Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stretching after a workout

I know, I know, most people hate stretching and skip it altogether. I used to be one of them. It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realized that stretching after a big workout makes a HUGE difference. First of all, it helps you calm your mind and body. Some of the most peaceful moments I have felt in my life are right after a big workout, in some kind of yoga pose. Besides feeling awesome afterwards, it helps the recovery process. It helps to loosen up those muscles you were just working. It also helps reduce the soreness that can come the day after an intense workout.

An important thing to note is that I am by no means flexible. And you really don’t need to be to reap the benefits of stretching after a workout. It’s important not to push yourself too hard in a stretch because you probably won’t hold the stretch long enough to have any benefit to your muscles and you endanger pulling something. Not a good idea. It’s important to understand the limits of your flexibility and not to push it too hard.

Now I’ll talk about some yoga poses/stretches that are super awesome after a workout. Not only do they feel great, but they are good for you! Help reduce that lactic acid build up!

Half pigeon/quad stretch.
This one is an awesome stretch to help stretch those quads. You want to put your front leg in a “pigeon” pose (for those yoga lovers) and grasp the back leg with your hand. For the not so yogis, see below for a good picture of the stretch. You should feel a nice stretch in both legs. Make sure you keep your weight centered so you don’t rock back and forth. Make sure you hold it for at least 30 seconds on both sides.

Now for the reclined pigeon pose

This one is a good stretch for the hips and gluts. Tuck your knees to your chest, making sure your back stays flat against the back (otherwise you risk hurting your lower back). Pull one leg over, placing the ankle on the lower thigh of the opposite leg, holding onto that opposite thigh with your hands. Make sure to hold these for 30-60 seconds on both sides. Do NOT rock in the stretch, just put a continuous stretch on your muscles.

Triangle pose

I love this pose, it always feels amazing after a big workout. Put your legs in a straddle, tip one hip up, and fold at the waist. Stretch one arm up, while the other reaches for ankle. You don’t need to grab onto the ankle, just feel the stretch of your arms as you open up your chest to the side of the room.

Wide legged forward bend
Another good stretch is clasping your hands behind back and bending at the waist with legs in a straddle. It is usually easier to do if you concentrate on pulling your palms together in the clasp in order to get a nice deep stretch in the shoulders. This one is especially good if you sit hunched at a computer all day, but it also feels good after a workout.

These final two poses should be done after the more active poses that I outlined before. You should stay in each of these for a few minutes, really letting go of any thoughts or worries. You will feel amazing after a couple of minutes with your eyes closed.

The first one is having the soles of your feet touching while you are lying on your back, opening up your hips. Rest your arms on the ground (either out or by your sides) and let gravity do the work. We tend to carry a lot of tension in our hips, so this is a nice restorative pose.


Finally, the last pose you can try is a wide legged child’s pose. This is great to stretch out any last tension in your shoulders, while stretching out the hips as well. Take a few minutes to enjoy the pose, relaxing and letting your mind go blank.
Wide Legged Child's Pose

These are just some of my favorite stretches after a workout. I really do think they are beneficial, both psychologically and physically. While it may be tempting to just plop yourself down on the couch after a nice long workout, take some time to really stretch out those muscles. It will become your favorite part of all workouts, guaranteed!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Let me begin by saying that when I was a kid, I hated vegetables. A big shock right? But really, could you blame me? I will always remember that clump of overcooked, limpy spinach with the yellow gooze running out of it on my lunch tray at school. No wonder kids hate vegetables. But as I grew older and wiser, I realized that vegetables didn’t have to be mushy, smelly and gross. They can actually taste as good as they are for you. One of my favorite vegetables now is spinach (ironic I know). It is chalked full of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and zinc to name a few. Plus it is super versatile – you can mix it into a salad, throw it into a stir fry or pasta dish, or blend some into a smoothie for a little extra nutrient punch (not to mention an awesome, subtle flavor).
So what would be an awesome dinner that incorporates said delicious food? Spinach stuffed shells, that’s what. They are delicious. Seriously. D. always gets very excited when he realizes I’m cooking them. He can barely restrain himself from eating the whole pan! This is definitely a good sign, since it is a relatively healthy dish.
Let’s jump into the recipe then!
-30 jumbo pasta shells (almost a whole box)
- 1 15-oz. container ricotta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 large egg
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 26-oz. jar spaghetti sauce
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put a big pot of water with a pinch of salt on the stove to boil. While waiting for the water, grease a 9 by 13 " baking pan, or whatever you have on hand. Gather your ingredients up. Once the water is boiling, put in the pasta and boil for 10 minutes (give a couple of quick stir). Drain afterwards. While the pasta is cooking, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper, bread crumbs, and nutmeg. Then add the spinach after you run it under some warm water to loosen it up. I usually cut it into fourths and put it in strainer under hot water. Break it up with your hand.
Next, I use a gallon size ziplock bag to help pipe out the filling. Fold over the edges before you put the filling in to avoid a big mess (trust me on this one).

 Then push all of the filling into the corner of the bag, and snip off a good portion of the corner, big enough so the spinach can get through, but small enough to it's easy to handle.
 Next, put about half of the tomato sauce into the pan. Then, take each cooked pasta shell one at a time and pipe in the filling. I usually overstuff them a bit. This doesn't have to be perfect, but try to get some filling in each shell.
Once you have filled the shells, admire the beautiful shells you just made, because you are about to cover them up with sauce and cheese.
 Next, put the rest of the container of tomato sauce over the shells and sprinkle the other 1 cup of mozzarella over the shells. Cover in tin foil and back for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes to help make the cheese all melty and gooey. Here's a picture of mine!
 Serve it while it's hot, but not too hot to burn your mouth. Waiting until it cools down is definitely the hardest part!
Save any leftovers for dinner the next night. It usually makes about 4 portions, so D. and I get to have an easy dinner the following night. 
I hope this is a relatively easy and delicious way to incorporate spinach into your next meal. Enjoy! Until next time. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The beginning.

As with everything in life, there is a beginning and an end. While I try not to dwell on them, it is important to set goals when you begin something new in life to A. hold you accountable B. make sure you are striving towards the main purpose of the activity and C. because I am a neat freak and like to organize everything. So here is the beginning of my blog- Mayhem. The Musing and Advice of a Young, Healthy, Empathetic woMan (ok I cheated on the end there, but work with me here). In this blog I want to post about an assortment of things that lead to a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle in the middle of this chaotic thing we call life. I find it helpful to keep any helpful tips located in one location, since it can be so difficult to actually remember to take a moment and really reflect on the things around you. If I'm going to take time out of my schedule to do that, it better be easy, accessible, and motivating. So here is my attempt at creating a resource for people trying to do just that. 

While the format and content maybe a little hodgepodge at first, I sincerely hope that I provide some kind of entertainment to you as I work towards, sometimes humorously, living a full life. There maybe times that I just see something random and decide to share it with you, even if it isn't exactly "healthy". But everyone deserves to have enjoyment of all kinds in moderation, so I'll attempt to mirror that in this blog. 

So a little about me so you can understand my perspective a little bit better, and maybe see why I'm a little bit weird (but let's be honest, who isn't weird in one respect or another? If you were completely "normal", then what would you talk about with friends and loved ones?) I'm originally from good ol' New Jersey. I know, I know, people automatically jump to thinking about the Jersey Shore (which I can gladly say I have never seen). But believe me when I say, it was actually a relatively normal, nice place to grow up. No I don't have an accent and please believe me when I say that my hair is completely flat and normal. 

I ended up going to college close to home, which was nice when I needed to escape the bubble that was a college campus. While I really did enjoy being a student, I was ready to leave by the time I graduated. I ended up packing up and moving across the country for my boyfriend of forever (or it seems like forever) D. He got a job right outside of Portland, OR so that's where we went. After a lot of tears, anxiety, and doubts, I ended up finding a job in the area as well, but maybe I'll go into that story at a later point. Now I am happily employed at Nike as a sales analyst. It's a fun company to work for, and it is conveniently near Intel, the company my boyfriend has a job at. 

For the past year, I've been enjoying the fruits of Oregon (literally and figuratively). I was very uncertain of moving to Oregon of all places, but Portland is actually a very awesome city, mixing beauty of nature and the accessibility of a city into one crazy place. I've started eating much healthier than my ramen noodle days of college, and I have been trying out new things like running (or I should say novice jogging, because what I do can't qualify as running), pilates, yoga, and a whole assortment of exercises. I'll be sharing recipes, stretches, exercises, musings, rants, and all things beautiful with you throughout this journey. 

So fasten your seat belts, and cheers to new beginnings! Without beginning, how would we improve, grow, and learn? Have a good one!