“Remember that life’s a great balancing act.”

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“So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!” – Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

(That is one of my favorite bits from the ever-inspiring Dr. Seuss.  It came to mind when I was thinking about today’s topic of discussion: work-life balance. Or… workout-life balance?)

Whether you are a well-established gym rat or are just starting out at the gym because it’s a new year and you promised yourself you’d shed a few pounds – a gym habit involves the ability to juggle your schedule and balance your priorities. One of the more popular excuses for not working out is “I just don’t have time to go to the gym. I’m too busy.” Between the holidays, moving into a new apartment, and studying for my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam, I found myself reaching for this excuse more than I should have. Right around Thanksgiving, I fell off the “gym wagon” and have been stumbling to get back on ever since. One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my working out these past few months has been my failure to balance life’s obligations. But a little self-reflection made me realize that I don’t have an overwhelming amount of obligations – I just haven’t been balancing them properly. In short – I’ve been lazy and inefficient with my free time.

My scheduling dilemma entails balancing my full-time job, studying for the CPA exam, working out at the gym, and daily chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc). And of course enjoying 1 hour of “me time” every night to decompress and maintain my sanity. To the lazy, inefficient me it always seems like there are not enough hours in the day. But to the organized, responsible, and efficient me (whom I tend to lose touch with every so often) it’s just a matter of putting it all down on paper and creating a balanced schedule. The organized, responsible, and efficient me has been M.I.A for months now but I managed to reel her back in, thankfully (and just in time because life is about to get busy).

For the next 2 months, I’ll be studying for what is arguably the most difficult section of the CPA exam – which means it will be very high on my priority list. Practically at the top (just below my basic primal needs for food, shelter, and sleep). However, I also have GOT TO get my butt back in the gym! This, too, is very high on my priority list. And so begins the urge to pull my hair out – how do I make time each day to come home from work, cook dinner, do the dishes, study, go to the gym, enjoy an hour or so of sanity and relaxation with the beau, and go to bed at a decent hour so that I’m not sleep depriving myself? There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

If I’m going to keep pace with the standard CPA exam study schedule I will have to study 3-4 hours each night. This leaves me with ZERO hours for gym time! No bueno, my friend. There has GOT to be some way to juggle everything with minimal sacrifice.

So – after a bit of pacing and deliberating I realized that I could find that extra hour in my day for exercise if I start working out during my lunch hour. The one extra hour missing in my day for gym time could be filled by just going to the gym during lunch! BINGO! (How easy was that?) Not only will I be working out but I won’t be tempted to go shopping which is my usual lunchtime hour of happiness/freedom. Problem solved! Now to just find myself some sort of goal to keep me motivated while I work out…

Enter: the 5k challenge. I see so many of my friends running these things and they look so much fun. The Color Run, the Zombie Run, the Spartan Race, etc. – I’ve decided to stop dreaming about how fun they must be and get out there and run one for myself! A few months ago I posted an entry “101 Things to do in 1,001 Days” – where I made a “bucket list” of things I wanted to accomplish over the next 3 years. Running a 5k, running a 10k, and developing a running habit were 3 of my 101 goals. I dream of one day running a half marathon but lets not get ahead of ourselves! A 5k is a good place to start.

I did a bit of research online and found an article called “How to train for your first 5k” (http://running.about.com/od/racetraining/a/first5K.htm). It laid out the following 8 week schedule:

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 4.38.24 PM

It seems easy enough. I can already survive an hour of interval jogging on the treadmill so I’d like to think I can manage this with no problem. There’s a 5k I plan to sign up for in April and if I love it then I’ll just raise the bar and shoot for a 10k in another few months! This should also help me get rid of those pesky holiday pounds. AND in time for bikini season! So I’m pretty excited. ☺

The best part about it is I can easily work this into my schedule without sacrificing CPA study time! Monday and Friday are “rest” days – so they won’t interfere with my studying. Tuesday and Thursday I can run during my lunch hour, which means it won’t interfere with my studying in the evenings. Wednesday I train for an hour with my trainer as it is. I’ll lose an hour or two of study time but I can try to make up for it either on the weekends or M/W/F during my lunch hour. And Saturday and Sunday I have all day long to study and work out so I have NO EXCUSE not to show up to the gym for an hour.

So, study time each night? Check. Gym time 5 days a week? Check. Sanity/relaxation hour with the beau every night? Check. Time to cook dinner and do chores? Check. Going to bed at a decent hour? Check.

Ladies and gentlemen – I think I just managed to balance my life! What an amazing feeling. ☺

I’d love to hear about your tips and tricks for fitting gym time into your busy schedule. I know I can’t be the only one who has struggled with this.

And of course, I can’t leave you without a few good recipes! (Courtesy of Cooking Light magazine, as always.) I’ll be making a few of my old favorites this week so I won’t have any new ones to share for another week or so. But hopefully these can hold you over. ☺

Meyer Lemon Chicken*

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 breast piece or 1 thigh, about 1 cup vegetable mixture, and about 1/4 cup sauce)

*If you can’t find Meyer lemons, you can use a regular lemon. It will have more of a bitter bite, which you can counter with a pinch of sugar. If you don’t like olives, just leave them out; the dish is still tasty.

Ingredients

  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves, halved crosswise
  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 Meyer lemon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and seeded
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 ounces pitted Castelvetrano olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; coat with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan, skin side down; cook 6 minutes or until skin is golden brown and crisp. Turn chicken over. Place pan in oven. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 165°.
  3. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Discard pan drippings (do not wipe pan clean). Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potatoes to pan; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook potatoes 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove potatoes from pan. Add lemon slices to pan; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Remove lemon from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and chopped fresh thyme; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
  4. Return potatoes and lemon slices to pan. Add 2/3 cup stock, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 2 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Combine remaining 1/3 cup stock and cornstarch, stirring with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture and olives to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice and butter, stirring until butter melts. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat; sprinkle with parsley.
  5. Prepare Meyer Lemon Chicken through step 3, decreasing potatoes to 12 ounces, omitting ­lemons and shallots, and substituting 2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot, 2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) slices celery, and 1 large red onion, cut into 12 wedges. Cook vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Substitute 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano for thyme. Return vegetable mixture to pan. Combine 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Add stock mixture, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Return chicken to pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 327
  • Fat: 19.4g
  • Saturated fat: 5.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 8.2g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2.7g
  • Protein: 18.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 16.3g
  • Fiber: 1.8g
  • Cholesterol: 67mg
  • Iron: 1.6mg
  • Sodium: 619mg
  • Calcium: 33mg

Chicken BLT Salad

Serves 6 Calories 296; Fat 14.9g (sat 1.9g); Sodium 313mg

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium head iceberg lettuce, cored and cut into 6 wedges
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomato
  • 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup buttermilk and egg white in a shallow dish. Place panko in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg white mixture; dredge in panko. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  3. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add chicken. Cook 4 minutes; turn over. Bake at 425° for 14 minutes or until done. Let chicken stand 10 minutes; slice crosswise.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mayonnaise, dill, chives, and vinegar. Place garlic on a cutting board; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Chop until a paste forms, scraping with the flat side of knife to mash. Add garlic to dressing.
  5. Place 1 lettuce wedge on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with chicken, 1/3 cup tomato, and 2 1/2 tablespoons dressing. Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 368
  • Fat: 23.5g
  • Saturated fat: 4.2g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 11.2g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 5.2g
  • Protein: 26.7g
  • Carbohydrate: 12.1g
  • Fiber: 2.1g
  • Cholesterol: 76mg
  • Iron: 1mg
  • Sodium: 538mg
  • Calcium: 108mg

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup beef mixture and 1 cup noodles)

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 4 ounces uncooked egg noodles
  • 1 pound flank steak, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1 (6-ounce) package presliced exotic mushroom blend$
  • 1 cup lower-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

  1. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add noodles; cook 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
  2. Cut beef across the grain into 1/4-inch-wide strips; cut strips into 2-inch pieces.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Add 1 cup onion, black pepper, salt, paprika, and mushrooms to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to medium.
  4. Combine 1/4 cup beef broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add broth mixture, beef, remaining 3/4 cup broth, and remaining 1/2 cup water to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, green onions, and butter. Serve beef mixture over egg noodles; sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 357
  • Fat: 11.1g
  • Saturated fat: 4.7g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4g
  • Protein: 31.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 31.9g
  • Fiber: 2.5g
  • Cholesterol: 80mg
  • Iron: 3.4mg
  • Sodium: 457mg
  • Calcium: 83mg

Creamy Chicken Pasta

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces uncooked orecchiette pasta
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 ounces chopped wild mushroom blend
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preparation

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Combine 1/4 cup stock and flour. Add flour mixture, 3/4 cup stock, and half-and-half to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, mascarpone, and 2 tablespoons parsley.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat; coat with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Add thyme and mushrooms; cook 8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, and mustard; cook 30 seconds. Add pasta and chicken mixture; toss. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parsley.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 364
  • Fat: 14.3g
  • Saturated fat: 7.1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5g
  • Protein: 23.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 36.3g
  • Fiber: 2.3g
  • Cholesterol: 67mg
  • Iron: 2.4mg
  • Sodium: 336mg
  • Calcium: 67mg

That’s all for now! I’m excited to start my 5k journey.  Please feel free to drop me training diet/exercise tips! xoxo

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3 thoughts on ““Remember that life’s a great balancing act.”

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