Archive | June, 2012

Fitness Journey, Part I

27 Jun

I really kicked up my workout routine within the last year and a half. I have a very busy schedule living here in South Korea, so at first it was challenging to find the best exercises—and the proper time to do them. As I’ve mentioned before, I am the kind of person that has to be active every day. My body craves intense exercise on a daily basis. Usually for my one “off” day per week, I do something fun but active, like go for a hike, ride my bike, or only go for a run. I used to be a gym person (back in the U.S.), but in Korea I’ve had to adapt my style. Gyms in Korea are outrageously expensive (the one in my building is USD $90 per month) for basic equipment and limited machines (none of the treadmills incline, there is no stair master, etc…). My husband and I are always aware of our spending, and we could not justify almost $200 per month for us to go to the gym.

I played soccer throughout middle and high school. I did track for a single season but had never really considered running seriously. When I first got to Korea, I ran outside off and on and joined a $30 per month gym (it basically only offered dumbbells and barbells, no A/C in 100% humidity). Then my work schedule got busier, and I just didn’t have as much time. That’s when I discovered Insanity. For those of you that haven’t heard of the Beachbody programs, they’re—in a word—phenomenal. Because I like to challenge myself and love high-intensity workouts, I thrived with Insanity. I couldn’t do it every day like the program is designed to do. However, if you do it every other day, eat well, and remain moderately active the days you don’t do Insanity, you’ll probably see a difference. Insanity is great for shredding fat and getting lean. I personally really like Shaun T; I have friends that don’t care for him as much, but I thought he was motivating. I think some people sell themselves short by only doing these kinds of programs for the allotted time of 90 days. After completing a workout program, it’s not necessary to scrap it altogether. Keep it in your routine—use it a couple of times a week. If you make the investment by purchasing a Beachbody program, you might as well get all the use out of it as you can.

One thing that I think is crucial to any exercise program—and Insanity is no exception—is maintaining good form all throughout the workout. One of my friends did Insanity with me for a bit, and she didn’t see the same results. Obviously no two bodies are the same, but it was more than that. My friend did not keep her core tight and did not push herself as hard as she could have. A limitation of Insanity is that it is very high-impact. People with joint problems should use caution and modify the moves to what they are able to do. In addition to maintaining good form, you must remember to breathe during every move and to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

I had started Insanity in November 2010 and did the exercises every other day. I stretched the program out, sometimes repeating exercises or sometimes switching up the order of videos. In February 2011, I went on vacation to New Zealand. Because NZ is in the Southern Hemisphere, February is a summer month. Due to my dedication to Insanity and training from Shaun T, I was proud to put on my bikini and soak up the Kiwi rays. I find that many people (myself included) feel like it’s okay to slack a bit after getting in shape to go on vacation. Don’t let the fitness stop there! I think people need to remember to moderate their lifestyles. It’s important to work out hard, reward yourself a bit (with a fun activity, a new bathing suit, a piece of that decadent cake you’ve been eyeing since you started the program), then get back into it! It’s so much easier to just keep that momentum going than to yo-yo exercise. Your body, your mind, and your attitude will all continue to improve.

boogie-boarding in New Zealand, 2010. Insanity = abs

After jogging a few days and doing some of the Insanity videos only twice per week, I was getting bored with the program. I was happy to hear that Shaun T and the Beachbody team made a new and much more challenging set of exercises: the Asylum. The Asylum is just awesome. For those who want to become (or already are) true athletes, the Asylum is true sports interval training. As Shaun T says, “it’ll kick your butt.” The Asylum builds on and incorporates the regular Insanity exercises. As someone that likes sports, I found it to be physically demanding but a lot of fun. The Asylum has a different calendar that incorporates P90X. I just started P90 this week, as I’ve decided it’s time to build muscle after getting lean. If you don’t have the money or desire to purchase one of the programs, just check out one of the promotional videos to get new moves to incorporate in your routine. Doing anything is better than nothing at all! We have to keep challenging those muscles and stimulate our minds so we don’t get bored…or plateau.  In part 2, I’ll discuss my other all-time favorite workout program. The best part is it’s free!


Gluten-Free Favorites

13 Jun

I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to find the best-tasting gluten-free products. Just like Oprah has her list of favorites, these are my gluten-free must-haves. (I think there may be even better products out there, as the gluten-free market has exploded since I left the U.S., but these are products I can order internationally through

Best Baking Mixes


Pamela’s is the best all-purpose gluten-free baking mix. The pancakes are wonderful, as are many of the recipes on the back label. I have tried almost all of the recipes on the back. In particular, I love the zucchini bread, coffee cake, and banana bread recipes–they are to die for! My husband (who is not gluten-free) says the zucchini bread is his favorite out of all of my experimental recipes. For the chocolate chip cookies, I usually substitute about half cup of 100% rice flour for the Pamela’s mix. Sometimes my cookies end up too flat if I do not add rice flour.


I use the Pamela’s baking mix to make pancakes, but I prefer the Kinnikinnick brand pancake mix. The texture is smoother than the Pamela’s mix. Pamela’s is a bit grainy for pancakes, and Kinnikinnick is as close as it gets to the real thing.

I was so surprised and happily relieved to see Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes on the supermarket shelves. I have tried several brownie mixes, as fudge brownies are my ultimate indulgence. The one with the best consistency and most natural taste is the Betty Crocker mix! The Pamela’s brownie mix is not bad, but I prefer Betty’s.


Pamela’s chocolate cake mix: perfection. The frosting mixes are also wonderful. 


Gluten-Free Pasta


I have tried almost every gluten-free pasta that New Seasons and Whole Foods have to offer. I just love the Tinkyada brand. The pasta cooks perfectly, the consistency is great, and the taste is superb. I usually add a bit of oil to the pasta while boiling so that the noodles do not stick together. Whether made with brown or white rice, the pastas taste great. I’ve used their lasagna noodles, penne, spirals, and spinach spaghetti. 


For a little comfort food, Annie’s gluten-free mac-and-cheese is my guilty pleasure. Creamy and delicious! Just like Kraft without the horrible side effects.

Often touted as a “superfood”, quinoa is the single best alternative to pasta. There are endless quinoa variations: you can make it as a pasta, salad, vegetable dish, etc. I recently added some fruit I had to eat to cooked quinoa, and the creation turned out very tasty.