Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Super Summer Sides: Balsamic Cucumber Dill Salad

If I could only eat one meal every day for the rest of my life, I would choose SALAD!!  I know this may sound crazy, especially coming from someone who used to classify a 7-11 shopping spree of a slurpee, bag of chips and bag of candies a "snack", but it's true. I just LOVE salad. There are about a million bajillion different ways to make a meal out of salad, so I'd never, ever get bored. Besides that, salads are one of the most nutritious possible meals out there -- what can I say? It's true love!! <3

Being from Alberta, it's probably not going to surprise you that I'm a Ukrainian girl, so it goes to say.. I looove me some dill! haha My dad actually made this delish, fresh salad for a celiac (gluten-free) for a girlfriend of mine that we had over for a BBQ and I just had to steal some because it smelled sooo delish. It's great for bringing to work for lunch (I add the dressing right before serving otherwise gets a little mushy) or as a side for a  nice steak dinner! :-) Enjoy.

The Best Lunch EVER!!
Balsamic Cucumber Dill Salad

3 mini cucumbers, sliced thin
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
1/2 bunch of green onions, sliced

2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
Salt + pepper

Toss in salad bowl, serve fresh + enjoy! I throw some chicken breast into mine so the chicken soaks up the vinaigrette and add whichever carbs I've got for the day too -- sweet potato, roasted baby potatoes or quinoa would all be a fantastic choice :)

Until next time... remember... abs are made in the kitchen! ;-) 

xo Brooke

Friday, July 26, 2013

Power Up: 7 Ways to Amp Up The Energy and Focus in Your Workout Routine

1.     Switch up your workout schedule. If you’re stuck in a rut, and your gym life feels repetitive instead of exciting, you need to change something and this is one of my favs. Do you  normally hit the after-work rush at the gym? Do you set your alarm for 5 AM for a morning pump? Whatever it is... do the opposite. Ha! You are breaking your routine so you are already telling your brain “this workout isn’t going to be like every other workout” even if it’s just by changing something as little as your schedule.

The vibe in the gym is different at different times of day and believe it or not, this has more effect on your workout than you realize! The jazzercise junkies and stay-at-home moms that workout from 9-11 AM will (not always! but generally) be doing lower-intensity workouts and bring a different energy to the space than the hardcore bodybuilders and younger crowd that usually fills the gym after work. Sometimes just seeing someone else banging out some sprints on the stairmill or killing a set of walking lunges is enough to inspire you to push just a little harder. And lastly.. my secret confessional reason behind this one... I get distracted by sexy sweaty athletic men!!! Ha ha ha! I notice some days when I am at the gym between 5-9, I find myself spending maybe a bit too much time checking out babes, which takes away from my focus. Switching my workout to 11 or 1 works really well for me because the gym is almost empty and I am free from distractions!!! (Seriously though... some days I wonder how many times I’m gonna have to stare RIGHT AT my gymcrush for prolonged periods of time before he gets the hint... lol!!)

2. You Rock. Remember that.
Before your workout, find somewhere that you can go sit down and write without distraction. Take 5 minutes to reflect on 3 things that you have accomplished that make you go “Wow, I am badass.” Write them out, in detail, on a blank sheet of paper. What are 3 of your biggest proudest accomplishments? I like to keep mine related to fitness, but it can be something in your personal life too! These were mine for this week:

- I hit my sales goal yesterday and got my bonus 2 days before month’s end. Badass.
- I visualized one of the hardest workouts from my last contest prep (a killer crossfit sesh that involved lots of rowing, 100 burpees and 2 x 1 km long sprint where I kept up to the elite hockey guys that were there that night). I literally thought I was going to die in that gym.... but I  made it!! Badass.
- I looked at a few pictures from a year or two ago. The difference is hard to believe. Badass.

Taking the time to write these things out reminds you that you ARE awesome and you CAN accomplish amazing things and if you did it then, you can do it now! Now lace 'em up and grind one out!
3. P-WO POW! While I’m not really a fan of the long-term, everyday use of Pre-Workout, caffeine supplements and fat burners, I do think they are valuable at the right time and place. When you’ve had a long day at work, have a tougher than usual workout ahead, or just need that extra boost... Go for it!!! Monday was one of those days for me. Lol. So I doubled up... down the hatch: a Lipo-6 Ultra Concentrate (black) and a scoop of BSA’s No-Xplode in blue razz. In my pink Magnum Shaker Cup. That I LOVE!!! Scored this one at the last show I did from Magnum Sponsored Bikini Athlete, Emily Adams (IG: @emmybikini). It makes me happy... :) Thx MAGNUM and Emmy!!!

4.     Tick Tock. 
If you are doing Strength Training, set a timer.  I first started doing this when I noticed some of my workouts were taking me up to 90 mins -- and that's just for the weight training part of it! Some days, I'll still have another 30-90 minutes of cardio on top of that so you can see how the time would easily add up. I would say that in general, a 40-60 minute strength training workout is a pretty good range to aim for. When you end up taking much longer than that, your rest intervals are off, so the intensity and effectiveness of your workout will also be off.  Try this one out and I'll bet you'll be trying to beat your last workout time before you know it! ;-)

5. Burn, Baby, Burn! During your cardio sesh, try switching your focus from total minutes logged to total calories burned.  Remember, endless hours of steady state cardio are not necessary, and not effective or sustainable in the long run, so try looking at things differently and focusing on intensity instead. For example, if you normally do 30 minutes of cardio on a crosstrainer and burn 300 calories, try adding in a few high intensity intervals to torch calories quicker and aim to complete your workout in 28 minutes instead of 30. You are still getting the same net effect of a 300 calorie burn, but your workout becomes more challenging, engaging and efficient! (Bonus!)

Try a workout sans specs...
even if they match your outfit! ;)
I like to make it a bit of a game for myself - if I normally burn 300 calories in a 30 minute workout, I should be at about 50 calories after 5 minutes, 100 calories after 10 mins and so on. So, I would try to put myself ahead of the "expected burn" right off the bat - and try to get to 60 or 70 calories by 5 mins in. I mix in intervals of steady state (at around 140 BPM) for maybe 5 minutes in a row just to zone out for a bit then refocus on playing the "calorie game" and racing the clock. This changes the goal, mindset and pace of your workout and when you feel like you have a new  and exciting challenge ahead, you are able to tackle it with a new energy and focus! ;-)
6.      Take It Off! I get that some of you actually need glasses or contacts to see, but as long as you can see where you’re going, try a work out sans specs.  This goes back to the distraction thing and trust me.. I am easily distracted! Every time my mind wanders even just a tiny bit, I obviously am not focusing on what I'm trying to achieve in my workout and end up losing intensity and drawing out my workout. The gym can turn into a zoo at some hours of the day - lots of different people to look at, lots of different workouts going on - so  if you can't physically see all of these micro distractions, you're able to more easily block them out and focus solely on what's in front of you; the iron.

7.      Go hard on Monday. Monday being the first, fresh new day of the week, getting off to a good start and accomplishing something puts you ahead of the game for the whole week. It’s the same kinda thing as sitting up in bed, wide awake, an hour before your alarm goes off in the morning.  #winning

Remember, the body can not go where the mind does not take it.

Have a fantastic, fit and focused day!!




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fast Food, Brilliant Edition: 3 Fast-Food Salads That Won't Derail Your Diet!

Good Good Gooood Morning All! 

I'm really excited about this little post today - short and simple but hopefully valuable to you! :)

I work in Car Sales and for any of you that have had friends or family work in the industry, you'll know - there is a LOT of fast food involved! One of the keys to being successful in sales is that you've gotta BE there to sell - so we definitely do spend a lot of time at work and a lot of the days will revolve around someone asking "What's for lunch?!" The guys take a few minutes to negotiate through which kind of burger or fried junk they should get today, then someone runs out to grab a bunch of brown greasy bags filled with sweaty beef and french fries for the team to quickly chow down on. 

While it definitely makes for a challenge, I am able to stick to my guns (almost) all of the time and enjoy the healthy, nutritious meals that I've packed for myself the night before.  I 110% believe that dedicating time on a regular basis for prepping foods for the week is one of the keys to living a healthy, happy life, but -- I also understand that sometimes that just doesn't work! I'm at the gym untill 11, I'm out of groceries, I stayed at work late...  life happens! 

Now.. obviously eating fast food every day isn't going to get you anywhere towards any health goals you may have, but what I'm here to tell you is there IS a way to still grab food from fast food restaurants and not get too derailed! What I think is the key here is, is how often you're grabbing food and what you are grabbing! Personally, I try to keep it to 1-2 meals per week max, and only eat from places that I can get my food to order -- point at a big table of veggies in a row and tell them how much I want of each! As for the what -- here are a few of my favs! :) 

Mucho Burrito
If I could eat one style of food for the rest of my life, it would be Mexican. I LOVE Mexican. There are pretty much a bajillion types of salsas and types of tacos out there... Ooohh just thinking of all of the options gets me excited haha! Fresh salsa, and limes and cilantro and beans and spices.. yum!

Mucho Salad!! I switched it up with this one and
went with steak instead of chicken. 
Mucho’s kinda a hidden gem because when most people think Mexican, a lot of people think more of the burritos and quesadillas which aren’t that awesome. If you take a big tortilla, add a pile of rice, beans and one of the fattier cuts of meat (beef or pork) it’s easy to end up with a really carby, starchy, heavy meal. The key here is to load up on the fresh veggies and salsas and keep the protein nice and lean and you can absolutely build a great, nutritious and balanced meal! This salad's super filling and I've even converted some of the GUYS at work to salad-eaters with this lunch! 

What I Order:
Salad, no bowl. Romaine, black beans, sautéed veggies, corn + black bean salsa, chopped red salsa, medium red salsa, cilantro and guac  <3 When I’m looking for a little treat and I’m not dieting for a show, I’ll add a side of the tortilla chips!

Pita Pit
Ok.. this is hands-down my #1 FAV at the moment!! Lots of fresh veggies that are full of nutrients, a lean protein and low sugar/calorie dressing = awesome. The salads here are really similar to Subway, but they have a few extra exciting veggies that Subway doesn’t, and a few light salad dressings so the selection’s a bit bigger. I really love how you can throw veggies on the grill too – they add volume to the chicken so it makes the salad more filling, which is always a nice little bonus! The guys at work love this option too and order their lunch as a pita instead of salad.

What I Order:
Small “Make Your Own” salad with Extra Chicken. I get romaine, sprouts, green pepper, cucumber, tomato and banana peppers in the salad bowl, chicken, mushrooms, red onion and pineapple on the grill, and hot sauce as a salad dressing. If it fits into my meal plan at the time, I also get them to put some tzaziki on the side... sooo good.. you don’t even know!

Can you handle the heat??? ha ha!
Spicy Subway salad
Another one of my go-to grab-a-salad spots... Subway! There’s so many of them around, so even on roadtrips through small towns.. you can pretty much rely on spotting one. The chicken portion size here is 2.5 oz, so again, I get extra chicken (a good portion size for a 150 lb female is 4-6 oz).

What I Order:
Chicken salad with Extra Chicken (plain, not teriyaki which is loaded with sugar and other junk). Shredded iceberg, tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, banana peppers and hot sauce as the salad dressing.

Now, while these options are a great alternative to grabbing a burger and fries from the food court or drive thru, I do want to mention that because they are from fast food restaurants, the food is still going to be fairly processed. For this reason, I do want to remind you that buying actual chicken breasts from the store, cooking them yourself and chopping your own veggies is absolutely the best way of fueling your daily activities!

Until next time... remember that "your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow".  

Whatever you have going on in your life today -- Rock it Out!!! ..... life's too short not to! ;)

xo Brooke

Monday, July 8, 2013

The World's Most Delicious Salsa Recipe + My Next Fitness Adventure: Mission Hardware 2013

Hot Off The Press :) Today's Special:  A peek into my next fitness adventure + one of my favorite recipes in the WORLD.... Avocado Black Bean Boyfriend Salsa. No.. there’s no boyfriends in this super nutritious and deliciously amazing side,  (hehe) but this was one of mine + my boyfriends-from-the-pasts favorite snack (with a bag of wholegrain Tostitos... holy moly.. yum!) and so it is named. Ha ha! Is that weird? Naming a recipe after an ex? Lol! Ah well.. wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been told I’m a little “special”... ;)

This salsa is super bright and perfect for so many different occasions, so it’s easily one of my favs. I’ve brought it to parties, BBQs and family dinners and I’ve got to say.. it’s one of my most requested recipes of all time. Tons of fresh veggies which are packed with vitamins and minerals, some avocado as the healthy fat, and the black beans to add some fiber and protein, this salsa is a serious HOMERUN! On it’s own, added to salads, or on top of a BBQ’d chicken breast, this salsa will add more flavor and awesomeness than you’ll know what to do with! Promise. :) 

I like it best after it has about an hour for all of the flavors to mix together, but if it’s just too tempting, you can dive right in.. I won’t tell anyone! ;) 

Avocado Black Bean Boyfriend Salsa

½ can black beans, rinsed + drained

1 avocado, pitted + chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

¼ cup chopped banana peppers

½ bunch green onion, chopped

½ cup chopped cilantro

10-20 shakes of franks’ red hot sauce (to your taste)

Juice of 1 lime

Super easy + simple – just chop, mix + enjoy <3

Anyways... enough about boyfriends.. and salsa.. ha ha! Let’s get to the good stuff... Operation Hardware 2013: Muscle Beach Fall Classic. I have officially started my contest prep for my next competition, the Muscle Beach Fall Classic in October... and I am REALLY EXCITED! J In the past, my prep dieting/training has been a bit shorter – a 12 week process, but after talking to my trainer and deciding that if I want to do this show, I am going to bring home some METAL, we’re doing the 16 weeks. Now... a little something about body fat. I am actually starting this prep at the same weight (152 lbs) as my 2012 Muscle Beach prep but last year, I was at around 24% BF and this year, I am starting at 15%. Kinda crazy considering last February I was close to 28%!

My trainers and gym fam have been telling me over and over again that it takes time to get your body to that peak, but me being insanely impatient of course, wouldn’t buy it. My understanding of “it takes time” was “you’re too big or you started with too much fat and you can’t have a perfect body right now”. Ha.. if you’ve ever had more than a 5 minute conversation with me, you’ll quickly realize that I don’t take no for an answer. So, I would keep thinking “I’ll show you, I’ll work 10 times harder than everyone else, and I’ll do it now, I don’t need all that time” – but I’ve finally come to understand that that isn’t what they meant at all. I have now been training (lifting 5 days a week, and cardio 5-7 days/week) and eating clean or dieting with my trainers, Rob and Asha of Excel Fitness and Nutrition, for just over a year now and the changes I have seen in my physique – muscle definition, shape, size, body fat are just unbelievable. Now, starting my contest prep at 15% body fat, and 152 lbs, (my goal stage weight is somewhere under 138 lbs and 12% BF) I finally understand that what they mean by “it takes time” really means that you’ve got to be consistent with your training and over time, your body comp will change. As your “offseason” or “everyday” body comp changes (your body comp is your body’s ratio of fat vs. muscle, and your body weight), your “starting point” for each show or shoot is that much better and therefore, the “package” you bring to the stage is that much better and more improved. Anyways! As are the goods :-)

14 wks out - Muscle Beach 2013 /// 12 wks out - Muscle Beach 2012
Rounded delts, tigher core, tighter legs... yeeeeah buddy!!
Also: I think it's safe to say my posing has improved... lol!
My pics from last year is like a bad mug shot! haha

14 wks out - Muscle Beach 2013 /// 12 wks out - Muscle Beach 2012
Nice + toned up top, smaller waist, tighter, higher glutes and tighter legs ...
What a difference a year of hard work + consistency makes!

Until next time... Here is one of absolute fav mantras for a long run, a tough leg day or KILLER candy cravings....  Repeat this over and over in your head until you believe it - "I will persist, until I succeed" 

Have an amazing and aerobic day you beauties!!!! :-)

xo Brooke