On Finding Time to Work Out

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When people say that they don't have time to work out, they're most likely wrong. I've been one of those people. Unless you're an on-call ER doctor with a family at home and heavily-involved research in progress, it's probably safe to say you do have pockets of time in your day in which you can fill with movement.

I know from experience that finding time to work out is possible. I've been a full-time college student with a full-time job and a social life before who found time to work out. I've been a newlywed with a new house to fix up, a new full-time job and a new marriage to tend to who found time to work out. I am now a full-time worker with many hobbies and goals (and at one time a side freelance job) and a son in the same fixer-upper who still finds time to work out. I do have days where I'm finally on the treadmill at 10:00 at night. I do have a million and one projects going on at one time that I have to set aside in order to get a sweat session in. But most days, I do have workouts scheduled into my daily planner--and I do them!

How? I make them a priority. After family and work, my workouts are of the utmost importance. Not because I'm vain or obsessive, but because I understand the necessity of exercise for a healthy body. I like the extra energy I get from it, the strength, the endurance and the bodily benefits I get from it. I never sacrifice meaningful time with my family for workouts, but I do sometimes set aside other less meaningful projects to sneak in some treadmill time. I walk on my lunch breaks at work, I walk or bike to and from work, and I also sweat it out after work at least three times per week. This is about growing stronger physically and mentally, breeding good health and carving out a healthy future. Those things are so so important! I would like to share a few personal tips that I've used to "make more time" in my day, so I can work out and accomplish other goals.

Really, you can use these tips to find the time to do almost anything that your heart truly desires. If you want to find time to start your own business, learn a new language, go back to school, or some other life-changing event, you can use these same time-savers to tackle your dreams.

1. Cut out TV. If there is one life lesson I've learned, it is this: if you have enough time to watch TV, you have enough time to take over the world. I'm not exaggerating. I would like this quote to go down in the quote history books with my name attached. The things you can accomplish in the time it takes to watch two full-length episodes of Grey's Anatomy would probably astonish you. Honey Boo Boo is not going to get you any closer to your dream body or fulfilling life, believe me! If you do feel the need to watch TV (ahem!), you should pull up a mat or a treadmill and multitask. That's even a rule that I've set for myself. If I'm going to watch some frothy reality show (Big IF), I make sure my butt is being productive while I'm at it. It's perfectly OK to be a little indulgent if it's your reward for breaking a sweat.

This is our new giant of a TV that I try not to spend time in front of, unless it's a workout DVD.

2. Be intentional with your time. Take a good hard look at what you're really spending your time on. Maybe record every activity you do for a week, or even one day. Then, see where you can prune your free time. Cruising Pinterest, reading gossip mags, and lying on the couch present prime opportunities to get moving. My guess is you'll find many 1/2-hour or even 15-minute pockets of time when you could take a walk or even dance to the radio. Make a separate list of all those important tasks that would fulfill you, make your dreams into reality, or make your biceps pop. Work on weeding out the time suckers and substituting them for pieces of your wish list. Make a promise to yourself to be more intentional with your time rather than letting circumstances control it. Many of the things we spend our free time on are highly unnecessary.

3. Multi-task: If you really do love those gossip mags, give yourself permission to read them only on the treadmill. Or listen to some podcasts or book recordings while you're pedalling away. Steal away for a few squats in the bathroom. Do your workout on your work lunch break. Jump rope while your dinner is simmering. Do three laps around the mall before you start your Christmas shopping. Do whatever it takes to blend your workouts into your daily life.


4. Schedule it in: Schedule workouts into your day as you would a work meeting. Then, schedule your other things around it. I usually work out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So, I normally schedule doctor and dentist visits, play dates, dinner dates and other things on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or I just switch workouts around a bit. They don't get removed from the schedule, just moved. The point is that workouts should become a non-negotiable item in your planner. Once those habits are formed, they will be difficult to break.

5. Tunnel vision: At-home workouts are a danger zone for some people, including me sometimes. You start tidying up a corner of the house, folding laundry and suddenly you don't have time to work out anymore. If working out at home is your only option, I suggest acquiring tunnel vision. You need to walk into your bedroom with purpose, change into your workout clothes, and plant yourself in your workout space while ignoring your peripheral vision. Just do it, as Nike would say. Don't let all those familiar distractions deter you from obtaining a healthier body.

6. Go to bed a tad bit earlier: and then work out first thing in the morning. Check exercise off your list before too many other items overtake said to-do list. We all could stand to go to bed 15 minutes earlier.


7. Incorporate the Kiddos: Mommas, I hear ya. It's difficult to work out while the kids are around. Well, there's no reason why working out and spending time with the kids need to be mutually exclusive. Hook up the bike trailer and go for a family bike ride. Have your Peanut throw punches too while you're doing your TurboFire, like mine does. Sneak in a playground workout while your little one is running around. Find a reformer workout you can do on the trampoline. Or just workout next to your children as they're playing. You'll really be doing your kids a favor by showing them that working out is something normal, that we should be doing. My Peanut is learning this well. Fitness is just something that we do at our house. And hopefully one day he'll never have to "find the time" to do it, he'll just do it without thinking.

Our bikes, Daddy bike, mommy bike, baby bike

I hope this post has enlightened you to work out with what little time you think you have. This is especially helpful if your New Year's resolutions are fitness-involved. Do you have any other secrets for sneaking in fitness?

Super-Power Roasted Chickpea Salad

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Take a whole bunch of amazingly vital nutrients and put them into a single dish and you might get something close to this Chickpea Salad. It's chock-full of clean ingredients that boast healthy levels of vitamins and nutrients to help keep your body in tip-top shape.

According to a fun book* I got per request for Christmas, this is just a handful of the beautiful things that the ingredients could do for your body:

Garbanzo beans: Since chickpeas are a legume, they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Their high fiber content makes them aces at slowing sugar absorption, reducing cholesterol levels, keeping you feeling full, and lowering colon cancer risk.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes cooked in oil are rich in lycopene, which means they provide some protection against certain cancers. Eating tomatoes with fat makes them more easily absorbed by the body. Tomatoes are also a good source of lutein, which is beneficial for the eyes in a number of ways. Not to mention all the vitamins that the red veggie offers.

Onions: Onions are a potent cancer-fighting food. Onions "contain a whole pharmacy of compounds with health benefits." They are also antiinflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral in nature.

Button mushrooms: They are a nutrient powerhouse. Get the book. Read page 51 and start adding these mushrooms to your daily meals.

Spinach: A great source of vitamin K and calcium, which together help build strong bones. No wonder why Popeye popped those cans like a pill! It is also a great source of flavanoids, which are antiinflammatory and anticancer agents. It's great for women because of its folic acid and iron content. There are too many benefits to list!

Olive Oil: The phenols in olive oil are powerful antioxidants. The oil may have a significant effect on lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of certain cancers.

Garlic: The medicinal qualities of garlic are astounding: "Garlic is lipid-lowering, antithrombotic, anti-blood coagulation, antihypertensive, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral and antiparasitic. In other words, it helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, helps prevent plaque, helps protect against cancer and even helps prevent the common cold. Garlic is nutritional gold.

This week, I needed to make a light lunch that I could easily grab and munch on in between holiday events and preparations. I'm off of work for the holidays, which means plenty of non-nutritious foods are always within easy reach. Putting this salad within easy reach instead gives me a healthy alternative. For me, Christmas lunch is a free-for-all. Not so the rest of the week.

Veggie Chickpea Salad

Superpower Roasted Chickpea Salad


2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 c fresh spinach
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2  cloves garlic, minced


Drizzle olive oil in a saucepan. Heat the onions, garlic and spinach over medium heat until onions start to look translucent and the spinach wilts. Add the rest of the ingredients and roast for another 5 minutes or so. Enjoy the salad, warmed or chilled, for at least another four days.


*The 150 Healthiest Food on Earth by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S. (c) 2007

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or doctor, just an average person trying to eat better. I'm simply presenting information as I have researched it. Consult a professional before making any dietary changes.

A Quick Christmas Peek

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

We indulged in way too much food (with NO guilt involved), ripped through a living room full of gifts, celebrated the birth of Christ, surrounded ourselves with family and cherished every minute of it.

On a funnier note, there seemed to be some epic snowman-making in a small nearby town (Omro, WI) where we visited family. OMG!!! Check out these pictures. The epic snowmen are bigger than the houses that stand behind them! One snowman has hubcaps for buttons. These totally made my day!

Hope you're having a fabulous Christmas!

Advent Activities: Done!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The days leading up to Christmas have been filled with activity, generosity, creativity, meditation and anticipation. With the creation of our family's Advent calendar, I made sure we had plenty of meaningful activities to do up until today, Christmas Eve.

I served up tea for two, because my Peanut happens to love tea:

Tea for Two

We visited Santa Claus and told him what we wanted for Christmas (Spiderman gloves:)

We wrote a letter to Santa and sent it. We even braved the mall just to get to the official Macy's mailbox.

Peanut excavated (from the attic) and decorated his very own Christmas tree in his own room.

 We cut down a real tree for our living room, a regular family tradition.

We even decorated an outdoor tree for the birds:


We went out looking at Christmas lights.

We made traditional paper chain link garland:

Paper Chain for Christmas

And so many more things this Christmas season. We accomplished everything listed in our Advent calendar and then some...

We are all ready for Santa tonight. And right now we're getting ready for my favorite thing of the entire year: the candlelit Christmas service at church.

From our family to yours--have an extra-special, warm and fulfilling Merry Christmas!!!

Four Simple Goals Update

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Things I always push myself to keep up with:

1. Tweezed eyebrows
2. Inbox, sent items, and deleted items all sorted away
3. Checking account balances
4. The stack of bill papers that need to be filed
5. Making the bed
6. Reading 15 mins to my son for school
7. Daily cleanup after son/hubster mess up the place.
8. Dishes
9. Updating my blog
10. Keeping up with phones and cameras full of pictures
11. Getting enough daily water
12. Getting up from my desk at hour intervals
13. Reading several chapters of the Bible
14. Planning out each snack and meal before work
15. Wiping up the counters
16. Keeping the stove-top spic and span (you can clean ANY of it with baking soda)
17. Three cardio and three strength sessions per week

...and on and on and on...

Sometimes I get so tied up in these small things that I forget to focus on the big things. Until everything is clean, I'm fed and watered, and my son has everything he needs for school the next day, I can't concentrate on anything else. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is in full effect once I get home from work. I'm trying to reach self-actualization, but get caught in the bottom two rungs most days.

How are you doing on your Four Simple Goals?


I am actually doing really well on the checking account thing. At first, I started out in bad shape, letting receipts pile up and transactions slip by (which is not like me at all). By now, I've been checking my account balance at least once a week and keeping up pretty well with the daily ebb and flow of the budget. It feels good to always know right where we're at.

I also have been trying to keep up with all those little messy spots in my house. I can't say I've been tackling one per week, but I am doing great things with my space. We recently got a new TV, which required a new TV stand. I got to choose an antique-looking horizontal dresser from the thrift store that fit everything I needed it to fit and doesn't block the windows. A simple sanding and re-finishing (we actually had the right color at home) of the top and it was perfection! These small projects have given me much more breathing room. And I have to say, I've been taking loads of unneeded items to the thrift store and I haven't really been buying anything new lately, so the house cleansing is balanced in favor of extra space.

The last two things I have admittedly not been very committed to. I do move around throughout the day at work, and I always walk on my lunch break, but getting up from my desk at certain intervals just seems anal. I'm ok with not being anal about this goal.

I have also been neglecting my Art Journal. I love the idea of an art journal, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. Cliche, I know. But with all those expectations of myself that I listed above, art journaling does not get the attention it deserves. I also have a different, more purposeful journaling idea in mind that I want to tackle first.

Since I'm off of work now until after the new year, I will be setting my eyes on some new goals for the coming year. I am not the type of person that thinks the only time to plan goals is in on New Year's Day. And I never abandon my goals by mid-January. I just think it's a great time to evaluate the culmination of one year and use the accomplishments of the year past to perpetuate even better things in the coming year.

I will also be ordering an Etsy print and a new checkbook cover because I think I deserve them for dedicating so much energy to keeping our home and finances in order.

What are you New Year's Resolutions? Did anyone else complete Elsie's challenge?

Walking Mantra Meditation

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Since I've been delving into the land of mantras, I thought it would be fun to talk about walking mantra meditations. Now, I'm not a huge meditator. I know all about how good it is for you, and I always have good intentions of meditating, but the practice of silent meditation often falls to the wayside.

After reading an article about walking meditation by friend Nancy Monson, I decided I really like the idea of walking and meditating at the same time. After all, I walk to work a lot, and what's better than multitasking while doing it?

One day, on my way home from work, I selected a word to focus on for the entire trip. The results were actually pretty amazing. Focusing on the word "beauty" made so many lovely and heartwarming things stand out to me. I had covered the non-picturesque territory so many times before, I didn't think anything would really strike me as particularly beautiful, but I was wrong. Turning a simple walk into an opportunity for awareness, wellness, and gratitude is just genius to me. It makes every walk quite a bit more special.

I noticed a squirrel carrying a whole corn cob (funny!)
A sign for "Pleasant Street"

A family decorating their Christmas tree in front of the window (so special!)

Particularly aesthetically-pleasing arrangements of apartment electricity lines (weird, I know!).

And interesting architectural details

And I really can't believe I never noticed this adorable bird treehouse display after living in the same neighborhood for over 7 years!!! It's amazing what you pick up on while you're being intentionally mindful.

Tree full of birds nests

This type of walk was so energizing, I plan on doing it much more in the future.

I've taken walks before where I focused on how fast I was going to the point that my face got really tight. I've taken walks where I focused on a recent fight and used the walk to get away from home, process what happened, and prevent welling rage from erupting. This idea of a walking meditation is much more pleasant and productive, don't you think? And why would you ever take another walk again without focusing on what's truly beautiful? Just another simple way to turn an ordinary everyday task into something a little more special...

Try it! And then leave a note to tell me what you think.

DIY Spray-Painted Christmas Pinecones

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This year, while getting into Christmas spirit mode, I decided that instead of making paper chain links with my son, we would make something that was a little more "grown up" and suitably matched to the rest of our holiday decor. Not that there's anything wrong with paper links; we just wanted something a little different but equally budget-friendly. Thus, the spray-pained pinecone project was born.

First, we grabbed a bottle of gold spray paint at the hardware store.

Scavenging for pinecones was another story in itself. It was not as easy as it seems, unless you know for sure where a pinecone tree is in your neighborhood or if you can easily identify that type of tree like a true naturalist. I couldn't do either. Peanut and I went to one park that was a complete bust. We found one lone pine tree in the acres that we scoured, and that tree didn't yield pinecones.

I decided to try one last spot just before giving up. We drove through our county park, and just as we turned a bend, I spotted a litter of pinecones below a small stand of pine trees. Peanut got excited about the find, especially since there was a playground behind the trees.

We gathered a whole tote-load. I tried to grab pinecones that looked pretty similar instead of a hodge podge.

Feel free to run after the geese and play on the trees and other natural fixtures while you're there. It just makes it that much more fun.

Once at home, we laid the pinecones out on cardboard. While Peanut was busy playing, I gave each pinecone several layers on gold paint (it's an adult job after all). He came back intermittently to check on the progress and give me a few encouraging "these are beautifuls." The effect of gold spray paint on pinecones is indeed beautiful.

After the paint dried, I tied each pinecone with some matching gold ribbon that was left over from my wedding pew decorations (7 years ago!!!). Then, I let the decorating instinct kick in.

Some pinecones ended up on a cake stand that now holds our Nativity scene.

Some pinecones were strung through Christmas-y string to create a beautiful garland. Some were hung from a braided garland I made last year, giving it a refreshing new purpose and look.

It's fun to take some simple spray-painted pinecones and turn them into a house-full of coordinating decorations.

What are your ideas for spray-painted pinecones?

The Birds Need A Christmas Tree Too!

Monday, December 17, 2012

One of our advent activities this month was to decorate a tree outside for the birds squirrels. After we found, cut down, and decorated our family indoor tree, we thought it would be fun to make one for our neighborhood critters too.

I had some pinecones leftover from a pinecone project I'll be posting about soon. We decided to coat each pinecone in peanut butter and roll it through bird seed.

Pinecone bird feeder

Grandma also helped Peanut make a popcorn garland earlier in the day to up the festive factor. We hung the bird feeders and popcorn garland on a small, reachable tree in the backyard.

Pinecone Bird Seed

Later the next day, daddy watched a squirrel cut through the ribbon with his teeth and haul off a pinecone bigger than his head. That little bugger. I wish I had a picture! Watching how the pinecone treats were being consumed through the window made for a good laugh, a good story and a good feeling.


I hope to continue these decorating antics every year at Christmas. I'm pretty sure decorating an outdoor tree is going to become a family tradition we stick to as closely as we do our visit to the tree farm for our indoor tree. It's so much fun! A simple way to bring a little extra brightness to these regular days as we continue counting down to Christmas. Plus, the whole experience made for some pretty special family time.

Any tips on how to feed a little more bird, a little less squirrel?

Life in a Northern Town Part Two

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On a recent trip to the Northern Woods of Wisconsin (read Part One here), we had the prime opportunity to tour a cluster of freshwater waterfalls. Now, I knew this trip was going to be good. But I didn't realize just how "alive" I would feel being in some of the most beautiful places in the state, hearing that rushing water, feeling the crisp air, and hearing the low thuds under our feet as we navigated the soft ground was beyond compare.

We did a self-guided waterfall tour of the waterfalls in Crivitz, WI. There really isn't ample information on the web about the tour, but we happened to find an area activity pamphlet at a local business that provided directions. Otherwise, there isn't much info available anywhere. Not even from the locals we asked. And when we tried to go by our own directions, we failed. Use the pamphlet!!!



Much of our drive around consisted of either dirt or gravel roads. That's how far away from civilization we were. It looked like the primary bulk of the population was weekenders with "cabins" set deep in the woods. For one weekend, I loved it! You could tell that even the trails that led to the waterfalls were pretty scarcely travelled. I abhor touristy destinations, and this was about the least touristy that one could get. "Rustic" is even putting it lightly (don't worry, our motel had cable, internet and running water, ha!).


When grandma used to shoo us out the back door to get some "fresh air," she never knew she was preparing me for an appreciation of things like this.



I can't wait to make this a yearly fall tradition


Neither can he!

When I was a kid, we used to travel "up north" somewhere every year for a big family reunion. I'm not even sure how we were related to those people, but it was the time of my life. My all-time greatest memories revolve around breathtaking color-changing trees, investigating long-abandoned cottages and motor homes in the woods, canoeing on the tiny nestled-in lake, eating all the food we could ever imagine, imagining conjured ghosts, feeling so warm and connected, almost staying overnight there (until someone mentioned wolf howls) and playing with other kids on the beautiful screened-in porch. I decided I could either remain nostalgic and regretful about this lost tradition forever or begin a new one with my family. Hence, this autumn "up north" road trip was born.

What are your greatest childhood memories? Did you ever wish you were Huck Finn too?