Category Archives: workouts

Workouts in 20 minutes or less

Once upon a time I thought that if you weren’t working out until almost death, it didn’t count. My workouts had to be at least an hour. I had to be dripping with sweat. I did this 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. Yoga and walking did not count as workouts. I remember when I had my back injury and couldn’t do anything but walk and I would go to the gym and walk for at least an hour for it to “count”. 

I am grateful for finding fitness and living a healthy lifestyle but I will admit it did not come from a healthy place at first. It was all about burning calories, cancelling out food and punishing myself. To say that I’m in a completely different mindset now is an incredible understatement- I work out to make my body feel good. It has nothing to do with what I ate that day or how many calories I need to burn. I don’t feel guilty if I don’t work out. And I try not to do workouts that I just dread. Yeah sometimes it’s hard to get going but I always feel better after I do it.  That’s why I like to keep it short and sweet. When I know my workouts are just going to be under 20 minutes it makes it a LOT easier to do. And I don’t dread it and avoid doing it.


I just wanted to share a couple of my go-to videos to getting a decent, short and effective workout. These days, I’ll do a 20-30 minute workouts about 2 maybe 3 days a week. Other days I’ll do yoga and we TRY to go for walks even though it’s winter. You might say it’s impossible to get a good workout in in 10-20 minutes but I disagree!!! I’ve included some effective workouts that I do again and again. I love these YouTubers and I use other workouts from all of them as well. 

winter walk

Sarah Beth Yoga is my favorite Yogi….I literally rarely do yoga without her videos. I just like how most of hers a flows with a very predictable pace. Here are a couple that work up a good sweat, but there are PLENTY others for low key or relaxing days:


Jessica Smith TV- Great workouts for cardio, strength and she has a lot of low impact walking stuff if you have injuries. She also has a couple of great prenatal workouts that I did while I was pregnant. I also did her kickboxing ones too, which are a little longer. 


The girls at Tone it Up have a TON of great workouts and many are under 20 minutes, so I just picked one that I’ve done before. But there are TONS…..cardio, weights, kettlebell, kickboxing…everything!

BodyFit by Amy is new one for me but I also used some of hers while pregnant. Great variety. 




There you have it! A workout does not have to be an hour long to be effective. If you don’t dread it and feel great when you’re done then it’s a win. Don’t stress if you can’t get a hard work out in every day and don’t guilt yourself into working out. I promise it does not help and stress makes everything worse. 

How long are your workouts usually?


How to relieve sports injuries using mobility training

This book review is LONG overdue. I bought Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett last July. I was dealing with debilitating back injury mostly all of last year and I’m just coming around to being able to exercise again. I had heard of this book due to it circulating among the Paleo/Crossfit world and one day just went out on a limb and purchased it, thinking that it would solve all my back issue problems. 



When I got the book, I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed. It was huge, heavy and looked like a textbook. I started reading and got even more confused. Torque? Internal rotation? Fault tests? I think I got in over my head. I read through the book last year, tried some of the exercises, and when my back wasn’t fixed, I put the book on the bookshelf and nearly forgot about it.

Fast forward to now. I’m at a point where I can strength train a couple of days, do some light cardio and throw in some yoga each week. But I find myself sometimes sore, and have nagging pain in my back as well the muscles in my legs at the end of the week.

This is normal right? We’re supposed to be “sore” and feel “beat up” and have muscle pain after working out, right? Well, not really. The problem is our society is too encouraging of the “no pain no gain” and “push through it” mentality. You should not ‘push through’ something if it hurts. Just no. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for the ‘sore’ feeling you get after a workout. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. But unless it’s just a case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) it’s not really normal. Our society is so “task completion obsessed” as Starrett put it, we are continually pushing through pain that should have been dealt with months ago because of the “no pain no gain” mentality.


Check out more on this awesome article

Starrett, in Supple Leopard compares current sports medicine practice to waiting until your engine blows up to get your car checked out, or a marine waiting until his gun jams up in battle before he realizes it needs to be fixed. We’re exercising, pushing ourselves, running, cross fitting, whatever, and then when our back/knee/shoulder starts to hurt we go see a doctor.

This is all backwards! Should we perform “maintenance” on ourselves just like we would a car so our muscles, joints and bones function properly? According to Starrett, when we exercise in a compromised position, like rounding our back when doing a dead lift we don’t feel the pain right away. Instead we go through cycles and cycles of poor position and muscle dysfunction until our bodies simply can’t handle it anymore and start hurting. This is what happened with my lower back. I was swinging a kettle bell improperly for the better part of a year. When you use poor form it’s like your body is “burning through [what should be a normal] cycle at an accelerated rate.” At some point, your body can’t do it anymore pain starts to materialize.

“You can sit all day your whole life until you can’t sit anymore,” he explains.

And just because your ‘knee’ hurts doesn’t exactly mean that it’s your knee that’s the problem. The problem is (most likely) in the mechanics of how you’re moving your body. According to Starret 98% of modern athletic injuries occur because of:

1. Over tension (missing range of motion)

2. Open-circuit faults (moving in a bad position)

Yes, it’s crazy but true (The other two percent is when you have something pathologically wrong with you, or you were in a catastrophic accident). You’d like to think you have some crazy thing going on with your body and that’s why you are in pain but most likely it is because your body has finally given out as a result of thousands and thousands of cycles of movements in poor form resulting in loss of range of motion.

This is exactly what the AMAZING doctor that performed ART (active release therapy) on me told me. He said I was missing range of motion so that’s why it hurt. What the heck does that mean??

Imagine a door that can’t be opened all the way. You keep opening the door every day and it hits up against a dresser or something that blocks its natural path. Soon enough, there will be a small dent in the door where it keeps hitting the dresser. It doesn’t happen right away, it happens over time. If the dresser wasn’t there in the first place (say, if you were using proper form) the dent (or the pain) would never be there.

Since the movement is painful your body just keeps on using the poor form, and it’s a huge cycle that just keeps repeating itself. When I got ART this released the muscles back to the proper form so the pain went away. Unfortunately, that doctor was 90 minutes drive away and not covered by insurance, so I just couldn’t keep seeing him. Enter: Supple Leopard.


example of how to identify faults ^^

This book is designed and set up for you to identify faults in your movement (easy for me since I already knew what it was) and then gives you proper mobilizing techniques in order to improve your range of motion in the affected areas. Last year when I read it I was just so overwhelmed and confused I didn’t really know how to use the book. I thought it would “fix” me. But the key is I needed to be doing these mobilizations EVERY DAY. He literally says in the book you should not be taking ANY days off from the mobilization techniques. It’s that serious. Especially if you’re working out hard, strength training with heavy weights on your own without the guidance of a cross fit box.


example of exercises^^

So why am I reviewing this book now? Because I seriously forgot how important mobility training was until…..lo and behold the OTHER side of my hips started to hurt last week after my gym sessions. I pulled out this book, identified where I was missing range of motion, and started to perform the exercises every day before my workout or in the morning if I wasn’t working out. I immediately saw an improvement.

I did the exercises for an hour and a half Monday. After that I vowed to start doing them regularly every day. And it’s hard! If you’re like me, you’re thinking “I barely have time to exercise, let along spend time on mobility”. But I’m thinking it actually might be MORE important than getting my exercise in, especially since I’m prone to injuries like this. There is no point of working out in poor form. It’s just counter productive. So I am incorporating 3-4 of these mobilizations in my workout and cutting down on the actual workouts. This post is getting really long so I think next post I will outline some of the exercises I do and give you a sample workout schedule.

I highly recommend if you’re strength training on your own to purchase this book. If you think stretching and mobility doesn’t matter, one day you will be sorely (pun intended) mistaken!

 Stretching and mobility: how much do you do?

What nagging injuries do you have and think could be helped by this book?

FYI Today is my birthday, so here’s my shameless request for some love!


Favorite Posts

I guess I should acknowledge that my blog turned a year old the other day! Happy Birthday Pencils and Pancakes! It’s weird that I’ve more or less been documenting my life on the internet for a year. Sometimes I feel self conscious. A lot of people who have never heard of what a blog is or are unfamiliar with it don’t understand why anyone would want to do post their life on the internet, or constantly be taking pictures of food to post….but all I know is I enjoy blogging, reading others’ blogs, and writing. So I’ll keep doing it for now!!! I know…you were worried 😉

Since my blog is a year old I though I’d run down some of my favorite and most popular posts from the last year:



Sometimes I doubt if I should continue blogging about teaching, since I feel like the blog has morphed into more of a food blog, but teaching posts continue to be what people searching come for. So I’ll be happy to throw up a couple teaching related posts a month.

How to teach counterclaim

Book unit on Micheal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma



Over the past year I have been experimenting with the Paleo diet. I love how it makes me feel! Although I don’t stick to it 100% of the time. Here are some of my favorite recipes from the past year (not all of them are Paleo).

Paleo Cereal

Butternut Squash and Chicken Curry over Coconut Cauliflower Rice

Spinach and Garlic Pizza

Grilled banana and peanut butter stuffed french toast

Spicy Roasted Carrot Fries <<I make these at least once a week

Game Day Treats: Roasted red pepper poppers



Quest Bar Review

Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant Review


pro 10

Pros and Cons of planning a wedding on Pinterest

Rustic Wedding Crafts

Bachelorette Party

Ceremony and Bridal Party

Miscellaneous Favorite Posts

What to buy organic

How to grocery shop on a budget using coupons

Working out in the morning: pros and cons

How to change your mindset and become happier


WOW it’s kind of fun to look at all the posts and reflect over the past year. I haven’t really taken the time to re-read much of my blog. Anyways, for the 2-3 people that might read this blog 2 of which include my husband and mother, thanks for reading! Next goal is trying to get this baby self hosted. It scares me whenever I think about it…any tips?

Do you ever go back and read your own blog posts?

How hard is going to self hosted? BE HONEST!!!


Working out while dealing with injuries

I am dealing with back pain of unknown origin…I thought I had this problem fixed earlier in the year when I was visiting a physical therapist. For the last 3-4 months I’ve been fine and working out more than ever before.

I guess it caught up with my body because….I have been experiencing a lot of back tightness and numbness that now goes down my leg. Since I’m not living near my old chiropractor I had to go see a new one….who was useless. I think I need to go see an actual physical therapist to see what is going on.

In the meantime, I feel like (and everyone is telling me) I should take a break from high intensity workouts, but I am experiencing a great deal of anxiety with not working out. Not only do I have anxiety that I’ll gain weight, but I love the feeling I feel after working out really hard. The anxiety that I might have to take an extended break of any sort is really starting to build up.

sleepy frank

On the other hand, I know that if I push myself and ignore the pain, something could SERIOUSLY go wrong and I could really hurt myself. This week I have been doing arm work outs, focusing on cardio, and took two (eek!) days off. Today I designed a mobility/stretching workout to see if that helped at all.


I went through the workout three times. To my dismay, the numbness/pain is pretty much the same. I am planning on calling around to different doctors and seeing what I should do. It stinks because I am in a new town and am not in a position to get recommendations except from the internet. So for now I am in a standstill and I am just planning on doing low impact stuff for the next few days. I literally cannot bear the thought of not being able to work out.

Any advice? How did you deal with working out with an injury?


Mint Chocolate Chip Protein Shake

I drink a lot of delicious protein shakes, but none of them are really original enough to call my own recipe. This one I had for a snack yesterday I think qualifies.


Okay, so it doesn’t look the best but….

It was so good! Here’s what I threw in the blender:

1/2 cup cottage cheese (I know it sounds gross but it’s a must!)

1/2 water

5-6 ice cubes

1 scoop chocolate protein powder

2 drops peppermint extract

sweetener optional** I don’t use it!

Be careful with the extract- a little goes a long way!

Most of my protein shakes I’ve adapted from Dashing Dish and they have all ended up being delicious!


Cake Batter


Banana Split

My go-to favorite is chocolate peanut butter banana!  If the shake has more than 250-300 calories I generally have it as a meal replacement. If the shake has less than 250 I have it as a snack. The protein powder I uses has 100 calories per scoop. It’s called Designer Whey.

What are you favorite protein shakes? Protein powders?


This would be a perfect snack to have after the full body rep-based workout I completed today:


Burpees do not exist in the Iphone’s mind…..

The plank to push’s were brutal. Hate those!!! MC stands for mountain climbers by the way. If you don’t know what any of the moves are, feel free to just Google them. Just remember- I’m not a fitness expert- I just do what works for me!

Have a good rest of your Monday!


Quinoa Breakfast bowl & Winter Workout

Today I wanted a workout that would be quick and effective to do in the gym, because I had to work out at the school gym. I knew I would be working out amongst my students, so I wanted to limit the awkwardness and get in and get out. I find switching on and off from cardio to strength ensures my heart rate stays up during the whole workout. I tried decreasing weight reps and increasing weights as well in order to challenge myself. My favorite kind of work outs are ones that go by fast and keep me working hard so the next thing I know the workout is over and I’m covered in sweat! This one did the trick.












I also completed more of my 2012 Closeout Challenge Work Out:

73/503 Burpees

88/503 Lunges

88/503 Mountain Climbers

74/503 Push Ups


It’s been a rough week, so happy tomorrow is Friday! The other day I tried something new for breakfast….Quinoa breakfast bowl:\

quinoa breakfast bowl








In the bowl:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder

1/4 cup quinoa

1/2 of a banana


A few chocolate chips!

I mixed the protein powder and sweetener with the yogurt in the bottom of the bowl then added everything else. I was kind of on the fence about quinoa as a sweet breakfast item. I think I prefer it savory. Everything else in the bowl was quite yummy though. And it definitely gives you plenty of protein to start your day.

Question: Do you prefer your quinoa savory or sweet? And also- I really need some strategies that people use for washing quinoa. It is such a PITA for me because I don’t have a sieve. And you definitely need to wash it because it has a bitter taste. How do you wash quinoa???


2012 Challenge + Weekend recipe wins

Hope everyone had a better Monday than I did…..have to admit it was a rough one. Well- it’s almost over so I’ll look on the bright side. Today I just wanted to write about a couple of things I discovered over the weekend.

My French toast coffee got me through the morning.




One of the recipes I made last night was some peanut butter granola from Peanut Butter Fingers, and it turned out great!!! I’ve made more of her granola recipes and even though I burnt the first batch it was a winner.  It was the perfect accompaniment for my morning snack.

yogurtAnother winner for the weekend:Peanut Butter Protein Cookies via Dashing dish. Sorry- no pictures, I scarfed them down quite rapidly.  They are a keeper recipe for sure. I might use these as the base for the kiss cookies I want to make for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, I was actually able to get some wrapping done this weekend!



Woo hoo!

Anyways, I thought I’d share the challenge I joined on Saturday- I’m actually quite excited about it. I heard about it from Emily’s blog and turns out the leader of the challenge is from a blog I regularly read, Sweet Tooth Sweet Life. The challenge is to do 2012 different body weight reps by the end of December. I chose:


Mountain Climbers

Push Ups


I simply divided 2012 by four which works out to be 503. So I will do 503 reps of each exercise by the end of December.  It’s do able. It works out to about 13 reps of each a day. Piece of cake. I have been doing 25 reps a day so far because you never know when you might need a skip day. I decided that no matter what my workout is, I am going to do these in addition to whatever is included in the workout. Like today my workout included mountain climbers and push ups, but I did the ‘challenge set’ at the end just to add to my overall workout. It’s fun! You should click on Courtney’s site link if you want to sign up!

Question: What gets YOU through Monday?


Arm Burner Workout

What a great start to the week! My students- surprisingly- were amazing. It’s great to come back to work when I have such hard working and dedicated students. It honestly felt good to get back in the swing of things. Many people may be upset or grumpy because vacation’s over- but I try to avoid the negativity.  Negativity will drag you down so I’ve learned recently to just avoid it and instead of focusing on what’s bad, try to look at positive things (it’s easier said than done). I just focus on the fact that I actually have a job and everything that went well with my lesson. It makes the day go by so much faster when I actually take the time to notice the good things instead of focusing on the bad.

I topped off this wonderful Monday with a great at home workout. Austin and I brought home his weight bench, which is now conveniently located in our basement. It has me debating whether or not my gym membership is worth it!


Although, after I came home to workout today, I felt like I could easily just sit on the couch or start dinner! So I think keeping the membership would be smart. I just feel better paying for something that holds me accountable.

Since it’s Monday, I decided to start the week with a killer arm workout:


I finished with some core work that consisted of:

25 Thai Sit ups

25 Toe Touches

50 Russian Twists

1 min Plank Hold

If you are unsure of what any of these moves are- just You Tube or Google them. Again, I do not have professional training or experience with weight training- so complete the workouts at your own risk!

Dinner was a healthy and yummy pepper pasta that I stole from the blog Undressed Skeleton. I love my carbs, but I try to avoid most of them at all cost. Instead of eating pasta, I just made myself  several sautéed peppers to substitute for it. Delicious and healthy! Of course I have to make real pasta for Austin.


So good and good for you! Happy Monday!

Question: How do you feel about going back to work the first day after vacation? How do you avoid negativity?


Getting your fitness before the feast

Happy Thanksgiving! Honestly I’ve never really given much thought to fitness on this day….so this year is a first. Normally I have one too many the night before during the infamous ‘Thanksgiving Eve” holiday and continue to shovel food and drink into my mouth the next day.



pumpkin- not as pretty

I’m happy to say that last night was tame compared to recent years and I was able to fall asleep and wake up early to get a run in and begin cooking all the delicious things I will eat today while feeling a little less guilty than usual. Thanksgiving should be a time to truly enjoy family and not worry about the added calories so getting my workouts in yesterday and today will allow me to do that.

Yesterday I had a great workout while experimenting with Austin’s weight bench that we will be bringing from his parents house to our house. I ended up getting a pretty intense full body workout in that looked like this:

Warm up and stretching

Mountain climbers: 4 rounds 40 seconds on/20 seconds off

Barbell Chest Press: (Just the bar 😉 ) 10 reps/ 4 sets

Lunge Jumps (ughhh): 4 roun 30 seconds on/30 seconds off

Lat Pull Downs (30 lbs): 12 reps/ 4 sets

Burpeees: 4 rounds 30 seconds on / 30 seconds off

Squats (with 25lb weight plate): 12 reps/ 4 sets

Superset 2 times through – Glute Bridge: 15 reps

Thai Sit ups: 15 reps

This morning, as mentioned, I was able to get up bright and early and go for a run. I had a running partner this time! It was so beautiful about -55 degrees and sunny- very warm for Thanksgiving around here. Now I can enjoy my Thanksgiving guilt free.


Ruby, my parents’ dog and my running partner.


Tonight I actually will be going Black Friday shopping after dinner. I’m excited, but I feel bad for the people who have to work. I think they should change all this Black Friday nonsense to start on Friday again like it used to. I feel this way…but it’s not enough to stop me I guess lol. I am so thankful that a) I have a job that I can have a vacation from and b) that job gives me ample vacation time to enjoy my family and friends.

How are you getting your fitness in for Thanksgiving? Or do you think you should just go all out because it’s a holiday? I’d love to hear some comments!





Easy Sunday Workout

Happy Sunday! I’ve been busy with preparations for Thanksgiving so I haven’t posted in a couple days. Can’t wait to try some recipes!

I don’t usually work out on Sundays but I figured since I’ll probably be shoving my face with some less than healthy food and drink later this week I would force myself to. I started off wanting to do some easy cardio on the elliptical and throw in some intervals. Once I got going and got my heart pumping, it got me in the mood to do a legit workout. I’m glad I decided to force myself because now I feel great! This is what ended up doing:

Warm up and stretching
10 mins elliptical
1 min burpees
1 min jumping jacks
1 min mountain climbers
1 min ice skaters
1 minute squat jumps
10 mins elliptical
25 crunches in exercise ball
25 chest press with dumbbells
25 more crunches on ball
25 push ups
25 more crunches

Turned into a nice little Sunday! Moral of the story- just push yourself to work out even if you don’t feel like it. I convinced myself by telling myself I was going to do something easy then I got into the mood once I got going. You’re not going to regret it afterward…. You’ll regret it if don’t!

Question: I’d love to hear your opinion on cheat/skip days. How many days a week do you rest? Do you have a cheat day or just cheat meals? I am currently struggling with this and trying to get better.