Category Archives: Health/Fitness

My Review of Thistle: Vegan Meal Delivery Dream Come True

I have searched high and low for a meal delivery service that meets all of my needs. It has been difficult to say the least. I have tried several including PlateJoy which was great (even though I still had to cook) until they completely changed their business model. So while these services usually have their merits, there’s something that ultimately makes me stop ordering.

Enter: Thistle.

Thistle is the only meal delivery service I have found that does 100% vegan, gluten-free meals. If you look online for healthy vegan meal prep services, you will not find them. If you do, please email me immediately! I am not a vegan, but I like to eat vegan foods and if someone can make it a no-brainer for me, I’ll be vegan. (For the record, you can order non-vegan meals from them too but that’s what most meal delivery services do, so you have your pick).

My biggest ask of any meal service is that it be simple and convenient. Too many services add more frustration than they take away. I am not paying for frustration. Life offers enough of that. I’m paying for someone to remove it and make my life easier. Thistle meets this need and then some. They have a set meal plan and as long as you don’t want any changes, it automatically gets delivered without you doing a thing! The deliveries can come 3x a week so the food is always fresh and also doesn’t hog your entire refrigerator (which is another pet peeve of mine!). They come in bags with ice packs and they deliver them either overnight or early in the morning. I love it. They don’t ring my doorbell and wake me up either. They send a text and I go outside when I wake up and there’s my food! I did read online reviews prior to ordering and many people complained about delivery issues. I’ve been ordering for several weeks and have not had this problem. There have been a couple minor issues with deliveries, labels not being entirely accurate and some slightly funky smelling beans, but nothing as bad as the food not arriving at all or being spoiled.

I literally hate cooking but I still like to eat healthy. Being lazy and healthy do not go together. So for me, this is the perfect solution. There have been a few misses but for the most part the meals themselves are DELICIOUS. I am eating all kinds of foods I don’t eat normally, either because they’re expensive or more than likely, I have no idea what to do with them. The meals are SUPER healthy. We’re talking superfoods and organic fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten food this colorful and nutrient-dense in my life. I feel healthier just reading the labels. There is also a ton of variety. I’ve gotten a good mix of different types of foods with different flavor profiles. And the best part is I don’t have to look at a single recipe, set foot in the grocery store or cook a darned thing!

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few downsides. Particularly if you’re a picky eater. The meal plans are all posted on the Thistle website so you can see what’s coming up the next two weeks. You can even see the ingredients and nutrition which I really appreciate. However, if you don’t like the food that you see, well, too bad. The only changes you can really make are to swap foods within the same order. So let’s say Monday’s dinner looks awful…well since you only get 2 days in an order, your option is basically to double up on Tuesday’s meal. I should say there is a way to note your allergies, but other than that, it’s really not flexible at all.

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The other thing is that the meals create quite a bit of waste. Everything you order comes in plastic containers. They are recyclable but still, it’s a lot of packaging. I’m not sure how they could really make that any better but it would be nice if they could. The bags and ice packs are reusable, so you can either keep them or  leave them out for the delivery person to pick up and reuse.

Also, if you don’t like salads and smoothies, you will have a very hard time liking Thistle. If you only want delicious comfort foods, this isn’t it. It’s definitely for people who want to eat really healthy, high quality ingredients. It’s not for picky kids or anyone who is happily used to living on Chinese food and pizza.

Another concern for some might be the macronutrient breakdowns. If you count macros, Thistle’s meal plans may not work for you. The meals are high in protein for the average person, but probably not for someone who is into fitness or bodybuilding. I’d say they average 70 grams per day. Most of the meals are around 150-200 carbs per day and also very high in fat (upwards of 80-90 grams per day). One the same token, sometimes the labels don’t actually match what you’re eating. For example, the other day I got a meal that didn’t mention anything about peas in the name or the ingredient list. But it was literally half peas. I hate peas. I was disappointed but more concerned that if someone is can’t eat a certain ingredient and it’s not even listed on the label, that’s kind of a big deal.

I think the biggest negative by far with Thistle is the price. This food is NOT cheap. Not that any meal service is. But it’s about $11-12 per meal. That is definitely pricey and I don’t know that I can afford to order forever, but I do love it for now. The food is high quality and the portions are a good size so for the most part I think you get your money’s worth. The shipping is free, at least for me, because they’re based where I live.

For me, the positives outweigh the negatives. The convenience simply can’t be beat. You don’t have to do a SINGLE THING. It’s so easy and also super delicious.

Note: For now it appears that Thistle only delivers within California and Nevada, so if you live elsewhere, send them an email and let them know you’re interested. Generally if a company thinks they have a new market they can make money in, they’ll work hard to get into it. If you do live in CA or NV, please try Thistle! It won’t disappoint!

UPDATE: I cancelled my subscription to Thistle after about 2 months. There are a lot of great things about it, but it’s just too pricey and it eventually became Groundhog Day for me since they never vary the menu. I am back to cooking my own meals at home!

 

 

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Fast Metabolism Diet

The Fast Metabolism Diet is the brain child of Haylie Pomroy, a wellness consultant and nutritionist. I’m not entirely clear on what her real credentials are, but the science she talks about in the book makes sense. This isn’t a low calorie crash diet. In fact, she doesn’t even buy into the “calories in vs calories out” concept. The idea with this diet is to reset and really rev your metabolism so that your body is using your food/calories more efficiently. A lot of people lose weight (and some lose quite significant amounts, supposedly) on this diet, but that’s not even the real benefit. The benefit is supposed to be that your refreshed metabolism is going to burn through calories and process nutrients like never before and your body is going to function better overall.

One of my favorite things about this diet is that you only need to do 3 days of exercise so your body can focus its energy on resetting your metabolism. The exercise is one day of cardio, one day of weight training and one day of something relaxing like a yoga or massage (yes, a massage counts as exercise on this diet).

The diet lasts for 28 days. Phase 1 is 2 days of high carb meals, phase 2 is 2 days of high protein meals and phase 3 is 3 days of meals that include a combination of carbs, proteins and fats. You eat whole, nutritious foods…no alcohol, sugar or processed junk allowed. Each phase has its own list of foods that you’re permitted to eat and your choices of proteins and carbs are somewhat limited.

Day 1 – Things are ok so far. I ate gluten-free oats, lots of fruit, white beans and sprouted grain toast.

Day 2 – My head is POUNDING. I can’t really think straight and I feel like I’m jonesin’ for something but not for food… probably for sugar. I assume this feeling has a lot to do with my sugar intake skyrocketing for several weeks just before I started this diet. I planned to give up sugar after Valentine’s Day but then I found the Easter candy aisle at Walgreen’s. Also there’s this great French bakery in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I’ve been eating a lot of crap lately. The headaches usually happen when I’m tired, have low blood sugar, or I’m craving sugar. I know the first two are not the case, so I think my body wants its heroin fix….I mean sugar. I had this same experience once when I fasted completely for 4 days. Oh and my diet today is basically the same as day one. I sprinkled some veggie seasoning on some celery and it tasted heavenly so I am definitely in diet-mode. I have to say, in spite of how shitty I feel physically, my mood is excellent!

Day 3 – My headache is gone!! Happy day! I have horrible PMS cramps and got my period (sorry TMI) so now I’m wondering if the headache was hormone-related? Anyway amazingly I am down 3 pounds. I assume it’s water weight, though I normally gain weight when I have my period so this makes no sense to me! Whatever, I’ll take it! Today is my first day of Phase 2 which is notoriously difficult because it’s all protein and veggies and the overall caloric intake is quite low. I admit I cheated and drank a glass of decaf green tea. I can’t buy into the idea that decaf green tea is going to tax my liver, so I’m sorry, I’ll be compliant with everything else but that’s where I draw the line. So far today I had an egg white omelette and now I’m munching on salmon jerky. It’s technically not on the list but it’s nitrate-free and very low fat/carb. Since nitrate-free beef/turkey jerky was on the list, I’m going with it since I don’t eat meat. Later I will have white fish and tuna along with lots of veggies. And egg whites. I’m not hungry. And again my mood is really good! Mentally, I feel AWESOME. This is exciting for me.

Day 4 – More protein! My diet is basically the same as yesterday. I still feel good, though a lot hungrier than I was yesterday. I am looking forward to eating more normal meals the next 3 days. I am also daydreaming about chocolate and tapas. I realized I definitely should’ve done my one weight training workout of the week yesterday when I was still flying high on carbs. It wasn’t my best workout.

Day 5 – OMG I was so stoked to get to eat avocado with my breakfast. Unlike most people, when I’m dieting or cutting foods, I don’t miss carbs as much as I miss my fats. Today I forgot my first snack which may be the reason I have a pounding headache. I love the food today and there’s lots of it. I’m a bit confused by portion sizes and amount of each food I should be eating. I use the app which is fine until you want to start swapping foods. For example, for a lunch you choose a certain type of protein (say fish) and it says to eat six ounces. But if you remove the fish and try to replace that with eggs, it only says to eat one egg. Six ounces of fish is at least 20 g of protein but an egg is only six. This conversion makes no sense. Why isn’t it 3-4 eggs? Also, I wish the app would let me do 1/2 portions of foods so I can eat more than one. I can’t eat 3 tablespoons of oil. I can eat one. And then I’d like some more avocado please!

Day 6 – I totally screwed up today! I ate vegan pizza and some vegan cookies. I shouldn’t have but they were good. I know they aren’t the cleanest foods but they weren’t the worst ever either. So it is what it is. I’ll try to double up on veggies and drink more water. Stuff happens!

Day 7 – I realized last night I started feeling really stuffy/sniffly. Today it hit me like a Mack truck. I have a full blown cold. I RARELY get sick so this sucks. I was Googling and found out all the symptoms I’ve been having are totally normal when you switch to a healthy diet. Your body starts to detox. I read that skin issues are common so I’m hoping those aren’t next. Today is my last day of fun with avocados and pistachios. Tomorrow it’s back to carbing up.

Aaaand…..I totally fell off track after day 7.

I know, I know! I wasn’t prepared, things came up and, well, I stopped doing the diet after a week. However, I felt great on it so I do want to start again. I am going out of town soon so it’s probably a bad idea to try to start before then. It sounds like an excuse but I really mean it.

Has anyone else tried this diet? Yay? Nay?

Best Packaged Vegetarian and Vegan Foods

These days, many of us are doing our best to be healthy and avoid “processed” foods and eat lots of fresh veggies and protein and all that jazz. But hell, we’re also busy, sometimes in a hurry and sometimes just plain lazy/tired/hangry! There’s nothing wrong with that! These options are especially helpful if you are new to eating vegan/vegetarian and are looking for some help and inspiration. I didn’t realize how many amazing options there were.

These are my go-to foods when I just want a quick meatless meal that’s also tasty and filling.

SWEET EARTH BURRITOS

burritos

I am sort of embarrassed to say that since discovering these burritos, I practically live on them. But they are just SO good. There are several flavors including a few breakfast versions. They are all really high in protein and made of pretty healthy ingredients. Please note that the Kyoto, Curry Tiger, Anasazi and Big Sur Breakfast flavors are fully vegan. The others contain eggs and/or cheese.

GARDEIN MINI CRABLESS CAKES

crab

I admit I love seafood, especially shellfish, and my previous efforts at being fully vegan failed mostly because of this. UNTIL I DISCOVERED THESE BABIES! I went to a vegan restaurant a while back and had vegan crab cakes and didn’t stop talking about them for days. They were just SO good. When I was in the freezer section and WF and realized Gardein also made a version, I was skeptical. I didn’t think they’d be that good but I had to try them. I was so excited to learn they’re really good!! I don’t know how they make vegan ingredients taste like fish. I’m not sure I want to know. But regardless, I am thankful that I can enjoy the taste of crab cakes without thinking about murdered crabs. You really can find vegan versions of EVERYTHING!

BEYOND MEAT BEEF CRUMBLES

feisty

Another thing I loooved as a meat eater was beef tacos and nachos. I haven’t had beef in 5 years and I can’t say I miss it honestly. But I still love Mexican food and try to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes as often as possible. I was so excited to find the “Feisty” Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles because it has a great taco seasoning flavor. I won’t lie, the crumbles do have a bit of that funky fake meat aftertaste if you eat them alone, but if you slather salsa and guacamole on top, you’ll never notice. The texture is just like crumbled beef.

BEYOND MEAT SINGLE SERVE MEALS

meals

Stop the press. These meals have SAVED me at times when I am craving restaurant food (and also times when I have very low blood sugar and I am within 5 minutes of a meltdown). There are only 4 flavors so far – Indian Curry, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili; however, they are really good. My favorite is the Korean BBQ. They are all super high protein and have a good balance of fats/carbs too. They heat up in 5 minutes and will keep you full for hours, but also keep your taste buds happy.

SWEET EARTH BREAKFAST SANDWICHES

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I used to live on my homemade Egg McMuffin sandwiches. I had a hard time saying goodbye to Canadian bacon. However, Sweet Earth has made all my breakfast sandwich dreams come true! They have several flavors – Harmless Ham & Chickpea Patty (the only vegan one), Meatless Sausage Egg and Gouda, Harmless Ham Egg & Swiss and Benevolent Bacon, Egg & Cheddar. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

ORGANIC VEGETARIAN CHILI WITH RED BEANS & ONION

chili

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s recently changed the packaging/label on the veg chili and I have to say I’m in love with this new 1970s Brady Bunch theme. I just want to stuff my face with chili every time I see the new cans on the shelf. Anyway, the recipe itself didn’t change at all (or if it did, I can’t tell) and there have been many times when I’ve lived solely off this chili for several days straight. Unlike a lot of chilis, this one really strikes a perfect balance of salty, spicy, beans, and “meat” (it’s tofu). It’s a great all-around meal that’s very filling and has 15 grams of protein….pa pow! It’s a tad spicy but in a very good way. Add a little sprinkle of shredded vegan cheese and green onions (because I am obsessed with green onions) and you have yourself a tasty meal.

 

 

Feeling Overwhelmed by Contradictory Diet/Workout Advice? Not Sure How to Start? Read This…

I started working out at a gym in 2009. I was set on competing in a fitness/bikini model competition the following year. I worked out 6 days a week religiously and followed a strict diet plan for nearly a year. In the year leading up to the competition, I did MANY hours of research on how to train, what to eat and what supplements to take. I lived and breathed the lifestyle and learned everything I could about it. Yet I never saw the results I truly wanted. When I competed, I felt good but I knew I wouldn’t win. I didn’t care because it wasn’t about winning to me and I had a great time. But in the back of my mind I wished I could obtain the physique I dreamed of because even though I’d worked my butt off, I still didn’t feel I’d gotten there.

In the last 6 years, I’ve worked out on and off. Sometimes I’ll work out 4-5 days a week and other times I lay on my couch 7 days a week. I’ve also tried a variety of ways of eating including paleo, vegan, gluten-free. My current diet that I’ve followed for several years now is essentially pescatarian. I have done ALL kinds of different workouts and experimented with various group workouts like pilates, yoga, boxing, CrossFit, TRX, boot camp, etc. I’ve done a lot more research. I have probably read hundreds if not thousands of articles, blogs, books, magazines and Facebook/Instagram posts from experts and so-called experts. Even with all that, I still never saw the results I wanted. And I think all my research was part of the problem. I read so many things that it was impossible to figure out what to do. I couldn’t decipher the truth in any of it since so much info out there is so contradictory. The truth is, I was overwhelmed and confused. The more I read, the more I overanalyzed what I was doing and, in turn, got discouraged when I’d read something that contradicted what I had just started.

So one day I decided, why am I doing this?! I was spending more time looking for answers online than I was working out in the gym. No wonder I wasn’t reaching my goals!! I was like a detective trying to dig up the internet in search of the exact perfect formula for me. The truth is, there isn’t one. Everything you read probably is true for the person who wrote it. But there are literally millions of ways to go about your fitness goals. No way is right or better. The best advice I’ve ever heard is that you have to do what works for you.

Looking back, I never saw the results I was making some really BASIC mistakes:

  1. I wasn’t consistent. Some weeks I’d be at the gym every day and some weeks I’d skip it altogether. Life got in the way and I didn’t have the commitment and discipline to stay on track. What was likely even more detrimental to my physique goals was that l was that I was also highly inconsistent with my diet. I would eat “well” for the most part, but somedays I’d undereat and other days I’d overeat. Consistency is KEY. Ask anyone who’s had success in this arena and that is generally their first piece of advice.
  2. I wasn’t following the basics with my diet. A lot of health/fitness advice is confusing, but there are definitely things that I just *know* I need to do but don’t. The two biggest mistakes I made with regard to my diet were not eating enough protein and never drinking enough water.
  3. I didn’t push myself at the gym enough. I would go through the motions but not really break a sweat most days. I would do the same exercises, same weights, same sets, etc. I personally think is far more important to push yourself when you’re at the gym than to go every day and half-ass it. I think a lot of times I didn’t push myself because I lacked energy, which was a direct result of my crappy diet.

So here are some super simple rules of thumb to follow if you’re looking to get fit:

  1. Drink a lot of water. As much as humanly possible! Well, not really, but AT least 10-12 cups is ideal. Drinking water is the most basic, easiest thing you can do to improve your physique and health.
  2. Follow IIFYM and be consistent with your diet. This sounds like a fancy diet but it’s not. (See my recent blog post What is IIFYM?! for more info). Basically, IIFYM is a type of flexible eating and quite simply it means you can whatever the F you want as long as it fits your “macros.” You set a target # of protein, carb and fat grams each day, much like a caloric bank account! Be as consistent as you can with your diet. If you want a special treat, just be mindful of your eating and fit it into your macros!
  3. Work out consistently each week. If you’re new to working out, aim for 2-3 days. Otherwise 3-5 days is fine. Spend about an hour at the gym, most of which should consist of weight training.
  4. Do sprints. Sprinting means you give an all out effort for anywhere from 10-30 seconds. Then you rest or walk. Repeat that for 20 minutes about 1-2x a week. That’s it!
  5. Try to incorporate lots of fresh, organic foods for your health and because your body will work better this way. With IIFYM you can certainly eat treats but if that’s all you eat all day long, trust me, you’re going to feel it. Your body relies on nutrients and vitamins found in these foods to function well. It’s important to be mindful of your micronutrients, not just macronutrients.
  6. Avoid sugar and alcohol. I know, I know. But if you are serious about getting in shape, these are total diet killers. Start out slow and aim to reduce your intake, as well as avoid hidden sugars. Find healthier alternatives to the foods/drinks you love but that your body doesn’t love as much.
  7. Sleep!! Whatever your minimum is, make sure you get it. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to be fat. True story.
  8. Minimize stress. This is SO important. Do yoga, meditation deep breathing, etc. as often as possible. Stress is a fat builder!! Sometimes when I feel stressed, I go into the bathroom and just take a minute to myself to close my eyes and take several deep breaths in and out. Breathing will immediately help your body relax and it actually helps your lymph nodes clear toxins from your body!

Those are the best tips I have found and if you follow all of them, you are pretty much guaranteeing yourself success. You will probably need to tweak things over time as you see results, but once you get going, you will see how your body responds to different things. Over time it becomes a lot easier to understand how things affect you and you will become an expert on your own body and know better than anyone what works best for you.

Bikini Competitor Diet Plan

If you’re female and want a healthy meal plan to get lean, I can save you lots of $$ and countless hours of research. And I can keep you from ending up with a horrible coach that rips you off and ruins your body. Everyone knows working out is really important but diet is everything!  Over the years, I’ve read probably thousands of articles/blogs/etc. on fitness, specifically regarding bikini competitions. And I’ve looked at MANY meal plans. I’ve paid for quite a few too, mostly for my own research purposes. I also went so far as to get a nutrition certification.

I can tell you that 90% of the meal plans I’ve seen are basically the same exact plan. The coach/competitor/whoever may swap a food here and there, but the calorie counts and breakdown of macros is almost identical. Clearly it works if almost every woman in fitness is following this and also prescribing it. But it irritates me that “coaches” charge hundreds of dollars for what amounts to the exact same plan being recycled over and over (not to mention, it’s not actually customized). Most coaches out there SUCK!!!!! Yes, even many of the ones that are “famous” that you think would be really good. Sometimes they are even worse because they have less time to focus on clients and end up giving out cookie cutter plans or, worse, pawning off their job on an assistant.

As far as the generic meal plan, it’s always 5-6 meals that are usually broken down as follows:

4 oz protein (usually chicken, turkey, fish or egg whites)

1/2 cup carbs (sweet potatoes, oats or brown rice)

1-2 cups of veggies (green things – spinach, broccoli, green beans, kale, asparagus, etc)

Add 2 healthy fats per day (~16 g of fat for each) somewhere in the form of olive/coconut oil, avocado or nuts/nut butter (or be a real rebel and eat whole eggs for protein and fat). Stay away from dairy. Limit fruit intake but it’s generally ok to have some berries as your morning carb or with oats. If you’re cutting, only include carbs at 2-3 meals (and eat them early in the day and/or around your workout) instead of all of the ones I listed above. Then add in another fat or two. Boom. Now you too can be a bikini model and/or competitor!!!!

(Ok, I’m being pretty sarcastic in this post but the part about the majority of meal plans looking just like what I’ve listed above is 100% true!!  Save your $, trust me.)

 

What is IIFYM?!

If you are at all interested in dieting or fitness, you’ve probably heard about IIFYM which stands for “If it Fits Your Macros.” It’s all the rage lately, especially with bodybuilders/fitness types. This is essentially an alternative, more flexible eating approach than most standard (and outdated) diet plans that basically tell you what foods to eat and in what amounts. Or they give you a total calorie count for the day. In the past, bodybuilders and other fitness athletes would eat X number of calories a day which was usually broken down into 5-6 smaller meals which basically consisted of the same boring foods over and over.

With IIFYM, you are given “macros” for the day that you must follow. Macros are macronutrients, which are otherwise known as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. With IIFYM, you are given the total number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats that you can eat during a given day. For example, my current macros are 135 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat. This doesn’t mean I eat 135 measured grams of a protein. It means that I eat foods totaling 135 grams of protein. For example, a 4 oz piece of fish is about 20-25 grams of protein. I eat about this much protein at each meal. The concept is very simple – each macro has a calorie amount. Protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram. If you total all my macros up for the day, it equals 1800 calories:

(4 x 135) + (4 x 180) + .(9 x 60) = 1800

To be honest, this doesn’t really matter though. Calories don’t matter at all with IIFYM, which is nice because if you are a compulsive calorie counter, this means you can stop thinking about them. But if you wanted to add up your macros for the day, you could. Just do the math like I did above. I track all my meals in MyFitnessPal and totally recommend others do. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt at first but once you have your “frequent” foods you will be able to find things quickly and add them in no problem. Make sure you’re adding accurate info since it’s all user-generated (sometimes people literally just make up macros I think). I also track my workouts (which is a slightly bigger pain in the butt but useful to track progress and stay accountable). It can be hard to track foods that you can’t read the nutrition labels for (like at restaurants) so you can try finding the info online but in general you kind of have to just do your best. The longer you track, the easier it gets to look at a plate of food and immediately be able to guess the macros off the top of your head. If you are dieting, always err on the side of caution by overestimating the macros in foods you aren’t sure about.

The beauty of IIFYM is that it’s simple and flexible. You do NOT have to eat the same boring foods over and over, nor do you have to eat food you hate. If you want a piece of cake, you work it into your macros. Some people “macro hoard” which means they eat light meals all day so they can pig out at night. The world is your oyster with IIFYM.

You can eat a variety of foods which is not only great for dealing with cravings and unexpected work lunches or dinners out with friends and family, but it’s also a great way to make sure you get a variety of nutrients. You don’t want to just eat donuts all day but if you want a donut, work it in! Macros to me are exactly like having a budget. If I have $100 to spend, I can only spend $100 and no more than that. Depending on how strict you are, you may not want to go under your macros (particularly if you are trying to gain weight). I try to stick to my macros within + or – 5 grams. Some people add up their macros for the week too so if you are off a bit one day (over carbs, for example), you can make it up a different day (by eating less carbs).

To determine what your macros are, first you need to know what your goal is. You will need to figure out if you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. This was hard for me since I want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time (which is possible in some cases but not all). You should have a good idea of what your current weight (and body fat, if possible) are, as well as your current activity level. The more info you know and the more accurate it is, the better calculation you will get. Then once you have that figured out, you just plug your info into a calculator. This is a really good one: http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/. There’s also more info about IIFYM on that site.

Easy peasy!!!

Which Group Workout Class is Right For Me?

Throughout the years I’ve been on a quest to find my perfect workout class. Turns out, there’s no such thing. Different types of workouts are good for different reasons and depending on your goals and interests, one may be better than another. But in the end, what matters is that you like it and do it consistently. If you love running, run! If you love CrossFit, then do it! All workouts have their pros and cons. I wanted to write about my experiences trying different workout classes and what I liked/disliked about each one. Hopefully it will help someone else find something that works for them, or at least give them the confidence to try something new and different!

TRX

TRX is a form of suspension training that basically uses these long rope/band things that hang from the ceiling or wall and have handles on the end. It might be easier for you to Google it than for me to explain. 🙂

Anyway, TRX is a great full body workout. It’s basically a type of strength training although you can work some cardio in if you want to. It’s great for working any muscle you want, and it’s super simple to make a workout easier or more difficult depending on your fitness level. I have taken TRX at different gyms and have always enjoyed the classes. Everyone does them slightly differently so finding a good teacher is key.

Likes: good workout, doesn’t feel overly strenuous, can work your whole body, easy to customize to your fitness level

Dislikes: expensive, would be hard to do on back-to-back days (if you like to work out daily)

KETTLEBELLS

Kettlebells are sort of like dumbbells but with handles. You can do a LOT of exercises with them. Probably anything you could do with regular weights. You can also do things like Kettlebell swings or Turkish getups (which are ridiculously hard if you ask me). They come in all different weights so it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or if you are already totally jacked. You can get a great workout with kettlebells. Trust me when I say you will be exhausted and super sore. It’s a great way to get your cardio and strength training in one.

Likes: Great workout, definitely feel it afterwards!

Dislikes: a bit too overly strenuous for me, can be dangerous if your form isn’t correct, can be expensive. I also found it a bit boring honestly.

REFORMER PILATES

Oh how I love pilates! I used to take mat pilates at my old gym 2x a week and my abs were never so strong and hard. It was really nice too because you get to lay on a mat a lot of the time! My natural self is very lazy. Anyway, reformer pilates is the same thing, except you do it on one of those funky reformer machines. Trust me when I say they look much scarier than they are. It takes some getting used to but if you have a good instructor the ramp up time should be quick. I always feel like I get a great workout doing reformer pilates. The downside is it is ridiculously expensive and often hard to get a reservation since space is generally limited in the studios because the equipment is so large. I don’t really want to have to book a workout weeks in advance. The studio I go to also has a very strict 12 hour cancellation policy.

Likes: So fun, time flies by, my abs love it.

Dislikes: My only negatives are that it’s very expensive (probably the most expensive of any class I’ve tried) and the classes usually have limited space/availability.

YOGA

I have a serious love/hate relationship with yoga. I would really love to be one of those SUPER mellow yoga types who does headstands on top of mountains, but let’s be honest, I don’t think it’s in me. I do like the relaxation that comes with laying on a mat and stretching. However, I find most yoga classes pretty intimidating and I can’t get out of my head enough to fully take it in and enjoy myself. I also really hate when I have no idea what I’m doing so I have to look around and try to copy other people, only to end up feeling really stupid and awkward because I can’t. A lot of yogis are SERIOUS about their yoga (they even call it a “practice”) and you will feel way out of place at those classes. Some of the teachers are a little loopy and far out there. I appreciate their weirdness but maybe not everyone would.

There are about a million different types of yoga. I’ve found Hatha yoga to be gentler and easier to follow than say, Vinyasa. Make sure you sign up for one of the easier ones if you’re new, or even a beginner class if you can find one.

Likes: It can be very relaxing, it’s good for when you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.

Dislikes: It can be a bit pretentious and intimidating, it’s frustrating when you can’t do what others are doing, some yogis seem averse to deodorant

ROCK CLIMBING

So if you’re afraid of heights, this is scary. You will probably be required to do an intro class so you can learn how to put the harness on properly (and not kill yourself). I went with my boyfriend and we learned how to “belay” which basically means you give the person going up the wall enough rope so they can get up but not so much that they will come crashing down. I think? I found the whole introductory lesson to be a little over my head. But luckily my boyfriend paid attention and told me what to do. I was terrified my first couple rounds but eventually I stopped thinking about the height and just went for it. You need some upper body strength to get more than 2 feet off the floor. We started out on the easy wall since we were total newbies and it was still pretty challenging.

Likes: lots of fun! a good challenge. great for building upper body strength.

Dislikes: serious fear of heights is a problem, intro/ramp up class generally required, need special equipment and shoes, didn’t get to work my lower body as much, kind of a granola bro-y environment.

GYMNASTICS

Yes, after a years-long quest, I found an adult gymnastics class!!!! The class met 2x per week for 2 hours at a time. It was a LONG class.  The first 5-10 minutes were a short warm up of either jogging or jumping on a trampoline. Yeahh! That was followed by lots and lots of stretching…..legs, arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, etc. This usually lasted about 30 minutes. I like stretching but it did get boring after a while! Then we did drills. Drills consisted of things like cartwheels, handstands, round offs, forward rolls, backward rolls, etc. This was actually my least favorite part of the class. I always bonked my head on the mat doing the rolls and it made me feel dizzy. I also had a huge fear of handstands. I can do them wonderfully if there is a wall nearby, but doing them on an open mat scared me to death. I didn’t want to break my neck! So I struggled through the drills. Then we spent a good 45 minutes working on tumbling skills. The  more advanced students would go off and do their own thing… flips, parallel bars, etc. The newbies like me would work on doing handsprings with mats and flipping into the foam pit. Sometimes we’d end the class with 15 minutes of conditioning, which consisted of pushing stacks of mats across the floor. It was EXHAUSTING!

At first I had a lot of fun with the class and enjoyed going. Over the course of a few months, it became draining. The class got more crowded and was eventually overrun by the experienced gymnasts. The coach was less than attentive as time went on as well. Each class ran until 9pm. I would come home so hyped up and unable to fall asleep that I’d have a hard time getting up for work in the morning. It was just not working for me. At the time, I was also trying to keep up with boot camp and weight training on my own. I couldn’t handle it all so I stopped going after a few months. I had already paid over $200 for the last session and missed a lot of it. But I just lost the  motivation and it was a 15 minute drive whereas the boot camp and regular gym I go to are both a 5 minute walk from my house. Maybe someday I’ll go back or find a new adult gymnastics class, but for now I’ll stick to my regular weight training!

Likes: SO FUN!!!! Jumping in foam pits is the best. It made me feel the excitement I always had watching the Olympic gymnasts as a child.

Dislikes: I actually didn’t actually learn anything new, like how to do a flip! The class times weren’t convenient for me. This would probably be way better with a 1 on 1 coach.

BOXING

I tried a beginner boxing class at a local boxing gym. I was totally intimidated and it took me months to work up the courage. But they had a really good deal going so I went for it. I have to say, I think I would have a different opinion if I went somewhere else. I found this particular class to be way too cardio-focused. I mean, I can do jumping jacks on my own time and that’s not something I’d pay money to do in a class. The actual boxing part was maybe 10-15 minutes of an hour long class. It was lots of calisthenics, push ups, stretching and a tad bit of boxing. So that was pretty disappointing. I also hated using old smelly gloves that who knows how many other sweaty people had used. If you’re a germophobe, think twice. However, the actual boxing was really fun. I went a couple of times and I guess I should’ve kept going since I wish I would’ve learned more about actual boxing techniques instead of just sort of randomly punching bags.

Likes: punching things is fun

Dislikes: too much cardio and push ups, didn’t get to box in the actual boxing ring, didn’t quite feel like Muhammed Ali as I’d hoped

CROSSFIT

Ok, so here it is: the good, the bad and the ugly of CrossFit. Sit tight.

I’ll start with what I like. Overall, I did enjoy the Olympic lifts a lot. I love lifting weights, so those movements were my favorite. I love snatches. I love push presses. I love Clean and Jerks. I, like most people, could go the rest of my life without doing another burpee and be PERFECTLY happy. But I understand they are a necessary evil in CF and it did feel good to know I just did 150 of them and didn’t die. To say there is no “cardio” involved in CF is a total lie, but a good lie. You definitely won’t see CFers on an elliptical machine…and that’s a good thing. The cardio portion is built in to the programming, almost seamlessly enough for you to forget you’re doing it at all. It is a lot like circuit training and most workouts are timed, so you are inherently moving very quickly…or at least, attempting to. Sprinting is a big part of CF too, unfortunately for me, because I hate running. Rowing is big in CF, which is surprisingly fun and difficult. That said, I did not miss the treadmill and can honestly say I never had my heart pound so hard than in CF. I liked that I didn’t have to spend 30 minutes on a boring machine thinking about the 500 other things I’d rather be doing. During a WOD (workout of the day), I couldn’t think of anything at all because my heart never stopped racing and there were very few WODs that didn’t left me laying on a mat, gasping for air. Take that, you evil little elliptical machine!

That brings me to my dislikes.

1. The WOD’s (workouts). Ok I don’t mind the bruises, cuts and sore shoulders that seem to persist no matter how much I stretched, how many bubble baths I took or how much glumatine I took. I don’t even mind the scar I now have on my ass from doing hundreds of sit ups in a WOD (you wanted brutally honest didn’t you?). I don’t mind a good challenge and thought CF would be a refreshing change from my old snooze fest workouts, but I seriously hated about 80% of the WODs. I hated them so much that one day I walked out mid-WOD because I was frustrated and pissed off. And for your info, the workout was:

Start – 90 burpees
@ minute 12 – Do a Fran (Fran is 21 pull ups and 21 thrusters @ 65 lbs, then 15 of each, then 9 of each) – a thruster is basically a squat and a push press combined
@ minute 24 – 90 kettlebell swings (16 kg)

We were supposed to do each round at the 12 minute mark (meaning, if it takes you the full 12 minutes, guess what, no rest period for you!!). That’s 36 minutes of pure hell. I got through 24 mins and wanted to die. Judge me if you want. I work out as a way to relieve stress, not create it. I spent the rest of the day angry that I couldn’t do 65 lb thrusters for 12 minutes straight and that CF seems to promote elitism and look down on those who can’t do 100 pull ups just for fun. I am not typically a quitter, nor did I think I was THAT out of shape when I started. But CrossFit proved me wrong on both counts. I accept being out of shape (I credit my stress, multiple moves, and ongoing insomnia at the time for some of that) and I personally didn’t mind being a quitter, especially if it meant saving myself from passing out, throwing my back out or avoiding the shame that comes with not completing a workout. And it’s not like I quit the gym. It was a hard workout and it was my first one after 2 weeks off for the holidays. So I suppose I should’ve given myself credit. But again, there is no “do the best you can” in CF. They expect you to do it all and to do it in an asinine amount of time. CrossFit’s motto should be “If you’re not first, you’re last” because it’s true for them. You haven’t worked hard enough unless you are barfing up your lunch.

2. Writing scores on the board. UGH.After each WOD, you write your name and your score on a dry erase board. What are we, 8? Not being competitive by nature definitely worked against me in CF. I don’t care if I never do a 300 pound dead lift. I don’t care if I can’t run a mile in 5 minutes. I just don’t care because to be honest, I knew I’d never be #1 in the class. I guess I need more of an ego to really enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t want to see my measly score at the bottom of the list either. It reminded me of being picked last in gym class which again made me feel like I was in a class full of elitist Olympians (or former all-star athletes who never got picked last for anything). Am I going to have a detention if I don’t record my awful score? Who cares? What I care about is being healthy, being in good shape and being strong. I thought CF was all about this too. But it often seemed that doing 100 half assed pull ups was WAY more important.

3. It is too difficult for beginners. Sorry folks, CF is inherently dangerous, although no one likes to talk about that fact. Heavy lifting is dangerous…in CF or any type of lifting/bodybuilding. Not using proper form is dangerous. So whose genius idea was it to do 100s of one exercise for time? Clearly, anyone, no matter how fit, is going to get to the point of exhaustion, which means that your form is going to decline as you get more tired. This is extremely dangerous, especially when lifting heavy amounts of weight (which they expect you to do on day one). Everything can be “scaled” down, according to the CF bible. But the trainers definitely don’t emphasize this the gym I went to (I think/assume/hope many others are more professional). Rather, they seemed to look down on people who scaled workouts. It actually pissed me off to no end. If I had never, ever set foot in a gym before and CF was my first experience in one, I honestly would’ve been traumatized for life on day one and ran straight home to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. This, again, could’ve just be true at my gym…I hope! It was much less expensive and smaller than other area CF boxes, so I do think the quality of the programming suffered as a result. However, I weight lifted on my own for 2 years before joining CF and I still felt completely scared and way out of my element there. I admit I am hard on myself and get frustrated when I don’t pick things up right away. But none of these people walked in on day one doing muscle ups. So why do they act like they did?!!

4. Timed workouts. I get the idea. Everyone move fast so you burn loads of calories. Keeping count of how many reps you did, or how quickly you finished a workout can also help you track progress going forward. I get it, but I’d lose count because I was too busy trying to stay alive. And I didn’t mind AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in X amount of time) workouts because at least then, there is no set # I have to complete and I can got at my own pace. But the workouts where you have to do X, Y and Z in 15 minutes causes me sheer panic because A) I knew there was typically a good chance I won’t finish and B) I knew everyone will be standing around staring at me when I didn’t finish…or finished last. Again, good luck getting me to put my score on the board. I did it once because I got yelled at. (I did not have to serve a detention, however.)

5. Next, clearly, I didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the programming because in my opinion, people in group classes/sports should be supportive and encouraging, not elitist. I know some people are competitive and played sports their whole lives and loved that aspect. I did not. I thought CFers were very team-like and everyone cheered everyone on and it was a way to compete TOGETHER. Instead, it feels like a Nazi boot camp where it’s every man for himself. I have no ego and I will be honest in that I never once had “fun” in a CF work out. I would leave thinking, “Why am I paying for this?” Again, maybe it’s just the group I worked out with or my high standards. Perhaps they were “in the zone” or just plain antisocial. I realize now I am just not cut out for competitive sports. But how is it so many other people love it?? CFers, please enlighten me!!

6. There’s no music! WTF. I need music to work out. I think my gym may have just sucked in this respect. I sure hope other boxes have nice, loud music. But man, I seriously cannot do a heavy squat without a little Pennywise in my ear. Someone could even sing or something. (This is just a foot note to my other criticisms)