A few months ago…I started a new class at my gym called BOSU Challenge. It quickly became a favorite.


No. Scratch that.


It’s become my OBSESSION!

(Seriously, my boyfriend bought me my own BOSU ball as a gift).


For those of you unfamiliar with a BOSU, it is the funky looking piece of gym equipment that resembles half of a yoga ball you’ll find stacked in the corner of most fitness centers. If you haven’t heard of a BOSU (or just haven’t paid much attention to the stack of them at your gym), my suggestion is to fix this immediately.

Ask a trainer, take a class, YouTube some exercises. Do SOMETHING. You’ve GOT to try it!

I have started noticing my body was getting fitter and firmer in all the right places after only a few classes. And you know what…it’s made me feel so much more confident and strong inside and out!

Yesterday, I took a class at the Boston Center for Adult Education (a great non-profit adult education center where you can sign up to take a fun class on anything from cake decorating and cocktail making, to learning a language and designing a website). I’m a big nerd and LOVE school (I’m currently trying to find a way to go back for my Master’s– fingers crossed) so when I found out there was a one time, all-day writing class being taught by all the top Boston magazine editors…I was SO in (a full post about my whole day at the BCAE is coming soon!).

One of the classes I signed up for was ”Health and Beauty Writing.”

PERFECT, right?!

Anne Vickman (Associate Editor and Weddings Editor for Boston Magazine) taught the class and gave our group a bunch of fabulous tips on how to make it in the writing world. She then had us spend 45 minutes writing an article that could potentially be printed in Boston Magazine’s “This is Just a Test” section, which highlights new health, beauty, or lifestyle trend worth testing out that’s relevant to the Boston area. Immediately, I KNEW I had to talk about BOSU.

So, I thought I’d use this post to share the article I submitted at the end of my class. It recounts my first day of BOSU Challenge. I hope you like it! Also, please feel free to offer any feedback, I’d really appreciate it!

And seriously…go buy a BOSU ball or just join Healthworks. It’s SO worth it!


Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle


This is Just a Test: Get Bikini Body Ready with BOSU

A crowd of determined women of all ages begins squeezing into the main fitness studio at the Healthworks Fitness Center, Cambridge. Immediately, everyone starts scrambling to stake out the prime spots in the class, marking their territory with blue BOSU Balls, yoga mats, and various sized free-weights.

For those of you unfamiliar with a BOSU, it is the funky looking piece of gym equipment that resembles half of a yoga ball you’ll find stacked in the corner of most fitness centers. It is most fitting then that the hour-long class the women (including myself) are waiting for is called BOSU Challenge, a favorite among Healthworks members. This is quite evident given the fact that class is already filled past capacity and it hasn’t even begun yet.

Yeah, it’s just THAT good.

To give a little bit of background, the BOSU Balance Trainer was invented by David Weck in 2000, and since then, it has become an increasingly popular piece of gym equipment given its ability to intensify cardio, target multiple parts of the body at once, and more importantly, obtain GREAT results.

According to the official BOSU website, the word “BOSU” originally stood for “Both sides up,” since it can be used on either side, the platform or the dome. Over time its meaning has been altered to stand for “Both sides utilized” as a way to showcase its versatility compared to more traditional training.

Training with the BOSU ball facilitates functional balance training, which “encompasses an evolved performance approach that involves the whole body” and requires some degree of motion and stabilization the entire time. Bosu Challenge does just this, and incorporates a variety of high-intensity drills, cardio combinations, and strength training moves using the Bosu ball, free weights, and yoga mats. Each move requires you to engage your core and focus on balance, thus giving you the perfect all-over, summer-body workout.

While still waiting for class to start, each additional woman walking into the room is immediately hawk-eyed by the rest of the group. No doubt they are attempting to inconspicuously search her hands for the class’s coveted “golden ticket.” This ticket means she has signed up for the popular class well in advance, thus confirming her entrance. Even so, this doesn’t keep some people from trying sneak in to one of these already crowded classes sans-ticket. Class-goers and instructors alike frown upon this practice.

To secure a spot for BOSU Challenge, taught by the infamous “Sean” at Healthworks gyms across the Boston area, you had better sign up at least 24-hours in advance. To gain entry into this particular Saturday morning class, I was forced to set my alarm for 1:00 a.m. on Friday morning and sign up on the Healthworks website.

At exactly 11 a.m., and Sean comes strolling into the studio wearing a black warm-up suit and matching black sneakers with bright yellow bottoms.  He looks like a much larger, much more solid, much more intense version of Billy Blanks, but something about him is kind and sweet, in a “big-teddy-bear” kind of way.

Some of the women in the front row (who have already been warming up with squats and lunges) greet Sean with high-fives. I can tell just by looking at them that they’re the class regulars. They’re in great shape, and I wonder if they have Bosu Challenge to thank.

Sean pumps up the high-energy music (some of the best work-out remixes I’ve ever heard) and turns to smile at the class

“Okay guys! Get movin’!” he shouts as he demonstrates running on and off the Bosu.

After a quick warm-up, he gets right into the routine.  The next thing I know we’re doing mountain climbers, laterals, planks, leg-lifts, push-ups, burpees, squats, lunges, bicep curls, shoulder presses, and jumping jacks without stopping to rest in between.

Only 15 minutes have gone by and I’m already dripping with sweat.

The rest of the class is just as intense. During our last set of leg lifts on the Bosu, I am almost ready to give up as I desperately try to maintain my balance using my left knee while extending my right leg out to the side. I’m shaking uncontrollably when a smiling Sean comes up beside me, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “Great job, you’ve got this!”

I peak around the room and see all the other women in class shaking, grimacing in pain too. But none of them are giving up. I pull it together and make myself push through the pain threshold until I hear “3, 2, 1! You’re done! Great job guys!”

There is no doubt I’m more exhausted than I’ve ever been before after a fitness class, but it’s the BEST kind of exhaustion to feel. It’s the feeling you get when you know you’ve given everything, and not an ounce less.  I have no doubt in my mind that taking this class every week will make your muscles stronger, your body more fit, and your trouble spots firmer just in time for bikini season. After all, I feel like my backside has risen two inches already, and that’s just after completing one class!

No wonder those women in the front look so great. They keep coming back for more!

BBQ Tofu, Fat-Free Cornbread, & Broccoli Slaw

Sundays and Summer

Do you have a favorite Sunday dinner?

When I was growing up, my family rarely had the opportunity sit down together for a meal during the week. Between after school activities, dance classes, track practices, and homework…we were lucky to eat something while even sitting at all! The only exception to this hectic routine was Sunday nights, when my dad would spend the day cooking a big meal and we would all sit down to eat together as a family.

I have to admit, my dad is a pretty amazing cook. Give him a handful of ingredients (any ingredients!) and he’ll whip up a gourmet meal in no time. Actually, that’s a lie. He would spend the WHOLE DAY taking his time to perfect a recipe…and though waiting was the hardest part, it would always be worth it in the end.

One of these gourmet meals that seemed simple but took FOREVER was Sunday spaghetti. The secret was his simmer-all-day-long, made-from-scratch pasta sauce with a *special ingredient.* Sorry, I can’t tell you what it is!

My dad would begin prepping in the morning and wouldn’t finish cooking until dinner was ready to go on the table that night. Normally, my dad would make the sauce with ground beef, but once I declared myself a vegetarian, he’d set aside a small pot of meat-free sauce just for me. Sometimes he would use the same sauce to make eggplant parmesan…one of my favorite vegetarian (non-vegan friendly) meals before giving up cheese!

It’s been a long time since my family has had one of those Sunday night dinners, but my boyfriend reminded me of them when he spent all day today making his favorite Sunday comfort food– spaghetti and meatballs. I was getting sick of my run of the mill Sunday night salads, so I decided to change it up a bit by putting a healthy spin on another popular type of comfort food…BARBEQUE!

I rarely use the conventional oven to cook my meals, especially on a weekend. Funny, I know. Here I am writing a recipe blog and I hardly use the most important cooking appliance in my kitchen to make myself dinner!  But honestly,  I’m usually so wiped out from going to the gym, running errands, cleaning, testing recipes, and baking healthy treats…that by the time the dinner hour rolls around, I’d rather throw some lettuce in a bowl and call it a day. But today…the boyfriend inspired me. I’ve decided to try something new.

I’ve been itching to wear my new, gold Gap flip-flops but it was rather chilly today in Boston. The sandals will have to wait another day, but who says I can’t eat like it’s summer right now? When I think summer, I think BBQ. I think about summers at the family’s beach house, corn on the cob, campfires, and grilling.

I knew JUST what to whip up– Extra Crispy BBQ tofu, ahhh-maaazing, fat-free, country cornbread, and a side of summer slaw.

Can you hear the summer peepers in the trees and the crackling of the campfire yet?

Believe me…after this meal you’ll be ready to make some Sm’ores (recipe coming soon!)


Extra Crispy BBQ Tofu & Summer Slaw: A high-protein, low-fat, twist on a summer favorite!

Serves 2


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 °
  • Take the tofu out of the package and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap tofu in a couple sheets of paper towels, set on a plate and put another heavy plate on top of it as if you are making a tofu/plate sandwich. This will help get any excess moisture out of the tofu before cooking.
  • Put about 1/2 cup BBQ sauce in a small bowl. Do the same with breadcrumbs. (You will probably need more of each but start with this for now.)
  • Put tinfoil on a cookie sheet and spritz with all-natural cooking spray.
  • Unwrap the tofu and slice it into 7 pieces (you can cut it thicker or thinner depending upon how crispy/soft you want it to be).
  • Sprinkle the tofu with garlic powder and onion powder.
  • Take you first piece of tofu and dip it in the BBQ sauce, making sure the entire piece is coated.
  • Dip your BBQ tofu in the breadcrumbs and place it on your cookie sheet. Again, make sure all sides are breaded!
  • Continue coating and breading the remaining tofu slices.
  • Place your cookie sheet/tofu in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (flip half way through). I like my tofu EXTRA crispy, so if you prefer softer tofu, just don’t keep it in as long.
  • Drizzle some more BBQ sauce (or even all-naural ketchup!) on top for an extra kick!
Summer Slaw:
  • 2-3 cups of broccoli slaw (I use the Trader Joe’s kind)
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of hot & sweet mustard (I couldn’t find a link, but I love the Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 heaping spoonful whole grain Dijon mustard  (I like the Trader Joe’s kind)
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • Splash of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I usually omit the salt, but feel free to add it in)


Ahhhh-Mazzzzing Fat-Free Country Cornbread: Sweet and savory…without the guilt or gluten!

I'm sooo sweet....and FAT FREE!

Dry ingredients:

Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons of apple sauce
  • one 15 oz. can of unsalted corn (leave 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top)
  • Pre-heat oven to 430°
  • Spray an 8×8 pan with all-natural cooking spray
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well
  • Blend all the wet ingredients together (I used a magic bullet to blend mine because I didn’t want my cornbread to have whole bits of corn in it, but I am sure it would taste great either way).
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with remaining corn.
  • Bake for  30- 35 minutes or until sides begin to separate from pan. The top should begin to crack and look slightly dry
Now the hard part…
Wait 15 minutes or so until it the cornbread is slightly cooled. Cut into squares, add a smear of Earth Balance if you’re feeling crazy and want to pretend you’re at a backyard BBQ :)


Let’s chat!

Did your family have sit-down dinners together every night? What’s your favorite summer comfort food? Aside from BBQ-style food, I’d have to say my favorite summer food isn’t exactly a meal…but more like a snack. To me, there’s nothing more summery than eating Bing cherries on the beach! The fact that you can easily wash your hands off in the water is even better, because those babies are messy and extra juicy :)
Healthfully yours,
Ashley Michelle