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22 Minute Hard Corps: An Honest Review

I was truly hesitant to try 22 Minute Hard Corps.  I have such a girl crush on Chalene Johnson that the idea of not doing PiYo for another round kind of broke my heart.  But, I am a coach first.  I promised my challengers I’d try 22MHC along with them during our May “Make Time” challenge group. I am so happy I made this choice.

First off, let me tell you about my challenge groups so you can understand why it is so important I work along with the women in my groups.  I host monthly fitness and nutrition groups, which are private Facebook communities through which I can motivate, answer questions, and guide nutrition.  The best part for me has been the accountability these groups provide–both for me and for the challengers.  I have been more consistent with my early morning workouts, more deliberate with my meal prep, and more inspired to be a glass-half-full kinda gal thanks to the support and inspiration of my challengers. I know some of these women from earlier stages of my life, childhood or college, but others have come to me by chance and social media.  These women are moms or just married or brides-to-be.  These women all started their journeys with different goals.  These women are now all friends and have reached potentials and exceeded their own expectations.

We decided to up the ante this month.  As a group, we didn’t want to just focus on our fitness and nutrition.  We wanted to focus on ways we can fit time into our day–find the hidden minutes.  Plus, I wanted a way to explore a new program while keeping Chalene in my life. I decided to give 22 MHC a try–22 minute workouts give us plenty of extra minutes in our day–and to incorporate Chalene Johnson’s Push planner into our group to help us set realistic priorities and to work on time management.  I will share my thoughts on the Push planner another time (simply, I’m in love!). Let’s focus today on Tony Horton, some kick-ass veterans, and a workout that is deceptively tough while being perfectly basic.

Tony Horton and Beachbody created 22 Minute Hard Corps as a way to bring people back to simple, gym class style calisthenics (Yeah, I haven’t used that word in years either.).  There are three cardio workouts–simply named Cardio 1, 2, and 3–and three Resistance workouts similarly titled.  The cardio workouts incorporate plyometrics (Jimmy jumps, side shuffles, etc) and some body-weight exercises, like burpees. The resistance workouts, on the other hand, incorporate hand weights (or a sandbag–which I haven’t tried), a resistance band, and pull-up bar.  There is also a Cold Start (warm-up), and two Core 10-minute programs. 22 MHC comes with an 8-week calendar that shuffles the various workouts and allows for recovery and meal prep on Sundays.

Meal prep is a critical part of most Beachbody workout programs.  It is estimated that 80% of a person’s fitness results come from nutrition.  Like the popular 21 Day Fix, 22 MHC comes with the Portion Fix color-coded containers.  Tony and the creators of the program designed a Rations for Results nutrition guide that allows for 3 square meals, one snack, and one Shakeology each day.  The portions depend on your calorie intake, but the basic layout of the meals is the same.  For someone who enjoys grazing or snacking throughout the day or who likes to skip breakfast, this may feel like a shock to the system.  It is completely doable, though, and promotes eating real, clean food.  You will eat plenty when sticking to this plan; you will just be consuming the right mix of macronutrient groups to ensure your body refuels and burns fat.  I had become quite used to budgeting my container allotment each day the way I saw fit, so the three square meals have taken some getting used to, but now that I am 1 1/2 weeks in, I finally feel like I am able to enjoy these meals and not feel overloaded in one sitting.  By bedtime, I am still full from my day’s eating, which is perfect considering I workout first thing in the morning.

Let’s discuss the workouts.  Those of you familiar with 21 Day Fix are used to a consistent rotation.  This is a bit different.  The days alternate between Cardio and Resistance, but in a progressive way.  Tony Horton also varies the amount of reps for each exercise: some increase, some decrease from round to round, which keeps your muscles and your cardiovascular system guessing. I have yet to attempt Cardio 3 or Resistance 3 because I am still working to perfect 1 and 2 of each. This repetition allows immediate gratification for someone like me.  My first time through Resistance 1, for example, I labored through the weighted burpees.  I was definitely behind the count and, though I completed each exercise, I was off pace and therefore did not perform as many reps.  The second time through–and just days later–I was able to stay on pace with the veterans.

That’s right: veterans.  This program is back-to-basics training and Tony Horton is surrounded by veterans from all branches of the military who perform each workout.  It is motivating, truly sells the boot camp vibe, and intensely patriotic.  I find myself counting along with Tony or the lead vet’s cadence and yelling “Hard Corps!” whenever prompted.  Some say I have a group-think mentality.  Put me in a room with enough people excited about the same thing and, gosh darn it, I’ll be excited about that, too!  For example, I often attend teaching in-services lamenting the hours I’m about to spend listening to yet another teaching style and within the first hour I am already planning how I will implement these new practices.  It may be this almost addictive aspect of my personality that motivates me through each Hard Corps, but only partly.  These vets who invested their lives and their time for our country exude energy and discipline that is contagious.  Plus, Tony Horton is drill-sergeant strict and adorably personable at the same time.

One word of warning: This is not 21 Day Fix. This is an 8-week program; therefore, true results will take time. Being 10 days in I will say that I feel strong and lean and have maintained the definition from my previous programs.  I know that as I remain consistent with both the program’s fitness and nutrition components I will succeed and see results I can be proud of.

Who would enjoy this program?  Just about anyone who believes time is of the essence, who enjoys feeling motivated, who likes to vary their workouts, and who wants to shake off a few pounds for summer. 🙂

You can take a look at the program here.  Or, even better, fill in the contact form below and I will be in touch about joining my next challenge group!

 

Raspberry Almond Power Cookies

imageThese cookies happened by accident. I was making a quick attempt at my own energy bites and failed to carefully consider proportions. When I whipped everything together, the “batter” was far too liquidy to ever evolve into a perfect ball. I considered adding more rolled oats to absorb the moisture. Nah. I questioned chucking the mix all together and starting over. No way. That defeats everything my minimal waste cooking and eating philosophy stands by. I figured I would spoon cookies, drop them on a cookie sheet, throw them in the oven, and see what happens. I am so glad I did!

I love sweets and snacks. I worried when first delving into clean eating that I would be overwhelmed by my sweet tooth and would, inevitably, fail. That is not the case. I have grown to love the flavors of real food and, as I’ve written about before, love meals now. In fact, on my daughter’s Mother’s Day story that she wrote at school, she completed the sentence “My mommy loves to…” with eat the yummy dinners she makes. In 2015, that would have read “bake cupcakes” or “snack all day” or “eat only her side dishes.” My daughter notices my healthier eating habits. I know they are more likely to rub off on her since she sees me living by this ideal, that our nutrition matters.

So yes, I’ve conquered my sweet tooth and often have carrots with peanut butter or nonfat Greek yogurt with berries when I do have a snack. I still, however, love a good cookie and know its place in my life remains.

imageEating clean doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a decadent treat once in a while. I value balance. Balance means redefining your expectations each day to align with your own priorities. Forget anyone else’s expectations; focus on your own priorities and let go of the rest. That is balance. Most days, my priorities are self care, serving my family, and building my business. On any given day, I may spend more time on one of these tasks than I will the others or I may add something to the list. Some days, self care means fitting in my fitness and eating well all day. Once in a while, though, Mama wants a cookie–or 3–and that’s ok! These raspberry almond power cookies fit into this balanced lifestyle. Plus they are clean, they are full of fiber and healthy fats, and they are chocolatey.

Yes, chocolatey. Delicious, ooey-gooey, sweet and semi tangy, soft and kind of crunchy (pun intended) chocolatey cookies. You and your kids will love these when you want a different but home baked dessert or when you want a treat without much guilt. These also take little time to prep and bake and are one of the many ways to use those last few bananas before they turn.

You can easily up the ante and add protein to these cookies by trading out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder, but once in a while it is nice to eat a treat that is just that: a treat. You could also trade out the freeze-dried raspberries for freeze-dried strawberries. They would be equally delicious.

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These cookies are dairy free, contain no added sugar, and can be certified gluten free if you need. Yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 overripe bananas, smashed with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural almond butter (or butter of choice)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dairy free)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick coconut oil spray.
  2. Smash two bananas in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon. Sprinkle in a pinch or two of oats if too liquidy.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon teaspoon-sized portions onto the greased cookie sheet. Cookies will not expand, so you do not need too much room between them.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet then for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.
  6. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

These unique flavors make for a scrumptious snack and a little pick-me-up when the days get long. Enjoy as is or alter to your liking. Please share your thoughts in the comments or send me your feedback. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter by leaving your email below! You’ll receive a free 5-day clean eating menu just by subscribing!

Mixed Berry Streusel Overnight Oats

Overnight oats is a game changer. (Trust the grammar here. I’m an English teacher.) 😉

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Yes, I am aware of how lofty this statement is, but it is not hyperbole. It is truth. I am not an egg-eater (something my followers have come to learn), yet I know the importance of a breakfast packed with protein. After years of cold cereal or muffins from DD, I noticed an immediate shift in my energy levels, hunger, and cravings once I unprocessed my first meal of the day and upped my protein intake.

When I was on maternity leave, I explored various breakfast options that provide balanced macronutrients and are, well, yummy. These are some of my faves:

  • A slice of Ezekiel bread (full of protein and flourless!) topped with a quarter avocado and a slice of turkey bacon with a side of berries (raspberries provide healthy fiber!). image
  • An Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted and smeared with all-natural peanut or almond butter and banana “coins.” You can add a side of berries or even scrambled eggs–but I won’t!
  • Boiled rolled oats mixed with a splash of unsweetened almond milk, a shake of cinnamon, and some fresh berries (okay, yeah, I love berries with my breakfast!).
  • Shakeology, especially for mornings that get away from me! image

I dont often have have the time to make my actual breakfast each morning. My husband and I both need to leave the house by 6:45 am to get the kiddos to school and the sitter and be at our respective jobs on time. Most mornings I do wake up early to work out, but I am able to shave 5-10 minutes off of my morning routine and inches from my waistline by having overnight oats at the ready and avoiding the processed sugar rush of cereal or baked goods.

I prep 3-5 days worth of overnight oats every Sunday when I am meal prepping. It is essential for me to have a healthy breakfast ready to go. This habit lowers my stress levels in the morning, eases my nighttime routine (praise be the moms who can do the crock pot overnight breakfasts! They are yummy! I just ain’t got time for that!), and meets my nutritional needs.

You can Google and pin hundreds of overnight oats recipes with varied proportions and varied ingredients and varied flavors. I encourage you to play around until you find your perfect texture and some flavor combos that work for you and for your family. The base blend that I’ve stuck to for the past month or two really works for me. It contains protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber, so I confidently set my macros in balance right from the start. This blend also fits perfectly into the 21 Day Fix or 22 Minute Hard Corps meal plans–which is an added bonus for me as a healthy lifestyle coach win Beachbody.

This recipe grew out of my Saturday goal of using up as many perishable ingredients as  possible. I don’t like to waste the fresh fruits and veggies that we may not have gotten to during the week. This past Saturday, a half pint of overripe strawberries and a handful of blueberries sat pathetically in my fridge, uneaten and hours from being replaced by newer, fresher versions when my husband went to the grocery store the next morning. So, I made a note in my meal planner to make pb&j overnight oats when meal prepping.

The next morning, I began to prep while Mike shopped, knowing that making my oats early would make room in the fridge for the fresh produce of the day and save me time later. I opened the cupboard to get a new jar of organic all-natural peanut butter and noticed something else: a bag of pecans. That’s when this idea hit me.

You can easily make this recipe your own. I will break down the ingredients for my ideal overnight oats base blend and the add-ons that make this recipe what it is. I encourage you to give it a try but to also venture into your own flavor combos. Comment below with a recipe that makes you look forward to breakfast!

INGREDIENTS

BASE BLEND (per serving):

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (1/2 yellow container)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (1/2 orange container)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (1/2 orange container)

ADD-ONS FOR STREUSEL:

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup, plus 1/4 tbsp
  • overripe strawberries, diced
  • overripe blueberries, diced (these equal one purple container)
  • 1/2 blue container, approx 2 tbsp, chopped pecans
  1. Make the base blend by combining all ingredients. Add the cinnamon and 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup. Mix well and place in air-tight jar.
  2. Top with fruit and pecans. Overripe berries will emit juices that make this really sweet and dessert-like.
  3. Drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
  4. Seal, refrigerate, and enjoy within 5 days!

My Meal Prep Pointers

My biggest piecIMG_8824e of advice is this: take time NOW to save time later!  The more effort and planning you put into your weekend,the easier your
weeknights–and mornings!–can be! I spend Saturday night meal planning while my husband and I catch up on our DVR and then I spend a good amount of time on Sunday meal prepping.  I take time for family activities and fitness, but I make sure I get as much done now as possible. My weeknights and mornings are better for it. 🙂

 

  • Meal plan with a purpose!
    • I’ve written about clean eating on a budget and have shared some of my weekly meal planning ideas. I cannot stress how important meal planning is for effective meal prep. Meal prepping without forethought is like going to Magic Kingdom without Fast Passes.  Yes, you’ll enjoy the experience, but you will spend a lot more time waiting and figuring out what could have been done ahead of time. 🙂
    • I meal plan on Saturday nights.  I look at a few recipes I’ve pinned or bookmarked and see how any ingredients may overlap with faves from the the past.  For example, Monday night I am serving Colby Jack Chicken Roll-ups (which I’ll make today!). I’ve added Taco Zucchini Boats to Thursday’s Cinco de Mayo dinner menu since it uses the same cheese. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday’s dinner all use various types of peppers as well.  I am going to have Kung Pao meatballs over spinach for lunch each day, which will overlap the spinach from the Roll-ups as well.  I’ll use leftover onion from the meatballs in Tuesday’s crock pot meal. You can save money and time by overlapping ingredients. When you eat clean and get to know food’s natural flavors as well as the deliciousness that exists in natural seasonings, you won’t even think twice about ingredients showing up again and again. When paired with something new or prepared even slightly differently, new flavors take center stage.
    • When meal planning, I also consider the method and equipment with which I will need to prep the meals. I may plan on Salsa Chicken for lunch for the week since that uses my crock pot and saves the stove top and over for any other meal. Today, I know that the meatballs and roll-ups bake at the same oven temp, so that makes prepping them simultaneously easy. This may seem a little too-focused, but as you get more comfortable with the recipes you love and with coming up with your own spin in the kitchen, this will all become second nature.
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This week’s menu
  • Chop and dice as much as you can!
    • It is important to rinse and fully dry any fruits and veggies before prep. Do this as early as you can. Then, an hour or so later once you really are ready, you can get in there and prep.
    • When you chop and dice, think about all of the meals you are prepping today AND all of the snacks and meals you’ll need later in the week.  If I am making fajitas on Tuesday night, I will still slice the peppers and onion on Sunday, seal them in an air-tight container, and have an even easier time making one of my quickest, yummiest meals on a very busy night.  I will also chop up and portion those peppers for school lunch snacks (with hummus!) and add these to my snack drawer. When packed appropriately and when allowed to air-dry, these veggies will hold-up for the week.
  • Don’t forget breakfast!
    • Cliche or not, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is too easy for us working moms to skip eating it ourselves and to rely on packaged goods for our family.  Try meal prepping breakfast and you and your family will truly eat and be well. I’ve shared plenty of overnight oats recipes and cannot say enough about how delicious and easy they are. Feel comfortable playing around with the various recipes I’ve posted or to mixing flavors of your own to come up with the portions and ingredients that work best for you. With the perfect air-tight container (mason jars are awesome for this, though I use my BabyBullet canisters!), these will stay all week for the perfect breakfast on the go for any member of a busy family. Plus, Greek yogurt or protein powder (I prefer Shakeology) added to these gives your family the protein it needs to fuel the day.
    • Your crock pot and griddle are also great for meal-prepping breakfast.  You can make various bakes in the crock pot that set while you sleep. You can also double any batch of pancakes or french toast or waffles that you bake for the family Sunday morning, freeze them, and have them on hand. Leggo my Eggo? No. Leggo my homemade protein pancake, thank you very much!
  • Find reusable containers that work for you!
    • This is a bit of a duh, but it makes all the difference. I like using Pyrex glass dishes to keep my made-ahead meals ready to go.  Be sure to let them sit at room temperature before you bake or reheat, though, so as to not shatter the glass!
    • Mason jars and BPA free Tupperware are easy to clean and to grab and go. If you use plastic baggies for snack portions, don’t be afraid to wash and reuse once or twice.
  • Have clean meals and snacks accessible!
    • Life happens!  Sometimes I may need to take one child to the doctor or am nursing or bathing an exceptionally fussy baby.  That is why you need to consider snacks when meal prepping as well. Having a snack drawer my toddlers can reach and having meals prepped in advance allow anyone–from my five year old to my husband to a grandma or babysitter–to get a healthy snack or meal ready. This saves time and saves money since we won’t be ordering pizza or hitting up Chick-fil-A…at least not as frequently! Plus, kids will eat what is available to them. Placing yogurts and fresh fruit and veggies and homemade granola bars or energy bites where your kids can easily find them makes these the go-to snacks, not bags of Goldfish.
  • Involve your kids!
    • Getting your kids busy in the kitchen is the easiest way to ensure they will eat what you want them to. My daughter now LOVES chicken because I have let her help me prepare it.  We all learn our eating habits, and I want to role model healthy ones for my kids at every turn. On Sundays, I involve my  kids in at least one level of meal prep. Depending on the weather (hey, I’d want to be outside riding my bike, too!), I may have them help throughout,but I want them to get outside and get active and be creative as well.  One way they help is to portion our snack bags. I’ll ask them to count out grapes or baby carrots or slices of peppers.  I can also ask them to help chop.  They are young so I keep it to items like bananas and strawberries, but they are learning kitchen safety and having a hand in our family’s health.  They will help me measure out ingredients or stir up batters and mixtures.  They will help me portion meals into our lunch containers.  They will stock with snack drawer.  Now, my kids even come up with their own recipes for overnight oats or ways we can doctor our protein bars a bit differently.  Their help is a big time saver and also a lot of fun for all of us, and I am confident they are learning invaluable lessons!
  • IMG_8486Use a garbage bowl!
    • This seems like a silly tip, but to me, it is a big time-saver. I keep a larger mixing bowl on the counter that I use for trash: onion and garlic skins, thick asparagus stalks, yogurt lids, apple cores, paper towels, you name it.  Saving myself constant trips to the trash can allows easier multitasking and quicker meal prep. When it fills up, I throw it away, but otherwise, I keep chopping and prepping and cooking away!

I hope these tips are helpful!  Share a go-to tip in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. And if you subscribe to this blog or to my email list by leaving your email below,  I will share one week’s worth of clean eating recipes that are kid-friendly and family-approved. Happy Sunday, y’all!