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Wellness

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Don’t be Afraid of the Bike // What is RPM?

I love teaching RPM (in-door cycling). So I get so sad when people tell me they are interested in trying in-door cycling. But they’re afraid of the bike.

Sad!

Don’t be afraid! I know it’s a piece of equipment. And it looks intimidating. And uncomfortable. And has a lot of knobs. But you needn’t be afraid because you control the bike! You turn the knobs, you tell the wheel what to do.

So, let’s start with the basics.

What’s RPM?

RPM is high intensity interval training on a stationary bike. It’s a cycle class where you ride to the beat of the music. During class you’ll sit, stand, climb, and race. You control the resistance dial, so you control the work out.

What happens during a RPM class?

There are eight tracks in a RPM class: warm up, pace, hill climb, mixed terrain, intervals, speed work, mountain climb, and recovery/stretch. It’s not important to know the order – you’re instructor will lead you through. The class is designed to mimic the conditions you might encounter on a ride outside: hills, stretches of flat road, big climbs, etc… During class you will work hard, recover, work hard, recover, work hard, recover. That’s that high intensity interval training that’s so effective for fat loss. The RPM class is only 45 minutes total. But this class proves you don’t need to work out longer to have an effective work out.

So what’s the deal with the resistance dial (the knob, that thing you turn)?

The resistance dial is where the work is at. That dial controls the weight on the wheel. Turn to the right, it’s harder to push. Turn to the left, it’s easier to push. You’re instructor will say to turn the dial up or down. When your instructor tells you to turn it up, how much should you turn? A good rule of thumb is: turn it enough so you feel a difference. Each of the bikes can be a little different. Some of them you barely have to touch and you feel a difference. Some of them you need to crank to feel a change. What is this change I should be feeling? When you turn the wheel, you should feel the bike pushing harder back at you. Your legs will need to work harder to stay on the beat.

What if I don’t want to turn it up?

This is your ride! If you’re not feeling it, then leave that dial where it is, especially if you’re new to RPM. Maybe start with tiny turns up, see how you feel. Then work to increase your load over time. When I first started riding, I didn’t turn it up very high. Now, I’ve been indoor cycling for almost eight years. So now I can really turn it up. Don’t compare how much you turn the dial compared to your neighbor. He or she could be an accomplished cyclist while you’re just starting out.

I don’t know.  That seat looks terribly uncomfortable.

So let me just help you with that fear and say, yep, it’s uncomfortable. But only for the first couple rides. Give it at least three times. It takes a while to get comfortable on the seat. And it looks like it won’t support you, right? It will. All it takes is time to get comfortable on the bike.

Here’s an example: I was three weeks post-partum after a vaginal birth with Michael. (And one that resulted in a hematoma.) But there was an open audition for RPM instructors at a gym I wanted to work at. And this was a limited time opportunity. So I auditioned to teach RPM, three weeks post-partum after a somewhat complicated vaginal birth. I sat on the bike seat and everything. And I felt fine.

So, that’s proof that once you get used to it, that bike seat will feel as comfortable to you as your favorite chair.

Okay.  But what about those fancy shoes I see people wear?  Do I need those?

Those shoes are bike shoes with SPD clips. The shoes “clip” into the pedals, which is optimal for riding because it allows you to better use your whole leg. Meaning, you push down with your quads and pull up with your hamstrings. The shoes especially help with the pulling up motion. The shoes are stiff, as opposed to sneakers which have bend and flex in them (so you can run, jump, etc…). That said, do you need them?  If you’re new to cycling and unsure if you want to commit, then don’t worry about it. Snugly fit your sneaker into the cage on the pedal, and then take a good deal of classes. If you find you take a couple cycle classes a week and you’re really enjoying it, then spring for some shoes (they will run you $75 as a starting base). If you only cycle in doors with those shoes, they will last your forever.

Okay, I’ll come.  Now how do I set up this bike?

Ideally, get to your cycle class a few minutes before class starts and ask your instructor to help you. No need to be shy about this. We love helping people get set up on their bike! But, if you’re feeling shy, here’s a few tips:

+Stand next to the bike seat with your feet flat on the floor and your hips square (so one hip bone is next to the seat). Raise or lower the seat so that it’s in line with your hip bone.

+If your bike seat moves forward and back, a good rule is, the distance between the handle bars and the seat is about the distance from your elbow to your fisted hand.

+The handle bar height is mostly a comfort thing. The higher the handle bars, the “easier.” Generally, the handle bars are in line with your seat. As you get better at cycling, lower your handle bars as much as is comfortable. The lower the handle bars, the more you’re engaging your core. (Note: If you’re just starting out and/or pregnant, keep the handle bars up higher. That will help you stay more comfortable on the bike since you won’t be leaning forward as much.)

+Now hop up onto the seat to test the seat height. Sit up with your hips back in the saddle. Stop your legs with one knee bent and the other leg down. There should be a slight knee bend in the down leg. Just slight. If you’re leg is entirely straight, you’re seat is too high. If you’ve got a super knee bend, you’re seat is too low.

Especially when you’re new, the bike will feel weird. I always tell my class: if at anytime the bike doesn’t feel right, hop off and adjust. You are never stuck on the bike. Never. Even if we’re in the middle of a climb.  Just hop off an readjust.

Why is this class good for me?

High intensity interval training is the fastest way to get in shape. The intense work sessions tap into your biggest calorie burners: fast-twitch muscle fibers. The interval training taps into the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which your body will use to continue burning even after class.

RPM is also great for people with knee issues. The low-impact nature of bike riding allows people with knee issues to get a great workout without slamming on their knee joints.

Cycling is fast way to get in shape. Combine cycle classes with BodyPump and some mindful eating and good sleep patterns, and you’ve got a recipe for getting in shape quick.

Okay, what do you say?! Will you try RPM?

Why BodyStep? // What to Expect + Benefits

I love BodyPump and RPM, but my first love was BodyStep. When I decided to pursue teaching, I weighed all the formats, and my good friend and mentor, Kim, said my first format should be the one I loved the most. And that was easy. BodyStep.

When training instructors, Les Mills talks a lot about teaching in the essence of the program.  Each program has a different vibe. BodyPump is all business. BodyFlow is zen like. RPM is intense.

BodyStep is energetic and fun. It’s woohoo! It doesn’t take itself too seriously while still getting a serious workout.

So, what can you expect from a BodyStep class, and why should you do it?

What is BodyStep?

BodyStep is an energizing modern step workout that makes you feel alive. The cardio blocks push your fat burning systems into high gear, getting you fitter, faster. Recently, BodyStep split into two workouts: BodyStep Classic and BodyStep Athletic. I teach both.

BodyStep Classic features 10 working tracks: Warm Up, Step Warm Up, Step Orientation, Peak 1, Mix Strength, Peak 2, Step Recovery, Party Step, Speed Step, Peak 3, Recovery/Conditioning, and Cool Down/Stretch.

BodyStep Atheltic features a slightly different format: Warm Up, Step Orientation Athletic, Peak 1, Mix Strength, Peak 2, Step Recovery, Peak 3, Athletic Circuit, Recovery/Conditioning, and Cool Down/Stretch.

So, for Step Athletic, I’m swapping out three tracks and replacing them with more HIIT like tracks.

What can I expect?

The first time you try BodyStep, it’ll feel confusing. There’s lots of jargon. And we’re going left and right and left and right. And on top and over the top. It takes about three classes to get used to the music and moves.

BodyStep is high energy. There’s lot of jumping. There’s lots of arm movements. That being said, BodyStep also offers so many options. You can always take the lower option and cut out jumps, big arm movements, etc… Make it your workout.

What equipment do I need?

You’ll need a bench with two risers under each side for tracks 1-4, then you’ll remove one set of risers for tracks 5, 6, 7, and 8. For track 9, you’ll take your bench to the floor.  And for track 10, you’ll put back one set of risers on each side.  Why?  Because this is what’s safe.  You won’t get a better work out by keeping two sets of risers under your bench for tracks beyond track 4.  You’ll most likely end up hurt.  Because the moves aren’t make for you to have two risers underneath.

If you’re new to group fitness, I’d start with just one riser under each side.  Or even no risers.  You can do BodyStep with just the bench top.  And then once you get to feeling more confident, put the risers under and see how you feel.

No one will make you feel bad.  I have members who never put risers under their bench and do the whole thing with their bench top.

I’m not coordinated. Can I still take BodyStep?

Yes! It will take a few classes, but you will get the hang of it, I promise! At first, keep your bench low and focus on your feet before adding arm and hand movements. Also, get to class early or catch your instructor after class and ask for a mini tutorial. I’m always happy to go over any move, and any good instructor feels the same.

I’m pregnant/de-conditioned/had a previous injury. Can I take Bodystep?

I taught BodyStep through all three of my pregnancies. But, check with your doctor before taking a class. And once you get the okay, let your instructor know so he or she can offer suggestions and alternatives to certain moves that just won’t be comfortable for you as your belly grows.

If you’re just coming back to exercising, BodyStep is a great choice because there are so many options and ways to alter the workout to meet you where you are. And if you’re coming back after an injury, same thing. Make the workout your own as you recover.

What are the benefits of a BodyStep workout?

So many! BodyStep increases your endurance, balance, and overall fitness. Since the BodyStep workout is so varied, it works all your muscles and increases your overall fitness. And that’s just the physical benefits! BodyStep is so fun and energizing, it just makes you feel good. It’s just so much fun.

Any questions? Leave them for me in the comments. Are you a BodyStep lover?! Let me know!

Could Not Be Easier Crock Pot Meatballs

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You know what I don’t make? Meatballs.

You know what Wegmans makes really well? Meatballs.

I love myself store bought meatballs. I’ve tried meatballs from Trader Joes and Costco, too. All good. All delicious.

To make my crock pot meatballs, I simply pour marinara sauce into the crock pot, toss in the meatballs, and sometimes top with a mix of Parmesan, mozzarella, and provolone cheese. Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Ta da! Delicious meatballs!

You can serve these plain (I usually just spoon them out and top with cheese) or toss with noodles or get some crusty bread and make meatball subs.

If I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll make a side salad. A super simple side salad. Are you ready for this? Here it is: spring mix, salt, pepper, feta cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Boom! Done!

Everyone in our family eats this up. Even the kids. Especially the kids.

I plan this type of meal for nights when Kate has swimming lessons or soccer. I know we won’t be home until after 6 p.m., and I’ll need to get three kids bathed, in their pajamas, and at the table to eat dinner. So I most definitely won’t have time to make anything. That’s when I lean on this type of meal to save the day. It’s like a high-five from your past self to your future self.

Okay, you tell me. What’s your super favorite, super easy crock pot recipe? The fewer ingredients, the better!

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

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We are all about Mexican food in this family. I dare say it might be our favorite. We haven’t met an enchilada or taco we didn’t like. Even the kids love burritos.

As much as I love taco night, it can feel like lots of effort because there’s a lot ingredients to get together. I can’t babysit anything on the stove because while I’m doing that, Michael is surely electrocuting himself or jumping off of the second story landing.

I remembered I’d seen lots of pins on Pinterest featuring crock pot tacos with various methods, the most common recipe using salsa. I’m picky about my salsa, so I wasn’t sure I would like that recipe. But with the addition of Thomas, I needed more crock pot recipes in my arsenal, so I decided to test out some salsas and see if I could make something work.

I found two options that I like at Wegmans. One being Wegman’s fresh salsa (the one they make fresh daily) and the other being Garden Fresh Gourmet Salsa in Sweet Onion. Dan doesn’t love these (he thinks they’re too sweet), but I love them, and, most importantly, the kids love them, so a four out of five win is good enough for me.

This recipe could not be easier. Here’s what I do:

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Bagley Family Crock Pot Salsa Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

+Salsa of your choice (You need a good size container – or maybe even two containers.)

+Chicken breasts (We use two big ones.)

+1 can of black beans

+1 bag frozen corn

+About 1 cup of chicken stock (I just make sure the chicken is covered so it doesn’t burn, but you don’t need much.)

+Whatever you need to serve your tacos. Hard shells, soft shells, tortilla taco boats (my kids LOVE these), chips, etc…

+Shredded Mexican cheese

+Your choice of additional toppings such as avocado, sour cream, lettuce, etc…

Directions:

Place your chicken in the crock pot. Dump in your salsa, black beans, and corn. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover. Place lid and cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low.

After cooking is complete, shred your chicken and put it back into the crock pot. Mix and serve!

My kids gobble this up. And it makes for great leftovers.

Do you have a crock pot taco recipe? How do you make it?

For the Love of My Vitamix (And My Go-To Green Smoothie)

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I’ve been begging Dan for a Vitamix for years. “But we already have a blender,” he’d say.

True. We have a blender. But it’s just not high-powered enough for this smoothie-loving girl. I’d have to turn it on and shake it violently from side to side to get all the contents to mix. And it never really got the right texture. Ice chunks and pieces of banana wouldn’t quite blend.

Two Christmases ago I told Dan all I wanted was that blender. It’s a high-price item. And the only thing I wanted.

Being the good deal catcher that is he, he found a good price via Slick Deals and surprised me with the Vitamix for Christmas.

After spending years Googling “is the Vitamix worth it?” I can 100% say, “Yes.”

This thing is crazy high powered. I’m pretty sure it could blend a brick. When I make my smoothies, they always come out smooth. No matter how many ice cubes or chunks of frozen fruit.

There are a TON of things you can make with this thing. Everything from smoothies to ice cream to soup to dips. So far, I’ve only made smoothies and that frozen banana ice cream that’s all the rage on Pinterest.

My favorite, go-to smoothie recipe is perfect for breakfast (I especially love it after a good, sweaty workout) or an afternoon pick me up.

Sarah’s Go-To Green Smoothie

+handful of spinach (you won’t taste this, so really, make it a good handful)

+ice (this adds volume, so as much as you like)

+almond milk (I do enough to cover the ice)

+1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter

+1 tablespoon flax

+1 tablespoon chia seeds

+1 banana

+a good shake of cinnamon

Blend away and enjoy!

And clean up is a dream! After I pour out my smoothie, I fill up the container half way with water, add a drop of dish soap, and run it on the 10 setting for about a minute. Then all I have to do is rinse! Clean!

Do you have a Vitamix? What’s your favorite thing to make? I’d like to try a soup and hummus. Yum!

Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

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Ever since my pal, Kim, told me about her spiralizer, I was intrigued. But then I thought, ugh, another kitchen gadget?! Do we really need that?!

But then I remembered how, so often, I think I don’t like a certain food, but it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that I don’t like the way it’s prepared. Like Brussels sprouts. I don’t like them steamed. But sauteed? Roasted? YOU BET!

And changing up how I prepare things ensures I get my kids to eat it. We have our own fair share of problems (re: sleep!). But my kids LOVE to eat. Like, all day. And they like new foods and new ways of preparing old favorites, so I figured they’d enjoy some spiralized veggies.

(This proved to provide major entertainment value.)

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Also, this thing is $30, so while not the cheapest, definitely not a break-the-bank experiment.

So I ordered my spiralizer and that same day bought a giant bag of sweet potatoes at Costco. I love sweet potatoes, but those suckers take forever to bake. But according to the recipes I researched, sweet potatoes spiralized take a fraction of the time. Also, I love sweet potato fries over regular fries anytime (although you will note regular potatoes in these pictures because some people prefer those), and I was itching to make a healthy version.

And that’s how sweet potatoes came to be my first victims.

Let’s get into it!

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Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

+Sweet potato (or a few of them if you’re feeding more than one person)

+Salt

+Pepper

+Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Peel your sweet potatoes. Cut the ends off the sweet potato, taking care to make the ends as flat as possible. Cut your sweet potato in half, taking care to make the cut even and flat. I find cutting the sweet potato in half makes spiralizing easier.

Get your sweet potato into position and spiralize according to the directions on your spiralizer. We used the blade that made the smallest sweet potato strings.

Toss your sweet potato strings in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just eye-ball it.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Put sweet potatoes on baking sheet, trying to get them on one, even layer.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. You might need to give them a toss half-way through baking.

Remove from oven and enjoy! So easy, so yum!

Do you have a spiralizer?! What do you spiralize?! I can’t wait to try some other things like apples and squash.