Avacado Tacos Anyone!?!

Avacado Tacos

Avacado Tacos

I am always in favour of taking an old classic food favourite and finding a healthier alternative. Essentially, I’m just looking to take away at least a little bit of the guilt that is often associated with delicious food. It is crucial when doing this however, that you don’t sacrifice flavour! This is generally the most challenging part of any classic “recipe-makeover” in my opinion. I think that I’ve come pretty close to “as good as the real thing” with this one and I hope that you agree.

Here we go!

Ingredients:

2 Avacados – cut into long thin slices or large cubes.
2 diced tomatoes
1/2 a diced onion
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups of shredded iceburg lettuce
Cilantro – chopped for garnish

Hard taco shells – if you can find the reduced sodium option, even better!
1/2 cup of grated Low Fat mozzarella.

Directions:
I won’t go into too much detail, as I don’t want to patronize anybody here! I think we all know roughly how to assemble a taco. Essentially, the idea is to use the avacado as a substitution for any fried, greasy chicken or steak etc.

I thought about substituting the hard taco shells with a healthier alternative, but it turns out that on average, even the store-bought variety are only about 80 calories each. I was pleasantly surprised by this. They are a tad high in sodium however, but by cutting back on the meat source and replacing with the avacado instead, the shell is really the only source of sodium in this dish.

Once you’re tacos are put together just the way you like them, sprinkle a small amount of the low-fat mozzarella and cilantro on top and throw into the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes at 325 degrees. You may wish to broil for a minute or so at the end to get them a little brown on the outside.

Sound simple? It is!! Enjoy!!

Wondering about the health benefits of avacados? Here is a great article listing 15 reasons why you should consider adding them to your grocery list!

Challenge yourself with a Fitness Scavenger Hunt!

Photo Credit: idiva.com

Photo Credit: idiva.com

I am and have always been, a firm believer in the buddy system when it comes to exercising. There are actually a few reasons that I am in favor of it, with the top five reasons being…

1. Work-out buddies can be a fantastic source of motivation. Whenever you’re doubting your ability to continue with something, encouraging words are extremely valuable.

2. Sharing. The struggles you sometimes face along the way are always much easier when you know someone’s right there going through the same challenges with you.

3. More sharing. Just like it’s always nice to have someone there to relate to the hardships, it’s also great (in a different way) to have someone there to share your news of any exciting accomplishments and relate your progress back to.

4.  Of course you want your buddy to succeed as well – but whoever said there’s anything wrong with a little healthy competition between friends?

5. Guilt! We’re all busy. It’s easy to make excuses to avoid exercising. Having somebody there to report to adds a little bit of pressure and creates accountability to actually follow through!

So why not take the idea of a buddy system and try something fun with it!?

Why not try something that I like to call, a fitness scavenger hunt?

Essentially, you and your work-out buddy make a list. But instead of a traditional scavenger hunt, where you make a list of items to be collected, you make a list of fitness activites. The nice thing about this, is you can be as silly and creative, or as run-of-the-mill as you please.

Examples may include anything from, “Do 10 lunges in front of a park bench” to “Do 10 minutes of  yoga in the park…on a park bench…wearing rainbow coloured spandex…and get a stranger to join in with you…and have another stranger take a picture…etc..”

You get the idea. The list can be catered to your own personalities, but defeats the boredom that can sometimes make exercising feel like a chore!

You may chose to plan your route any way you like. You could choose a certain path you’re already familiar with and stick to landmarks you would find there anyway. Alternatively, you may like to make searching for the landmarks part of the challenge, depending on how much time you have for the activity.

As for the list itself, there are a few ways that you could go about this. I will leave it up to you to decide which you prefer.

The first method, is to get together with your friend and start brainstorming ideas. The final list can have as many items as you like. I’d say approximately ten items is a good place to start.

Once your list is agreed upon, the two of you head out on your route and start crossing the items off of your list together!

The second method, (depending on how much your trust your buddy) is to make a list for each other. I don’t know about you, but I say “nuts to the honour-system” when it comes to this kind of thing. Make sure you insist on getting photos from your partner for proof!

If you’re able to find some other pals to participate, you could even try breaking off into small teams.  I find that the more people involved tends to equal more fun! It also increases the chances for seeing it through!

If you’re intrigued by the idea, but still prefer to do your work-outs solo-style, check out this article for ideas on carrying out your own individual scavenger hunt.

Happy hunting!!

Get the scoop: on the Hula-hoop!

Hooping.org

Hooping.org

At the end of February, I had the pleasure of taking a short trip up to Ottawa, my old-stomping ground. While there, visiting with the friend of a friend, we were sitting in her living room chit-chatting away, when I couldn’t help but notice the stack of multiple hula-hoops she had leaning up against the wall near her television.

I couldn’t help but ask her what she needed all of the hula-hoops for, to which she replied: “For my hula-hooping classes, of course!”

Of course. What a fantastic idea!

I’d seen some short segments on television about the benefits of hula-hooping a few years back, but for whatever reason the notion amused me but left my brain shortly thereafter. Now – I was so intrigued!

Naturally, we broke out the hula-hoops right away as we needed to attempt this immediately. As it turns out, I am terrible at hula-hooping!

What a great way to get a head-to-toe, full body toning, while having an absolute riot. I am not sure if my abs got a better work-out from the actual hula-hooping itself, or from all of the laughing at myself trying to get the silly hoop to stay up!

After a little bit of practice I eventually got the hang of it, but I’m not quitting there.

I was sold! I am officially hooked on the hoop.

After doing a little bit of reading, I found that you can actually burn anywhere from 150-250 calories for every 30 minutes of hula-hooping. There’s also a ton of different areas of the body that you can target with hoop-tricks. The moves my friend was able to accomplish simply amazed me. I never would have thought to try them!

If you’d like to read some more about different exercises that can be accomplished with hula-hoops, read this article that I found on www.health.com.

Want some more reasons to give this long forgotten childhood favorite another try? There is alot more to learn all about the multiple benefits of hula-hooping. I’d encourage you to give it a try!

If you’re really interested in seeing what hula-hooping can offer your fitness routine, HoopAppeal and Hooping.org might be a good place to get some answers to your questions.

Even if you don’t stick with it – try it once with a few friends and at the very least, you’ll have some good times and great laughter!

Who doesn’t love a little horsing around!?

Did you know that there’s a really great, and fun way to burn some calories, while sitting on your tushie!?

That’s right. No diet pills, no freaky vibrating machinery or the like!

I know what you’re thinking…”Sign me up!”

Okay, there’s possibly a catch. There are giant, powerful creatures with minds of their own involved.

I am of course, talking about horseback riding. I had never been on a horse in my lifetime until the Autumn before last. As most of my adventures tend to begin, one of my girlfriends and I decided it would be something fun and different we could do. We began our search online and decided that a nice little spot in Niagara called Horseplay is where we’d embark on our horse-riding journey.

Elmo & I @ Horseplay, Niagara

Elmo & I @ Horseplay, Niagara

For a reasonable $40 for an hour you can go for a ride with the experienced and friendly guides.

Thankfully, the day we booked our first ride turned out to be a beautiful one. The only thing more beautiful were the horses themselves.

The staff were fantastic.  I had never been on a horse before and though I think they are truly magnificent animals, I admit that I was a little intimidated at first, having little to no experience being around them.

The staff were very knowledgeable, patient and accomodating. They were sure to ask how much experience we had and of course my answer was “None”. In light of my beginner status they matched me up with the mighty Elmo. He was one of the larger horses, but they assured me he had a very calm temperment and to my great sense of relief, they were right!

My girlfriend had actually been on a horse several times before and they made sure to give her a horse with a little bit more “personality” as they so eloquently put it. He was slightly more independant and had a bit more energy than my own horse, but still an absolute pleasure to ride along with!

Horseplay, Niagara

Horseplay, Niagara

After we were safe and sound and back on the ground (and also for the next day or two after) I couldn’t help but notice that I was still feeling the muscles in my thighs! This intrigued me…

I went online and did a little research. According to HealthStatus on average, one hour of horseback riding can result in the following number of calories burned:

Activity Calories burned
Horseback riding – walking        148
Horseback riding – trotting        382
Horseback riding – galloping        476

Not too shabby huh!? It turns out Horseback riding can actually be a great toning workout for your thighs, butt and core. I’m a huge proponent for getting in touch with nature while getting some exercise so I was naturally thrilled to find this.

That was my first horseback riding experience but it was certainly not my last. I now try to make it out at least once a season.
Although it’s not as much of a concern right now with the warm weather headed our way, I will warn you; if you ever decide to try this in winter, please make sure to bundle up! I don’t just mean hat, scarf & gloves. I am talking about facemask, long underwear, heat packs for your fingers and toes; the whole nine yards. I really thought I was prepared when I went in the colder weather and let me tell you – I was not!

Hope this motivates some of you to get out there and hop on a horse. You’ll love it!

Horseplay, Niagara

Horseplay, Niagara

30 Day squat challenge – who’s with me!?

Alright folks, fun time is over.

Okay, okay, I’m kidding – there is a chance this might be fun, I swear!

11 days ago, a girlfriend of mine mentioned a fitness challenge that really peaked my interest. It was a 30 day squat challenge.

Essentially, you begin with 50 squats on the first day and increase gradually each day, resting every fourth day. By the end of the 30 days, you are actually doing 250 squats!

My initial response to the idea : laughter, of course.

Alas, after a little bit of nagging and peer pressure via name-calling, I eventually caved. Now it’s official. I’m in this!

Here’s the breakdown:

Day 1- 50 squats
Day 2- 55 squats
Day 3- 60 squats
Day 4- Rest
Day 5- 70 squats
Day 6- 75 squats
Day 7- 80 squats
Day 8- Rest
Day 9- 100 squats
Day 10- 105 squats
Day 11- 110 squats
Day 12- Rest
Day 13- 130 squats
Day 14- 135 squats
Day 15- 140 squats
Day 16- Rest
Day 17- 150 squats
Day 18- 155 squats
Day 19- 160 squats
Day 20- Rest
Day 21- 180 squats
Day 22- 185 squats
Day 23- 190 squats
Day 24-Rest
Day 25- 220 squats
Day 26- 225 squats
Day 27- 230 squats
Day 28- Rest
Day 29- 240 squats
Day 30- 250 squats

The use of weights is optional. Challenge yourself sure, but always listen to what your body is telling you it can or cannot handle. You don’t want do overdo it.

In the past, I’ve typically stayed away from squats, as they’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being hard on your knees, and I have always had knee issues. However, after doing a little bit of research it seems that if done with proper form, squats may have some real positive effects on the knees including increased strength, flexibility and stability.

So, this begs the question, “What is the proper way to perform a squat”?

Well, according to this article which was posted on www.oprah.com the correct form can be described as follows:

“Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, tighten up your core as if you were bracing for a punch to the gut. Then shift your weight into your heels and press your hips back, keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Bend your knees and slowly lower into a squat. Your knees should be in line with your second toe. Go as low as you feel comfortable going, and hold for a count of two. Straighten your legs to rise. Standing and lowering into the squat should take the same amount of time.

You’re doing them wrong if… Your lower back feels strained. You should feel the burn in your thighs and butt.”

Photo Credit: www.Oprah.com (Illustration: mckibillo)

Photo Credit: http://www.Oprah.com (Illustration: mckibillo)

I’ve also heard numerous times that it is important to ensure that your knees do not stretch out past your toes.

It is commonly believed that squats are a great lower body workout. This is true of course, but most people do not realize that there can be multiple benefits to your core and upper body as well. This is especially true if weights are used.

Even if you decide not to participate in this challenge I would encourage you do check out this article for even more information on the total body benefits that can be had, if you perform squats regularly.

Now, on day 11, I will tell you it is not easy – but I believe that the results will be worth it!!

So friends…who is brave enough to join me!?

More about hiking! Algonquin Park…

Spring has arrived! For those of you already beginning to plan your warm-weather weekend getaways, I would highly recommend adding a trip to Algonquin Park to your fun-time schedule!

Algonquin Provincial Park is the oldest national park in Canada, established in 1893. Located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River, the park is considered to be part of the “border” between Northern and Southern Ontario.

View from Centennial Ridge

View from Centennial Ridge

I took a trip up to Algonquin last October and was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. I’d always wanted to head out there during the fall and it was well worth the 4 hour drive. The colours were truly breathtaking. I suppose I was feeling brave that weekend, as I decided to venture out onto a fairly demanding trail known as Centennial Ridges. It is classified as an intermediate trail, with the total vertical distance climbed was 1,200 ft and the highest point is an intimidating 560 ft above the starting point. Although the trail was challenging, I felt that the park-guide’s estimated “6 hours” to complete it may have been a bit of an exaggeration. I was by no means rushing, stopping often for site-seeing and picture-taking and was able to complete the trail in closer to 3 1/2 hours. There is no particular part of the trail that I considered terribly difficult. It was more the cumulative effort from all of the upward trekking that was toughest part of the journey.

Autumn Scenery

Autumn Scenery

One of the great things about Algonquin though, is that there is a trail for practically everybody. There are varying degrees of difficulty for the numerous paths, with trail-guides readily available for all, making it easy for each individual to decide which trail is best suited for them. For those slightly more ambitious, there is also the ability to canoe, portage and camp-out if you so choose.

Now with the autumn trip behind me I am just itching to make a return trip this spring!

You can watch this short video to get a quick glimpse of some of the natural beauty of Algonquin.