Productive Cooking

29 Jan

I’ve been doing a lot of talking about healthy eating and “cooking for dummies” and the likes, but I realized today I haven’t mentioned healthy living as much. Since that’s half the point of this blog, I suppose I should get to it!

I’m the type of person who isn’t productive unless they’re busy. And by busy I mean not a spare moment. If I have any amount of time that is unplanned, or if I think for a second that I have nothing to do, I will never be productive. In order for me to get anything done, I have to schedule it before hand. Don’t believe me?


…And that’s only half of my day. My point is, we’re all busy. And it gets hard to manage your exercise when you’re busy just surviving. Going to the gym can be a nightmare if you live a 30 minute walk away, don’t own a car and are afraid of buses (don’t ask), and even if you wanted to, who has the time for a decent workout plus an hour commute (when it’s probably raining).

This is why I came up with productive cooking. It’s a way to turn all those moments when you’re standing around by a saucepan waiting for your rice to finish simmering into mini workouts in the comfort of your own home (maybe once your flat mate has gone to her room). You don’t have to have a block of 2 hours- all you need is 2 minutes. Say while your oatmeal is in the microwave for breakfast. Or while you’re bringing a pan of pasta or rice up to boil. Or when you’re hoping the hot water and soap will just soak the food off all your dishes. Cooking is the ideal time to find a few minutes here or there when you’re just standing around. And now I’m going to make them the most productive minutes of your day!

Cooking workouts: (not sure I ever thought I’d use that phrase)

1. Wall sits- start with 30 seconds or something, just a quick reheat of something in the microwave, and as it gets easier (or if you have quads of steel) you can build up to a few minutes. 1 minute and a half is enough to get my quads burning- waiting for the kettle to boil (depending on your kettle obviously) should be plenty long enough to get those quads screaming.

Technique: Stand up against a flat wall with your back straight up against it. Slide down to where your thighs and torso make a 90 degree angle. Hold this position for as long as possible. Don’t let your knees pass the edge of your toes. 

Muscles targeted:

  • Quadriceps: these are the muscles on the front side (anterior portion) of your thighs. To palpate, sit down on a chair, place your hand midway down the top of your thigh and extend your lower leg (straighten out your knee). You should feel your quads contract underneath your hand because their primary function in knee extension. The rectus femoris also has a function in flexing the hip, which will be working hard with the other hip flexors during your wall sit. 


  1. Rectus femoris,
  2. Vastus lateralis,
  3. Vastus medialis,
  4. Vastus intermedius


  • Hamstrings: these muscles are located on the back side (posterior portion) of your thighs, and they work opposite your quadriceps to flex your knee and extend your hip. To palpate, stand up, place your hand midway down the back of your thigh and bring your foot slowly up towards your bum. You should feel your hamstrings contract underneath your hand as they are working to flex your knee.
  1. Biceps femoris,
  2. Semitendinosus,
  3. Semimembranosus
  • There is some involvement of the glutes and the calves too, but I will discuss those shortly. 

ImageWall sit exercise

2. Plank- ahh my favorite ab-blaster. 30 seconds of this is plenty long enough to get your abs working (and complaining), but if you’re up for it, go for the kettle boil as well. This ones tough, and depending on how full the kettle is when you’re boiling it, you could feel this one for a day or so.

Technique: Lying down on the ground, prop your body up with your forearms flat on the ground, and your toes on the ground. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders and upper back, down through your back, down your legs to your heels. No arching! Losing the line makes this easier, but keeping the line makes it work so much better!

Muscles  targeted:

  • Rectus abdominis: this is what people think of when they think of abdominal muscles (6 pack abs), even though there are several. It extends from your lower ribs down into your hip area, and it functions to flex the torso. 
  • Stabilizers (not primary targets of the exercise but assist in stabilizing the body during the exercise):
  1. Obliques: abdominal muscles on your sides
  2. Iliopsoas: hip muscles
  3. Tensor fascia latae: muscle that runs down the length of the leg from the hip and turns into a tendon that ends up on the knee
  4. Quadriceps
  5. Sartorius: longest muscle in the body, runs down the inner thigh
  6. Pectoralis major: lower pecs muscles
  7. Serratus anterior: holds your scapula (shoulder blade) against the wall of your chest



3. Calf Raises: these are great exercises for dancers (especially use Irish dancers who seem to spend our lives up on our toes and thus require redonkulous calf muscles) and can be done anytime, anywhere without garnering too much attention. I like to stand with my feet in a turned out position,  because it honestly feels a little weird to stand up on my toes and not have my heels out (my teacher would be so proud!) but feel free to point your toes forward like a normal person. You can either do these by rising onto your toes and holding there or slowly rising and falling for several repetitions.

Technique: If you’re holding the calf raise, all there is to it is to hold it. If you’re performing repetitions, make sure you control your heels coming down, and that you fall just as slowly as you rise. The more control you have, the better the workout. Whatever way you do it, as you get up on your toes, make sure your weight is evenly distributed over all your toes, and that you are not rolling to the outside of your ankle or putting all your weight over the ball of your foot. 

Targeted muscles:

  • Gastrocnemicus: this is your major calf muscle (you could’ve guessed that) and while it functions to flex the knee and extend the ankle, the main function worked by this exercise will be ankle plantar flexion (extension). The names of the motions can get a bit confusing, but this of plantar flexion as you’re planting your toes into the ground as you rise up (thus extending the angle of your ankle). 
  • Soleus: this is also a calf muscle that acts in plantar flexion, but it is not as big of a player as your gastroc.



I know these are all pretty straight forward, and you might have gotten to the end of this post and said “ok tell me somethig I don’t know” or you might have said “what the hell was all that  sciency crap”, and that’s ok. I don’t expect everyone to find this useful, but I do hope that some of you fellow busy bees will take the time to add a few mini workouts into your day while the chicken is cooking or the coffee’s brewing. They’re supposed to be simple- so easy anyone can do them for at least a small amount of time. Just because they are simple, does’t mean they don’t work when done properly though!
As for all the science-y talk- I can’t help that. I am studying sports science so I have spent many hours studying this material. I include it because I believe it is so important to know what you’re working and targeting when doing an exercise. It helps focus your concentration, but also prevent injury. For example, if you’re feeling a stretch or pain somewhere that is not supposed to be targeted by the exercise- stop! (If you feel pain at all, stop. These should work your muscles, not hurt them.) Or, if you have knee problems, you know to be careful with an exercise like a wall sit when it heavily involves muscles that attach to the knees. I also know there are dancers reading this, and if I ran the world, I would make every dancer take an anatomy course to learn the muscles that are using. (Priorities, right?)
If you would like me to make a separate post outlining the major muscles and their functions in layman terms to serve as a reference point for workouts or any other productive cooking posts, I would be delighted too, just leave a comment letting me know! Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I take no credit for the pictures with the exception of the screen shot of my calendar!


2 Responses to “Productive Cooking”

  1. evlracer January 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I totally do second position squats while I dry my hair.

    • callmekate13 January 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Hahaha nice- I’ll have to remember that one!

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