Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rock Climbing: A different approach to getting fit

I get bored easily so I like to switch up my workout routine. Today, I went to a beginner's indoor rock climbing class. I used to climb with my adventure sports friends (yes, that is actually a college major). The only disadvantage to that was that I never really learned the basics (they always tied my ropes and belayed). Since I moved to MD from NY I have no one to bum off of. I decided to check out a local class, learn the basics, and start working my way back into the climbing community.

One of the common misconceptions about rock climbing is that it mostly works out your upper body. I hear so many people say, "I don't think I could do that I have no upper body strength." It is actually a great all around workout (builds strength, endurance, and flexibility), and works mostly your legs. It's like climbing a ladder. Your arms balance you, and your legs move you (unless you are bouldering, that can involve some upper body strength). So don't feel discouraged. If you can climb a ladder, you can climb a wall :)

One of the benefits of rock climbing is improved cardiovascular health. Your cardiovascular system consists of your heart and accessory organs (veins, arteries, etc.). In order to improve your cardiovascular health, you need to workout, or put stress, on these organs. Activities that provide stress include, running, biking, rock climbing, swimming, etc. As with any type of workout, it is important to start slow, especially when dealing with cardiovascular activities. Start climbing 5 minutes at a time, until you can climb for about 30 minutes. What's great about climbing is you can take breaks, either just hang loose in the air or when you finish your climb you can rest before trying out another route.

Another benefit is weight loss. I read in an article that rock climbing at moderate intensity can burn about 400 calories per hour. My goal is muscle toning, which is another benefit!  Like I said, rock climbing is a workout for the whole body. It works your arms, legs, glutes, back, abs, and chest (if done properly). I also think that it can increase flexibility. Sometimes, you need to stretch out to reach the right holds.

Rock climbing can be expensive depending on where you are. I lucked out in NY because I had skilled friends to bum off of and feel safe. Also, the indoor place in my small hometown was really cheap, under $10 to climb and that was with rentals. Where I am now, in MD, it can be about $30 a day. So, I recommend looking for deals. Again, I lucked out because the indoor place I went to had a deal for two 3 hour classes, free rentals, and a 15 day pass for 2 people for $75. I recommend checking websites such as living social and groupon, they tend to have classes on there. Another idea can be to check out local gyms or colleges, some can have rock walls with self belayers.

Overall, it was a great time and I definitely can feel the workout. Don't be afraid to try something new.
Happy climbing :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flavorful Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

In my previous blog post (Pumpkin Muffins Made from Scratch), I promised that I'd write about toasting pumpkin seeds. Well, here it is.

When I was younger I did not like pumpkin seeds, but since then my taste has changed and I've been up to trying new things. I looked online to get the basic steps in roasting pumpkin seeds and then made my own changes.

The first thing you need is a pumpkin. I never carved my pumpkin for Halloween, and I decided to use it to make pumpkin muffins from scratch (which turned out Ah-Mah-Zing!). While making the muffins I decided to save the seeds for toasting, and give them a second chance.

Next, you need to cut open the pumpkin and clean out the guts. Throw the seeds in a strainer, removing as much pulp as you can with your hands (keep a garbage can nearby).

Now wash the seeds in water.

First, I laid the seeds on a paper towel to get off the excess water. Then, I moved them to a cookie sheet and let them dry over night. If you try to dry them on the paper towel, you will have a mess. The seeds will dry to the paper towel, and then you are stuck separating bits of paper from the seeds.

Now, boil the seeds in salt water for 10 minutes. This will allow the salt to get inside and not just be on the shell.

Strain the seeds and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it in.

In 3 rice bowls, I made my seasonings (you can do anything you want). In one bowl I had cayenne pepper. In another I had sea salt. The last bowl I mixed cinnamon and sugar together.

Next, split the seeds into thirds and add them to the bowls, mixing until coated.

Now, place the seeds onto a cookie sheet that was lined with aluminum foil.

Bake at 300F for 1hr. Turn the seeds every 20 minutes.

Happy snacking :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins Made from Scratch...yum

This Halloween, I bought a pumpkin, but never had time to carve it. At least my bunny was enjoying it...

I didn't want to just toss the pumpkin, I'm too much of a tree hugger for that. First, I went online, but the directions were too involved, so I went to my friends and asked what to do. One of my friends gave me quick instructions on how to prepare a pumpkin for baking.

First, preheat the oven to 325F.

Rinse the outside of the pumpkin with water.

Then,  remove the top and scrape out the pulp. I saved the seeds to toast (blog coming...).

Cut the pumpkin in quarters, and place the pieces skin side down onto oven safe bakeware.

Bake the pumpkin for 45 min, until the "meat" is tender.

Let it cool for 5-10 min before scooping out the meat into a bowl.

Next, mash the pumpkin. This pumpkin made 6 cups. I froze 4 cups and saved 2 cups for the muffins. This is  enough for 2 batches.

For 1 batch (~12 muffins)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup mashed pumpkin (if you want to skip all that pumpkin preparation, use a can of pureed pumpkin)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (substitute= 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ground clove)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

For topping
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl granulated sugar

Now, preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together pumpkin, oil, eggs, spice, sugar, baking soda, and salt until smooth.

Combine flour and baking powder, then add to mix.

In a separate bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar.

Line muffin pan with paper liners and fill 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle on cinnamon-sugar mix.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Happy snacking :)