Couch Potato Guide to Working on Your Fitness Tuesday, Jul 1 2008 

So lately I’ve been noticing a distinct enlargement of my mid-section through over-indulging and lack of exercise. I’ve never been one for working out like a mad woman, but I do enjoy physical activity and to be honest the hardest part is getting motivated to begin. So I recently began reading a book I’ve had for about a year (yes, and I’m just now reading it): YOU On a Diet which outlines a whole plan for thinking about food differently and incorporating daily activity into your life. The best part? Exercise can be done easily in the comfort of your own home.

I know it’s hard to think that one can work up a significant sweat without the use of heavy duty equipment and a cute trainer (mmm….pecs) but the workout outlined in YOU On a Diet is not only easy to follow (takes about 20 minutes from start to finish) it’s cheap! Should be done 3-4 times a week.
1: (Stretch) Roll with It 5 reps ea. shoulder
Basic move. Roll your shoulders forward for a count of ten then backward.
2: The Chest Cross 25 reps ea. shoulder
This is a 2 part exercise. 1)Stretch arms out straight in front of you w/ palms facing in. Left arm above right arm pulse horizontally. repeat with right arm above left. 2) Move hands rapidly up and down. For the arm going up: palm faces the ceiling. For the arm going down: palm faces the floor.
3. (Stretch) The Clapper 10 reps
Just like it sounds. In a standing position clap in front of you; then bring the arms behind you and clap behind you. Make sure to keep your chest lifted through the duration of the movement.
4. (Stretch) The Hippie 15 seconds ea. side
With feet flat on the ground, bend forward at the waist. Alternate bending one knee and keeping the other leg straight (both feet should remain flat).
5. Push Up exercise to failure (basically: go until you can’t anymore)
If you can not do a full body push-up (ummm me), do push ups with knees bent. Make sure you keep your stomach muscles tight and your chin slightly up (look 6in past your fingers)
6. (Stretch) Pecs Flex
Sit up straight on your heels and clasp your hands behind your bum. Lift arms (knuckles facing out) while opening chest wide. Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together and breathe into the muscles being stretched.
7. Steady on the Plank exercise to failure

Get into full push-up position with elbows and toes on the floor. Kepp your bum tight and your stomach pulled in toward your lower back. Hold position.

8. Whose Side Are You On, Anyway? exercise to failure
Turn to the side by putting an elbow on the floor and rotating the opposite hip toward the ceiling. Keep your body in a straight line and resist pushing your butt back. Keep your abs tight as you hold the position for as long as you can. Alternate sides. Advanced Modification: dropping your hip, tapping it on the floor and bringing it back into the lateral plank.
9. (Stretch) Up, Dog, Up 10 seconds ea. position
From a down push-up position, with your hands below your shoulders, lift your chest and torso up into the air so your upper body is nearly perpendicular to the floor as you come onto the tops of your bare feet. Lean backwards to stretch your abdominals, but keep your butt relaxed. After holding, look over your right shoulder; hold. Left shoulder; hold.
10. The Rickety Table 20 reps ea. side
Put your hands and knees flat on the floor with your fingers spread apart and pointing directly forward. Keep your back flat and parallel to the floor. Look down 6in above your fingertips. Reach your right hand forward and your left foot back and stretch them as far away from each other as possible, keeping your right hand higher than your head. The higher your arms goes up, the more work your back has to do and the more effective the exercise. Now, bring your right elbow to your left knee. Your stomach should be pulled in the entire time, supporting your lower back. Advanced Modification: move your arm and leg out at a right angle from body, keeping them above your spine.
11. Superman exercise to failure; goal: 1 minute

Lie flat on your stomach, reaching your arms out in front of you with palms down. Spread out your extremities straight out in all four directions and lift your arms and legs simultaneously for enough repetitions to cause some mild fatigue. Continue to look down during the movement, and don’t over extend your neck up. Focus on how long you can make your body-not how high you can get it.

12. (Stretch) The Seated Pretzel
Sit down with legs stretched in front of you. Set your right foot down on the outside of your left knee. For back support, put your right hand behind your right butt cheek. Bring your left toe straight up. Reach your left hand up like a stop sign and then twist to right and bring your left tricep to outside of the right thigh. To go deeper, twist more to apply pressure against your right thigh. Act like a string is pulling the top of your head up to elongate the spine. Breathe by expanding your rib cage like you are blowing up a balloon.
13. Leg Drop (like it’s hot) exercise to failure
Lie on your back and put your knees at a 90-degree angle and your feet in the air. Drop your heels down, tap the mat, and bring back up to 90-degrees. Advance Modification: Do it with straight legs
14. X Crunch exercise to failure
Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and knees at a 45-degree angle. Cross your arms behind your head, putting your opposite hand to opposite shoulder forming an X behind your head. Rest your head in this X and keep your neck loose (in the beginning, you can put a tennis ball under your chin as a reminder). Using your abdominal muscles, crunch up about 30 degrees from the floor. Without holding your breath, you need to suck in your belly button to the floor to tighten the natural girdle you have to keep the entire 6-pack tight (oh it’s in there). Also pull up your pelvis muscles (like when you are holding in your pee) to strengthen the bottom of the natural girdle.
15. Seated Drop Kick 2 sets of 25 reps ea. leg
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right leg up with knee pointing towards the ceiling. To keep your back straight, interweave your hands around this knee. Act like there is a string pulling from the top of your head elongating your spine (and don’t bob your head). Lift your left straight leg 6in of the ground, keep your left toe pointed towards the ceiling.
16. Invisible Chair exercise to failure; goal: 2 minutes
Sit in a chair position (with no chair!) with your back against a wall, and with your hands palms up resting on your knees. Keep furniture near you or under you, so you can grab it to help yourself back up when you’re done. Keep your heels directly below your knees and at a 90-degree angle; your shoulders should be rolled back and the back of your head against wall.
17. (Stretch) Nice Thighs 20 seconds ea. leg
While standing on one leg, bend the knee of the opposite leg and grab the foot behind your back with one hand (use one arm to hold something to keep balanced). Pull the foot toward your butt while lifting your chest forward and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Switch legs.
Combine these exercises with 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise (can be broken into chunks throughout the day) and you’ll be on your way to Fergielicious-ness…or at elast you won’t be dying after climbing a flight of steps.
Picture and Workout Source: YOU: On a Diet, by Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz

Gas Saver Tuesday, Jul 1 2008 

I’m pretty sure that most of you are aware of gas prices at this point, and I don’t have to tell you that the price per barrel is setting all kinds of high records. However, there is one thing you can do to improve your gas mileage that you may be unaware of. On a recently trek through the internet, I came across an article detailing Hypermiling and how it can save you money at the pump. Hypermiling is a technique of driving which incorporates more efficient changes that lead to an improvement in your car’s gas mileage. Such improvements, as I’m sure you are picking up on by now, will save you money. So how does one go about hypermiling? Well, my little oil-guzzling dears, I will tell you some of the many ways people out there are conserving fuel.

Take Your Gas Mileage
This can be done by setting your trip odometer to 0 the next time you fill up at the gas station. On your next stop at the gas station make sure to note how many gallons it took to fill your car up. Record this number along with the reading on your trip odometer; divide the number of miles driven for that period by the number of gallons it took to fill the tank. This is your gas mileage.

Lighten the Load
Simple people: the heavier the car, the more energy it uses in hauling it’s fanny down the street.

Avoid Hard Acceleration
The harder you press down on the gas pedal, the more gas you’re gonna use. If you have an automatic transmission, let momentum carry you forward a bit before pressing the gas pedal. It takes a lot more energy to start a stopped object than it does to increase the speed of an already moving object. Capiche?

Car Maintenance
Tires that are low on air make your car work that much hard to reach and maintain speed. Also, changing your oil every 3,000-5,000 miles will ensure that your car runs easily and thus, uses less fuel.

Park Forward
Park in a spot facing out, since it uses 25% less gas to pull forward than it does to back out.

The 3 Second Rule
Do you believe that cars actually apply their brakes 10%-25% more than necessary? Actually, after driving with my mother….I believe it. In creating a three second cushion between yourself and another car, you are allowing yourself more space to adjust to the other drivers around you without constantly applying the brakes (sidebar: if you can’t remember how to do the three second rule choose a landmark as you’re driving and time the number of seconds that pass from the time the car ahead of you passes it to the time you pass it). Through creating a buffer between yourself and other cars, you are more likely to rely upon your car’s momentum rather than the brake to slow down; doing so takes less energy (read: gas).

Remember, even when employing some of these tips; be courteous and aware of other people on the road. Sure, going exactly the speed limit is going to save you some money but is it worth causing an accident?

Book Swap Tuesday, Jul 1 2008 

Lately I’ve been debating about whether to cancel my cable. I know this will save me loads of money per month, but it will also induce massive amounts of boredom since TV is one of my main sources of entertainment (oh I know, I’m a total potato ok?).

Now before you wax on about how I’m killing brain cells and I’m nothing but a droid obsessed with obtaining “stuff” fueled by the havoc commercials wreak; allow me to defend myself. 1) I have Tivo so those commercials hold little power over me and, more importantly, 2) I’m also a huge reader. Books, however, are something I can dramatically reduce the cost of.

There are the obvious choices such as the library and used book stores. However, I managed to come across another (easier) source for my thirst of knowledge. What is this titillating tidbit you ask? Why it’s Paperback Swap! An online medium for folks to get rid of the books they don’t want and find books they do. How it works is you register and list the books you have and want to get rid of; which is done by ISBN number (the barcode numbers on the back of your book). Each book is worth a credit, so you send a book off and you receive one credit which can then be used to select a book from another user. Granted, the likelihood of finding new releases is rare, however, I’m willing to wait a few months to save 15 bucks. Shipping typically costs around $2.50 and while you pay to ship the book to the requester, when you request a book the shipping is paid for.

I love this site because, though I enjoy knowledge packed non-fiction, I’ve also been known to devour a little genre called Chick-Lit. Chick-Lit books make awesome beach reads, but are a little hard to justify purchasing since I tend to read them once and be done with them (unlike books similar to Freakonomics and The Encyclopedia of Theories books I read over again). It’s a perfect way to indulge guilt-free and still stay busy during the idle summer months.

Olive You, Olive Oil! Tuesday, Jul 1 2008 

Last night I was treating myself to an at-home pedi when I realized I was lacking some heavy duty moisturizer that would do my dry little tootsies some good. So I did what any dollar-conscious, frugal loving gal would’ve done and took a gander through my kitchen cupboards. I came across some olive oil and figured, why not? I dabbed some on a paper towel and proceeded to rub my feet down with the oil, paying special attention to my cuticles on my toes. I rubbed the oil thoroughly and then slipped on some cushiony socks and would you believe I woke up this morning with the softest feet ever? It got me thinking and after a little research I found that olive oil is incredibly versatile around the house (the baking soda of oils, if you will).

Body Aches and Pains: It has been said that olive oil can relieve pain caused by arthritis, and the results last for a substantial amount of time. You can also ease muscular tensions my massaging the oil into sore spots. You will feel the effects immediately.

Earache relief: According to Rachel Lewis, MD, a pediatrician at Columbia University Medical Center. Warm olive oil can be used to soothe the symptoms of an achy ear. (Note: Only for kids 2 and up). Use a syringe to place 2 to 4 drops of warm oil in the ear of child, 5 to 10 in ear of adult. Make sure to follow up with doctor as this is not a cure.

Dry-hair conditioner: Healthy Living found this use for olive oil: Revive damaged hair with this treatment from John Masters of John Masters Organics hair- and skin-care lines: Saturate hair with extra-virgin olive oil, then wrap with a warm towel for 20 minutes. Shampoo, rinse, and condition if needed.

Lip Balm: Mix olive oil and bee’s wax in a 1 to 1 ratio.

Bath Oil: Pour 1-2 ounces of olive oil into the bath (mix with essential oils for a soothing aromatherapy affect)

Body Scrub: Mix oil with sea salts or sugar for an invigorating and hydrating scrub. You can also use coffee grinds, which will minimize the looks of cellulite.

Sleep Better: By having a sip of olive oil before bed, you may hydrate a dry throat and lubricate throat muscles. …this is one I’m going to have to pass along to my parents.

Treat Lice: Apply olive oil to your youngster’s hair, and leave on for at least 40 minutes. Shampoo twice, then apply a preventative.

Remove paint from your skin: Rub on olive oil onto messy hand and arms (or faces) and allow the oil to soak into the skin for five minutes, and then rinse with soap and water.

Scoring in the Grocery Games Tuesday, Jul 1 2008 

I’m not going to delude you into thinking that I am one of those coupon ninjas, swooping into the grocery store matching coupons with sale items with thrift-like precision and buying $200 for $3.39. But I will tell you that there are a few things out there I picked up on that do save me money. Let’s face it: five dollars saved? Well then that’s five more dollars I get to keep.

Keeping a Price Book

The Tightwad GazetteThis is a strategy I picked up from Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and it’s a relatively cheap and easy thing to do. All you need is a spiral notebook (or binder) and the weekly ads from your local grocers….oh yeah and maybe an hour or so of time. Each page in my notebook is labeled by item and then alphabetized (this is where a loose leaf binder may be more user-friendly). It is on these pages that i keep track of individual grocery stores sales. If you often shop at more than one store you can also record everyday prices here too which will track pricing trends (and inevitably save you more). Since I am all about convenience (along with frugal methods) I tend to only focus on sale items, keeping track of the normal prices at the one grocery store I frequent and comparing the sale items to other stores. I’ve found that for the most part, my grocery store tends to be cheaper with better sales with the odd exceptions here and there. You can print a free price log here: Grocery Price Log

Coupon Clipping
Let me tell you, this is probably the most fun but for me. I only clip the coupons for items that I actually buy. I use the following sites in addition to the weekly inserts in my Sunday paper:

I recently read about a coupon strategy that is setting the frugal world afire. It’s called the One Month Coupon Strategy and I read about it on The Simple Dollar. Rumor has it that if you save the coupons you have clipped for roughly 30 days, the items that were featured as coupons have now gone on sale. The Simple Dollar explains why this is,

Why does this work?
Coupons in the newspaper are usually the first wave of a product push from large companies. They’ll put out coupons to start bumping up the sales, then they’ll move onto sale prices later on in the promotion. The reason for doing these in waves is so that the overall product sales trend looks solidly positive and not just a big spike with a fall-off. Plus, coupon users who use the product, like it, return to the store, and notice the item on sale are often willing to buy the item again. I’ll admit to noticing this working for me in the past with products like V-8 Fusion.

List, List, List
OK, look I know this one is pretty basic but hear me out. Have you ever stopped by the grocery store when you were hungry for just a few quick items? Next thing you know you’re walking out with 4 boxes of Eggo Waffles, frozen pizzas and those really delightful fruit snacks with juice in the middle. Believe me, I’ve done this so many times that now I ensure I am satisfied before shopping, even if it mean having to go home from work to eat before setting out on my journey.

Well keeping a list is a lot like that. Sit down and make of list of the items you need or will need and have coupons for. It’s easy to sit down after clipping your coupons and compiling a list of items you need based upon weekly sales, coupons and legitimate needs (if you’re low on toilet paper, chances are you aren’t going to be waiting around for a sale or a coupon to save that extra $.55). When you go to the store, stick with this list! I don’t care if kumquats are on special $2 for 10lbs. If it isn’t on your list, don’t get it. This minimizes the affects of GADD (Grocery Attention Deficit Disorder) and your chances of walking out with unnecessary items that cost you money.

I know my tips hear aren’t Earth shattering, nor will they probably save you thousands of dollars (if they do, by all means you can send some my way), however, hopefully you’ve picked up some interesting strategies to try out. Make sure to keep me posted on your savings!