Guest Post! A Fitness 2013 Highlight

Hi friends!  Today one of my April Arms Challenge participants, Gillian, has offered to share her experience with all of you!  Enjoy!

A Fitness 2013 Highlight:  Athena’s April Arms Challenge

Last month I had the pleasure of participating in the April Arms Challenge from Athena at Fitness & Feta, that I sourced via Healthy Living Blogs.  I can’t tell you how great it is to be connected with so many great health and fitness related communities.

Healthy Living Blogs

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as this was my first time coming into contact with Athena, but I was in for a very welcome surprise.  First, I loved the way the challenge was organized, before each week we were provided with a Google document containing a week’s worth of daily workouts.  Each workout was designed to challenge the various muscle groups of our upper body and to cater for the differing levels of fitness of the participants.  There was the standard exercise and then options to make it more challenging or easier.  For the exercises requiring equipment, there was also the option of using household items like canned food, etc. to increase the resistance.

April Arms Challenge Example

Although the focus of this challenge was our upper body, we also had exercises which worked our other muscles too.  This was great as we cannot spot train – there is no guarantee where our body will decide to tone first.  Another area that Athena’s challenge introduced was some of the various training methods that can be used in your workouts, with explanations on how they work.  So our challenge for the day could be supersets, Tabata, circuits, etc.  This was good for me as although I feel my workouts are quite varied, there is still scope to use some other techniques to maximize on my workouts.

An important area of training is tracking your progress.  Athena covered this by providing a tracking spreadsheet for each week where we could mark off completing the exercise, weight used, number of reps, and anything else we wanted to comment on.  Also, each week the exercises progressed from the previous week to help us push ourselves and improve our fitness levels.


Last but not least, there were prizes.  All participants who completed 20 days of the challenge were entered into the prize draw.  So a win win – you get daily workouts, you get to increase your fitness levels and tone up, and you could potentially win a prize too.

So how did I fare, as you can probably tell I loved the challenge.  It appealed to my need to keep the variety in my workouts, and it was a great addition to my existing workout regime.  I completed every workout, although I saved the last circuit workout to the weekend after the challenge completed due to time constraints.  Will I be using the exercises in my own training, definitely!  Would I sign up for another of Athena’s challenge, a resounding yes!  Don’t just take my word for it, connect with Athena that way you can join in next time too.


Gillian Stephen is a fitness and nutrition coach, and also a mother of two (a one-year old and a four-year old) that keep her very busy.  The main areas that she focuses on are weight loss and pre and post natal.  The latter certification was brought about by her own pregnancies when she realized the importance of her own diet and fitness through pregnancy and post natal, to regain her shape and prior fitness levels.  She supports individuals by helping them put together a strategy for weight loss.  It incorporates making better food choices and fitting exercise into their busy schedules, such that they lose the weight and keep it off – a true lifestyle change.

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Thank you, Gillian, for your guest post and your wonderful words about the April Arms Challenge!  You were a wonderful participant!

Quick and Easy Appetizer: Spanakopita Bites

New recipe post for you guys!

For Greek Easter, Uncle Chris asked me to bring an appetizer.  In a recent Friday Favorites post, I linked to this recipe and said I knew what I was going to do with the extra Athens phyllo dough just hanging out in my freezer.  Stumbling upon this recipe was definitely timely!

spanakopita bitesSpanakopita Bites


  • Frozen phyllo cups (two 15 count packages from Athens)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 6 ounces feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Place phyllo cups on 2 baking sheets and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, then sauté about 5 minutes.
  5. Add garlic, sauté for 30 more seconds, then transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool slightly.
  6. Add spinach, feta cheese, parsley, nutmeg, and egg (whisked) – then stir to combine.
  7. Spoon mixture into phyllo cups, then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cups are golden brown around the edges.
  8. Feast!

Spanakopita bites 2I knew the fam would gobble these right up.  If you need a quick and easy app to bring to a party, this is it!

–Let’s chat–
What’s your favorite “quick and easy” appetizer? Any traditional favorites (like spanakopita) that you’ve discovered an easier version of making?

Today is the first session of our new Stress Less seminar at work as part of the wellness program. I’ve put a ton of work into this presentation… wish me luck!