Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall 2014 Workout Jams + Benefits of Group Fitness

Listening to music while working out is SUCH a treat these days. Let's just say armbands, headphones and Spotify are no bueno while working out with the Ranger Challenge team. 

Needless to say, it's been months since I created a new playlist for the gym. The one below is a mash-up of my current favorite songs.

Fall 2014 Workout Jams from Hungry Gator Gal

Spotify playlist:

Follow me (Brianna Kolota) on Spotify if you like what you're hearing.

I'm not going to lie and say working out without music is easy. Learning how to run four miles with only my own thoughts was difficult at first. . . especially when I was thinking about how much I dislike running. HA!

But you know what? I've learned that I don't need music. I have my teammates, their words of encouragement and the inner motivation to push through the last mile, the last rep, etc. 

If you're a regular reader, you know I'm a longtime fan of group fitness, and Ranger Challenge is no exception. The workouts are never easy, but my teammates and I bond in our pain and constant endeavor to become faster, stronger and smarter.

The good news is that you don't have to be in the Army to reap the benefits of group fitness. Check out a class at your local gym. Find a CrossFit box or boot camp club. Find or start a running club. Join a local club sport or intramural league.

The key is to find a group of people who are in similar shape or slightly better shape than you, whatever that may be. They'll push you to improve, and you'll probably make friends in the process. You might even build teamwork skills that are transferable to other parts of your life (i.e. your job).

Sounds like a win-win situation to me. What do you think?

Note: If you need help finding fitness clubs or group workouts, check out apps like peerFit and SweatGuru. They'll help you "try before you buy." You'll pay for individual classes or a pass to try a bunch of different classes before deciding to commit to one single gym. You can also check the group fitness schedule at your local gym. Most gyms will let you try the first class for free.


  1. Are you a fan of group fitness? If so, why?
  2. If you're a fan of group fitness, what's your favorite class? (I'm always looking to try new formats!) 

Related HGG Posts:

August Workout Jams

August Workout Jams from Hungry Gator Gal (An @spotify playlist)

Pumping Iron Playlist

Pumping Iron Playlist from Hungry Gator Gal (an @spotify playlist)

Yoga Workout Playlist


Thursday, October 9, 2014

10 Things I've Learned as a New Runner

New to running? Me too! Here's what I've learned in my first six weeks of truly pursuing my goal of becoming a "runner."

10 Things I've Learned as a New Runner from Hungry Gator Gal

1. Check your form!

Go to a running store or find a running coach who will videotape you while you're running to check your form. I went to Fit2Run in Gainesville and completed an assessment for FREE. Other stores also offer the service at little or no cost.

I discovered I'm a heel striker during the assessment, so I've been walking around on the balls of my feet and my toes for weeks to change the way I walk and run. My calves hurt like hell, but I don't feel pain in my shins anymore. I did a simple search online and found these tips on running form.

2. Buy new running shoes, if necessary. 

Women's Nike Zoom Pegasus 31 Shoes on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

If you receive an running assessment, the store associate will likely tell you what type of runner you are (i.e. under pronator, over pronator, neutral). The associate will then suggest specific brands and types of shoes that fit your stride.

Trust me when I say that the correct shoes will prevent injuries. I'm a neutral runner and recently bought the pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31s you can see above, which make it feel like I'm running on clouds, no joke.

No shin splints = a happy Brianna.

For my male readers, check out the same pair of Nike shoes below, which my brother bought in a different color. Each pair cost about $100.

Men's Nike Zoom Pegasus 31 Shoes on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota


Nalgene Wide Mouth 32-Ounce Water Bottle on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Drink water all day, every day. Keep a water bottle at your side at all times. Challenge yourself to drink a liter every 60-90 minutes. I drink at least four full bottles of water from my 32-ounce Wide Mouth Nalgene every day and often more. That's 128 ounces or nearly 4 liters for you math wizards.

Hydrating properly before and after a run is especially important if you live in a more humid climate like Florida, even if you run in the mornings when it's not as hot outside.

How do you know if you're drinking enough water? Let me show you this lovely pee color chart . . .

4. Mind over matter.


The struggle is real . . . but, it's more mental than physical.

I had never run more than 2 miles without stopping prior to joining the Army ROTC program. Now, I regularly run 4 miles at a decent pace without stopping. I'm not the fastest of the bunch, but I push my personal limits with each run.

To ensure I don't give up, I usually pick a mantra and repeat it to keep myself going. I can't wear headphones or listen to music when I'm working out for ROTC, so I usually repeat something like, "The faster you run, the faster it's done!"

5. Make "pre-hab" a priority.


Photo by Brianna Kolota

Do dynamic stretches before running and static stretches afterward. Go to yoga at least once a week. Foam roll. In other words, do something now to save yourself from an injury, subsequent rehabilitation and time off from all exercise.

Here's my favorite warm-up, the ultimate static stretch for hip flexors and quads, and my favorite  yoga stretches.

6. Don't forget about strength training.

If you run, run, run all the time without taking time to build muscle, you won't become stronger or faster. Aside from running with ROTC, I complete two strictly strength workouts on my own each week.

I've been digging "One-Set-to-Failure" workouts lately because they're challenging and time-efficient. Check out my weekly workout log to see what I'm talking about.

7. You are what you eat.

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps photo by Brianna Kolota

If you eat crap prior to a run, you'll probably feel like crap. In other words, put down the fried foods, pizza, candy, etc. and go eat your veggies and lean meat.

And even if you eat relatively healthy, make sure you're not eating too much fat. More than once, I've made the mistake of eating too much "good" fat (i.e. nuts, avocados) the night before a cardio-intense 5:30 or 6 a.m. workout. And guess what? I was as slow as molasses.

You can eat fat before a run. It's your choice. However, I realized I need more carbs, less fat, and a moderate amount of protein to perform my best. If I have a physical training test in the morning, I like to do a moderate "carb load" at dinner the night before with fruit, starchy veggies and occasionally some whole-wheat cereal, pasta, bread or crackers.

8. Track your progress.

Photo by Brianna Kolota

I bought this $15-Casio watch at Walmart to time my runs. It's the cheapest watch I've ever bought, but I LOVE it. It's waterproof, easy-to-operate and has a 24-hour clock for military time.

9. Don't think every run has to be better than your last.

Some days you might not be "feeling it." Don't give up and go home on those days, but make the most of what you can do if you're not in the "running groove."

Case in point: I could tell during the first lap of my first Army Physical Fitness Test this semester that it wasn't going to be my best run. My legs were stiff. My hips were tight. I didn't get enough sleep the night before. I was nervous. But you know what? I made the most of it and told myself the next test would be better.

10. REST.

I couldn't resist the seal photo. . .

First, sleep at least 7 hours every night. And if you can't sleep for at least 7 hours, try modifying your sleep schedule. You don't want to feel exhausted before you even start running.

Secondly, take FULL days off. Don't run every day and overdo it. This concept sounds easy, but it's easy to forget if you like to exercise.

The amount of time you need to recover is personal. I typically take two or three days off from all strenuous physical activity each week. I also have one day where I walk a lot and/or practice yoga. <---More to come on the "less-is-more" approach in a later post.

When you take rest days, enjoy them. Be productive. I usually knock out a bunch of homework on rest days and sometimes even sit on my butt for a few hours to watch "JAG" or "How to Get Away with Murder." I thoroughly enjoy the laziness, and you should too.

Side notes:
  1. Yes, I hope to join Army JAG after law school; and 
  2. "How to Get Away with Murder" is incredibly unrealistic in terms of what I've experienced in law school, especially in my criminal law class. 


Photo by Brianna Kolota

After six weeks, I can say I still don't love running. If given the choice, I prefer to cycle, hike, interval train without running, etc. However, becoming a better runner currently tops my "fitness bucket list" in terms of ways I want to keep challenging myself physically and mentally.

So if you're new to running like me, please don't give up! Learn from my tips and mistakes. That's why I'm sharing them. Secondly, if you're a seasoned runner, please offer your advice by leaving a comment on this post. Sharing = knowledge.

Also feel free to email me at or reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter or Google +  if you have questions about running or anything really. I LOVE talking with readers.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day! :)

Related HGG Posts:

Tips for Setting Realistic Fitness Goals

This Hungry Gator Gal's Post-Grad Plans

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Best Treadmill Workout for Killer Legs

Monday, September 1, 2014

Favorite Nike Training Club App Workouts

I really should have named this post "Long workouts? Ain't nobody got time for that."

But really. The following Nike Training Club (NTC) app workouts are my favorite way to squeeze in a quick, efficient workout when I'm crunched for time, which is basically every day of my life now with law school and the Army ROTC program.

I do cardio with ROTC in the early morning hours three times per week, so I don't have to condition on my own. However, finding time to strength train and stretch has been a bit more challenging with back-to-back classes and other engagements every day.

Given the time crunch, I've been super setting basic lifts for a total body workout or completing one or two of the following 15-minute NTC workouts. Each workout below focuses on upper body, lower body, core work or stretching with exception to Hope Solo's Unbeatable Workout. This workout is more of a total body conditioning workout with core work mixed in.

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

Screenshot by Brianna Kolota

All workouts are completed circuit style for time, which means you complete one exercise for a minute or so and then move to the next without resting. The timer on the app shows you how to complete each exercise and signals when it's time to move on to the next. However, you can always pause the timer if you need to rest or drink water.

In other words, the NTC app is like having a FREE personal trainer. Not to mention, you pick the weights used, if you need any. For example, if I have one minute of rows, I can choose to go heavy with a low number of reps, or I can choose lighter weights and go for more reps. It's totally up to you.

So the next time you don't think you have the time, just download the NTC app on your phone and complete one of the workouts. You don't need to spend hours in the gym every day to see results.

I actually receive a lot of questions about how much time I spend in the gym, so I plan to talk more about my success with the more-for-less approach to getting stronger, faster, etc.

Until then . . .  :)


  1. Do you use the Nike Training Club (NTC) App?
  2. What other fitness apps do you use? <---Please leave suggestions! I'm always looking for new apps that make working out fun and/or easier.

Related HGG Posts:

Food and Fitness Finds for the New Year

Friday's Favorites: My Life Lately + Where I'm Going to Law School


Best Yoga Stretches for Stress Relief

From the Keep Calm-O-Matic

Monday, August 18, 2014

South of the Border Turkey Meatloaf (Gluten- and Grain-Free; Paleo Recipe)

As much as I like trying new flavors, I could eat and drink certain things every day without tiring of them.

I like what I like, and sometimes it's just easier to run on autopilot in terms of making meals. Why reinvent the wheel? Does anyone else agree?

Anyhoo, I've been feeling less-than-inspired this past month, which has translated into me living on the staples: salsa, hummus, carrots, dark chocolate, deli meat and nut butter. <--- I just typed "butt nutter" on accident. LOL.

Luckily, a last-minute Sunday meal prep inspired me to take the usual suspects and combine them to make a FANTASTIC new main dish: South of the Border Turkey Meatloaf.

South of the Border Turkey Meatloaf (Gluten- and Grain-Free; Paleo friendly recipe) from Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Seriously. This meatloaf is delish. I'm eating it as I finish typing this post.

South of the Border Turkey Meatloaf (Gluten- and Grain-Free; Paleo friendly recipe) from Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota 

If you're a fan of making tex mex meals, you probably have all the ingredients to bake this incredibly flavorful, somewhat spicy meatloaf. It takes about 2 minutes to prepare and an hour to cook.

Tip: Feel free to bake sweet potatoes in the oven or make a tray of roasted broccoli while the meatloaf is cooking. When I can remember, I bake everything at once during the week to save my apartment from the heat of the oven. Let's not make the air conditioning bill higher than it needs to be.

If you're cooking for one, this meatloaf makes about four servings. If you bake the broccoli and sweet potatoes, just add them to a Tupperware container with a slice or two of meatloaf. Just like that, you're good-to-go for lunch tomorrow.

Easy leftover lunch from Hungry Gator Gal: south of the border turkey meatloaf, roasted broccoli, and a chickpeas/diced tomato mixture topped with red wine vinegar and Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute.

In photo by Brianna Kolota: meatloaf, roasted broccoli, and a chickpeas/diced tomato mixture topped with red wine vinegar and Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute.  

You'll find the recipe below. Let me know what you think if you try it! Did I mention it's gluten- and grain-free? You're welcome, my paleo friends. :)

South of the Border Turkey Meatloaf (Gluten- and Grain-Free; Paleo Recipe)

Makes four servings

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Total Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour


  • 1/3 cup restaurant style salsa (The more liquid, soupy kind)
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey (I used the 93/7 variety.)
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced bell peppers
  • 2 egg whites (1/3 cup)  


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Spray a bread/loaf pan with cooking spray or spread some oil in the pan.
  4. Add meat mixture to pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  5. Bake for 1 hour.
  6. Optional: Wrap some sweet potatoes in foil and/or make a large tray of roasted broccoli to eat on the side and/or with leftovers during the week.

Related HGG Posts:

Spicy Salsa Meatloaf

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Salsa Ranch Tuna Salad (mayo-free; made with Bolthouse Farms yogurt dressing)

Salsa Ranch Tuna Salad (mayo-free; made with @BolthouseFarms yogurt dressing)

Monday, August 11, 2014

August Workout Jams (Spotify playlist included)

This workout playlist is ALL over the place in terms of the different genres included. Seriously. It's like musical chairs, which is sort of how my life has been lately.

August Workout Jams from Hungry Gator Gal (An @spotify playlist)

Spotify playlist:

In the past two weeks, I've slept in SEVEN different beds. I was in New York babysitting my cousins for a month. Then my family came up for vacation, and we bed-hopped all over the state as we visited different family members.

And in true vacation fashion, I barely did anything online, given that WiFi service was spotty or non-existent in some of the places we visited. I was too busy enjoying summer food, hiking, and views like this with family. . .

Lake George, NY

Photo of Lake George, NY by Brianna Kolota

Beef and chicken sliders

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Trail hiking in upstate New York

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Cousin Love

Photo by Carole Berg

Kolota Cousins Pyramid

Photo by Carole Berg 

I had SO much fun this summer, but I am kaput. I wanted nothing more than to sleep and do absolutely nothing by the time my birthday rolled around Friday, but I managed to visit Orange Theory Fitness for an AMAZING one-hour workout with my BFF from high school.

This Orange 60 session was our first, so it was free. I didn't take photos, but I highly recommend checking it out if you want to get your butt kicked. I push myself pretty hard in the gym, but this class left me feeling sore ALL over.


As this post goes live, I'm unpacking in my apartment, grocery shopping and just getting ready in general for my first day at UF Law Tuesday. Given the madness of orientation and my first classes, I'll keep the weekly workout log updated, but my actual posts might be few and far between for a month or so. I just need time to figure out a new blogging schedule.

Until next time, stay classy.

Brianna :)

P.S. For more playlists like this one, follow me on Spotify. It's free, but you can also pay for a premium version that doesn't include advertisements. You can also save your playlists to listen offline with the premium version.

You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google + if you click on the social media icons in the top right-hand sidebar.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Upper Body Drop Set Circuit Workout

If you're new to weight training, this upper body workout might not be for you. However, if you're a seasoned lifter who's ready to shake up your routine, get ready because this advanced workout is KILLER.

This challenging, high intensity plan combines circuit training and drop sets to leave you completely and utterly exhausted by the final rep of each exercise.

Circuits allow you to work on aerobic conditioning while the moderately heavy sets allow you to work on increasing strength. The lighter drop sets help you improve your muscular endurance.

In other words, you're getting more bang for your workout buck. 
Upper Body Drop Set Circuit Workout from

Video demonstrations for the exercises:

When I train hard in the gym, I train HARD. I'm talking about the let's-make-sure-I-can't-lift-anything-tomorrow type of hard.

Now you may be thinking, "Don't you work out five or six days per week? How can you go hard all the time?'

Well, the truth is that I don't go full throttle every day because I don't want to over train. I like a mix of hard, moderately hard and easier workouts, which you'll see if you check out my weekly workout log.

Although this opinion is based purely on personal experience, I don't suggest you complete a workout like this one more than twice per week. You'll end up doing more harm than good because you won't have enough time to recover, especially if you work out more than three times per week.

With that said, I encourage you to try this workout if you're a fitness veteran who's stuck in a rut or if you're looking to increase strength and improve your muscular endurance at the same time. This workout is a doozy, but it will leave you feeling SUPER accomplished.

Let me know if you give it a try. :) 


  1. Do you incorporate circuit training and/or drop sets into your workout routine? If so, many times per week?

Helpful articles about circuit training and drop sets:

What Is Circuit Training?

What are the Costs and Benefits of Circuit Training?

Definition of Drop Sets in Weight Training

Creative Drop Setting

Related HGG Workouts:

Total Body Burnout Circuit Workout

Total Body Burnout Circuit Workout from Hungry Gator Gal

Push + Pull Upper Body Circuit Workout 

Push and Pull Upper Body Circuit Workout from Hungry Gator Gal 

Upper Body + Abs Circuit Workout 

Upper Body + Abs Circuit Workout from

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Going Grain-Free + Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

You probably didn't notice, but I've been posting fewer recipes with grains. Why? Because I've slowly cut all grains, even the whole ones, from my diet in the past few months.

You might ask, "Why would you do that? Whole grains are good for you! They provide your body with fiber and other nutrients." 

Trust me. I used to think the same thing. However, in he past six months or so, grains have been causing me more trouble than good. 

After paying attention to how I felt after eating certain foods, I realized the extremely "full" feeling I had after eating grains probably wasn't normal. I basically looked like I was pregnant even though I DEFINITELY wasn't.

After realizing this about six months ago, I started to slowly reduce my grains intake. Then, I just stopped eating grains altogether one day in the beginning of June. And you know what? I feel GREAT. 

I haven't experienced bloating, tiredness after eating, feelings of being hangry or cravings for sweets. Not to mention, my energy is pretty high all day. The few times I've eaten the number of grains I used to eat in one day, my stomach blew up like a balloon, and I just felt generally uncomfortable.

Although I never intended to go completely grain free, I did, and I've stuck with it for about six weeks. It's not for everyone, but it's working for me.

No, I'm not following a Paleo or low-carb diet. I still eat dairy (a no-no for Paleo) and carbs in the form of starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and fruit, especially after super tough workouts. Once every week or so, I'll have a sandwich made with sprouted grain bread, but most days I don't eat wheat, oats, rice, etc.

I'm not going to lie. It was HARD and took time to adjust to a grain-free diet since I basically lived on grains my entire life up to this point. However, I feel 1000 times better without grains, and the change gave me the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen, which is how the recipe for these Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps was born.

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Hungry Gator Gal (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

If you like spicy Cajun food and Jimmy John's "unwich," you'll LOVE these wraps.

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Hungry Gator Gal (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

Who needs grainy bread when you've got crispy, crunchy lettuce? Yay for leafy greens!

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Hungry Gator Gal (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

Let's not forget about the generous drizzle of cool, creamy Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing on top (a.k.a. one of my favorite dressings on this planet).

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Hungry Gator Gal (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)
I made this meal for lunch one day and added bell pepper slices on the side for some extra crunch and because I'm eating A LOT more veggies because I'm not eating grains. You could also add a few chunks of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Cabot makes my favorite.

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps from Hungry Gator Gal (grain-free, low-carb, drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

Let me know if you give the recipe below a try. It's perfect for an easy dinner and makes for tasty leftovers the next day for lunch . . . if you have leftovers ;). 

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps (grain-free, low-carb,  drizzled with Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Serves four people

Difficulty: Easy



  • 1.5 pounds lean ground turkey (I buy the 93/7 variety.)
  • 1/3 cup your favorite barbecue sauce (I used Stubb's Original.)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (Try to find a salt-free version, if possible.)
  • 1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • Two large leaves of romaine lettuce
  • 2-4 tablespoons Bolthouse Farms Honey Mustard Yogurt Dressing
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for cooking the turkey)


  1. Combine ground turkey, BBQ sauce, mustard, onion and all of the seasonings in a large bowl. Stir until well-combined, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the flavors "sink in."
  2. After 30 minutes, heat oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
  3. Add turkey to the skillet and cook until light brown (about 15-20 minutes). Stir the turkey every few minutes until it's finished cooking.
  4. Wash your lettuce and place each leaf on a plate to make "boats."
  5. Add a spoonful or two of turkey to each lettuce "boat."
  6. Add a handful of green onions to each lettuce "boat."
  7. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of the dressing on top of each wrap.
  8. Serve with cheddar cheese and extra veggies, if desired.


  1. Do you eat grain-free? Why or why not?

Helpful/ interesting articles about going grain free:


Related HGG Recipes:

Tomato Basil Turkey Burgers

Tomato Basil Turkey Burgers from Hungry Gator Gal

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Spicy Salsa Meatloaf