Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Liebster Award

I'm so excited!  A fellow fitness blogger friend, Amanda from Toned and Fit nominated Strong Brees for the Liebster Award! Thank you, Amanda!  

I'm sure you are probably wondering what the Liebster award is, right?  The Liebster award is an award passed from one blogger to another designed to help people discover new blogs.  It's kinda like a blogging rite of passage so you could say "I'm in the club".  Only joking, it's not a club but it is designed to support the blogging community.  Plus, with Amanda's questions below you get to know me a little better…now that's a treat!  

Here are the rules for accepting the Liebster Award:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  • You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award.
  • You must create 10 questions for your nominees.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

Here are my answers to the questions Amanda from Toned and Fit gave to me: 

  1. What inspired you to start writing/blogging? As many of you know, I'm a stay-at-home-mom.  While I am committed to staying at home with them, blogging gives me the sense and purpose that I'm (still) capable of helping people and creating something of value.  Initially Strong Brees started as a way for my husband and I to share our training as he competed for his first IronMan and my first powerlifting competition but it quickly turned into me sharing, discussing, and reviewing hot topics in the fitness world.  
  2. What is your favorite trick to staying healthy on the go?  One must plan ahead!  Be prepared with snacks/meals that you can easily enjoy on the run and anticipate any obstacles that may shift your meals/workouts and have a back up plan just in case.  The most successful people anticipate change and see them as opportunities not obstacles.  
  3. Mountains or Ocean? Summer or Winter? Why? That's a tough one for me to answer as in Iowa we don't have either mountains or oceans.  I'd honestly take either!  I'd love to learn to surf but hiking and downhill skiing sound fun as well.  I would however pick Summer over Winter.  I love the snow for about two months and then I'm over it.  I love tank tops, playing outside, sweating in the heat and naps in the sun.  Ahhhhhh.
  4. What is your favorite “clean” treat? Right now my two favorite snacks are apples and peanut butter or coconut chobani greek yogurt.  I could eat both multiple times a day.  
  5. Name three things you cannot live without. I'm going to assume that we know items like "my family" are a no brainer so I'll pick the gym, coffee, baby wipes.  The gym and coffee both just put me in a better mood instantly.  They both give me more patience and energy.  Baby wipes I just use for everything.  Wiping butts, noses, counter tops (I use clean ones for that), make-up removers when in a rush….I should buy stock in them.  I don't know what I'll do when I don't have a baby in diapers anymore!
  6. What is your favorite workout and/or body part to workout? Squats and legs.  My legs have always been my strength but also the part of my body I used to despise, but now love.  I have thunder thighs and not like that thunder thighs that most people say they have….I have real thunder thighs.  But I'm totally ok with it.  They're strong, powerful and have done a lot of great things for me so I can't hate them too much.  
  7. Is blogging your profession? If not, what do you do outside the blogosphere? I wish!  I kinda of think of it as a profession but I don't get paid.  Which sounds lame, I know.  As I mentioned above my first priority is to be home with my kids and since I can't commit to working as a personal trainer hours everyday, I blog.  I still feel like I'm helping and that makes me feel good.  I do work at a personal trainer a few evenings a week.  
  8. Name three guilty pleasure books, TV shows, and/or movies that you’re sorry you’re not sorry you like (say that three times fast.) If it's on Bravo, I watch it.  I love all the Housewives series, I never, ever miss a show thanks to my DVR.  I also watch the Real World (including the challenges) still.  I know I'm almost 31 but I still find them very entertaining.   Finally, I really like kids movies.  It's great now that I have a kid to actually go with me!  I can't wait to see Bears!  ;)
  9. What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self? Oh man, some of the decisions I made and the reasons I made them are cringe worthy but to my credit, I did meet my husband when I was 18 and knew immediately he was awesome.  Of course there were plenty ups and downs in between now and then but we came out on top.  At 18 I was headed to play college softball and had I known then what I know now about the importance of nutrition and training I would have eaten better and took training more seriously.  Live and learn though huh?
  10. Five things that make you the happiest. My family, sunshine, a clean house, shopping and…….. WORKING OUT!  Duh, did you think I was going to leave that one off the list?  :) 
Here are my ten of my favorite blogs that I have chosen to nominate for the Liebster Award:  

And here are the ten questions I chose for them to answer: 

1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
2.  What is your favorite piece of workout apparel?
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
4.  What did you eat for breakfast (be honest, no judgement here!)?
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence?
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7.  If time and money were no issue what would you do for a day?
8.  Cardio or weights?  Why?
9.  Do you drink coffee? If so, how do you like it?
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

When you feel like quitting

I've always chuckled to myself when people say, "quitting is not an option."  Sure it is. 

UFC fighter Chael Sonnen gave the perfect response to that old saying when he said, "When doubt seeps in you got two roads you can take either road. You can go to the left or you can go to the right and believe me, they'll tell you failure is not an option. That is ridiculous. Failure is always an option. Failure is the most readily available option at all times, but it's a choice. You can choose to fail or you can choose to succeed."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say we've all quit something.  Somewhere in our lives we've all dropped out of girl scouts, quit basketball, stopped caring about our nutrition, quit coming to group exercise class or something of the sort. And yes, I've done all of those…where else do you think I get my examples.   If you haven't then you can quit reading this because you're perfect.  Of course if you quit reading, then you're…well...a quitter…. your choice.  Cough, quitter, cough.  :)

Seriously though, I've been there. I've taken on something and for whatever reason didn't finish.  Sometimes, we fall off the wagon.  It happens.  Luckily for you, I've had first hand experience learning how to not quit even when I really, really wanted to give up.

So if/when you find yourself on the downward slope where workouts are falling off the top of your priority list and you're lacking the motivation to keep going, try one (or all) of the five strategies below to lift your spirits.

Remember why you started:  Think back to when you were just starting out.  Why did you start? What where you hoping to gain?  What was your goal?  Often times reminding yourself of your original purpose will rejuvenate your motivation to keep going.  

Tell someone:  When you're starting to dread workouts and entertaining the idea of skipping/quitting all together, talk it out, and I don't mean with your couch loving, fast food eating friend either.  Find someone you look up to, respect and trust will give you sound advice.  I know it's easy to just sink into a hole and disappear from the gym but don't.  Talking through your feelings can help.  It's ok to ask for a pep talk.

Try something new:  If you're training plan is flexible try switching it up to keep your brain entertained.  Check out a new class, a new studio, take your workout outdoors if you're normally inside, or vice versa.

Take it day by day:  Working towards a goal that's months or even years away can be overwhelming.  When you're three months out it may be easy to lose the urgency needed to get through workouts.  Instead of looking at your plan on a monthly scale try taking it day by day (or week by week).  Get through one day at a time and remember that even slow progress is still progress.  With consistent effort, you'll get there.

Imagine what life would look/feel like if you quit:  As much as I hate to entertain negative thoughts, it can be helpful to picture what your life would be like if you quit.  How would you feel?  Where would you end up?  Are you happy/content with the effort you've put forth thus far or would you feel like you stopped too soon? Take some time to reflect on these questions and you may just find the extra push you need.

If all else fails carve out two hours for yourself to sit down and watch any of the following:  Rudy, Rocky IV, Karate Kid, Hoosiers, Forres Gump, Mulan or my favorite, either of The Hunger Games movies.  Really, one of them has to get you revved up. ;o)

Your turn:  What is your favorite motivational movie you would add to the list?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Swing Set Workout

Now a days it seems like I can turn anything into a piece of workout equipment including your backyard swing set.  Who says the kids get to have all the fun?

I know a lot of parents are short on time, stuck at home with sick kids or even just feel guilty leaving your family to workout.  Don't let those excuses get in your way.  You don't need fancy gym equipment or a ton of time to get a great resistance workout.  In just a few minutes of performing these moves I was feeling the burn.  More importantly than the workout itself is to think about the example you're setting for the little eyes watching you.  Let them join in- the added resistance my little man provided on the sit-ups was tough!

Most of the moves are performed just like you would if you were on a suspension trainer, like TRX.  If you've never used a suspension trainer it's important to remember to keep your core tight the entire time.  Your shoulders, hips and knees should be in a nice plank position regardless of the move.

Here is how to set/up and perform each move:

Bottom Left 

Push up on swing:  Lower the seat of the swing until it sits at mid-calf height.  When you sit down and point your toes straight into the air the swing should sit right above your toes.  Place your feet into the swing face down.  With hands directly under your shoulders and tight plank position throughout your core, lower down into a push up.  Raise back up into plank position with feet still in the swing.

Atomic Push up: Repeat the steps mentioned above for a push up.  In between push ups, bring your knees to your chest and extend back out.

Pike: Starting in a strong plank position with your feet in the swing, raise your hips up as high as possible or until your hips are over your head.  (This always makes me feel like I'm going to tip backwards so I stop a little short).

Top Left

Bicep curl: Set the bar at shoulder height. While facing the bar, grab it and bring your hands up to your temples. Keeping your elbows up and core engaged extend your arms out straight.  Using your biceps pull your self back to the starting position.  Remember elbows should stay stationary.  Adjust your footing as needed to help control the resistance.

Top Right

Hamstring Curl: Laying face up, place your feet in the swing.  I found it more stable to have the soles of my feet pressing down). Raise your hips up off the ground and pull your heels in towards your butt.

Sit up: With your feet still in the swing, engage your core and sit up.  Lower slowly back down to starting position

Bottom Right: 

Chin up/Negative chin up:  Raise the bar to the highest link and use it for chin ups.  If you're unable to complete a chin up, jump to the top and lower yourself down as slowly as possible (pictured).

Tricep Push: Facing the bar, grab it with your palms facing away from you.  As with the bicep curl, start with your hands at your temples.  Keeping your elbows stationary push away from the bar.  Return slowly to the starting position.  Again, adjust your footing as needed to control resistance.

Superman: In good plank position, start with a small squat (optional) and extend your hands out slightly, pushing the bar upwards.  You should feel this mostly in your core (and probably some shoulders).

You can perform these moves in any sequence you'd like.  A few variations may include performing each move for three sets of 30 seconds work with 30 seconds rest in between or you could choose to complete each move for a set number of repetitions such as 3x10.

As an added bonus use a deck or front door step for step ups to get cardio benefits as well!

*Music in video: Paramore, "Ain't it Fun".  Please don't hate me for using copyrighted material.  I just thought the lyrics were appropriate well, and I dig the song.

Your turn:  Whats the oddest item you've ever used for a workout?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cooking Veggies

I don't mean to toot my own horn but I'm building some confidence in my cooking abilities.  I'm no fancy chef but I feel like I have a handful of meals I can throw together in a minutes notice (assuming I remember to thaw some meat).  And by meals I mean I can cook some meat, make a veggie and voila!  A meal!

I do have some general truths in my kitchen though….

1. If I can't remember the recipe by heart I probably won't make it
2. If I have to measure anything I probably won't make it.
3. If it takes longer then 10 minutes of prep I probably won't make it.  

With that said, I have found that I can put just about any veggie in the oven and turn it into instant yumminess.  I prefer the oven over the grill, steaming, microwave because I love that roasted flavor.  And I like to burn them just a little, don't tell.  Plus, putting these in the oven allows you to turn your attention elsewhere while they cook.  I don't even turn/stir them.  So cook some meat, play with the kids, or take a nap.  Just kidding, don't really take a nap while cooking.  :)

I know there are a thousand ways to cook the vegetables I mention below but these are our go to choices.  They're quick, easy and honestly taste good!

Sweet potatoes in the oven: Put SP in oven at 400 for 35 minutes or until tender.  (Wrap in tin foil for extra goey insides)

Sweet potato fries: Slice raw sweet potatoes into thin fries and place on cookie tin.  Lightly coat with oil of your choice (we use coconut oil spray or EVOO), sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until tender.  For crispier fries try cooking on parchment paper and cooling on a cookie sheet.  I haven't found the secret to crispy fries but this makes them crispier.  Any suggestions?

Brussels Spouts: Chop off stem and slice in half (optional- you can eat the whole, I just like the smaller bites because I'm a volume eater.) Coat lightly with oil of your choice, seasons with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes or until tender.

Green beans: Snip off stringy ends, coat lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in tin foil to form little packet and place on grill for  minutes or in oven at 350 until tender.

Spaghetti Squash: Stab squash with fork or knife all over.  Place on cookie sheet in oven at 375 for 30-35 minutes (or until you can easily cut through it).  Cut in half and remove seeds from the middle.  Use a fork to shred the inside of the squash for spaghetti like noodles.  **We usually buy the smallest one possible. Larger sizes may take longer to cook.

And finally, this takes a little bit longer to prepare but my kids loved these baked broccoli bites

Your turn:  Whats your favorite, quick and easy way to cook veggies?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Faux Cookie Dough Fruit Dip

Ever have one of those weekends where you need another weekend just to recover?  Yea, that was my weekend.  I had so much fun on our girls weekend in Kansas City shopping, eating, and laughing but I'm pooped.  Friday night we went to see comedian, Amy Schumer.  We laughed so hard we had tears rolling down our faces.  Totally offensive and inappropriate but my friends and I have the maturity of a 16 year old boy so we thought she was hilarious.  Saturday we shopped til we dropped then enjoyed a amazing dinner at a mexican restaurant.

I did score some great tanks from Athleta.  Now I just need some warmer weather to enjoy them!

I'm so excited about these headbands.  I bought two and they fit like a glove.  Does anyone else have the problem of finding headbands that stay on when you move?  Maybe it's my head….

Moving on….I have a great recipe that your kids are going to eat up (pun intended).  It's a unique spin on a fruit dip with some surprising ingredients.  I first saw this in Family Fun, and was a little hesitant at first when I read the directions but I could eat this by the spoonfuls.  It's amazing.

My kids are dippers.  Give them a food with some dip (any kind will do) and that food suddenly becomes much more attractive.  Although this dip holds some great nutritional value I did not bother to calculate the calories/macros because with just a few spoonfuls my kids each ate a whole apple.  It's a tradeoff I'm willing to make for them to not just eat fruits and veggies but to ENJOY them.  This dip is definitely enjoyable to say the least.

Ok here it goes…


  • 1 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar (I used light and it was still great)
  • 1/4 peanut butter
  • 3 tbs. oats
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt and baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips 


1. In a food processor blend your chickpeas
2. Mix in brown sugar, peanut butter oats, milk, vanilla, salt and baking soda.
3. Fold in chocolate chips
4. Serve with apple slices (or other fruit of choice)

Chickpeas!  Who knew?  And unlike real cookie dough, chickpeas are high in iron, protein and fiber.

This dip would be a huge hit at a party for kids and adults alike and no one ever has to know it's chickpeas.

Your turn: Do your kids like "dips"?  If so, what is your favorite healthy dip?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bottoms up

This weekend I am headed to Kansas City for a girls weekend get away!  I'm so excited for some quality time with my college friends, shopping, eating in nice restaurants where people wait on you, sleeping through the night, oh and shopping.  Did I say shopping? Yea, shopping!

I can't wait to check out Athleta on the Plaza!  I really, really want this whole outfit.

So, at the risk of sounding like a total loser but I don't go out much. Heck, I don't even remember the last time I had an alcoholic drink.  Truth be told I'd rather have a big ass fountain pop, go to bed early and wake up to train-  now that's my kinda night!  I won't judge you if you want to go out for cocktails if you don't judge me for drinking diet soda.  Deal? Deal.

With all that said, I'm sure enjoying a few drinks will be on the to do list for the weekend.  And while I know my girlfriends will be more focused on having fun than the calorie content of their drink (as they should be) I thought I'd do a little digging to find out the calories in some of the most popular adult beverages…..

*Please keep in mind these are general estimations of calories and the brand of alcohol, how you mix and serving sizes will affect the total number of calories.

Your turn:  What's your favorite alcohol drink?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three Reasons NOT To Hire a Personal Trainer

Wait whaaaat?  Yes, you read that title correctly.  And yes, I am a personal trainer.

I whole hearted believe that the right personal trainer can provide and help you implement an appropriate exercise routine, assist you in setting/reaching your goals, teach you correct form, provide accountability/motivation, serve as a great source of fitness related information, and even offer emotional support.


As much as I'd love to think I can help everyone who approaches me for fitness advice and/or personal training, the truth is unfortunately some people hire personal trainers for the wrong reasons.  I understand that sometimes the motivation to make changes arises and you want to strike while the iron is hot but before you go sinking your precious time and money into hiring a personal trainer make sure it's not for one of these reasons:

1. You're looking for a quick fix:  As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day".  Results from proper diet and exercise don't happen over night.  Sure, you could take dangerous short cuts to try to reach your goal(s) faster but you won't find me endorsing any of them.   Whether you preparing for a wedding, training for a competition or just want to make healthy changes in your life, don't wait until crunch time to try to reach your goals.

2.  You think we have special secrets:  If you think I'm
going to give you a top secret circuit workout that melts all your fat in a week you're going to be disappointed. I've spent time, and continue to spend time, studying the human body, how it works, learning how it moves, and how it responds to training.  I do my best to stay on top of current research findings related to exercise. I know how to execute exercises with proper form and I know how those exercises can fit into a strength and cardio conditioning routine to help you reach your goals. And sometimes those "secrets" are found through lots of trial and error as everyone responds differently. Personal trainers know a lot of useful and applicable information but top secret core exercises to give you an instant six pack isn't in our bag of tricks.

3.  You don't have any intention of working out on your own:  Unless you're ready to drop big bucks on four or five training sessions a week most trainers will ask that you work out on your own in addition to sessions with him/her.  I'd like to think that I can take my clients through one hell of a workout (if that's what they want/need) but for the majority of people even one amazing workout a week isn't going to get you to your goals.  Talk with your trainer about what you should be doing on your own to continue achieving progress.  If you're not feeling confident enough to workout on your own but can't afford to pay for multiple, one on one sessions a week consider small group or group exercise training.

Your turn: Have you ever worked with a personal trainer?