Product Review: Workplay's Goddess II

Thursday, May 31, 2012

You may recall a while back I reviewed an amazing bum bag for running by Workplay.  Guy and the team at Workplay were kind enough to let me try the Cadillac of their range called the Goddess II.  The Goddess II is a compartmentalized gym bag, which is also the perfect size for carry-on luggage.

I was first introduced to the bag at the Vitality Show.  Guy took me through all the bells and whistles.  He also had me try it on to see how it felt.  The 35 L bag is perfectly designed to fit on a woman's shoulder, hugging her curves rather than poking her side.  Once filled with goodies (including 750mL water), it can feel a bit heavy but is because my bag typically holds: cycling shoes, lunch, handbag, change of clothes (either for work or working out), I-pod, Kindle, reflector vest, bike lights, water bottle, music for choir, make-up bag, toiletry bag, umbrella, and dirty clothes.

The bag comes with a custom toiletry bag which fits perfectly into one of the end compartments.  The other end compartment is for your shoes, which can be kept in the provided shoe bag.  Another small bag is included is for dirty laundry.  The end compartments have 2 pulls on the zipper, which means you can unzip from any angle you approach the bag at.  The central compartment has a large flap that flips away from you but the sides of the zippers dip low allowing you full access into the bag.  On the interior of the flap is a groovy list of things you might need.  The list has saved me from forgetting pants and socks several times as I packed in a rush!  There are also six blanks spots for customization in case you need something special on your list.  A few other pockets are on the outside of the bag.  My favorite is for wet things, like swim suits, goggles, and a towel.  I love this because to dry out the pocket, all you do is pull the pocket inside out (so it hangs outside of the bag) and it dries!  One the top of the central flap is a "hidden" pocket perfect for hiding important travel documents or snacks.  The bottom of the Goddess II features 4 plastic feet to keep it off the ground.
I have been using the bag on my London commute when I have to teach at the gym immediately before or after work.  I have an 8 minute bike ride to the Tube and then one transfer.  The bag is not designed for cycling and can be cumbersome when you do.  However, it works fine on a crowded tube and bus.

My mom used the bag for an overnight in Bath and loved it.  We drove there and it didn't take up much room in the trunk (boot).  I took it on an overnight this passed weekend via the train.  I was able to comfortably lift the bag above my seat and didn't have to worry about it sliding around or tipping over.
The bag comes in pink/black and grey/black.  It is a fantastic way to keep organized and stick with your fitness goals.  Take it to work or leave it in your backseat to hit the gym before work or on your way home.  No you have no more excuses as the Goddess II keeps you organized and prepared.  The extra time and effort gained can be put into your workout!  Now anytime I see a woman on the Tube carrying 3 or more bags, I just want to tell her about the Goddess II.  It makes everything easier.

Workplay Bags did not pay me for this review. They graciously sent me this product and all opinions are honest and my own. If you have a product you would like me to review, please contact me

"I" Diet Soda Bread

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My husband and I can't get enough of this bread!  The recipe makes 3 loaves for us because I use meatloaf pans that are 7" x 4".  We pop the extra in the freezer to use at a later date.  My mother-in-law is Irish and ate soda bread growing up.  She enjoys this recipe too. I have been meaning to share it with her, so now you benefit too!

This recipe comes from Susan B. Roberts and Betty Kelly Sargent's book The "I" Diet: Use Your Instincts to Lose Weight and Keep it off Without Feeling Hungry.  One day soon I hope to post a review of this book, which is based on changing your body instincts (I) to help curb hunger and cravings.  For now I will say that I love it because it has meal plans for those who eat meat and those who don't, as well as those who have time to cook and those who eat on the go.


I must say I love 2 slices of this at breakfast time with some almond butter (or if I am feeling cheeky, Nutella) spread on top.  

*Note there is no yeast in this recipe, so it can be baked right away.

1/2 cup wheat berries
3 cups stone-ground whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
2 cups coarse bran (regular red wheat bran, not white wheat bran)
2 cups white bread flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 cups low-fat butter milk, or more as needed (I have used 1% and whole milk as I didn't have buttermilk handy)

1.  Lightly grease two 9 x 4 x 3 inch loaf tins.

2.  Place wheat berries in a saucepan with plenty of water and let simmer until grains are plump and some are starting to break open, about 45 minutes.

3.  Drain wheat berries.

4.  Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C.

5.  Place the whole-wheat flour, bran, white bread flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

6.  Add the drained wheat berries to the dry mixture and mix again.

7.  Add 3 1/4 cups of buttermilk and stir to mix well to make a stiff dough with no dry flour in it.  Because flour is drier at certain times of year, you might have to add 1/4 cup or more of buttermilk.

8.  Divide dough in half, place each half into prepared loaf pan, and pat it into the pan.

9.  Bake bread until loaves are slightly browned and have pulled away from the side of the pan.  A skewer inserted in the center will come out dry when the bread is done.

10.  Let the bread cool completely before slicing. 

11. Slices freeze well and can be thawed in microwave or toasted.

High fiber variation: If you are somebody who gets really hungry, add 1/4 cup of corn bran to dry ingredients for more fiber.

Nutritional information
This recipe makes 40 thin slices.
Each slice has 72 calories, 3.2g protein, 0.5g total fat, 0.1g saturated fat, 16.4g total carbohydrates, and 3.8g dietary fiber.

Here is a photo from my phone (my apologies) of the yield.  My mouth is watering just looking at it!

Product Review: Crystal Deodorant

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Crystal Body Deodorant caught my attention on Twitter when it won one of twelve Best in Show awards at Expo West 2012, one of the largest natural product trade show in the USA.  The company was very generous in sharing its all natural products (made with mineral salts) with me, as you can see in the photo.  Let's go through them, shall we?

First, let me start with the Crystal Essence Pomegranate body spray and Crystal Unscented Deodorant Spray.  Both of these products are free of harmful chemicals, which is fantastic for me (my skin did not react at all to these products).  I tried them both and found the spray to dry fast and.  It never felt sticky and didn't leave any marks on my clothes.  I only applied these to my armpits and found the product worked just as well as my antiperspirant/deodorant.  I never noticed a big difference in the amount of sweat or smell even after working at 28 degrees C all afternoon.  The Pomegranate smell was very pleasant and was subtle, not overpowering.

I shared the Crystal Essence Towelettes (Lavender and White Tea, Chamomile and Green Tea, and unscented) with my Virtual Training Group members, as well as testing it myself.  Four ladies responded.  All were apprehensive about how well the product would work and were pleasantly surprised.  The 4 of 5 of us who are nerdy scientists/ecologists felt it was wasteful to throw away the wipe and packaging (note the wipes are biodegradable however).  I felt that the towelette could be half the size and still have more than enough to apply.  These towelettes would be great for gym bags, office desks, and travel bags.

Crystal recently released a mens' line of spray called Rock. The two scents sent over were Onyx Storm body spray (which the site describes as "natural spicy and warm") and Granite Rain Spray body spray ("natural woodsy masculine scent").  My husband, James, and office mate, Fraser, helped me review these products. James thought the Onyx Storm smelled like black licorice/Jagermeister while Fraser said Sambuca. Because of the smell, they weren't keen to try it.  James tried Granite Rain but found it foamed on his skin and underarm hair (he is quite hairy). He also thought it was sticky and took a while to dry.  Fraser liked the smell but would prefer something that prevented sweating.  

Lastly,  we come to Crystal Foot Unscented Deodorant spray.  I used this spray one warm(er) day when I dusted off  my ballet flats and rebelled against socks.  The spray felt cool and smooth when I applied it.  It dried quickly and then I forgot I had it on.  It kept the odor at bay too.

Overall, I really liked the Crystal products we tried out.  I love that they are hypoallergenic and don't have any harmful chemicals in them.  If you'd like to try Crystal products, click here to locate stores around the globe.  I also have 10 towelettes (in varying fragrances) that I would love to snail mail to you in a giveaway.  Simply email me ( your name and address and I will send it your way! 

Guest Post: Bird Watching

Monday, May 28, 2012

The post below reflects my philosophy that you need to discover that you love. That passion will motivate you.

I rolled out of bed before dawn this morning – on my day off - and had walked a few kilometers carrying some good weight before a lot of folks’ alarms even went off. Am I an exercise fanatic? A health nut? Not even close. I’m a birder.

I suppose I should explain. I don’t like to exercise for the sake of exercising. Some people can go to the gym or do some spinning with PT Mollie and feel energized because they’re doing something good for their bodies. I envy those people, but it doesn’t work that way for me, and I’ve tried all the tricks. If you tell me it’s time to get out of bed and hit the treadmill or jog for an hour, I’m staying in bed.

That’s where the birds come in. If you tell me last night’s southerly winds brought flocks of new migrants into my county, then I’m eating a healthy breakfast an hour before sunrise and out the door all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to tackle whatever trail lies before me. I’m a birder. That’s what we do, and we, for the most part, tend to be healthy people because of it.

I’ve paddled a kayak in the North Atlantic, paddled a canoe against 20 knot headwinds, hiked rocky trails up steep slopes, and traversed enough sand dunes to make Lawrence of Arabia cry. And I do most of it carrying a camera, binoculars, spotting scope, and a field guide. All because there may be a bird I haven’t seen just around any corner. The quest for those “lifers” and the thrill of finding one is a high as great as a runner feels when finishing up that 26th mile – or at least I think it is, since I’ve never quite had what it takes to run a marathon.

Since taking up birding as a serious hobby, both my wife and I have realized some much needed weight loss and become healthier people. We’ve always been nature lovers, but enjoying nature in general is something you can do anytime on your own terms. When you’re counting birds, you need to be where they are and you need to be there when they’re there. I’m here on the west side of the pond, but I know this blog has a lot of readers from Great Britain where birding is serious business. The spirit of competition to see who has tallied the most species can be fierce and that makes for an energetic hobby. Birding may be a little more laid back in America, but there’s still plenty to motivate me. I record all of my bird sightings with eBird ( where the data are used by ornithologists to track migration and abundance of birds. Being a part of that citizen science project is as satisfying to me as ticking off more species than Carl from the birding club for the month of April. (Although Carl can get pretty smug and I wouldn’t mind showing him up for a change.)

Birding is one of those hobbies, unlike golf, where you can get started and enjoy it for merely a pittance. The only pieces of equipment you truly need are eyes and ears, which most of us are fortunate to have been born with. Binoculars to help with those shy birds that won’t get too close and a field guide to help identify them once you spot them are additional basic equipment you’re going to want, but once you spend the £50 to £60 for those items, you’re officially a birder. Sure, there’s more and better optical equipment to be had, and sooner or later you’ll want it. But you don’t need any of that to get started. And once you start, you’ll be putting more kilometers on your shoes than you ever imagined.

So you want to exercise body and mind? Good! Give PT Mollie a call. But you may want to also look out the window and see what nature has to offer.  Watching birds, collecting insects, hunting for orchids…it doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Nature provides the goal, the gym, and the reward. You just have to walk out your front door and claim it.

Kirby Adams is a freelance writer specializing in birding and natural history. He lives with his wife and their three pet tortoises in Michigan. You can read his blog at

Quickie Workout #13 - Tabata

Sunday, May 27, 2012

You can use a kitchen timer to keep track of your intervals or download a Tabata interval timer app. If you are unclear what the exercise is I am describing, please look for a video or arrange for an in-person tutorial.

Please consult your doctor before engaging on any fitness regime. 

Remember to go for QUALITY over quantity. Don't forget to breathe! Please email me if you want tips on how to make the quickies easier or more challenging (

Tabata is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise technique that lasts 4 minutes. Within that 4 minutes you perform 8 intervals that each last 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. For those 20 seconds you should go all out to almost your maximum effort.

I hope you are ready for this!

Warm up: By walking or running for 2-5 minutes until you break into a light sweat.

First 4 minutes: Squats 20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest 8X.

One minute of rest.

Next 4 minutes: Push/press ups 20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest 8X.

One minute of rest.

Next 4 minutes: Mountain climbers 20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest 8X.

One minute of rest.

Final 4 minutes: Reverse curls (lift hips up in air) 20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest 8X.

You are done! I can't wait to hear how it goes.

Weekend Challenge: Make a Splash!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer has arrived here in London! It is a welcome reprieve after the wettest April on record. To celebrate, I would like to challenge to you go for a swim this weekend. Get the whole family together and head to the beach. Check with your local schools, gyms, and YMCAs for indoor facilities. Don't be afraid to enjoy the outdoors though and look for a natural water body. If you live in the UK, check out the National Open Water Coaching Association for some ideas of where to swim outside.

Remember to wear sunscreen and reapply after the swim. Exercise can be fun!

Please Vote for "Top 25 Fitness Blog of 2012"

Thursday, May 24, 2012 has been nominated for "Top 25 Fitness Blog of 2012" by Skinny Scoop. PLEASE vote and share this link ( with your friends.

As many of you know, fitness is my fun job. It makes me happy that I can help people reach their goals.  I hope the site becomes a reliable resource for you as you continue on your fitness journey.  Winning would be so humbling and help spread the word about PT Mollie and being fit!

Whole wheat, Fat-Free Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Muffins Recipe

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Courtesy of Happy Herbivore. Thanks to Veggie Next Door for the tip!

I love chocolate. If vegetables are in the mix too, that negates the bad calories, right? :) Enjoy!

Moist and chocolatey, you won't believe that these muffins are healthy, almost completely fat-free and have a veggie slipped in! This is also a great way to use up all that leftover summer harvest zucchini!

1¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour 
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa 
1¼ tsp baking powder 
¾ tsp baking soda 
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 whole banana, mashed 
½ cup raw sugar 
½ cup unsweetened applesauce 
¼ cup non-dairy milk 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 cup shredded zucchini 
½ cup raw sugar (optional) 

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.

2.  Grease muffin pan and set aside.

3.  If using paper liners, lightly spray inside of liners with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

4.  Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.

5.  In another bowl, cream mashed banana with applesauce and sugar (use extra 1/2 cup for a very sweet, dessert-like muffin).

6.  Add in soymilk, vanilla, zucchini and any other optional add-ins you might like such as vegan chocolate chips or chopped raw walnuts.

7.  Stir until evenly combined.

8.  Add flour mix to wet mix in 3-4 batches and stir until just combined.

9.  Spoon batter into greased muffin pan.

10.  Bake 18-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Chef's Note: These muffins store well both in the fridge and freezer & the raw sugar in this recipe may be reduced to 1/2 cup.

Product Review: Nuun Hydration Tablets

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How can something so small have a powerful punch? Nuun offer 'optimal hydration' in their tablets that about the size of a US nickel.  The folks at Nuun were nice enough to share with me 2 flavors0 Tangerine Ginger from the Natural Hydration line and Strawberry Lemonade from the Active line.  One tube contains 12 tablets which are scored in case you want to split them.  The tube offers protection from the tablets crumbling and fits perfectly into your pocket or gym bag.  The website also points out that the tubes are "Good for the Earth: One tube prevents the manufacture of up to twelve 16oz plastic bottles from sugar-ADE sport drinks."  Excellent point and even better if you are using a reusable water bottle!

First, I tried Tangerine Ginger and didn't like the taste too much.  I think this was because I expected an orange flavor similar to orange squash or other sports drinks.  But the next time I had it, I found the taste refreshing.  After my long run, it helped me rehydrate.  The tablets did take a few minutes to dissolve on their own, but if you stir or shake your drink it takes less time.

My office mate, Fraser, volunteered to try Strawberry Lemonade over the weekend.  He had a night out planned, as well as a long bike ride.  He reports that the tablet was an "awesome" hangover cure but wasn't too fond of the flavor. (He just added it is worth sacrificing the taste for the hangover cure as he didn't loose an entire day in bed with a headache.)  On his long ride (50+ miles), he found it Nuun helped him effectively rehydrate.  I tried the Strawberry Lemonade and found it wasn't super sweet (as I am accustomed to American lemonade) and slightly carbonated. 

The tablets are only 8 calories each and provide you with vitamins too.  If you don't like the taste of water but want something healthier and low-calorie, keep a tube in your bag.  I have a feeling this will be my go-to in the hot summer months when I am training people outdoors.

Guest Post: How My Diet Helped Me Loose 100 lbs

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chris's story is very inspiring.  He made the decision to take control of his life and eating habits and received a fantastic result.  Below is his story.  Please note he is not a dietitian or nutritionist. His diet plan is what worked for him.  If you would like to learn about nutrition, please contact Nic's Nutrition for guidance and advice.

That’s me over there, the charming chap in the glasses with the rubbish, half-hearted beard.  I’m a little tiny bit overweight according to the BMI scale (like a pound or two), but I’m not too concerned about that.

Why? Well, about a year ago, I was more than a hundred pounds heavier than I am now. That’s the weight of a child, or a really big dog.

People ask me how I feel, and I say to them: imagine carrying a really big dog around with you, then putting it down. How good would you feel afterwards? Pretty good, I’d guess. Well, that’s how I feel – and I’m going to share how I did it with you.

My old diet wasn’t great, I’ll admit that. I’m a life insurance writer by day, and have spent years working in the industry telling people how to reduce their life insurance quotes by losing weight, getting healthy and the like… so I thought it was time I followed my own advice and did it.

First off, I decided that all the fatty, additive packed things that made up an upsetting amount of my diet simply had to go. Pringles (1000 calories a tube!), takeaways and fatty fried food all went out the window, and I completely re-wrote my diet into something not hugely dissimilar to Paleo diets you might have heard of (But not deliberately, I’d never even heard of Paleo before I started my diet!).

Basically, my diet consisted mainly of fruit, veg, and lean meat, combined with Fibre and calcium rich foods (my usual choice was Ryvita with diet cheese triangles (the only processed, non-natural things I ate); and I did this for quite a long time.

A standard day might look something like this:
Fruit: Apples, Banana, Grapes, Pineapple… Whatever I fancy, pretty much. The sugar helps to get you up and going, and your body can process them really efficiently, meaning that while it’ll keep you going until lunchtime, when lunchtime rolls around, you’re ready.

A jacket potato with salad. I usually go for lettuce, peppers, sweetcorn, onion, carrot and cucumber, but there’s nothing stopping you from chopping and changing things if you prefer other things in yours. This is usually accompanied with a little sweet chilli sauce, just to stop the whole thing getting too dry.

Go crazy. Grilled meat, piled with veg, accompanied with rice or pasta. Make your own sauces from chopped tomato and stock, or season tuna steaks and grill them. With the tiniest forethought you can make incredible meals that everyone in the family will love – making a Bolognese or something from scratch (and I don’t mean emptying a jar into a pan) is a great experience and a great skill to have – believe me, I was no cook before my diet, now I wouldn’t give it up for the world – and I’m 100lbs lighter to boot!

Chris Spann works in the Marketing Department at

No Excuses.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ASICS Made of Sport: I am made of belief not barriers

Quickie Workout #12

You can use a kitchen timer to keep track of your intervals. If you are unclear what the exercise is I am describing, please look for a video or arrange for an in-person tutorial.

Please consult your doctor before engaging on any fitness regime.

Remember to go for QUALITY over quantity. Don't forget to breathe!  Please email me if you want tips on how to make the quickies easier or more challenging (

**1 minute of each exercise**
Jumping jacks/Star jumps
"Around the world" lunges- R front lunge, L front lunge, L side squat, L reverse lunge, R reverse lunge,   R side squat
Prisoner squats- squat with an explosive jump
Push/press ups- against the wall or counter
Jump rope
Push/press ups
Crab tricep dips
R foot forward lunge with arms raised out in front to chest height when back knee drops down
L foot forward lunge with arms raised out to the side to shoulder height when back knee drops down

Go through it once and see how you feel.  If you are feeling good and have the time, go through it again!  Make the time.

Weekend Challenge: Hey Good Lookin' Whatcha Been Cookin'?

Friday, May 18, 2012

A lot of people spend hours in the gym trying to get fit and look perfect (how many of your friends have a defined 6 pack really).  Often times, we forget that nutrition plays a large part in how our bodies look.  It has become far to convenient to grab food on the go, which is usually full of chemicals and high in calories.  A productive gym session doesn't mean a two Krispy Kremes at your morning meeting.  Monitoring caloric intake is far easier than burning off said calories later.

In addition, when you are working out regularly your metabolism speeds up, which makes you hungry all the time!  This isn't something to fight.  If you don't eat at regular intervals (planning snacks ahead of time will help tremendously!), your body can switch into starvation mode and slow your metabolism down. 

Now that spring has sprung and farm markets are 'cropping' up everywhere, I would love for you to cook a meal from scratch this weekend.  There are several recipes on this blog.  I also love Nic's Nutrition and Finding Joy in My Kitchen.  Both offer a wide variety of recipes, as well as excellent photo-documentation.

Free recipes can also be found easily online with Food Network and Weight Watchers.  I think there is even a website which gives you a recipe based upon what is in your refrigerator and cupboard (please let me know if you have the site's address).  How cool is that?

This recipe doesn't have to be low fat.  Feel free to research healthier oils, sugar alternatives, and butter substitutions.  But these tricks can be learned over time.  For now, enjoy the process of choosing fresh food and knowing exactly what is in your meal.  Make an extra portion to freeze for a later date when you don't have time to cook.  Or bring leftovers in to work for lunch.

If you find an amazing recipe and would like to share it, please email me:  A photograph to post would be fabulous too!

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The following recipe I found on a fabulous cooking blog, Finding Joy in My Kitchen.  It is written by a woman, Sara, who earned her PhD at Michigan State University (where I obtained my Master's).  She has a severe nut allergy and makes just about everything from scratch.  I have never been disappointed with anything I have tried to cook from her site.  All recipes are loaded with photos so you can check your progress along the way.

With summer around the corner and fresh veg readily available, I thought I would share Roasted Minestrone Soup (Adapted from Pioneer Woman).  Enjoy!

16 oz. mushrooms, cut into 4ths
3 medium zucchini, quartered into thick slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 large carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
8 cups chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup small shell pasta
Parmesan cheese

1.  Drizzle the diced zucchini and mushrooms with olive oil.  Then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

2.  Place veggies on a foil-lined cookie sheet, or my preferred way - in a glass 9x13 baking dish.  Note from Sara: "I love roasting veggies this way because clean up is easy and I don't have to use tinfoil. This works really well for our family since we don't like to waste and, we don't like spending excess time scrubbing at veggie stains on our cookie sheets! Just make sure the veggies aren't piled too deep."

3.  Roast veggies at 450 for ~10 minutes, then stir and return to the oven. Continue roasting until veggies are lightly browned. This took our veggies about 20 minutes. I stirred them 2-3 times during the process.  Then, set the veggies aside.

4.  Meanwhile, saute onions, carrots and celery in oil over medium heat.  Saute for about 5 minutes until veggies begin to soften.

5.  Pour in the broth, and simmer for 10-20 minutes.

6.  Add the canned tomatoes; simmer for 5 more minutes.

7.  Then, add in the pasta.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.

8.  Add the roasted veggies, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

9.  Remove from the heat and scoop into bowls.

10.  Then, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Indoor Cycling Tips Video

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The fabulous ladies at Boutique Sport were kind enough to invite me to film a video blog on indoor cycling.  I hope you learn from it and take your new knowledge into the cycling studio.

Big thanks to Powervibe Fitness Studios in Notting Hill for letting us film on location!

It was our first video attempt.  We will work on the lighting for the next one. What would you like to see covered?

Count Your Blessings. Get Moving.

I would love to interview this man.  If you know how to get in touch with him, please let me know.

Guest Post: Dodging the podge

Monday, May 14, 2012

Having not known that dodgeball actually even existed in reality 6 months ago, I am now a fully fledged convert. To pacify a friend who had played it in school, I agreed to sign up to a league in Clapham for a few weeks without really thinking about it. My only point of reference, as for many people, was the film, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Thankfully, there have been no spanners involved in my dodgeball experience so far, just good fun and fast-paced exercise, and I am definitely a dodgeball convert!

The mixed teams usually consist of 8 people, and two teams play against each other with 6 soft balls. A match consists of 3 sets, each of which is made up of 5 three minute games. The games are very quick; it is quite an intense sport involving short sprints and running around to avoid the balls which are usually hurtling towards you with some serious pace on them (especially if you’ve got a burly guy with strong arms on the opposite team). Now, although the 5 D’s of dodgeball do ring true (that’s “Dodge, Dip, Dive, Duck and Dodge” to those of you not in the know), there’s more to it than just that. Catching is a key part of the game, as by catching your opponents’ ball, you simultaneously send the thrower off the court and can bring another player from your own team back into the game. In addition, having a good throwing arm also helps as it makes you more likely to hit members of the opposition if you’re able to lob the balls with a bit of pace and accuracy. Generally though, dodgeball requires very little skill, and is a great way to meet people, have fun and get fit at the same time. You get a workout without even realizing it – way better than spending hours on the treadmill!

Shalini Gunawardana joined a dodgeball league with Go Mammoth, a London-based facility.  You can visit Shalini's blog, Tastebudtickler, for her restaurant reviews.

Quickie Workout #11

Sunday, May 13, 2012

You can use a kitchen timer to keep track of your intervals. If you are unclear what the exercise is I am describing, please look for a video or arrange for an in-person tutorial.

Please consult your doctor before engaging on any fitness regime.

Remember to go for QUALITY over quantity. Breath on the excursion (IE, exhale when pushing yourself up on the push up, inhale as you return to the ground). Keep your abs in as if there is a string from your belly button pulling through to your spine.  Please email me if you want tips on how to make the quickies easier or more challenging (

2 min- Walking up and down stairs (or you can walk/run outside if stairs are not available)

1 min- Wall sit

1 min- Walking lunges bringing back knee down almost to the ground

1 min- Prisoner squats (squats with a jump)

1 min- Push/press ups either against a wall or counter, on your knees or 'regular'

1 min- Reverse curls by laying on back and lifting hips up in the air when feet are brought towards head.

30 sec- Side plank on right side

30 sec- Side plant on left side

1 min- Push hands against door frame on each side trying to create a letter T/push door frame open.  Count to 10 then rest for 5 and repeat until minute is up.

Repeat this workout if you are feeling good, or add another quickie onto it.

Remember the weekend challenge too and get outside!

Weekend Challenge: Be Carbon Neutral

Friday, May 11, 2012

With all the rain we have been having in London, I don't blame folks for hitting the treadmill indoors.  One morning though, I made it to the gym at 7am on a clear day.  As I looked around the gym, I saw several people walking on a treadmill while overlooking the beautiful docklands.  All I could think was how nature and the outdoors are FREE. We should be taking advantage of good weather (especially in London!) when we can and get outside.

This weekend, I would like you to choose an outdoor activity and give it a try.  Ride a bike, rent a canoe, go bird watching (guest post coming soon!), take the dog and kids for a walk, hit the trails for a run, fly a kite.  I even encourage you to leave your I-pod at home and enjoy the simplicity of movement.

Invite a friend and catch up while you sweat.  
Listen to the landscape around you.
Reconnect with yourself.
Breathe in your nose and out of your mouth. (One of my favorite sayings when I teach indoor cycling)

I am eager to hear of your outdoor adventure. Please let me know how it goes by commenting on this post.

Product Review: lululemon athletica

Thursday, May 10, 2012

For all you yogis out there, you are very faithful to Canadian company lululemon.  Based in Vancouver, BC, the company was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson.  Their main focus has always been yoga, but now lululemon is branching out into fitness gear.  I was lucky enough to receive a Run:Swiftly Tech shirt, 50 Rep Bra, and Groovy Run Short to try out.  The timing was perfect as lululemon just opened a showroom here in London.  I have never worn any lululemon clothes before and was excited to give them a go.  So many of my friends LOVE this brand.

In talking to the lululemon rep, I resonated with the lululemon philosophy of community.  The brand wants to be involved and supportive with local athletes and citizens.  lululemon encourages people to stop by the showroom (note, it is not called a store) and engage with others over a cup of coffee or during a class.

Let me start off with the Run:Swiftly Tech tee in grey.  Only recently in my fitness career, have I begun to appreciate technical material and fabrics.  I loathe cotton.  The lululemon tee is knitted with Silverscent and soooo soft!  I would sleep in it if I could (I guess I could but it would seem a waste). It was very comfortable to run and spin in.  The silver in the material help prevent odor and and static.   The lululemon logo is worked into the material on front with a different seam.  For my body shape, it was seemed to draw my eye to my waist, but I might be the only person who noticed. 
photo from

The 50 Rep Bra was a little small for me but never made any marks on my skin.  It held my 'kids' in just fine during activity and had a V neck cut in front to flatter all top styles.  The tag on the bra seemed overly long, but I just cut it off.  It was made of luon® fabric and had built in pockets in the bra cup for those who want a little extra va-va-voom at the gym.

The Groovy Run Shorts were amazing! No static, no wedgies, no sweat marks, no chafing.  I wore them running and when training others.  They were a little short for my liking at first but that may just be because my legs are glaring white after a winter in England.  There is a zippered key pocket on the back and gel pockets in the front.

Overall, I am very pleased with lululemon's products.  I look forward to popping over to the store and meeting other fitness enthusiasts.  If you are a lululemon yoga clothes fan, I suggest branching out to their running kit.

lululemon did not pay me for this review. They graciously sent me these products and all opinions are honest and my own. If you have a product you would like me to review, please contact me

photo of me in the Groovy Run shorts

No Bake Energy Bites

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A high school friend gave me this recipe which she found on Pinterest. These sound easy to make and delicious.  Prepare them for perfect snacks at work or on the go.

If you know the original source, please let me know.  

No-Bake Energy Bites Recipe

1 cup (dry) oatmeal/old-fashioned oats
1 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Substitution ideas can abound for just about any of these ingredients! Feel free to substitute in your favorite nut butter (almond butter, sunflower seed butter, etc.) for the peanut butter. And you could also add in some wheat germ in place of some or all of the flaxseed. I would caution, though, against substituting agave nectar for the honey, as the honey’s thickness helps hold things together.

Some other fun substitutions for the chocolate chips (or an addition to them) could include:
chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, etc.)
dried berries (cranberries, cherries, etc.)
chopped almonds, pecans, or sunflower seeds
other chips (butterscotch, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, etc.)

1.  Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.
2.  Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
3.  Once chilled, roll into 1 inch/2cm balls.
4.  Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

I am going to give this a go over the weekend with whatever I can find in the cupboard.  Photos to be posted soon!

I made this for my husband using regular coconut flakes, chocolate chips, and only 25g of Linwoods milled flaxseed cocoa and berries.  I invested in the small variety pack to experiment with flavors.  We were lucky because the first batch was delicious!

Here I am putting ingredients into one bowl.  So easy! (But a little sticky)

Next, we have everything mixed together and ready to be chilled.

Finally, my husband (I didn't get that hairy so quick) is rolling together his snack.  These were delicious and a total energy boost.  I wasn't sure if I would like the coconut but you can't really taste it.  The peanut butter isn't overpowering either.  Fun, easy, and oh-so-yummy!

Health Your Way Online Article

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I recently started contributing to Health Your Way Online magazine.  Here is my latest article.

Guest Post: Why you should use organic skincare

Monday, May 7, 2012

Using organic skin care not only helps you to reduce your daily exposure to synthetic chemicals, but is also a very effective therapeutic approach for restoring balance in your skin and allowing your skin’s own natural health and vitality to emerge
Many holistic therapies are based on the principle that nature heals and recognizes that the body has an innate intelligence with the ability to heal itself and recover its vitality if we support the body (which includes the skin, our largest organ) and provide it with what it needs.

Many conventional skin care products contain preservatives, colours, fragrance and other synthetic ingredients that can interfere with the skin's healthy functions and upset its natural balance.

The plant oils and herbal extracts which organic plant based skincare products are formulated from are naturally packed with active nutrients that feed the skin, which the skin loves. Many people notice that long term skin conditions and imbalances slowly begin to clear up when they start using organic skincare.

If you want to improve your long term health and beauty choosing organic natural skin care in combination with a healthy lifestyle is a good way to start.
Beauty blog by Penny Lomatschinsky- Founder and Managing Director of Penny Badger Botanicals Natural Organic Skincare for Sensitive Skin.  Penny Badger Botanicals Skincare created for sensitive and problem skin, is a new 95% Organic range of nourishing skincare high in active botanicals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and skin calming extracts.

After living with persistently sensitive skin that eventually developed into Acne Rosacea, creator Penny Lomatschinsky was driven to make her own formulations resulting in the ‘Simplicity’ range with her unique ‘Calming Complex’.  Much testing later, the products are finally for sale. Unlike some so-called natural ranges, ‘Simplicity’ range is free from parabens, petrochemicals, artificial fragrance and colour.

Quickie Workout #10

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You can use a kitchen timer to keep track of your intervals. If you are unclear what the exercise is I am describing, please look for a video or arrange for an in-person tutorial.

Please consult your doctor before engaging on any fitness regime.

Remember to go for QUALITY over quantity. Breath on the excursion (IE, exhale when pushing yourself up on the push up, inhale as you return to the ground). Keep your abs in as if there is a string from your belly button pulling through to your spine.

20 jumping jacks/star jumps

1-2 minutes brisk walk/jog/run

30 jumping jacks/star jumps

1-2 minutes brisk walk/jog/run

40 jumping jacks/star jumps

1-2 minutes brisk walk/jog/run

10 push/press ups

30 squats - Remember to stick your bum out, chest high, have your weight in your heels

12 push/press ups

35 squats

14 push/press ups

40 squats

30 sec plank - Tummy tight! Breathe!

10 Supermans - Lie on tummy with arms extended above head. If you have a bad or weak back, lift opposite arm and leg. If you feel comfortable with the exercise, you can lift all 4 limbs off the ground.  You don't need to lift them very high, just enough to feel your lower back muscles working.

35 sec plank

12 Supermans

40 sec plank

14 Supermans

Feel like you can keep going?  Then do it! 

Weekend Challenge: Stretch It Out!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Friday!  For those who are new to the site, I am making 2012 "the year of flexibility" as a personal challenge.  After workouts, I am spending quality time stretching out and cooling down, which is something most people seem to skip.  It is very important to cool down properly to help the body recover.  Stretching prevents some of the delayed soreness and over time will improve your comfortable range of motion.

This weekend, I would like you to move (walk, run, bike, gardening, anything active) for 5-10 minutes (or feel free to accumulate your 30 minutes all at once. Go for it!) and then spend another 5-10 minutes stretching.  Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds.  Do not bounce during these stretches. If the stretch feels comfortable to you, take a deep breath in and as you exhale reach a little further.  Stretching does not need to be in a fancy position.  Do what is comfortable to you. With time and practice, you will notice an improvement.

Stretching can be a nice quiet time that helps you recharge and refocus.  Do yourself a favor and stretch it out!

Vegetarian Chili

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This recipe for vegetarian chili is a staple in our household.  It freezes great and even meat eaters enjoy it (as I have brought it to several tailgates with no complaints).  My version tends to stick to the recipe (although I usually add more veg if there is going to be some unused portion).  My husband loves to cook anything that can be thrown into a pot.  Lately he has been adding in broccoli and Quorn (a UK protein product that has a texture similar to ground beef).  The recipe comes from "Slim to Shore" by Jan Robinson, a gem of a book that features recipes from different Caribbean yachts. It covers all courses, drinks, and many meat/fish dishes too.  I also love this book because it includes nutrition info per serving.


Ingredients (makes 6 servings)
1 cup + 2 Tblsp. vegetable stock (so easy to make!)
3/4 cups dices carrots
1 cup (each) diced: onions, green & red bell peppers, celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. each: dried oregano, dried thyme, ground cumin
1/2 tsp. each: ground coriander, chili powder
1 Tblsp. minced canned jalapeno (or to taste)
2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 cups cooked kidney beans
1 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed) corn kernels
1 1/2 Tblsp. no salt added tomato paste   **Let me know what you did with the rest. I hate waste.
1 Tblsp. lime juice                                    
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  In a large stock pot, warm 2 Tblsp. vegetable stock.

2.  Sauté carrots, onions, peppers, and celery for 4-5 minutes.

3.  Add the spices, jalapeno, tomatoes, beans, and remaining vegetable stock.

4.  Bring to a boil.

5.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

6.  Add the corn kernels and simmer for 7 minutes.

7.  In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, lemon juice, and vinegar until blended.

8.  Stir into the chili.

9.  Season with freshly ground pepper and top with fresh cilantro.

Nutrition content per serving:
Fat.........................1.1g        5% calories from fat
Fiber - Dietary......3.9g

Food exchange: 1.7 veg, 1.6 bread, 0.4 meat

Third and Fourth Sessions of VTG Scheduled

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The third session of the Virtual Training Group (VTG) is starting May 28, with the fourth session starting August 27.  You might be wondering a VTG is. In the fall of 2011, 6 women from around the globe came together as email cheerleaders as we worked towards our weekly goals. We were able to feel healthier, loose a few pounds, and improve our energy levels.  In session two, some VTG members signed up for 5K races in their hometowns, making running and motivation a big theme of the group.

The specifics:

The VTG runs for 8 weeks and is conducted over email.

At the beginning of the 8 weeks, everyone comes up with at least 3 SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). They can be anything from take a 30 min walk outside 3x a week, drink 2 more glasses of water a day, lift weights 3x/week, find 10 minutes of quiet time every day, call grandma once a week, etc. It is up to you what area of your life you want to focus on.

On Mondays, the group reports their progress to each other. How many goals were achieved? Is there anything a member needs help with? Are there positive suggestions to share?  There is also homework to post healthy recipes and motivating quotes or stories on our Facebook group or by email.

It is FREE!

It is about finding accountability for your actions through a virtual supportive group. No need find a local gym buddy. The VTG will be all you need!

Ready to commit? Email me at to be added to the list!

The Yellow Triangle

Here is an inspirational story from one of my clients.  She was gracious enough to let me share it with you.  Thank you G!

Once upon a time in a little town in New England, there was a 1.5 year old who loved to play with shapes- a green circle, a blue star, a red square and a yellow triangle. These plastic shapes were all part of a game where the shapes all fit into a pelican's mouth. The green circle was the little boy's favorite. With ease, he learned how to put the green circle into the pelican's mouth which made the little boy clap and smile. One day, the little boy's mom realized he was ONLY playing with the green circle and avoiding the other shapes all together. The mom helped the little boy and in about 15 minutes he mastered the blue star and the red square, but not the yellow triangle. The next day the little boy was so excited to play the game again with his mom when she got home from work. The two sat down and started to play.  First the greet circle (easy), then the star and square (a little more challenging), and then the time came for the yellow triangle.  Instead of giving it a shot, the little boy gave the triangle to his mom, thinking "I can't do it so why try."  The mom was shocked to see this sense of giving up in the little boy and worked with him for about 30 minutes until he was eventually able to do all the shapes on his own.
Obviously this was my son! But this happened not that long ago and I really learned a lot from little Leo. It is so easy to stick with what you know you can do and what you are good at, but a lot harder to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. He taught me that with a little push, support and help, we are all stronger, smarter and more capable than we think.
Take this story and push yourself outside your comfort zone.  When you get down, just think of the yellow triangle
Email your snail-mail address to and I will send you a yellow triangle as a reminder to push yourself out of your comfort zone to become "stronger, smarter, and more capable."