#404 4/13/2010 THE GREAT OUTDOORS
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To me the outdoors is what you have to pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab.

Fran Lebowitz

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Buddy Workouts: Conditioning Your Pet while Kicking Your Own Booty!

By Stephanie S. Saunders

For those of us who have the pleasure of owning a pet, the benefits are fairly obvious. Pets offer unconditional love, listen to us without offering needless advice, and make fantastic snuggling companions. There is nothing like coming home to someone who is genuinely excited to see you and who wants nothing more than a chew toy for Christmas. But for all of the love we give them, we also seem to give them a lot to eat. Approximately 50 percent of the pets in this country are overweight—and with roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population also being overweight, we could all use a little more exercise! One possibility overlooked by pet owners is to recruit your pet as a workout buddy, which is odd, since pets will always show up and won't complain about how hungover they are. Let's look at some ways you can involve your furry friend in sweat-inducing activities that will leave you both reaching for the water bowl.

Puppies and Kitten on Basketballs

  1. Get outside.

    Most of us are aware of the vast benefits of spending time outside on a daily basis. If you have a dog yet lack a large yard, being outside becomes a requirement. So if you have to walk your dog several times a day, why not use the time to your benefit as well? Try to speed up your pace along your normal route. Try alternating your quick pace with some speed walking or a light jog. Find a route that includes some hills or other challenging terrain. Add some high knee lifts, butt kicks, or lateral skipping if you are not embarrassed by public displays of exercise. Or simply try adding 5 minutes onto your quick-paced walk every week, until you are up to an hour. The added calorie burn will be worth it.

    If you are a bit more daring, try hiking or running with your dog. There is the obvious increase in caloric expenditure for both of you, but also an increase in cardiovascular and muscular output that will definitely pay off. Look for soft surfaces—like a trail or dirt track—to help protect your joints, and remember that hot pavement is really painful for dogs' paws. Also, there are special harness-type leashes out there that keep your hands free and make running with more than one dog much more bearable.

  2. Woman Playing with a DogIt's all fun and games.

    Playing with your pet can be great exercise and fun for both of you. If you have a yard, or live near a local dog park, all of this is much easier. Of course, it can be done in your living room, but it might be a bit dangerous for the furniture. Try playing fetch, but race your dog for the ball. Just throw and start running. Or play tag by chasing your dog around the designated area. If your dog is on the strong side, grab a rope and try some tug-of-war. If you're considerably stronger than your pooch, try tugging while standing on one leg, and using only one arm. Create an obstacle course, and run it with your dog. Find a ball and a wall, and play a version of handball mixed with "keep away"—from your dog. Practice your tennis swing and let your pup retrieve the ball.

    Just doing something playful can make a normal workout feel like you are back on the playground with your four-legged best friend. How can it get better than that?

  3. Train the dog, or train the owner?

    This is not a section on teaching a dog to sit or training your spouse to get you a drink from the fridge. This is about using functional resistance training to manipulate your mutt's musculature, along with your own. Try the following exercises with some help from Fido.

    Balance Challenge
    Stand on both feet, hips-width apart, with your dog's favorite toy in hand, but hidden from view. Shift your weight onto one foot, keeping the other foot's toes just off the ground. Now show your pet a favorite toy. Try bending your standing leg and lowering the toy to touch the ground in front of you. Once you lose your balance, or your pup gets the toy, switch to the opposite leg.

    Squat and Toy Press
    For this exercise, use your dog's favorite toy or a small weighted medicine ball. Start with your feet hips-width apart, and in a parallel position. Bring the toy or ball to your chest. Squat down deeply with your butt going parallel to the floor, and your knees staying behind your toes. As you extend your knees to stand back up, throw the toy or ball into the air, and try to catch it before your mutt jumps up and grabs it! Repeat until one of you gives out.

    Man Playing with a Dog PoolsideSumo Squats for the Critter
    This workout is similar to the Squat and Toy Press. Only this time, you start with your toes pointed slightly outward, making sure that your knees line up with your toes. Hold the toy or ball in both hands, with arms extended straight down toward the floor. As you bend both knees, bringing your seat parallel to the floor and keeping your arms straight, lift the toy directly over your head. As you straighten your knees, jump off the ground a few inches and return the toy to the down position. Hopefully, your mongrel will continue to jump for the toy until your quads have hit exhaustion.

    Fetching Push-Ups
    The idea is to set yourself up in a push-up position, with whatever modifications you require to do many repetitions (on your knees, against a wall, etc.). Lift one hand and throw a ball. Do as many push-up repetitions as possible until your pet returns. Repeat the toss with the opposite arm.

    Laser Creature Crunch
    Domesticated animals seem to be fascinated by laser pointers. Get into a comfortable crunch position on the ground, and hold the laser pointer in both hands. Begin doing 10 crunches with the laser on your chest, and of course, pointed away from you. Watch your pet go nuts trying to chase it in the process. Every 10 reps, alternate arm positions behind your head, above your head, and even to your knees. Your dog will go insane, and you will have abs of steel!

    Dog Curl/Dip/Press
    These options depend completely on the level of stillness your pet can provide. For my two dogs, playing dumbbell just ain't gonna happen. But I have many friends with extremely trusting animals that love to be bench-pressed. Should you try to press, curl, dip, or lunge your best friends, do it relatively close to the ground, just in case they change their minds.

Man Walking Dogs on a BeachThere's a study that shows people with terminal illnesses are three times less likely to suffer depression if they own a pet. Pets are amazing stress reducers and loneliness decreasers, and have actually been proven to lower blood pressure. They also make us more social creatures, as we meet new people on walks, at parks, etc. If you add a pet to your household, your life will be dramatically enriched. If you are unable to make a lifelong commitment, borrow a friend's dog for a day, or look into a short-term fostering program. And there are hundreds of organizations out there that could use volunteers to walk the dogs they are sheltering. That way, you get some exercise, and make a difference at the same time. Whatever you do, integrate some canine or feline time into your exercise regimen, and watch the change occur. Now that is doggone good!

Related Articles
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Wednesday, April 14th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Working Out with Debbie Siebers and Barney

Slim in 6® trainer Debbie Siebers knows the secrets to fitting fitness into a busy schedule. When she's out walking with Barney, her pet Maltese, she can get in a pretty decent workout. Go for a walk with Debbie and Barney, and check out her tips for pet owners. Click below to watch the video.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Garden State: 3 Quick Steps to Home Gardening in even the Smallest of Spaces

By Denis Faye

There's no denying the benefits of a home garden. It provides healthy, organic food that spends mere minutes traveling from plot to plate, ensuring freshness that translates to more nutrients. Furthermore, a home garden means exercise, outdoor time, and savings at the grocery store.

Tomatoes on a Branch

But, unfortunately, planting that plot can seem a little like skydiving. Everyone wants to be the kind of person who does it, but when you're faced with the actual prospect, it suddenly seems incredibly daunting.

Truth is, they're not at all the same. When you're 12,500 feet in the air, you're either in the plane or out of the plane; there's really no in-between. Conversely, a home garden can grow slowly. Even the smallest of gardens—one rosemary plant in a terra-cotta pot—can be vastly rewarding. So find yourself a little dirt and a couple of seeds, and let us show you how to get started.

  1. Potted PlantWhere to plant your seed?

    If you're a rural homeowner, finding a little dirt isn't an issue, but we can't all be so lucky. If you don't have access to huge tracts of land, get yourself some pots. Unless you want to plant something pervasive like melon, most produce will do fine in terra-cotta or plastic confines. If you're not sure, read the instructions on the seed pack or ask the person you buy your seedlings from.

    If you don't have the space for that, you can always hang a flower box from your sunniest window or your balcony. I live in a tiny apartment in Los Angeles, so I don't grow squash in my backyard (given I don't have one) but between pots and flower boxes, my green thumb gets an excellent workout.

    Community gardens are also a growing trend. These large, open spaces subdivided into smaller plots for individual gardeners add a great social aspect to your weeding and hoeing experience. It's also an excellent way to learn from more experienced gardeners and to barter fruits and veggies. Grew too many squash this year? I bet that guy with all the tomatoes would be willing to swap a few.

    Find a community garden in your area using the American Community Gardening Association's Web site. (www.communitygarden.org)

  2. Parsley in SoilHerbalize yourself.

    Herbs are also a good place to start. Many of them are low maintenance, and unlike fruits and veggies, there's no waiting around for the yield. As soon as your plant is established, you can start clipping leaves. Furthermore, they take up little space, making them ideal for the aforementioned flower box.

    Many herbs can produce more leaves than you need. The best solution for this happy problem is to pluck those leaves and dry them out in the sun under cheesecloth to prevent pests and wind from getting at them.

    Start off with perennial plants, or plants that grow for years. Three particularly tough perennials that I always have on hand are mint, oregano, and rosemary. Although they can require watering, I basically ignore them until I want to zing up my pizza or iced tea, then it's just snip and enjoy.

    Parsley is a biannual, meaning it produces leaves in its first year and flowers in its second year, and then it dies. But it's very robust and during that first year, you'll have all the parsley you need.

    Thyme, tarragon, and chives are also easy perennials to try.

    Once you've mastered perennials, you can try annuals, which only last one season and require a little more care. Basil can be used in scores of recipes. The trick to getting it to last all summer is to pluck off the flower buds every morning. The more you pluck, the harder it'll try to grow and the more leaves you get to put in your pesto.

    Chamomile works in a similar fashion. Every morning, pluck the flowers and set them aside. For every one you pluck, two more will grow. Dry these flowers under cheesecloth. By the time a well-managed chamomile dies in fall, it will have provided tea for months into the winter.

    Other good annuals include dill and cilantro.

  3. Pumpkins and WheelbarrowProduce some produce.

    Keep it simple at first. Leafy greens are a great place to start. Like herbs, you can harvest from them all season long. I've had great success with arugula and chard.

    While tomatoes are supposed to be hardy and fun to grow, I've always found them to be a pain. You need to stake them, and because they're bright red and sweet, they're particularly susceptible to pests like possums. If you don't want to fight that fight, try something just as tough but not as delectable. If you have space, it's hard to miss with any kind of squash or cucumbers. If space is limited, try Japanese eggplant or chili peppers. Considering that Serrano chiles are five times hotter than jalapeños, rodents don't mess with Serrano chile.

    Keep in mind that the plants I'm mentioning above are just things I've had success with. Don't be afraid to experiment on your own. I have yet to try growing beans, but I hear good things. If a crop doesn't work, it will cost you little more than a bag of seeds and a little real estate. No big thing.

    One downside of growing your own food is that, well, a person can only eat so many cucumbers. I make a point of sharing particular large harvests with my neighbors. It's a practice that has made me plenty of friends and resulted in unexpected payback when I needed it most, once as free legal advice and another time in the form of pie. But if you want quicker returns on your crops, look into garden exchanges in your area, where backyard farmers meet to swap produce.

    A quick Web search for "garden share" or "food share" and your state or city should be enough to find like-minded people in your area.

    The idea of packing up a summer's worth of produce and heading out to a fruit 'n' veg swap meet may seem a million miles away at this point, so don't rush it. As I said at the start, one pot and a few seeds is all it takes. Once you master that, your green thumb will itch for more and every year your garden will grow a little bigger without your even needing to try. It'll just happen . . . organically.

Related Articles
"6 Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables"
"10 Reasons to Eat Organic—and Local"
"11 Tips for Cooking Out without Pigging Out"

Denis FayeQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Wednesday, April 14th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Sore Muscles? Relax with a Massage during Spa Week!

Woman Getting a Massage

When you lead an active lifestyle, it's important to take time to recover and recharge. Find out how to get an extraordinary deal on luxury spa treatments all over the U.S. during the upcoming Spa Week.

Click here to read about more about Spa Week!

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Test Your Edible Flower IQ!

By Valerie Watson

Flowers on a PlatePeople have been cooking with flowers since at least the days of ancient Rome. And while the ancient Romans got a lot wrong—cruelty, violence, too many men's haircuts with bangs—they were right on the money with this one. Flowers look nice, smell nice, and, yes, they can even taste nice. (Once you get past that whole "But I'm eating a bouquet!" thing.) Keep in mind, though, that edible flowers can be far more than just a garnish or a visual curiosity. In addition to a wide array of flavors from delicate to tangy, they can also provide essential vitamins and nutrients—while generally being delightfully low in calories. Answer the following true-or-false questions to see where you fall on the edible flower knowledge scale.

True or false?

  1. True: Artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower are all immature flower buds. It may not be intuitive to think of these three vegetables—strange, spiny-armored green bulbs; tree-like shapes topped with clusters of tiny green nubbins; or a big round off-white thing that looks like nothing so much as a pickled brain—as flower buds, but they all are. It's unlikely that this new bit of information will convince even a small percentage of America's children that these three traditional kid-repellents are OK to eat, but maybe one little Barbie®-loving girl somewhere will think, "Yay, flowers!" and dig in.
  2. False: The flowers of the chamomile and rose plants may only be safely consumed after they've been dried and made into tea. Health food stores sell fresh chamomile flowers, which can be used in that state—the petals in salads, the blooms on baked goods or desserts as a fanciful edible decoration—or dried for longer storage in jars or floral wreaths. And rose petals can make a sweet and lovely addition to salads, as well as being used to make flavorful rosewater, rose syrup, rose butter, and rose petal jam. When you think of it, this whole edible-rose thing has all the cachet of a layer of fine gold leaf on an expensive chocolate dessert without any of the fears one might associate with a gizzard full of precious metal.
  3. True: The flowering chicory plant can be used as a coffee substitute. The roots of the flowering chicory plant, which is related to Belgian endive, are often baked, ground, and brewed to produce a coffee-like beverage that's popular in parts of Europe and Asia, as well as in the American South, particularly New Orleans. While brewed ground-'n'-roasted chicory, which contains no caffeine, is unlikely to assuage the coffee jones of, say, a hardcore Starbucks® junkie, it may have a placebo effect in an emergency.
  4. False: The seeds are the only edible part of the sunflower. While anyone who watches ESPN or the MLB channel knows how thoroughly sunflower seeds have been embraced by many of the nation's baseballers as a substitute for chewing tobacco in the spit-generation process, fewer people are aware that other parts of the plant are also edible. When steamed, the buds of the sunflower taste a bit like artichokes, and the mature fresh petals have a piquant, bittersweet taste when scattered on a salad. Neither seems like it's as dugout-friendly a choice as the seeds, but all it'll take is one rebel player to start things off, and the rest of 'em will follow like lemmings.
  5. True: The entire dandelion plant is edible, including leaves, roots, flower buds, and petals. Dandelion leaves, blossoms, and stems can be used in salads. When fried, the young buds taste similar to mushrooms. The roots are a good source of vitamin C and other nutrients. The petals can be fermented to make dandelion wine. But if you're planning on eating the actual yellow flower part, don't dilly-dally, 'cause if you wait 'til they turn into those little round white puffballs, they'll make the back of your throat feel all tickly.

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