Convenience v. Efficiency: A Food + Fitness Story

I’ve been a little off-target over the past two weeks with planning my food and getting into any sort of consistent sweat routine.  It’s not historically in my nature to take long breaks from working out, but over the last year I’ve developed a (much) more balanced approach to letting go of structure when the stress of trying to force fitness in any given day is greater than the benefit.  I’m not sure if it’s a product of ‘growing up’ or just ‘getting old,’ but it’s a real need a couple times a year to slow down and I’m always so thankful when I allow myself to let it go.

Part of creating that balance has also been efficiency.  Convenience is something our whole world seems to be driven by these days, but somehow efficiency sometimes gets lost in the mix.  They’re not the same thing, in fact, they’re grossly different.

It’s the appeal of convenience that leads so many of us to drive-thrus, to processed foods and sugar addictions.  It’s what keeps us on the continuous (proverbial and literal) treadmill for years without seeing any significant change or improvement to our bodies or lives —  and in fact, it usually has the adverse effect.  Efficiency is completely different. It’s the ironic counter to convenience; it’s the most effective way to reach a goal or see a result, and without it, I would never accomplish anything.

So, let me talk clean to you for a second…  [clean + efficient meets food + fitness].

The most important part of eating clean (for me, in my crazy life) is preparation, and packaging.  When I cook it’s never for one meal – I’ll happily live off of leftovers for a week of work lunches and on-the-go dinners.   Example: on Sunday morning I made breakfast for my Charlotte family – 18 eggs worth of breakfast.

fuel sweat grow: steak and eggsZucchini, leftover chimichurri marinated skirt steak (a YUM from Fresh Market), and 18 full fledged eggs.

fuel sweat grow: egg scramble #paleo breakfast

I’m terrible about giving myself enough time for breakfast during the week, but I love breakfast on weekends, so having these leftovers is such a huge thing for me.

Sunday afternoon I followed right up with a bulk-cooking marathon to get ready for a week in the office with my favorite Thai Chicken Stir-fry (with spaghetti squash).

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

To compliment (and balance out the days) this salad came to be — and is always a consistent favorite of mine. It’s definitely more of a summer salad, but it was 80 degrees in Charlotte this weekend, so I’m going to give it a seasonal pass.

fuel sweat grow: fall summer salad

Efficiency is also what I look for in my workouts.  Well, that, and a little escape once in a while.  I still run when I’m feeling inspired — its one of the most freeing actions, and sometimes the only time I have to be in my own head.  I still crave yoga + stretching because it feeds my body and soul.  And I still love sweating for the sake of sweating, when that’s what I need, but for my actual fitness, strength, and total body change, I go for efficiency – and that’s the theme of the week.  So here’s how I’m hoping to balance it:

Monday: Run + new playlist

Tuesday: Carolina Barre + Core: 30/30 Cardio Barre

Wednesday: MADabolic

Thursday: Walk with a friend + Run/body weight circuit

Friday: MADabolic

Saturday: MADabolic

Sunday: a day of REST (or maybe a hike with the 4-leggers)

And the reality is….if somewhere in there life gets a little too jammed and my sanity depends on a little lunch time yoga or childs pose in my office, then so be it.  Sometimes being effective is just about being still.

Energy Refuel: meals + sweats

Day 2 & 3 of 28 were the roughest of all.  I was craving everything that I couldn’t have and nothing that I could.  The amazing thing is that most of the meals are not that far off from how we normally eat, so it was really the little things and the sweetness of coffee and wine that I kept coming back to.

By dinner I was ready to create some meal alternatives for the rest of the week.  I started by heating up the stores of remaining roasted spaghetti squash.

spaghetti squash

I was feeling a little maxed out on the veggie/ground turkey mix, so I mixed zucchini in with free range ground turkey and made little meatballs that popped into the oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  When I was at Whole Foods I read every tomato sauce label and determined that there was only one jar that had no added sugars or cheeses, and it was the 365 brand.

365 pasta sauce

When the meatballs were done I put them in a pot with the pasta sauce to absorb some of the juices and nutrients.

clean meatball sauce

Then served it all over the spaghetti squash.  I like to actually cut up the meatballs to mix it all together so there’s a little bit of everything in each bite, but to each his own when it comes to food.

turkey meatball squash

Since I was trying to knock out more meals for the rest of the week, and was pretty certain I didn’t want to eat this same thing for days, the cooking continued.


Broiled asparagus and a flank steak from Whole Foods completed the meal, and created a good amount of leftovers that spread out over the next couple of days.

fuel sweat steak

So now we’re on day 5, and energy levels are starting to surpass the previous ‘normal.’

Quick sweat update for the week:

Monday I ran and did a small circuit of wall balls, kettle bell swings, goblet squats and break dancers (3 rounds of 25 each), which was pretty challenging during my 3pm energy dip, and then taught two Pure Barre Classes.

Tuesday i took a rest day to recover, and hit up a class at Opal in the early afternoon to try and bring some relief to my screaming back pain.  Big thanks to Kiki for an awesome stretch ( & flow).

Wednesday I got up for Dar’s bootcamp at 6:45am and then taught two classes in the morning at PB, which left me at an energy low until I had a snack of avocado and some almonds and berries (not all together).

Thursday + Friday have both become involuntary rest days for me since I’ve been benched due to an ultimate war with my lower back.  Thursday I made it into the doctor and have since had several appointments, a couple of procedures, and a new plan for back health which began immediately.  More to share on that soon since it blended right in to the 28 day challenge.

A Little luluLovin’ + A Sweet Sweating Week

While I like to eat clean and whole most of the time, I definitely abide by the 80/20 rule because a girl’s gotta live!  This week, being one of the most traditionally sweet I squeezed a little more of that ‘living’ into my life, but rounded it out with some pretty sweet sweats.

We’re in the middle of the 20 class challenge at Pure Barre (20 classes in 30 days) which is universally kicking some butt, so I went a little lighter than last week on the LTB getting two classes in early with Kristin and Amy Jo.  Consider yourselves acknowledged not only by this blog, but by all of the muscles in my body.

Pure Barre Challenge

Classes have been packed full lately, which makes it a little more fun, and definitely helps keep the energy up as we soldier through the last two weeks of the challenge.

The beginning of the week looked a little like this:

Monday:  5.5 mile run + spin w/Mahogany at ACAC

Tuesday: 3.5 mile run + Pure Barre w/Kristin

Wednesday: Pure Barre w/Amy Jo (followed by the Beer Master Dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery. more to come on that soon!)

By Thursday I was ready for a little stretch, and in the spirit of the ‘holiday,’ ready to give a little love to my body.  And guess what? The stars aligned for just that.  I was able to bookend my day with a short run early, and some yoga (VINYASA!) at Opal Yoga‘s grand opening night.

lululemon love

The lovely ladies from lululemon were there spreading love, and giving the gift of The Mat to Opal’s first few students, ever.

this one is better?
sweatworking at it’s finest. R to L is our gluten-free favorite Kristin, me, Alex + Hannah all ready to go.

I was spoiled when I lived in Charlotte to have fantastic hot vinyasa heavy, and awe inspiring teachers and studios at nearly every corner, so when I moved back to Charlottesville to find a severe lack of vinyasa studios, my heart hurt.   As I said to Opal Yoga’s owner, Karen,  I have been waiting for this day for almost a year now.  Considering she’s been working up to this same moment for her whole life, my sacrifice seems small, but still, it was a very exciting moment for all.

beautiful yogi's full of love on LOVE day
beautiful yogi’s full of love on LOVE day

Opal’s space is beautiful and full of such love and energy from Charlottesville’s most enthusiastic, open hearted, and engaging yogi’s.  If you live in Cville there are grand opening events and raffles going on all weekend, and classes happening forevermore.

I finished off the ‘work’ week with Dar’s Bootcamp this morning, and a nap around 1pm that was so very needed by my body.  Tomorrow I’m jump starting the weekend with my third installment of Pure Barre this week, and am then venturing over to the lululemon showroom to teach their complimentary Saturday class at 10am, so if you want to LTB surrounded entirely by luon, come join us.  We’ll be sweating and shaking our little hearts out.

Hope you had fabulous Valentine’s Days filled with the people you love.

put a little love in your heart
put a little love in your heart

Sunday Meals + the Leftover Meal Plan

One of my main goals each weekend is to make enough good, real, food to have leftovers in the fridge for the next week’s on-the-go meals. Since I had done some prep chopping and cooking on Saturday, it made for a much faster cook time on Sunday.

I still had one of the flank steaks left over from my Whole Foods trip, so it went directly on to the grill.  And per usual, it came out to perfection.

flank steak

WFM flank steak grilled - fuel sweat grow

Steak is one of my favorite leftovers to add to all meals, and  with these big cuts there are always leftovers.  My other absolute favorite carb filler and gluten-free side is tiny (or fingerling) potatoes.

fingerling potatoes

Sometimes I’ll broil/roast them, but on Sunday I sautéd them in coconut oil and dusted them with my favorite sea salt and rosemary seasoning from Feast.

tiny potatoes in pan roasting

I set the dial to a mid-level so they soften and brown in the coconut oil, just stirring occasionally.  The rosemary + sea salt combination adds a great flavor to the potatoes, and makes them an even more valued leftover to add to salads, eggs, or even vegetable sautés.

tiny potato sauté

Since no meal is complete in this house without avocado, the second side was made up of tomato, cucumber, avocado, with fresh mozzerella added to the ‘dairy-allowed’ side of the plate.

tomato mozz salad

Salt, basalmic vinegar and light olive oil finished the salad off.

tomato mozz salad

The main dish was a combination of what was left in the produce drawer (and not a repeat from yesterday’s zucchini/mushroom/spinach pasta), so broccoli made an appearance.

food blog - broccoli

I threw the broccoli, some more mushrooms, and steak tips into the wok, and once it was all tender and cooked, tossed it together with some brown rice spaghetti.

steak broccoli mushroom pasta

A pretty large meal for a sunday night, but as planned, the leftovers filled several separate and portioned tupperware containers for early in the week grab-and-go midday fuel.  Monday through Wednesday are my most chaotic days of the week, and with early starts at Dar’s Bootcamp M-W-F followed by morning classes at Pure Barre, by 11am these leftovers save me.

complete meal - fuel sweat grow

The first round of the meal was also an awesome way to finish off the weekend. I thought my eyes had far exceeded my stomach when I sat down, but after a busy day that included teaching and taking Pure Barre, I needed to replenish my energy.  And I did just that.

This week I’m also playing with the VitaMix, and the Daily Balance whey protein powder from Stronger Faster Healther that Dar picked up from the guys at Fight Gone Mad a few Charlotte trips ago, so stay tuned for different ingredient combos and reviews to come for great breakfast and midday quick fuel options. Spoiler alert: they’re all pretty tasty.

Saturday Recovery + Food Restocking

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic, and when I threw in a last minute trip down to Charlotte last weekend, my normal routine fell apart.  On Saturday morning when I opened the fridge and realized that had allowed my reserves to deplete down to liquid diet options of either booze or almond milk, I put on my coat and ventured out on a gathering expedition.
food blog - fridge pic

On a warmer Saturday in Charlottesville (seasonally dictated) I would have gone directly to the farmers market, and found all my favorite local sources of meat and produce, but alas, it is the middle of winter and four walled stores it was.

When I’m heading on a full fridge restock trip it always involves multiple stops, so on Saturday I made my way to Trader Joe’s, by way of Whole Foods.   The produce section of TJ’s has all of my staples and is always cheaper than WFM, but the meat section just can’t compare.  I am going through a pretty serious flank steak phase, and Whole Foods has some of the best grass fed cuts that don’t taste ‘grassy.’

food blog - flank steak from Whole Foods

I used the opportunity to grab an iced americano from the little coffee cart, and happily made my way across the street to Trader Joe’s where I picked up staple produce, berries,  nuts, and some basic replenishing supplies in the form of spices, pasta and coconut oil.

food blog produce
basic core staples: spinach, mushrooms, zucchini + yellow squash, romaine
food blog  spices from TJ's
TJ has the best seasoning spices – everyday seasoning is my go-to for everything
food blog berries from TJs
dark berries: blues, blacks, & rasp.
TJ's coconut oil
most universal + used staple in the house.

Friday morning included Dar’s bootcamp at Solidarity, immediately followed by Pure Barre with Kristin, so my body was ready for a rest.  Friday night had been an equally long night out venturing over to Mudhouse in Crozet to listen to a small acoustic show performed by a friend’s husband, and then dinner and drinks back downtown at Citizen Burger Bar.  By Saturday night I was ready for some down time to get work done and spend a little time creating in the kitchen, so that’s exactly what I did.

whole foods flank steak w/tenderizer & seasoning
whole foods flank steak w/tenderizer & seasoning
purple potatoes, zucchini, sliced bella mushrooms
purple potatoes, zucchini, sliced bella mushrooms

When I start chopping, I like to do more than I need and pack it away so it’s easier and faster to make quick meals during the week, so I chopped what I had and then packed the potatoes away with some mushrooms and zucchini to use in scrambled eggs this week.  The flank steak went on to the grill, and the rest went into a pan with a table spoon of coconut oil, and added spinach once everything else was tender.

food blog : mushroom, zucchini, spinach

I’m always amazed at how much spinach cooks down, and how quickly, so I never add it until the last second and try to take it off the heat before it gets too soft.  While everything was cooking down I had brown rice pasta cooking on the back burner, also taking it off the stove a minute before the suggested time to avoid it getting too soft.

food blog - brown rice pasta

After the pasta and veggies were done, they were combined in a mixing bowl, and created one of my favorite combinations of flavors.  The coconut oil combined with the juices from the vegetables acts as a natural dressing for the pasta.

food blog - 021113

food blog - 021013

I kept the salad simple since so much else was happening around the chopping block and the stove, so it was just romaine, avocado, walnuts, and mozzarella cubes, with the Trader Joe’s Cilantro salad dressing.

food blog - 021013

food blog - 021013

All in all, Saturday was a great day for both food and rest, and I threw in a couple glasses of wine for ‘moderation’ and relaxation as I pushed through the to-do lists that had been piling up.

On to a new week now, but check back in for Sunday highlights, full of more market finds, friends, and PB toning.