lynch's "Great Day in the Morning?" Well, sure!  That has awesome brainwashing potential.  Whereas Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe" with lines like: "You're not fit to f--kin' tread the ground I'm walking on?" Eh, not so much.

But an interesting thing I've discovered is that even country/bluegrass and funky/bluesy songs full of regrets about ruined lives, alcoholic tailspins, crappy jobs, faithless lovers and ill-considered bargains with the devil can be great fodder for inspiration. Often there's a sense of positive movement in relation to these unfortunate circumstances--courageous decisions to fight back or avoid wicked temptations in the future; some useful lesson learned; or even a slight sliver of hope for the future. All good!

How Weird is This? DIY Inspiration:
I've found it helpful to actually tailor visions in my own head to even "downbeat" lyrical suggestions. For example: Bruno Mars is warning me to Run Away... and while I might be easily able to resist his carrot (since, as it turns out, we all gotta share it), if I envision him singing instead about that third helping of dessert at a party that I tend to regret the next morning? Run away is indeed a great suggestion, thanks Bruno!

And when Bernice Johnson Reagon explains, in a very catchy song perfect for ellipticaling, how much freakin' better I'd feel if I'd just lay my burden down?  Well, I can just pretend she doesn't mean anything Christian-y.  When I let go of worrying, or feeling martyred about something, or overwhelmed or pissed off, that feels pretty damn good, so thank you too, Bernice.

And now, the Playlist Sharing Debacle:
So I spent an absurd amount of time trying to figure out how to have links here that allowed previews of some of the songs I like. Even though I know nobody cares!

But my experience was one frustrating FAIL after another. If anyone has any suggestions either for song sources, or ways to share previews, or perhaps fast-paced inspirational tunes about the sad inability of middle-aged bloggers to post multimedia widgets and how this can be a ultimately be a transformative and life-affirming experience, I'm all ears.

Alas, it seems there's some weird disagreement between the Amazon flash widget and Firefox; they're not speaking. Though the thing may work in Explorer. And Playlist.com is nearly useless as it doesn't seem to have anything that's not mainstream. Out of my last 75+ downloads I could only find 4 they've got, which might give you some indication of how weird my typical selections are.

Oh and iTunes hides the page urls when I try to visit a song preview page, and it wants me to sign up to "ping" whatever the hell that means, so screw them.

But if you've got access to a browser more flash-compatible than my version of Firefox and are seeing something other than the big blank space that I see below, then there should be eight tunes lurking behind there that it may be possible to preview. But I ain't holding my breath.

And here are four additional ones (out of dozens I looked for) than finally surfaced on Playlist.com:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones


So does anyone else obsess about workout music?  What are your criteria for adding stuff to your exercise playlist?

April 25, 2012

Guest Bloggers Working for Peanuts--Review and Giveaway

What's way better than one of Crabby's weird product reviews and giveaways? How about an even weirder one by the infamous Sinner Ella DeVil? She will be telling you about MV Best Virginia Cocktail Peanuts and is hosting our giveaway if you want to win some. (And sorry, U.S. mailing address required, dang it).

If Sinner's name sounds familiar, it's either because you've caught one of the rare posts at her amusing blog No Illusions Here: Fitness Reality, or because you've wandered down to the Cranky Fitness comments and thought: OMG, WHO THE F--CK IS THIS WOMAN??!! And I mean that in the nicest of ways. She's awesome and her call her writing "original" is an understatement.

Are you guessing the Virginia Cocktail Peanuts people are getting a tad nervous by now?

You’re gonna LOVE my nuts!

by Sinner Ella DeVil

Greetings, Cranky Fitness readers! I’ve come to tell the tale of some delicious nuts and grace you with the chance to win your very own can of them for the low and amazingly awesome price of FREE!

You may be asking yourself, “Who is this crazy woman spouting the word synonymous with male reproductive parts?”

Let me assure you, I have plenty of wit and sarcasm to share, but for the purpose of this post, I will tone it down a LITTLE bit. I do run a half-assed fitness based blog that is sparse on post updates and will be plagiarizing myself to double post on my own blog. Let’s just move along, shall we?

Now, I’ve reeled you in with my 4th grade "You're Going to Love My Nuts" joke. What’s it all about? Well, I hope everyone here has heard of the former Slap Chop guy turned Sham Wow guy turned alleged criminal via some very bad choices. (Note from the Crab: if not, you can check out his  SlapChop infomercial, or to blast a few extra calories, dance along to the remix version)). He uses the slap chop to beat the tar out of some peanuts and use them for the infomercial. I’m not touting the amazingness that is the slap chop or the creepiness that is that dude. I am, however going to grace you with the glory that is MV’s Best Virginia Cocktail Fine Virginia Peanuts.

I had the pleasure of sampling the Cajun flavor, as I’m not big on sweet stuff. (Yeah, I know I’m a freak.) These aren’t your typical peanuts. They’re quite large and don’t have that peanutty oomph to them that we’re all used to. While they do still have the peanut taste, it’s not as strong as you would expect. And you may see that the label shows what some may think are really spicy ingredients, but I assure you that they are not “make your eyes water” spicy. The spice is quite mild and enjoyable.

These nuts are pretty big.
I have fairly large, borderline man hands.

Had I been able to stop shoving them in my face long enough, I would have chopped some up (with my knock off version of a Slap Chop) to put on a salad, but alas, I was hungry and they were MMMMmmmmmmmm Gooooooood.

There are a variety of flavors to choose from. They currently offer Sea Salt, Toffee, Jalapeno, Milk Chocolate, the above mentioned Cajun and Unsalted flavors on the Virginia Cocktail Peanuts website.

I am looking forward to trying the toffee flavor next, despite my give or take attitude toward sweet foods. And at $5 per tin, they’re reasonably affordable for that next get together on your calendar. (Or your gluttonous venture into the world of sweet and savory nuts.)

Now, if you’re allergic to nuts, avoid. DUH! But, if you like a variety of flavor, texture, and trying new stuff, I HIGHLY recommend these cocktail peanuts.

(This is me, post 4 mile run, about to stuff my face and make inappropriate yummy noises while I beat my children back with sticks and tell them to go eat fruit roll ups. After all, this is for research purposes):

Now, on to the BEST PART!!! For a limited time, you’re able to comment here, on the Cranky Fitness blog to enter to win your very own tin of delicious nuts. Below, in the comment section, just leave a note, sentence, a 4th grade joke with or without innuendo, a line of prose, or whatever letting me know what flavor you’d be interested in trying from MV’s Best and we’ll draw a winner via the ever popular and GREAT AND POWERFUL RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR. (say this out loud with the “Wizard of Oz Wizard voice” or it’s not as entertaining).

Once the winner has been drawn, we’ll announce it here and/or my slacker blog on Tuesday May 1 as well as possibly send an email to you (if your address is ascertainable), and you’ll have until Friday May 4th at around noon (give or take 3 hours depending on which coast you live on) to respond to one or both of us with your US mailing address.

Disclaimer: Should the Great and Powerful RNG decide to be a pain, one of us will just pull out a commenter from the list and notify them.

Have great day, Cranky readers and go have an adventure!

April 23, 2012

On Being a Horse’s Ass at the Gym

As part of an ongoing quest to experience more bliss and de-stressify the twisted circuitry of my cranky brain, I'm trying to get less pissed off about stuff. As it happens, the gym is a great laboratory for experimentation.

The gym is awesome because there are so many potential annoyances! I won’t even attempt to list them all. But current highlights include the constantly clogged toilets in the women’s restrooms, and meathead bodybuilders who, in order to prove their manliness, feel compelled to screw down the knobs on “adjustable” equipment so tightly that dynamite sticks are required in order to change the settings.

There is also the issue of my mental state when I arrive at the gym...

...which is fully caffeinated and amped for action.

Approximate size of Crabby's coffee cup:

Approximate strength of the coffee within:

The great aspect of this neurochemical “javactivation” is that it pumps up my motivation and endurance, gets me through strength training (ick), and makes for lovely little lightning bolts of euphoria as I dance on the elliptical to the pounding rhythms of my very odd playlist.

The downside of my hyper-aroused state? Minor irritations can easily explode into major rushes of self-righteous indignation.

The most heinous offense of late:  It’s the godawful television sets they’ve installed in the locker rooms, cranked up to high volume.

So I arrive in my own little cloud of pleasantly jittery pre-workout self-absorption and go to stow my stuff in a locker so I can start flailing and sweating, and I am brutally yanked from my anticipatory reverie by a sudden burst of senseless noise.

It could be the forced laughter of a talk show host sucking up to a celebrity with the IQ of a rutabaga, or the hysterical screeching of a game show contestant who just won a trip to Tahiti, or the braying of an infomercial pitchman trying to get me to buy a cat umbrella or an inflatable SUV or an electric toe jam remover. Whatever it is, it's pretty much guaranteed to be something unwelcome.

Unless they're broadcasting a public service announcement telling me precisely how to avoid being vaporized in an imminent alien attack?  I think the TV should shut the hell up. My reflexive emotional response to a blaring tv set that I have not turned on myself is: an uncontrollable surge of exasperation.

My next response is to scowl and sigh, and then I write irate letters in my head to the management and start imaginary worldwide Facebook campaigns to banish all public televisions (as opposed to Public Television, which can be annoying too with all those pledge drives but at least has stuff like Downton Abbey) and then I peer up at the tv set placed high on the wall above and wonder, if no one else happens to be around, if should try to clamber up on the lockers and try to find an off button and risk an awkward scene should an employee walk in unexpectedly, or if I'm not alone I might make a whiny comment about it to anyone who looks similarly irked. (And FYI, folks at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hillcrest, San Diego: the vast majority of women's locker room visitors polled HATE THE FREAKIN' TV! However it's possible there could be some sampling error due to the somewhat crazed demeanor of the particular pollster seeking opinions on this question).

On several occasions I've voiced my irritation to the personnel at the front desk (all very nice folks), and sometimes it's resulted in a reduction in volume and sometimes not.

But the last time I did this, I had an epiphany as I walked from the front desk toward my favorite elliptical machine.  It occurred roughly at the same moment I pulled out my mp3 player, put on my headphones and selected my current playlist:

Holy Crap what an asshole I am!

Are you ahead of me here?

I'd been creating this incredible drama in my head around my own irritation, repeating it over and over, day after day, and yet the answer was pretty simple:

Put your headphones on and pump up your music on BEFORE you go into the locker room, Crabby, if the TV bothers you that much. Moron!

And so I started doing that and voila!  Problem solved.

It does make me wonder though, how many other situations I could have avoided getting all riled up had I looked for solutions instead of getting distracted by my own sense of righteousness and weirdly personal sense of values. (Mindless TV is bad! Gyms shouldn't be hot! People shouldn't bring crying infants into movie theaters!)  I suspect there were lots of missed opportunities for happiness had I looked beyond my own view of how the world "should" be and just adjusted my behavior or expectations accordingly.

Sometimes it's as easy as asking myself "do you want to be all angry and annoyed? Do you like this feeling?" (Though unfortunately, sometimes the answer to these question seems to be "yes" and it takes a long freakin' time to let go of whatever it is. But weirdly enough, when the answer is a heartfelt "No!" I find I'm getting better at moving on).

Anyway, I'm sure I'll keep on being an asshole a lot of the time, as I've had 5 decades of practice, but I'm hoping I'll at least try to look beyond my own easily inflamed sense of indignation a little more often.

EXCITING UPDATE: So whaddya know?  On my last two visits to the gym the locker room TV's had been turned off!!!  Thank you, 24 Hour Fitness in Hillcrest, San Diego! 

Also, clever reader Lynn suggested this delightfully evil potential solution: the TV-Be-Gone!

How about you guys, anyone else find sources of irritation connected to working out? Or have other ideas for un-pissing yourself off?

Picture Credits:
Horse's Ass: deflam
Big Coffee Cup: abu
Strong coffee: sh0dan

April 17, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

So we're back from our camping trip... and pretty much nothing that happened the entire 5 days bore any resemblance to what we'd carefully planned.

And isn't this so often the case in life?

In a health/fitness context, it happens all the time: the yoga class you planned your day around is cancelled because the instructor has leprosy or couldn't find a babysitter for her pet iguana; the healthy restaurant you suggested for lunch has a line of hungry vegans packed birkenstock-to-birkenstock for half a block and your coworkers all vote for Hooters instead; or all the ellipticals at your gym are being monopolized by skeletal exercise addicts who will never, ever leave voluntarily and must instead be forcibly peeled off their Precors and wrestled into a secured facility, and you're not feeling up to the task.

Or to use another completely arbitrary example... let's say the beautiful national park you were looking forward to camping in, the one with all those awesome hikes that was forecast to have pleasant sunny weather during your trip?  Suppose the forecast changes just as you are packing up and now features a decidedly less welcoming array of possibilities, from ice-cold winds to downpours to snow and/or thunderstorms.

Sigh. Hypothetically.

So then what happens?

As regular readers are probably tired of hearing, Crabby has been trying to rewire her brain over these last months to become less of a whiny worrywart, and more of a go-with-the-flow sunshine girl. And what is one of the hardest challenges to this new frame of mind? It's trying to find the positive and discovering new opportunities when things do not go as expected.

Let's Pretend This Post is About Exercise Since this is a Fitness Blog!

I actually have a fairly good track record of taking workout "tragedies" and turning them into opportunities to mix things up a bit. Many of my now-favorite exercise activities only came about because my customary cardio or weight routines were suddenly not available due to injury, closures or cancellations, equipment failures, or competition from other annoying butthead gym-goers who got there first and took the Thing I Wanted.

But I'd come to realize I had two alternatives: give up and not exercise, or get the f--k over myself and go try something different.

And then, lo and behold... I'd find the new thing was not nearly as icky as I'd thought, and it became either a new mainstay, or at least a comfortable back-up plan the next time something my preferred workout routine would gang aft agley.*  Now I have many back-up plans, and consequently, have far fewer temper tantrums.

Exercise tip for the day: Use unexpected Fitness Detours as a forced opportunity to mix up your routine.


Okay, Let's Stop Pretending this is a Fitness Post Now.

So yep, the trip required navigating some logistical challenges, which we handled by swearing, griping, moaning, and panicking re-assessing, brainstorming, scrambling, and shifting gears.  Over and f--king over.  There were a series of misadventures too boring to relate, but plans were made and re-made and re-remade many times as circumstances changed.  But in the end we had an awesome time! I do think the brain re-wiring project is helping, because I was not even moderately pissy throughout the chaos that was our camping trip, and I suspect before I would have had quite a few meltdowns.

Anyway, here's where we thought we were going:

And here's the main place we ended up going instead:

Did I mention that the Lobster and I are not big fans of the desert? But one thing it did have going for it: relative proximity. That plus the fact that it contained the only campsite within 2000 miles that was not either booked or under 10 feet of water.

The campground we thought we were staying in:

Where we ended up:

Not pictured but within inches: Boombox blasting Lynyrd
 Skynyrd; barking dogs; and 14,372 screaming children.

Actually, we also stayed on the coast, enjoying lovely beach walks, and went to the nearby mountains for a hike with friends. And the ugly desert campground had several hot springs you could soak in. Some of the trails seemed frankly a bit dreary, but I had one lovely morning hike that was downright magical. Perhaps it was because of the rabbits and birds and whimsical cactus and ocotillo and other exotic desert flora and fauna? Though I suspect the huge quantity of caffeine coursing through my veins and a steady diet of self-improvement brain-washing tapes had something to do with it.

Of course there are no pictures of the pretty morning hike, so just imagine something pretty and desert-y.  K' thanks!

Oh, and meals!  We'd pictured dinging around the campfire, or perhaps picnicking on the trail:

But due to our many changing venues and our desire not to burn our neighbors tent to the ground (since it was millimeters from our fire pit), we had to improvise.  So while in the coastal area, we were forced to make do with the most amazingly delicious whole grain pancakes ever at the Naked Cafe in Carlsbad.

(Actually, these were the Lobster's but she let me steal some bites.  I had the pesto eggwhite scramble with greens and it was also quite delicious.  But the meal was so healthy it caused nearby light to bend in amazement and so the photo of it is all blurry. Weird how physics works, isn't it?)

Oh, and there were other culinary adventures too:

Wait... what's that weirdly familiar blue hue?

 Is it? ... No, couldn't be... Nah...

Eeek!  Who would roast innocent Peeps on a campervan stove to make S'mores?

(Personal aside: hey, thanks JanV for the sacrificial offering! The Camping Gods were apparently appeased as we survived the trip). 

And there was hiking too!

And don't be fooled by these two fresh-faced innocent-looking hiking companions who led me and the Lobster on a hike.  Turns out, they have wicked snow-ball slinging skills, and are fearlessly undeterred by fresh (and gigantic) mountain lion tracks, Border Patrol agents with large firearms taking suspects into custody, and shoe-soaking snow drifts that left us all drenched and in desperate need of cocktails to warm us up.  (However, it turns out these hardy hikers are afraid of seaweed snacks!  I'm hoping mountain lions have a similar aversion, should we ever come face to fang with one).

Was that a rambling mess of a blog post or what!  But going back to the pretense that this is a fitness blog...

Do you ever find new cool things when you run into Fitness Detours (or any detours for that matter)?
**If Wikipedia is to be believed, the whole "best laid plans of Mice and Men" quote comes from a line in a Robert Burns poem: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." See? Wasn't that highbrow?  And aren't you feeling smug you read all the way down to the bottom of the post?

Photo Credit for Detour sign: Stumax 

April 12, 2012

Guest Post: How To Avoid Making A Butt Mold In Your Couch

Crabby is off camping again, slacker that she is, but she will be back in a few days.  (Assuming she doesn't fall off a cliff or choke on a S'more or something).

In the meantime, we have a guest post from personal trainer Taylor Ryan with some motivational advice, as well as some practical tips and a cool video.

Crabby will be back soon!  She might even return with.... [cue scary music
]... photos from the trip! 

How To Avoid Making A Butt Mold In Your Couch
by Taylor Ryan

I want to thank “Crabby” for letting me share some awesome info today! I love reading Cranky Fitness, so it’s an honor to be able to write for it and share my training “know-how”.

We all have those days where all you dream of doing is getting off work, walking in your front door, being greeted by the smell of dinner already being prepared (a gal can dream, right?) and then plopping your tush down on the couch for the remainder of the night.

So long in fact, that when you get up for a glass of water there is that perfect concave imprint left from your tush as a reminder that you just spent over two hours on the couch without budging... not even once.

No shame in that, we have all been there but it doesn’t mean that because we’ve all been there that it is okay to do it on a day to day basis. The sad thing is that this is what over half of Americans do each night.

So how can you find the motivation to lift your tush off the couch and do something a bit more rewarding, I don’t know... like getting your workout done?

I was recently given a picture with the quote that read “No One Ever Regretted Doing A Workout” and it’s so true. I remind my boot campers of this all the time! Your feet may drag to get started but think of the feeling of achievement and satisfaction you get once the workout is over!

You feel like a rock star! Better yet, you feel like Super Woman!

So that is your first tip! Imagine the feeling of getting it done! Also picture the feeling of not getting it done, that feeling of slight guilt you get when you know it was your day to workout but you chose American Idol over your exercise plan.

Second, Leave no room for excuses. Instead of going home before the gym (if you workout at a gym), keep a packed gym bag in your car. Better yet, put it on the front seat, not in the back seat or the trunk. When you go to start the car after work it’s the first thing you see... and how can you deny it?

Third, who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? Some people workout great during their favorite shows, it helps to keep the workout moving. Simply write down a 15-20 minute interval style workout) and do it right there in the living room.

Here's an example:

(Editorial note from Crabby: Holy Crap! It's not complicated but it's totally kick-ass, check it out!)

Then when it’s time for the show to wind down, its time for your cool-down.

Fourth, if no matter how hard you try to tell yourself you are going to follow these tips but just can’t seem to make it happen it’s time for a change. Change the time you workout to make it better on you and your schedule. If you can’t seem to make it happen after work, then it’s time to try morning workouts. And if you keep saying you will workout before work, perhaps it is time for lunch time or evening workouts.

And finally, working out doesn’t have to take up your time. You can get in an amazing heart pumping, muscle toning, belly melting workout in less than 30 minutes! All it takes is planning, walking into your fitness area (gym, garage, streets, etc) knowing what you want to do and doing it. Personally, on the days where I don’t have all the time in the world I lean towards interval workouts or circuits.

Just to give a quick idea, I may choose 6 exercises (all total body and all with free weights or body weight) and I will do each exercise as quickly and efficiently as possible for 60 seconds, then have a 10 second rest before moving down to the next exercise.

These are intense, help increase your metabolism and burn fat but if you do it just for 2 complete rounds, you’ll feel as if you worked out for an hour but you will see it’s only been 15 minutes! No excuses, just do it.

And remember, “No one ever regretted a workout!”

Who is Taylor?

Taylor Ryan is a NASM certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She currently lives in Charleston, SC with her husband where she runs a successful women’s boot camp as well as the online fitness community, The Art of Weight Lifting.

April 09, 2012

Top Funny Websites? Filling The Doctor's Rx for Laughter as Best Medicine

So it's not exactly a secret that laughter is good for your health. Benefits include boosting immune function, decreasing stress, and even helping regulate blood sugar levels.

There are so few "to do" list items on any healthy living agenda that are pleasant and free! Well, aside from that obvious activity that happens in the bedroom.  (Oh, and sex... that's good too! But I meant sleep. And scoff not, youngsters... as hormones change, so, sadly enough, do priorities.)

Anyway, laughter has other practical benefits as well.  So maybe it's a good time to move "laugh more" up a few notches on your self improvement list?  So sorry about that, "floss more often" "eat more broccoli" and "do Tabatas twice a week."

We gotta go find us some giggles.

Stealing from Charlotte Again

Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment had an awesome post the other day on the importance of smiling and of laughter in improving one's mood. And it reminded me of another interesting bit of productivity advice from a cool book I've been reading. (Your Brain at Work, by David Rock; thanks Tim for the suggestion.)

Let's say, hypothetically, that it's Monday and you're depressed and unmotivated and having trouble concentrating on what you're supposed to be doing. (Gosh, imagine that!) A quick way to increase your brainpower is to boost your flagging dopamine levels. And what's one way to do that?

Immerse yourself in something high-minded and educational!

No?  Well instead, why not go find something funny and laugh at it?

Laughing can fake out your brain into a state of alert interest that can carry over into the task at hand, allowing you to dive back in to even the most tedious, pointless or punitive work assignment without feeling the need to slit your wrists.  Er... I mean, increased dopamine will help you rise to all the satisfying challenges your rewarding fulfilling job has to offer, so you can be the best employee ever!

But trying to order up a quick hit of laughter can be tricky.  Walking up to the asshat senior VP with the hideous comb-over, overpowering cologne and bushy nostril hair, peering right at him, and then bursting out laughing in his face because he's such a douchebucket.... may get your dopamine flowing but might not be the best your career move. Or spending 6 hours websurfing on Funny or Die looking for Funny and finding only Die? Well, it's better than xeroxing your ass and posting it on Facebook, but still there's still probably room for improvement.

In fact, wouldn't it be helpful to have some go-to websites for a reliably quick laugh already book-marked on your computer?  Yes it would, godamnit! But it's not something I've taken the time to do recently.  I've got a few, but Charlotte's post was a reminder that I need some help.

And ideas from other time wasting slackers resourceful media experts?

Charlotte, mentioned above, besides being consistently hilarious herself always finds good stuff.  She had me giggling over Ellen Degeneres clips like this one.  I don't tend to watch daytime tv, so I totally missed this--thanks Charlotte!

I also forgot about Damn You Auto Correct which can get me snickering, cackling, chuckling, and otherwise making a spectacle of myself when I remember to visit.

(Note: individual autocorrect excerpts are often off-color and may seem Not All that Funny out of context.  But beware: if you go to the actual site, the cumulative effect of so many humiliating miscommunications may cause unseemly snorting and increased risk of urinary incontinence.)

I love The Oatmeal, even when it features locker room humor or cheerfully disgusting lewd and violent pterodactyl videos.

Warning: NSFW!!!!

The Onion is funny sometimes, and the Daily Show often has good segments. But many of my former sources for humor are either kaput now, or, like College Humor or Cracked or Oddee (good for photoshop blunders etc) or Funny or Die or the Lolcat Empire (with spinoffs like Failblog) sometimes contain so many duds it's hard to find your way to snortworthiness.

And hey, with spectacularly coincidental timing, as I was writing this post I got an email introduction to a site called The Celebrity Cafe, which among other humor compilations has a list of 10 funniest dog videos and 10 funniest cat videos.

So here's one for the cat folks:

And one for the puppydog lovers:

There are also lots of funny bloggers out there like Bossy and The Bloggess, and no doubt many more I don't know about yet. But somehow I just don't make blog rounds like I used to.

So I'm on the hunt for ideas... I imagine there are lots of creative folks out there doing funny stuff and I'm too lazy to go out scouting.  Especially cool would be humor that appeals to women and not just college fratboys.  (Damn I miss Sarah Haskins in Target Women!) Though I can laugh at fratboy stuff too.

If you've got some good sites or clips, please leave suggestions and/or urls in the comments and if they seem like something other folks might like too I'll move 'em up to the main post.

Do you guys take humor breaks?  If so, where the hell do you go on the web to do that?

(Laughing donkey photo by: jaxxon. Farewell to Arms cartoon by Natalie Dee)

April 02, 2012

Pick Up Some Free Kettlebells

Sometimes quick and easy is good, right?

(That's what I'm trying to learn about blogging, anyway. Not every post has to be a 30,000 word novella.)

But "quick and easy" (and "cheap" or "free") are very handy concepts for exercise too! No matter how thorough and elaborate your usual workout regimen is, sometimes you need a workout that (a) doesn't require a gym (b) can travel with you and (c) doesn't force you to fork over craploads of money to replicate something you already have access to somewhere else.

A few pieces of free or nearly-free workout equipment can often mean the difference between "I don't have time to workout, damnit" and "Holy crap, you can do a lot in 20 minutes if you don't have to leave the house/hotel/brewpub!" (Or wherever you like hang out). So I've got a couple of suggestions for ways to take a workout wherever you go... including some free kettlebells.

But wait, you may be wondering... when is anything ever free? And what's with the "wherever you go" bit?  Aren't kettlebells really heavy and uncomfortable to carry around and isn't that the whole point of them? And do I really want to explain the odd contents of my carry-on bag to the cranky TSA lady at the airport?

OK, so sure, there's a catch or two. They're portable because you acquire them at your destination and throw them away again.

And they're completely free only if you drink liquids in large quantities, or don't mind rooting around recycling bins and being mistaken for a homeless person. But heck, dumpster diving is exercise too, right?

The Cranky Fitness Milk Jug Kettlebell Experiment

The Lobster and I are lucky enough to have a DIY Home Gym back on the east coast. But lacking that option in San Diego, we don't generally exercise unless we schlep to the gym or go on a long walk somewhere. And some days... that doesn't happen. So, in search of a cheap kettlebell/dumbbell alternative for home use, I thought I'd try:

The Milk Jug Kettlebell!

It's Easy:

Just rinse out old contents of bottle and refill with water.

Tah Dah!

Beverage containers have handles, come in different sizes, and some have sturdy screw caps. It might be worth going with a different size or brand to get the "perfect" fake kettlebell.

But What Kinda Sucks and How to Fix It:

1. Too Light Even When Full

A gallon of water only weighs 8.35 lbs. This is not enough for many exercises, like the chest press, even if you try to get all fancy and add instability.

Upgrades can be made by buying larger water jugs, and/or by buying a bag of sand at the hardware store to use as filling instead of water. A two gallon container of sand (depending on grain) could weigh a respectable amount.  Because sand weight is so variable, I couldn't get a good figure, but 12.5lb a gallon was one estimate.

However, there are plenty of moves that are challenging even at low weights, so you may want to modify your routine accordingly.

Just ignore Crabby's bent wrist, she is so NOT an expert on form.

2. Top May Not Be Secure Enough for Wild Flinging

Even with a screw cap, I noticed a little leakage when I started to hoisting with too much exuberance. I'm thinking duct tape or glue, and if that doesn't work, upgrading to a more durable container that actually costs money, like a gas can kettlebell.

Milk Jug Workout?

Though in my own mind I "invented" the milk jug kettlebell idea in a sudden flash of dairy-fueled inspiration, I suspected others might have done the same.

A quick google confirmed this and even yielded a milk jug workout.

Kettlebell workouts:

There are also tons of these if you google. A beefcake version can be found over at Men's Fitness; cheesecake version at Women's Health. And there's even a traveling kettlebell workout over at Girya Girl.

Other Cheap Portable Exercise Solutions:

There is a whole previous post on Cheap Do it Yourself home fitness equipment back in the archives, but to repeat a few obvious suggestions:

Body weight exercises are free and portable, hooray! College Candy has some suggestions, and there are a bunch of no equipment exercises at the Ace Exercise Library.  Other cheap/free options include jump ropes, elastic cords, stretchy bands, and DVD's from the bargain bin or the library. Oh, and there's always the Crabitron for dips!

Suspension trainers can be made on the cheap too, like this DIY suspension trainer. But note... I was thinking there might even be a simpler way using a necktie or bathrobe belt, but when I started to google... whoops! Apparently the bondage folks got there first. (On the plus side, they seem to be Eagle Scouts when it comes to knowing their ropes).

Anyone else experimented with DIY fitness equipment?