My daughter just had "Crazy Hair day at her school where all the kids make their hair, well, crazy. It happened to be our day to bring in snacks for the class.
I have no idea why some snacks day at my daughter's school are so fun to come up with, but this idea just evolved. At first I wanted to freeze bananas on a stick, dipped in peanut butter and then granola, but the thaw time for the banana and keeping it from turning brown and not falling off the stick became too difficult...
One of my kids' favorite snacks is from a friend that taught us about Disney "Princess Cookies," which are actually round slices of apple called Princess because of the star shape of the core in the center slices. So great! So I swapped the banana mess for apple slices, dipped them in peanut butter on one edge (a bit for "boys" and more length for "girls") and then dipped that into granola. When you use natural peanut butter, it gets hard when cold and won't run, drip, or stick. I hope you enjoy making this recipe with your kids! (Or for yourself, why not have fun, too?)
Makes About 40 "Crazy Hair" Apple Cookies:
6-8 Medium Apples
1 T lemon juice or 3 T Fruit Fresh in 12 cups water
2 cups Natural Peanut Butter, softened about 10-20 seconds in the microwave
1 cup granola (we like Super Nutty in the bins at Smith's and Sunflower Market)
1/4 cup chocolate chips or raisins for eyes
1/2 cup cashew halves for the mouths
- Slice the apples 1/2" thick from bottom to top, discarding any seeds and stems. One apple makes 5-6 slices. Place the slices in the lemon juice or Fruit Fresh water for 5-10 minutes to prevent browning. Make the day of or night before to keep fresh.
- Place the slices on paper towels; blot dry.
- Dip one edge into the softened peanut butter and then into the granola for "Crazy Hair."
- Place on a cookie sheet. (I have a 9x13 with a lid, so I filled the pan, inverted the lid and filled the lid, then stacked a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap over the entire thing to take them to my daughter's school without smashing any).
- Dip the raisins/chocolate chips "eyes" and cashew "mouths" in a dab of peanut butter and stick them to the apple faces. (Next time I'm going to try putting peanut butter in an icing bag with a piping tip to make quick work of dotting all the apples and sticking on the faces; let me know if you try this and it works well.)
- Refrigerate immediately until ready to eat. Our class drink was Milk; yum!
My friend just lent me her copy of Insanity so I need to decide if this new program will be better than my current routine. Here are some differences between working on P90X and preparing for Insanity:
- P90X is 3 months; Insanity is a shorter 2 months and 1 week.
- P90X videos are 60 to 90 minute videos; Insanity's are 30-45 minutes.
- P90X is 7 days a week; Insanity is 6 days a week.
- P90X has a great deal of equipment (weights, pull up bar, optional bands, yoga mat and block...); Insanity is mostly body weight training. I'm going to get good Cross Trainer shoes, and a Plyo mat or good floor are a must. I'll also get more mirrors to keep an eye on my form.
- My husband has set up a 3-month P90X strength circuit in the sunroom, which frees up the living room for my Insanity workouts. We'll still be helping each other "rise and shine" early in the morning!
- When I did P90X I wasn't working and the kids were home. Now that I'm back to work and have to get one kid ready and home from school and still take care of the other during the day, my schedule will appreciate the shorter routines of Insanity.
- I did P90X in two full 6-month circuits then intermittent with running for the remaining year. I'd like to keep up on my cardio with new workouts, Insanity will cover that (and all while inside my comfy house in the fall!)
- Before P90X my doctor said my health was okay, then after P90X my blood tests were FANTASTIC. I'm going to retake my blood tests before and after Insanity because the program requires it and the feedback will be priceless.
- I was one year post-partum and out of shape when I started P90X. Now I'm three years post-partum, at a healthy weight, and have more strength and better posture than before. I hope I perform well on the Insanity Fitness Test! The Fitness Test is incorporated into the workout schedule so I'll have many attempts at nailing it. If and when I do, it will be time to switch programs again anyhow...
So I sat right down and asked myself, "Is it a good time?" Could I right now finish if I started and be successful? So I wrote it out:
- It's something for me, of which I'm doing very little at the moment.
- I've been dragging and inconsistent since the 5k ended, summer swimming has ceased, and the weather is cooling down, so the time for a new exercise plan is NOW. Daily exercise is a must, but I won't be worried about balancing this program with "outside activities." Total focus = Yay!
- This will only help my triathlon planning next year, as many family members have encouraged me to do an entire event, but my mind is not yet convinced... The Insanity workout motto is "Are you ready to dig deep?" I guess I'll find out!
- Insanity would be the ultimate holiday weight control. It will get me through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and half way into Christmas, not to mention conclude just prior to any travel plans. What timing!
- Mastering Heart Rate training has been on my To-Do list this year; this program has intervals over 85% Max HR so I know I'll get my HR monitor use in the remainder of this year.
- I've established an early AM waking habit that I'd like to continue. My new job is offline 4:30-5:30 every morning; I have work-free and kid-free AM time for the workout.
- I'm not teaching any live group fitness or personal training at the moment, so the risk of injury is not threatening to anyone or anything but myself. Plus, 2 years of P90X with no injuries, I'm a bit more brave and prepared then before, and my nutrition/eating habits are much better as well.
- I'm not one to wait until Jan. 1 to start new goals and projects. Why NOT start? If I do this now, I can go to Disneyland in January, Ya-hoo!
- And last but not least, I want to jump like this lady:
My daughter recently started public school. As a parent of a Kindergartner, we are asked to bring 20 snacks for all the kids about once a month. At the 1st "meet-and-greet," the teacher gave us a list a of healthy snacks parents can bring.
But uh-oh, my girl's birthday was the first week of school, so do I bring cupcakes for 20 or healthy snacks for 20? If you think 20 kids with 20 birthdays; that's a LOT of treats over 9 months!
So I did some web searching and remembered the fruit bouquets from Edible Arrangements. We found some stiff straws (much like Lollipop Sticks) at Party City, pulled out our cookie cutters, and made the following:
These treats were a learning experience; I was not sure what fruits the kids would love. Watermelon was harder to use than cantaloupe and the kids were surprised by the kiwi:
This will be my shopping list for next time if I made 50 (two for each plus teachers):
- 50 grapes in two colors
- 25-50 strawberries
- 1 cantaloupe
To add some fat and protein to our "nutrient-dense" carbohydrate fruit, we made a double batch of my Aunt's Fruit Dip recipe below and had a blast squirting it into mini cups:
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 1/4-1/3 cup pineapple juice (you can drain this from a can of pineapple chunks)
- 1 package instant vanilla pudding, sugar free
- Whisk together sour cream and juice, whisk in pudding; serve cold.
"Life is what happens when we are making other plans..." or say the saying goes.
Although the summer brought many ups and downs, I was able to continue training and working toward my 1st 5K race. In summary, my sister (swimmer) and her sister-in-law (cyclist) and I signed up for a team Triathlon six months ago, a first for us all. Having run about 100 times in my entire life, I began training at 10:30 min/mile pace and completed the race at 10:15 min/mile tempo for the 3.2 mile course with hills, soft sand/sidewalks, and around 400 participants.
What I learned on Race Day:
- I'd like to keep running and keep improving but with music! Music is my inspiration and driving force. This race did not allow it as a cyclist was hurt by someone wearing ear buds, but I just saw another run event that allowed them. Read the participant guidelines for each race carefully.
- The entire experience was much more fun going with friends and/or being on a team. I would have backed out last month due to my August employment at a University had I not: 1) set up a training session with an amazing running coach to help me improve my form in mid-August, 2) had my sister holding our team to our commitment to attend and complete the race.
- I love my family, but watching for them around the track probably slowed me down. Turned out the moment I stopped looking, they were at the finish line standing by cheering me on. Lesson learned: keep your head on the race and give hugs when it's over! (Thanks for coming, my family!) Note to observers: Cheer enthusiastically! Spatters of weak claps are not very encouraging...
About racing for the first time:
- Six months ago I was only learning to do a 5k. Now I feel I could do an entire triathlon if I wanted to. I've proven to myself I can work one hour of training per day into my week, so I wouldn't be the fastest, but I could complete the event fairly well.
- Of the 400 people signed up for the triathlon, about two-thirds registered the 4 weeks prior to the race. This was this event's 1st year; I've heard registering for larger events like the Boston marathon is a whole other process and experience. Just like I mentioned about attending conventions or your first group exercise class, a little advanced planning and registration is incredibly beneficial toward your successful inclusion.
- Everyone was incredibly FRIENDLY. I expected elbow jabs, foul play, and harsh competition, but I made more friends in four hours than I have in the past four years. Only about 10% of the competitors were there to win and vanished at the start line; everyone else was focused on their personal achievements and out-doing their own race performance.
|My Awesome Team: Heidi, Me, Mary|
GREAT articles and resources from the professionals for your first event:
- 10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes, Gale Bernhardt, Active.com
- How to Run Your First 5K, Jen Murphy, Active.com
- RaceFinder, Runner's World
- Free Training Guides, Runner's World
(Sorry readers: If you'd like to know what the drills are, contact Dr. Karp!)
Readers: Comment with your tips/treats for race day!
Or, how are you planning/preparing for your 1st race?
Now that you know a bit about your cardiovascular system, let’s get started on understand your heart by taking some baseline measurements. Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the slowest heart rate for you and gives valuable information regarding your current fitness level.
Take your resting heart rate when you first wake in the morning but are still lying in bed. Find your radial (wrist) pulse with your first and second fingers of the opposite hand and count the number of beats you feel over 60 seconds (one minute). If you have a Heart Rate Monitor with Touch Screen, just reach over to your bedside table when you wake up, strap it to your wrist, and take an instant reading. Do not move around much as your heart rate can instantly jump 10-20 beats just reaching across your body; lay still for a few minutes when the monitor is in place.
Resting heart rate varies from 50-90 beats per minute across the adult population. Athletes are known to have resting heart rates as low as 30-50 beats per minute. I recommend you take your resting heart rate at least three times a week in the morning as your fitness improves, then at least once a week when you reach your goal resting heart rate and are in a health-maintenance stage.
This link has a RHR chart: What does your RHR say about your fitness level? For example, I am a 31 year old female, 5 ft 5" and 115 pounds. I take 7,000-12,000 steps per day and I exercise about 5 days a week for one hour at a time. My resting heart rate for the past month has been 45-55 beats per minute (bpm). Readers: What is your RHR? Comment below!
Resting heart rate declines over time when fitness improves due to an increase in stroke volume and increase in parasympathetic innervations (Robergs, 2003). After one month of increased endurance training (walking, running, swimming, biking more often) your resting heart rate can decrease by 5-10 beats per minute and stay lowered, showing you have improved your blood volume to supply oxygen to your healthier body, increased your heart muscle strength and capacity, and improved your nervous system. With a regular, appropriate cardiovascular program, your resting heart rate will drop around 5-7 beats a minute each month until you reach your best health and fitness level at around 50-70 beats per minute (Horton, 2011).
Day to day changes in resting heart rate: If your resting heart rate at any time jumps 15-25 beats during the week on a given day, it may be that you are overtired, overstressed, exposed to illness, and/or lacking recovery time. Mine RHR usually reads 60-70 bpm on these mornings. Aim for a gentle workout with walking, yoga, or mind-body meditation on this day and try more cardio when your resting heart rate calms down (Burke, 1998). Combine both long term improvements (decreases) in resting heart rate and day to day changes from stress and recovery, and you’ve got great motivation to track your resting heart rate as I mentioned above.
Heart Rate Variables in this Picture: Just to review, resting heart rate is your slowest/calmest heart rate number. Smaller people have smaller heart sizes, less volume pumped per beat, and therefore faster heart rates. Later we will explore how changes in posture (lying, sitting, and standing) cause instant heart rate changes as do changes in temperature (hot versus cold). NOTE: Check with your doctor before beginning an endurance program if you take medications that affect your heart rate, blood pressure, or metabolic systems.
Readers know I've wanted to share my recent experimentation with Heart Rate Monitors. But first it is important to share some Anatomy (body structure) and Physiology (body function) about our hearts.
Your Cardiovascular System is your heart (cardiac), blood vessels (vascular), and circulating blood. The wellness of these elements allows for oxygen transportation to your working tissues, blood pressure control, fluid balance, and body temperature regulation. Pulmonary refers to the circulation of blood through your lungs; Systemic is the circulation of blood through your body. Arteries (from the heart) and veins (to the heart) are smooth muscle and can change slightly increase or decrease blood flow or redistribute flow through the body.
What is one Cardiac Cycle? The right side of your heart receives blood from your body and sends it to your lungs for oxygen uptake. The left side receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it to your body. The left and right volumes of your heart are the same, but the pressure is highest leaving your heart on the left to the body and lowest where it returns from your lungs on the right.
What is Blood Pressure? 1/3 of your Cardiac Cycle is blood flowing passively into the heart, or Diastole. Systole is the other 2/3 of the cycle: the force of the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) contracting. When you begin walking and progress to running, Systole slightly increases and Diastole should remain the same or slightly decrease. Both Systole and Diastole can improve (usually showing a decrease) within three months of beginning a regular cardiovascular program.
Did you know? Plasma Volume increases by 10% within 24 hours of an endurance workout which increases return to the heart and load/fill before each heart contraction.
Stroke Volume is the amount a heart can fill and pump per heart beat. This varies by gender (men have larger heart volume than women) and fitness level. During events, the stroke volume of an athlete can be as much as 70% higher than untrained subjects for a similar heart rate.
To help you understand more: An elephant has a huge stroke volume (large heart) and low heart rate. A hummingbird has a tiny stroke volume (tiny heart) and high heart rate. A baby has a lower stroke volume and higher heart rate than an adult; his/her heart rate slows as his/her heart and body grows larger.
With all other variables removed: In adulthood, the maximum number of heart beats per minute decreases on average by about one beat per year.
Cardiac Output is the volume of blood pumped for a given heart rate each minute, both controlled by the nervous system and hormonal changes in the heart in response to the body’s demands. Raise either heart rate or stroke volume and blood circulation increases.
How our bodies are limited: Oxygen Delivery or Oxygen Use?
During exercise above one’s aerobic capacity (where delivery meets demand), skeletal muscle can use oxygen quicker than our circulation can deliver it. This is why some athletes turn to Blood Doping (artificial increase red blood cell numbers through injections) although it is highly dangerous and illegal. The smart athletes can instead train at higher altitudes to increase the demand and production of red blood cells in a healthy and legal manner, the benefits of which occur after only one to two weeks but fade within three days of returning to lower altitudes.
Cardiovascular Drift: As you aerobically exercise anywhere from 10-60 minutes, stroke volume decreases due to increasing demands from temperature regulation, decreasing hydration levels, and increasing muscle metabolism. Heart rate will therefore increase to keep cardiac output constant.
Now you know some basics on what the cardiovascular system is all about, I’ll be sharing posts on:
- The Value of Knowing Your Resting Heart Rate
- The Benefits of Warm Ups and Cool Downs on Heart Rate
- Variables: What Changes our Heart Rate
- How and Why to Use Heart Rate Monitors
- Training Zones and How do you Calculate Yours
- Training Tips and Special Considerations for Endurance Work
AND a page of the resources I’m using to bring you this valuable information.
PHEW! This is why these posts are slow to be published… there is so much to know about how to achieve and maintain your best heart health. But don't you feel smarter already?
One thing all superhero movies have in coming are a hero that doesn’t want the job. Frodo doesn’t want to carry the ring. Spiderman wants to get married and settle down. Luke just can’t find the force.
Heroes everywhere have battles they ignore, run from, or try to side step.
- People are losing jobs and moving away, starting over.
- People are trying to have children and finding they can’t.
- People are going to war to fight for their countries and coming home changed.
- People are trying to find purpose and joy in the things they’ve worked for that, in the end, are not what they thought they would be.
Briefly pause the chaos and look at your life from a different angle.
There are 168 Hours in One Week.
1. Take 5 Hours a Week to Exercise: 20-60 minutes a day and find your power.
2. Eat with Purpose: food entering your mouth should have a goal IN your body.
WARNING: Those against you achieving the two steps above are part of the DARK side!
“I’ve spent much of the last five years trying to help communities improve the effectiveness of their health and wellness efforts. One of the most stubborn challenges is getting kids to move out from behind the TV and computer screens and exercise. It is one thing to tell them to get 60 minutes of exercise each day, but it is far more difficult to make that a reality.
Last summer, I asked my 11-year-old son Alec about how to help make better progress in this important area. His answer was simple: “You have to make fitness fun.” So, I followed on by asking him what was the most fun thing he did that was a lot of exercise. He answered, “Playing ‘ultimate challenge’ in gym class.” I had never heard of that game, so I asked a few more questions. What he shared opened my eyes to what I think it the ideal activity for communities to embrace to promote youth fitness.
Ultimate Challenge is a game that gets kids of all ages and abilities running more than any game I’ve seen. It is like three simultaneous games of “capture the flag” going on at the same time, and regardless of age (from 6 to 60) or physical fitness level, there is always a motivation to run. Either you’re charging in to capture a football, playground ball or rubber ring, or you’re being chased, trying to catch someone, or trying to rescue a friend. The rules are simple, and it is FUN!
That night, we decided that the best way to promote Ultimate Challenge as a popular activity across the country would be to create kits that contain everything that groups or organizations need to play the game or host an event where kids could play the game. The next day we registered www.ultimatechallengekits.com and started a “social entrepreneur” business to help get kids fit.
Roll the clock forward several weeks, and my son got his first order to provide 20 kits to the Get Up & Go! Campaign for St. Clair County, Illinois. A non-profit hospital had purchased 20 kits to give away to youth groups that joined their community fitness initiative. The kits were an incentive for youth groups (like Boy Scouts, church groups or after-school programs) to embrace fitness, and the kits provided them with everything they needed for kids to get a lot of exercise month after month for years to come.
More recently, a non-profit organization in Minnesota wanted to host a field day for kids from an urban charter school. They rented 3 Ultimate Challenge kits for a day and had about 15 volunteers come to supervise (and join in the fun) with nearly 100 grade-school age kids. It took about 15 minutes for the adults to learn the rules and play a quick game so they’d be ready for the kids to arrive at a city park where the 3 courts were set up. That morning, there were over 80 kids running, laughing and having a blast as they played the game for over an hour. After lunch, the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders wanted to play again, and this time some of the adult volunteers joined in the fun. It was another hour of non-stop exercise and fun. I can’t imagine an easier way to have that many kids get that much exercise, and it was by far the most popular activity of the day.
A couple weeks later, my son brought an Ultimate Challenge Kit to a camp-out with his Boy Scout troop. One father commented that he felt the game would last about 15 minutes and the boys would be ready for something different, but they had to stop the game after over an hour of non-stop action. Then, the group of 12 to 17 year-old boys chose to play Ultimate Challenge again after dinner—and they played full-tilt until 9:00 PM when the adults insisted that they head back to camp for the evening campfire. The game was so popular, they made it the main activity of their troop meeting 3 weeks later."
Here is an article I wrote, featured in Water Safety Magazine this past January, that seems more than appropriate for this hot July weather. Enjoy! - Megan
"Here is some advice on when and how parents can support their children as they learn water skills.
When infants are 6 months old, they begin to have enough body fat to remain warm enough in a pool for up to 30 minutes. From 6 months through age 2 is the best time for Parent-Tot classes. Swim instructors will educate parents on the correct way to hold their child in the water to keep them warm and safe, and parents can demonstrate to their infants a joy for water through facial expressions and body tension. Splash a bit, drizzle water on your face, blow bubbles, and bounce gently while holding your child securely to help him/her feel safe but relaxed in the water.
Nearing age 3-4, when your child can hold the pool’s edge, follow commands, and swim comfortably with an instructor, your support will be most useful at home before and after lessons. Fill up a large sink or wide bowl with water and give your child a straw. Have them blow bubbles in the sink by exhaling out the straw, and then inhale through their nose without drawing water up the straw. Kids can also begin holding their breath and dipping their face in the sink or bowl while safely knowing they can stand up and out at any time.
For ages 3-5, fill your bathtub with 1-2 inches of water and have your child practice lying face up. When they become relaxed in this position, have them look slightly left and right to feel the water in and around their ears and face. Next, fill the tub another inch (face still above water) and have them breathe in and out deeply, filling and deflating their lungs to sense buoyancy and floating. Turn them face down (face still above water) to practice a straight leg or flutter kick. Have your child blow bubbles in the water through his/her mouth, nose above water. Allow them to dip their nose/eyes/whole face down in the water when they have mastered the straw breathing and bowl dips or they feel ready to try.
In any swim class, same age kids vary greatly in personality. In one group of swim students you will see those that are so adventurous they are dangerous, and those that are so fearful they avoid approaching the pool. This is where a trained swim instructor’s knowledge will be most evident, and your sideline encouragement (or discipline) regarding your child can support the instructor. Watch your child enough to keep them safe, but not so intensely they are uncomfortable and distracted. After a year or two of lessons and experience with a few different teachers, you will have more confidence in a selecting both a teacher and additional swimming skills for your child.
Water can be scary for small children. Give your child both encouragement and time; provide lots of love, support, and patience. Lead by example and blow straw bubbles in a sink, dip your face in the water, and model any water exercises your child is learning when possible.
Swimming skills are built over a lifetime of experiences; enjoy as many as you can together!"