Monica’s Favorite Things {Exercise Edition}

Well, if Oprah has a list of her favorite things, why can’t I? I must admit I never watch Oprah’s favorite things episode because I am jealous that her audience gets all that expensive crap while I sit at home munching on 100 calorie packs WATCHING them get all the cool stuff. It’s like gluttony for materialistic people, and I want no part in that mess. Unless I am in the audience.

Moving on.

This blog is a hodge podge of exercise, recipes, random rants, and DIY/home stuff, so I figured I’ll break up my lists as such. These are all going to be things I already have and love that I thought you might want and love, too. Today’s list of Monica’s Favorite Things is all about gadgets and DVDs that help me stay on track with an exercise routine to make it fun and manageable for me. And none of them will break the bank, promise.

First up is exercise accessories. I’m not all into fancy sports bras or yoga pants- I exercise in my XL t-shirts and sweatpants. But every girl does need a few things up her sleeve (or under) to get the job done.

In 2008, when I started exercising/dieting to fit into my wedding dress because I ordered it 2 sizes too small, I ordered a heart rate monitor. Mostly because I didn’t know if I was exercising hard enough or too hard, and I wanted to keep track of my target heart rate. There are oodles of online calculators, but this is the one I use. As always, consult a doctor before doing this sort of thing because ya never know.

I didn’t have a ton of money to spend, so I spent $30 and ordered this one from Amazon. It only shows the 3 negative reviews right now, but if you click on it while searching, you see the 163+ reviews that make it a 4.5* product. I don’t know why the product page is all wonky, but anyway…


It comes with the watch and the strap that measures your heart rate. The strap is super stretchy so one size does fit all and it is removable so you can wash it. And you’ll wanna wash it, trust me. It goes around your chest- ladies, I put it under the band of my sports bra. As with all HRM chest straps, you gotta wet it a bit on the underside for some reason for it to work properly. I usually use the moisture from my water bottle. The watch is easy to use- it tracks HR, time spent exercising and gives you a summary of your average HR & time at the end of the workout. If you ever jog/walk/run at night, it also does have an indiglo button:


In terms of features, it is very basic, but for me it does what I need it to do- show me my heart rate so I can know if I need to simmer down OR burn it up some more.

I am considering upgrading to a Polar model that can give me a calorie reading, but for now, this works perfectly.

Another thing I absolutely have to have while working out is music. I luckily have an iPhone for this reason, but I don’t want to carry it in my hand nor stick it in my bra or pocket. Therefore, I bought a nifty iPhone holder that goes on my arm. I LOVE THIS THING. It’s made by Marware, and at $10 including shipping, it doesn’t get much better or cheaper than this. Note that the $10 model is for iPhone 1G users. I may be the only person who still has the original iPhone. Hhmm.



It’s quite simple to put together and slip on/off. And once it’s on, it is not moving from your arm- it is SNUG. Also, the iPhone portion is super tight so it is impossible for your iPhone to fall out. But even better, the protective screen on the case allows you to still use the touchscreen, which is fab. As you can also see, the case has little markings where the buttons are to make it easy. Other features are a key pocket so you can slip in your key while doing your workout and it can even become a clip on case. I can’t sing enough praises about this product- it has been worth every cent I have paid. I even used it outdoors one day when it started to rain as I was walking and had no issues whatsoever.


My $3 hot pink ear buds from Wal-Mart. Hubby broke the ones that came with my iPhone, so I grabbed these at the last second during a recent Wal-Mart trip by the checkout lane. They’re not fancy, but they get the job done and you cannot beat the price.


Tweetdeck! If you ever want to avoid a workout, do not tell the people on Twitter because they will tell you to workout. Need motivation to workout? They will do that, too. I have lots of columns in Tweetdeck, but for weight loss cheerleaders, inspiration is just a hashtag away with any of the #SFCFit, #Fitblog and #WeightWatchers tweeps. And Twitter/Tweetdeck= FREE.

Now that I’ve covered my favorite exercise accessories, what are my favorite exercises? The answer is simple- stuff I can do at home. I despise going to the gym because I feel like I need trendy clothes, makeup, a nice hair do, spiffy shoes and honestly, that is just exhausting. And expensive. I don’t have anything against joining a gym, but for me, I prefer to do exercises in my home. The exception would be Zumba or Jazzercise type of classes, because those are not as intimidating as the gym, usually.

I’ve done many a workout DVD in my day…and I have a cult following (in my head, anyway) over on Amazon for a review I did on one of my exercise DVD purchases. Go read it right now. I’ll wait.

Seriously, did you read it? You should.

Last chance.


If you have an exercise on demand TV channel like I do, they are filled with free videos for you to try. That’s how I learned about disco abs, and it is one of my favorite workouts of all time. ALL TIME. This says a lot because I soooo don’t like Cheryl Burke. But she’s motivating and easy to follow in this video series she created so you can have Disco Abs like she does.


If you love dancing and can do some basic steps, this is for you. I have a dance background from Jazzercise, Zumba and general dance stuff while growing up, but if you don’t this might take you a bit longer to catch onto. It is easy though, and like most dance videos, everything is done in sets of 8. Time flies, you can make it high or low impact, and it’s effective. You also can’t beat the price tag for all you get with the set.

The other exercise DVD constantly used in my house for the past EIGHT years is Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away the Pounds. When I first did Weight Watchers back in 2002, I had her VHS tapes in the 1 and 2 mile lengths, and that’s all I did along with counting points to lose my first 20 pounds or so, which took me about 2 months/8 weeks. People look at me like I am looney when I say I do WATP DVDs at home because they always think/say the same thing, “So, you just walk in place?”

Um, no. Yes, but no.

Yes, the main point of the DVD is walking, but it is POWER walking. Add in some knee lifts, kicks, kickbacks, side steps, double side steps, jogging, marching forward/backward and some really fast music and you are EXHAUSTED at the end of the workout. I just got back into the swing of working out & counting points, so this DVD is perfect for a beginner. I also remember that when I got into great shape before my wedding, I’d really pump it up by kicking higher, doing the full 2 minutes of jogging at the end of each mile, etc. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. This is a DVD I firmly believe ANYONE can do- yes, anyone.


You can choose how many miles you want to do. Some days I will do all 5, others just 2 or 3 or maybe a set amount of minutes. Each mile is about 12-13 minutes long and the last 2 minutes of each mile are “boosted walking” AKA- jogging segments. I don’t jog just yet because I am still trying to ease back into exercising. Overall- so versatile and SO AFFORDABLE. You don’t need any fancy bands or equipment- just some walking shoes and a little bit of space. As much as I love Leslie Sansone, I’ve done this DVD probably hundreds of times, so I just mute the DVD and build a playlist that I listen to during the workout. By now I know what is coming up next, so that’s something I don’t need to listen to again and again.

Speaking of playlists, I thought I’d share with you all every Sunday my weekly playlist to listen to during my workouts. My playlist is about 2 hours long, and all songs are available on iTunes.


Yes, I know there’s Christmas music on there. Sue me.

What are some of your favorite things related to exercise? Tell me in the comments, and leave a way for me to find you in case I have more questions!



  1. jen
    November 22, 2010 / 8:49 pm

    I loved your review. I also enjoy you writing style. You keep it real. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Anonymous
    November 23, 2010 / 1:09 am

    I love that your play list is mostly Glee hehe

  3. annie
    November 28, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that marware arm band. When I started reading this post, I thought "I wonder if she knows about the armband?" and wouldn't you know it was the next item. I credit that armband and the Couch to 5K program for getting me into running this year. I started with the Couch to 5K in Feb and ran a half marathon in Sept. Thanks for sharing your playlist!

  4. Brittany
    January 1, 2011 / 8:15 pm

    I'm totally on your tweet deck!!! YAY!