Peggy, Week 12: The Secrets of a Great Spin Class

peggy avagliano

After the school bus picked up the kids at 6:30 a.m., Peter and I headed to the gym for a 7 a.m. Spin class. If you’ve never experience Spinning, or indoor cycling, here are a few basics from the session we attended:

  • There are about two dozen spin cycles in a small room with many fans.
  • While the music plays, the instructor talks you through an imaginary trip up and down a mountain. He tells you when to increase resistance, when to stand up out of the saddle, and when to decrease resistance.
  • Each song corresponds with a “set” or series of movements and resistance-levels designed to achieve a goal, such as climbing a hill.

Peter and I were sweating before the warm-up was over, so we knew it would be a challenging workout.

With my first glance around the room, I saw some things which were expected. Gym rats, all of whom were size 5 or smaller, took the seats at the front of the class. Women outnumbered men, 3:1. Everyone else in the room was going faster than we were.

But halfway through the class, I realized we were all getting a workout. Spin may be done as a group activity, but it is really about achieving your individual best. The instructor may tell you to dial up the resistance ¾ of a notch, but if you can only handle ½ notch, do ½ a notch. Doing as much as you can do, is all that matters.

We finished our class, and we were both proud of simply cycling to the end.

And then, an amazing thing happened. The other members of the class came over to us and offered encouragement. One of the other men in the class told Peter to make sure he came back, because they need more guys in the session. Others warned us not to be discouraged if we felt like we could not move in the morning. “That’s normal,” they said. The instructor, Erik, checked in with us and told us to come back soon.

Peter’s response was, ”Maybe, Sunday.” Or was it really, “some day”?

Have you ever taken a Spin class before? What did you think of it? Post a comment and let me know.

Peggy, Week 11: How To Beat A Sweet Tooth

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

We all have our diet pitfalls. If sugar is what tends to do you in, I came up with a few suggestions to help you stay on track. They’ve worked for me.

If you’re craving chocolate, make it healthy by having:
A frozen, chocolate-covered banana. No, it’s not an everyday snack. But it is a nice sweet treat every once in a while.

A chocolate -covered strawberry. These can get addictive, so only make one per person!

Apple slices with chocolate or peanut butter drizzle or BOTH! Because it is a drizzle, you eat less of the high calorie chocolate and peanut butter!

If you’d love a sundae, instead make a:
Greek yogurt sundae. Empty a 6-ounce container of yogurt in a sundae bowl. Add fresh fruit and one crushed granola bar. It seems far more indulgent than it is.

If you really want a milkshake, whip up a:
Yogurt and fresh fruit smoothie!

What’s your favorite healthy sweet treat? Share in the comments below.

Peggy, Week 11: What To Know On Your First Day At A New Gym

tilton fitness

We just joined Tilton Fitness and our first two days there have been very promising. The gym assigned two trainers to our family: Ann Erik is training me and my husband. TJ Loos is training Michael and Amanda. Ann is willing to push us each according to our own limits. She is aware of Peter’s diabetes and knee injury, and she has tailored his exercise routine accordingly. She also recognizes that I have been a couch potato, so we are starting out slow. At least she thinks it is slow. My arms and legs would say otherwise! TJ is young, so he speaks the same language as the kids. Amanda and Michael both like him.

Yesterday, Peter and I met with Ann for an hour. We began our session with the elliptical, to warm up, followed by the ropes–it seems every gym likes the giant’s shoelaces. Weights, resistance bands, stairs and more cardio rounded out our first session.

Michael and Amanda met us for Bodypump. This class is a series of weight bearing exercises put to music. We all worked to our own level. Personally, I found the music made the time go faster. Everyone liked the class, so I think it will become a family activity.

I am off this week, so Peter and I are going to try Spin class in the morning, if we can still move!

The most important thing to remember on your first day is: it is your first day! Do not expect miracles. This is your starting point—and there are great things to come.

What do you remember about your first day at the gym? Post a comment and tell me!

Peggy, Week 10: Try It Tonight: Oven “Fried” Chicken

Chicken Parmesan

One of my family’s favorite meals is fried chicken. We typically take chicken breasts, and pound them until thin. We coat them in egg, flour (mixed with garlic and salt and pepper), and breadcrumbs (Italian seasoning). Then we fry them in a pan with oil. I usually fry enough for two nights, and use the leftovers to make chicken parmesan the following evening with pasta.

Our nutritionist, Elizabeth Fassberg, suggested baking the chicken, using an oven fried recipe, and serving the chicken parmesan with vegetables. It would save us lots of calories and fat, but just so you know: this is not a change I was willing to make. So I compromised by serving salad and using a whole wheat pasta.

I have read about oven baked chicken for years, but I had never actually tried it before. The kids like the fried chicken, and I never thought the baked chicken would taste crispy enough. Here’s what I realized when I tried it out:

The chicken does come out crispy, if you switch to panko bread crumbs instead of regular bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

One problem is that the chicken tends to be a little dry, because it is not soaking up the oil in the pan. Solution: Always make a sauce or dip to go with the chicken. A few dip options I found on the internet that work well include: making a gravy from cream of chicken soup; making your own BBQ sauce or using a bottled one whose ingredients do not start with sugar; and opting for honey mustard.

Overall, the baked chicken works well with chicken parmesan. After making the basic recipe, add the mozzarella cheese and sauce, bake until the cheese melts, and serve with pasta. Also, try making the sauce in your Crockpot over a long weekend and freezing it. You’ll save cash and it’ll taste better.

Have you tried oven-fried chicken? Post a comment and let me know what you thought.

Peggy, Week 10: Keeping My Family Close—and Fit

The Avagliano Family

My two daughters in college, Christina and Katie, are each home for two weeks before they embark on their summer studies in Florence. For two nights their visits will overlap and our family will all be under the same roof. That’s something we used to take for granted, but now it has become very precious.

To celebrate, tonight’s dinner will be steak and shrimp on the grill with salad, carrots and brown rice. Maybe not the healthiest choice, but a far cry from the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn we had over Christmas break. Amanda will make chocolate covered strawberries and bananas for dessert.

One of the challenges we now face is how to keep the family together as we all move along such divergent paths–sometimes on different continents! Skype and Facetime help a lot. We still see each other, almost every day, through video feeds. We read blogs by my daughter, Katie, about her experiences as a freshwoman studying abroad.

A new tool we’ve started using to stay in touch us is the Fitbit. We got four for the Family Circle challenge, but I also ordered two for my oldest girls to take to Italy. Now, we will be able to form our own online group on the Fitbit website. Our family can follow each other’s activity throughout the day.

Our family will never be together as much as we once were, but every little association that keeps us connected makes a difference. Even the small steps count in surprising ways!

How do you stay close to your family as everyone starts to go their separate ways? Post a comment and let me know.