Sunday, March 30, 2014

Exercise Progressions and Modifications: Push ups, Planks, and Dips

Venus Index workouts are tough, even for experienced, fit lifters. Here are some ideas for exercise modifications and the progression of difficulty for push ups, planks, and dips. These are the most common exercises that newbies need help with.

Push ups

Most girls who are new to working out, and even intermediate level fitness junkies- cannot do a regular push up from the floor on their toes. I would encourage you to not sub “girl push ups” from your knees in for regular push ups from your toes. The reason is that there is no progression to get you to the goal of toe push ups. What you should do instead is to start with your hands on the wall or a bench (depending on your strength) and work your way to the floor as you get stronger. When you finally transition to the floor, you may have to drop to the floor between push ups to gain strength in the full motion.

  • If you have access to an aerobics step and risers- it will help to ease your transition from high to low to floor.
  • Keep your butt down!
  • Hands should be shoulder width apart; focus on pushing through with your chest, back, and shoulders. It is not all arms.
  • Exhale as you rise up.

  • If you have wrist issues, it may help to grip dumbbells instead of flattening your hand out. They also have push up handles that work great. If push ups are out of the question due to RA or other wrist injuries, sub chest presses instead.

    Here is a video to illustrate-

                                                                                     Original Music by Chris J

    Planks and Side Planks

    For planks and side planks, most cannot hold them the whole time from the get go. You just put you knee down and take a break then get right back into it. If you are on your hands, you can down into a downward dog to rest, then go right back into the plank.
    • Keep your butt down!
    •  It is okay to shake, but breathe! 
    • Elbows or hands are fine.
    • Suck your stomach in like you are zipping up tight jeans then flex your abs, tighten your quads and glutes.
    Elbows are better for anyone with wrist issues. You can also plank by gripping a dumbell which will help some wrist injuries. As you get stronger, you will be able to hold them longer. Also, as you gain strength be sure to alternate between elbows and hands each set.

    Here is a video to illustrate-

                                                                                    Original Music by Chris J


    On dips- to make them easier, pull your feet up toward your rear. As you get stronger, you can put them farther away to increase difficulty. Make sure your back stays close to the bench and your arms stay close to your sides.
    • Arms should brush your sides as you come down
    • Bench should sweep across your back as you up and down
    • Focus on pushing through with your triceps
    If you have prior shoulder or elbow injuries, try swapping dips out with overhead triceps extensions, french presses, or lying triceps extensions as you can lighten the weight significantly.

    Here is a video to illustrate-

    Original Music by Chris J

    I had a "sneak peek" of one of these vids on Instagram (IG @mlgraham09) and the response was favorable. Do you like videos? Should I keep this up?

    X- Liss

    Monday, March 24, 2014

    Clean Texas Meatloaf

    We visited the most adorable little thrift shop in Eagle’s Nest while in New Mexico. Almost everything was less than $2. I have been adding them into the wardrobe ASAP :)

    So when we got home, this was the first thing I cooked. It has been a weekly staple lately. This one is lean, mean recipe and the whole fam will love it. Oh yeah, and it is competition approved, clean eating ;)

    Clean Texas Meatloaf


    • 1 lbs extra lean ground beef
    • ¼ cup egg whites (or you can use 1 whole egg)
    • ½ cup old fashioned oats
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 10 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
    • ¼ cup tomato sauce (you can sub catsup, just use no sugar added)
    • 1 tbsp mustard
    • 1 tbsp Splenda (or any other sugar substitute)

    What you do:

    Preheat oven to 350* F. In a large bowl, mix everything but the last 3 ingredients. I like to use my hands- wash up! Then form into a loaf shape onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. In the same bowl, mix the last 3 ingredients and spread over the top. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through.

    I mixed in some light Thousand Island dressing on this batch, pretty tasty ;)

    The daughter likes to make hers a meatloaf "sammich" on King's Hawaiian Rolls. Smart kid.

    Nutritional Stats:

    (per 1/4th the recipe)
    225 cals
    9 g carbs
    9 g fats
    27.5 g protein

    P.S. Here is the recipe pinned on Pinterest (I cannot figure out a "pin it" button LOL) so that you can easily re-pin!

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Fast Fit Food- Eating on the Go

    This past week, we visited Angel Fire, NM for spring break. It was breathtakingly beautiful.


    And that sums up my feelings today when I got back to "real life"... I loved watching the snow fall out of the cabin window!

    Anyway, on the coming and going (and at my friend Tracey's request too!) I thought that I would share my favorite "on the go" foods. Both drive through and what I pack for a road trip.

    Up first, what I pack in the car to go.

    My top 3 travel items that go into the car

    1) Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe Protein Bars
    At 180 calories and 20g of protein per bar, these tasty bars feel like a candy bar. I usually have one as my daily snack.

    2) Jack Link's Teriyaki Beef Jerky

    And I pack this huge size bag, because the whole family loves this stuff. A 1 oz serving is 80 cals and 14 g of protein. Beef crack.

    3) Apples


    A medium apple is around 70 cals and filling. Love the Pink Lady variety- crisp and sweet.

    My top 3 drive through fast food items

    1) McDonald's Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken and Newman's Own Southwest Dressing


    *standing ovation* BRAVO McDonald's!! Finally, a fast food meal I look FORWARD to and can get just about anywhere I travel in the US. With the dressing, the salad is a fililng 390 calories with 28g of protein, 14 g of fat, and 39 g of carbs.

    2) Taco Bell Taco Salad without the shell, salsa for dressing

    By forgoing the shell and salsa instead of dressing, you can easily save 350-500 calories. So pretend that picture has no shell. Go ahead and order it without the shell too while you are at it, too tempting! And get lots of salsa on the side for dressing.  And pretty much any taco/burrito joint has this option, not just Taco Bell. If you choose a standard beef taco salad as above sans the shell, you are looking around 420 calories and 24 g of protein. Fat comes in around 21 g and carbs around 33 g. I often get grilled chicken instead and save a few cals if I am in the mood. Some burrito places have extra veggies to fill out your salad like grilled peppers and onions :) do not be shy about adding them!

    3) Chickfila Grilled Market Salad

    Chickfila has MANY standout options including a grilled chicken sandwich and a side of fruit. And do not get me started on their diet lemonade. PURE BLISS. Bless your heart if you do not have one of these fine establishments around! So this salad is my favorite in their line up. I like to add the Reduced Fat Berry Balsamic Dressing with it. The salad is 180 calories, 4 g of fat, 13g of carbs, and 25 g of protein. If you add the Berry Dressing, it is another 110 cals, 4g of fat, and 20g of carbs.

    Obvously, I have a salad fetish. So those are my "on the run" picks. What are yours?

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    Fit Refried Beans

    I got a great, simple recipe today that the whole fam will love. And you will too. It is easy on the pocket book as well! 

    I have been making a few short videos lately for Venus, and wanted to share!
    That one is some alternatives for stability ball work if you do not have a ball. Try them, they are super challenging :)

    I also had another cake to make this week. It was for my daughter's luau birthday party!

    She wanted "tropical cake" so I made this bottom layer pina colada cake, the top layer was chocolate-chocolate chip with nutella filling. All of it is topped off with coconut scented buttercream. It was delish!

    But back to the beans...

    See, I have a "thing" for refried beans. Must be the Texan in me. I LOVE them on my taco salads, but the cals can add up QUICK. One day my mother-in-law Ana (who is also now addicted to Venus Index now, ya'll! WOOT!) showed me her recipe to make them which is this one! So I started making them on my own, and have never looked back to canned, calorie-laden versions.

    My family loves these. They are so versitile. Nachos, burritoes, tacos, and of course taco salads. I serve them with my slow cooked tex mex shredded chicken usually, sometimes some taco seasoned lean ground beef.

    Fit Refried Beans

    Approx 10 servings

    • 1 lbs pinto beans, dried

    • 2 cubes of beef bullion, optional

    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I tend to use olive oil or canola)

    • 1 tbsp taco seasoning (I make my own, see recipe at the bottom)

    • 1 tbsp flour (I use whole wheat)

    What you do

    Soak beans overnight, you want about double the amount of water of the beans. Pour off water, and rinse beans once more. In a crockpot, put beans, about double the amount of fresh water than beans, and beef bullion. Cook for 8 hours on low. Drain the beans. (You can also start at this point with 2 cans of cheapo pinto beans from the store- that is how Mrs. Ana does it!)

    In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add oil, taco seasoning, and flour. Cook until flour makes a roux that is about peanut butter colored. Add the beans, and start mashing. Enjoy :) I find that these keep well for up to a week and also freeze well!


    I have my Tex Mex Slow Cooker Chicken going in the crockpot next to my beans!





    Nutritional Stats

    Per 1/3 cup

    Cals- 77 cals
    Fat- 0.3 g
    Carbs- 14.5 g
    Protein- 4.6 g
    Sodium- 134 mg

    ***Taco seasoning recipe***
    Mix together 2 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp cilantro, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp chili power (increase or decrease depending on your preferred level of spice, this is medium) Store in a ziploc or clean spice container.

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Low Calorie Black Bean Brownies

    These guys are gluten free and vegan too! I think it is awesome that one little dish checks off so many marks on the diet spectrum.

    I had a custom cake order this week, which was kind of hilarious. The request was for a baby butt cake LOL I was kind of stumped on what I was going to do. So Saturday morning I got up early and went to work...

    It is hard to keep out of the left over frosting and cake batter.... but I digress. Took some monthly progress pics too.


    So back to the brownies...
    I was inspired to make these from an @ +loveMaegan IG post which I then pinned on Pinterest. (BTW you can follow me on IG my handle is @MLGraham09) My sister in law saw the pin and requested that I bring them to family dinner night. I was afraid that the husbands and kids would not be fans, so we had regular brownies too as back-up. Well, my 9 YO son and niece finished a third of the pan. If they are kid approved, then they must be good!

    So then I decided I would tweak the recipe some more and take them to a work luncheon. Everyone was suprised about the secret ingredient. After the experiment, I decided that I liked the original recipe better. So I am posting that :)

    Low Cal Black Bean Brownies

    (gluten free and vegan too!)

    From Chocolate Covered Katie



    • 1 15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
    • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup oats
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey although it is not strict vegan)
    • 2 tbsp sweetener of choice (I used stevia, or you can omit and increase syrup to 1/2 cup)
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (not optional)


    Preheat oven to 350*F. In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in half of the chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 8x8" dish. Top with other half of chocolate chips. Bake for 15-18 minutes.




    (per 9th)
  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 5.5g
  • Carbs: 15g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 2.5g
  • WW Points (new system): 3 points