Skateboard ab roller. Be careful with this one. (Photo: Larry Wong)
Maria Kang, the “fit mom” whose buff Facebook photo went viral and unleashed a flood of controversy, has some advice if you want to DIY your way to better health and fitness.
Kang leapt to Facebook fame when her “What’s your excuse?” post went viral. She has plenty of fans and critics online, but there’s no arguing that Kang is a crafty entrepreneur who’s essentially DIYed a jam-packed life that works for her.
Here she shares her favorite exercise and fitness tips and tricks, along with an easy recipe for DIY protein bars. (Her email responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)
What are your favorite tips for working out?
I always warm up. You NEED to warm up; it’s a great way to get your blood moving, your mind focused, and is a time you can visualize a successful workout.
Oftentimes I will jump rope to warm up, as it requires a lot of focus to get in rhythm with the rope. I keep a timer on because I’m usually crunched for time. This way I ensure my breaks aren’t too long and that every second is accounted for.
Water bottle weights? Not fancy, but they work. (Photo: Larry Wong)
I check my [pulse] constantly (using my fingers, the old-fashioned way) to make sure my body is at its target heart rate and moving efficiently.
I focus on the last 3 percent effort. It’s not what you can do that matters when you train (or when you do anything in life), it’s the stuff you can’t do (or thought you couldn’t) that will actually cause you to grow or progress. So focus on giving just 3 percent more effort, whether it’s three more reps, three more minutes of running or sprinting for the last 30 seconds toward the finish line.
I have a plan when I train. You need to be intentional.
I wear a hat to keep me focused. Other people will use headphones. I saw someone today who wore sunglasses to keep his focus.
What’s your exercise routine? How can fans DIY their workouts without an expensive gym membership?
There is so much you can do! In fact, my first stair stepper (for a Reebok Step video when I was 12) was made of two phonebooks.
Use paper towels or paper plates as “gliders” for great exercises for your abs, legs, shoulders, and arms. (Think sliding across the floor.)
Easy DIY workout. (Photo: Larry Wong)
Fill up plastic milk cartons with sand, sugar, or water and use them for handheld weights.
Fill water bottles for smaller hand weights.
Utilize your son’s skateboard as a roller. (Think ab roller or hip tucks.)
Take a heavy laundry basket and do rows or squat presses, or even jump over it.
Hamper workout. (Photo: Larry Wong)
If you are at the park you can:
Use the swings as a TRX band (ab tucks/push-ups).
Use the jungle gym for pull-ups or just a hold (for those who can’t do pull-ups).
Use the bench for step-ups or tricep dips.
Use a raised planter box or bench for various lunges or jumps.
Laundry jumps are basic but effective. (Photo: Larry Wong)
What’s your favorite exercise that doesn’t require a gym?
Lunges! All kinds: curtsy, around the world, side lunges, walking lunges, elevated lunges, gliding lunges, front and back lunges, plyometric lunges.
Lunges. (Photo: Larry Wong)
What’s your approach to eating healthy?
I have a balanced 30/30/30/10 approach representing equal parts protein, carbs, and fats, with 10 percent flexibility depending on what your goals are or if you want to splurge a little. One to two splurge meals weekly.
Calculate caloric needs via basal metabolic rate and activity level.
The most important aspect of your diet is to stay motivated, which is the basis of my book, The No More Excuses Diet.
You mention you don’t count calories, but in The No More Excuses Diet you advise that people should. Is it just that you know your body and foods very well at this point?
I don’t count calories (now) because I am very aware of the content in my food after years of writing my intake down. I use all rules as guidelines, because you should always structure your efforts to reflect your personality type and capability.
Speaker cables can make a great jump rope. (Photo: Larry Wong)
I constantly remind people to adjust their goals, because flexibility and adaptability are key to long-term success.
Can you share your favorite DIY recipes? And any advice on what busy people should cook themselves and what to buy premade?
I will be the first to say that I’m not a big cook, but I have learned to make things quickly, fast, and simple at home for my kiddos.
The kids help me cook, which is a big plus, as it teaches them how to cook and gives them a sense of pride. It’s something we can do together as a family, and we have more reverence for our food and when we sit together to eat when we make it ourselves.
Here are some tips:
I like to utilize mini muffin tins for everything, whether for turkey meatballs, breakfast eggs, or banana muffins. (See my book for the recipe!)
I make cookies pretty quickly, and they are healthy. I have a vegan recipe here that takes only 20 minutes. It’s so much better than store-bought because it has fewer ingredients.
Recipe: Irresistible vegan cookies
½ cup coconut oil (soft solid — I melt mine a little)
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup almond or soymilk
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup carob chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the liquid coconut oil and brown sugar, then add the milk alternative and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the chocolate morsels and any other mix-ins of your choosing.
Roll dough into tablespoon-size balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, then flatten them out a bit with your palm.
Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.
Cookie time. (Photo: Larry Wong)
Recipe: DIY protein bars
Protein bars with no added protein powder. (Most recipes have protein powder. My tummy can’t tolerate protein powder due to the artificial sweeteners and whey.) My husband and children LOVE this recipe.
1 ¾ cups old-fashioned oats
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup almonds, chopped
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
sea salt, to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, chia seeds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and salt. Mix well.
In a small bowl, microwave the peanut butter and maple syrup for 30 seconds. Stir until both are incorporated well. Add to oat mixture.
Add almond milk and stir until dough forms.
Add to a greased pan. Sprinkle and press almonds on top.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until set.
Remove from oven and cut into 6 to 8 bars. Refrigerate and package to take with you on the go when you’re ready to eat!