Focus Friday

You’ve almost made it. The weekend is in sight. You can see the relaxation time with friends and family. Catching up on your favorite TV shows and watching football and basketball all weekend. Before you kick the shoes off and slip into sweatpants, get one more workout in!

Never Lose Focus. Keep that Animal Mentality. You have the chance to end the week on a high note and crush one more workout! By staying focused and finishing the week strong, you will have earned that massive feeling of accomplishment and know you deserve the relaxation time.

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5 Best Meal Prep Apps to help you reach your health goals

The biggest struggle and hurdle when it comes to getting fit and being healthy is staying on top of your nutrition. You will notice that the easy parts of getting fit and being healthy are the workouts and routines you get into. You can plan out and stick to your daily workouts and map all your workout routines, but still not see the results you want. This is because nutrition plays a massive part in fitness and health. If you are not fueling your body properly, your workouts could be pointless. The hardest part about nutrition and sticking to a plan is the easy of access of junk food. No matter where you go or where you work, it will almost always be easy to find junk food. The office break room will oftentimes be the downfall of your new year resolution. This is where meal prepping comes in handy.

meal prep

I’m sure you have heard about meal prepping now that you are focusing on being healthy and fit. Every blog, book, article you read will hint at how eating healthy is probably the most important part of losing weight and being healthy. Meal prepping is when you cook a large portion of your meals for the week at one time. This is so that you have healthy food options you can take wherever you go and are ready to eat in just minutes. This is key because life can get extremely crazy and nobody has the time to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Let’s be honest, you are lucky if you have enough time to cook just one meal in a day.

meal prep apps

Below are some of the best Smart Phone Apps out on the market that will help you reach your health and fitness goals (not ads, just user recommendations). All of these apps have great collections of healthy recipes to choose from and most of them allow for recipe customization.

  1. Mealine: This app is my personal favorite to use because of how seamlessly it integrates a grocery list, recipes, and recommendations for alterations of recipes. The whole goal of using these apps is to make life easier, and this app hits all the needs that I am looking for with my meal prep.
  2. Cozi: This app is great because it integrates a calendar aspect. You can plan your meals using the grocery list and which days you would like to eat each of the recipes.
  3. Pepperplate: This is a great app for those who are in a fitness or health challenge. One of the new trends is using social media to create groups of support and challenge each other to get healthy. This app allows for you to plan out your meal, make grocery lists, and scale the recipes for the correct amount of people. But the best aspect is the ability to share your recipes and plans on social media with your friends and family.
  4. MealPlan: This app was my favorite for customization. The user-interface allows for full customization of the calendar and really makes planning out the week’s meal easy. It even has an AppleWatch app for those of you have one. Great addition to add in that extra reminder to stay on your plan.
  5. MealBoard: This one is for those people who want meal planning to be simple.The app is extremely user-friendly and not overly complicated. It also does a good job of allowing you to make grocery lists and track your pantry items.

If you are interested in seeing more options, check out this post to see 9 more options. Do you use an App to help you meal prep that wasn’t listed above? Comment on this post and I’d love to check it out.

Workout Wednesday: Motivation

Here is a little motivational quote to get you through your workout today. It’s the middle of the week and you may be starting to feel your motivation slip and feeling tired from work or school. Attack the day and get that workout in! Remember, the only person you are competing against is the person you were yesterday. Your goal everyday is to improve and be better than you used to be.

 

Treat Yo Self: Fitness Style

Treat. Yo. Self. —- Take some advice from Donna and Tom from Parks And Rec. Spoil yourself. You deserve it.

Working out, sticking to your fitness plan, and getting after your goals can be extremely exhausting. You will have your ups and your downs. You’ll see results come when you do not expect them and there will be times when you expect results but have hit a plateau. Even when you expect this to happen, it can become frustration and you may find that you lack motivation to continue. This is where treating yourself comes in handy. Buy yourself something awesome when you hit that plateau, start to lack motivation, or hit a substantial goal. Some of the best motivation you can find to keep going in your fitness journey is buying yourself some new workout clothes or accessories.

Losing Motivation?

Anytime I feel down on my progress or feel my motivation slipping, I buy something small that I can use in my workouts. Typically, I’ll buy a new shirt, shorts, headband, gloves, socks or just something else that I can wear on most of my workouts. The concept here is that when you get something new, you will want to wear them. This is a little added motivation to get out and hit that next workout. It’s a great way to jump start a new workout streak, try some new workouts, or fit through that tired feeling you have.

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Hit a small fitness goal?

Reward yourself for small fitness goals that you hit. Just like how dogs earn treats when they do something good or learn new tricks, you should get a reward for your hard work too. These rewards can be something a little more expensive or something that you’ve been wanting to buy for awhile but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Some of my favorite things to purchase are new race entries. If you are a runner, you know races can become expensive. One reason I love this idea as a treat is because it gives you something to look forward to completely and will help you stay on track with your fitness goals. The other item I like to get is a new pair of running or cross training shoes. You will need to replace your shoes as some point anyways, so might as well pick up a new pair with a new colorway and hold onto them until your current shoes where through. Having those shoes waiting for you will keep you excited to keep training and earn the right to where them down the road.

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Achieved that big fitness goal you’ve been trying to reach for years? TREAT. YO. SELF.

I recently hit my goal of moving my VO2 Max Score from “Very Good” to “Excellent” on my Fitbit App. I had been working on this by increasing the frequency/consistency of my workouts. Mixing up aerobic and anaerobic exercise and it’s slowing increased. I like this measure better than weight because your weight can spike or plunge at anytime and doesn’t have much impact on your overall fitness. So what did I do to treat myself? I bought two new pairs of running shoes and running pants. Things that I need and will use for a long time, but are not cheap. I can’t wait to break them out and keep pushing myself.

Some other items that are great to get when you achieve these massive fitness goals are Bluetooth headphones, new fitness watch/smart wearable, or gym equipment. These are big ticket items that are not cheap, that you’ve been wanting to buy for some time, and can finally have a reason to get them. If you don’t need or want anything new for working out, then treat yourself to something else. Go on a vacation. Go to the spa and get a massage. Go get a Mani-Pedi. Buy yourself something new for your kitchen or house. TREAT YO SELF to something you wouldn’t normally get. You’ve earned it and you deserve it!

Motivation Monday: MLK Jr Edition

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are some of my favorite quotes of his that will get you motivated and inspired to take on the day and create greatness in your life.

“Faith is taking the first step when you cannot see the whole staircase.”

Continue reading “Motivation Monday: MLK Jr Edition”

Fixing Your Posture: Tips and Exercises

Neck pain? Back pain? Rounded shoulders? Head tilted down? Any of these sound familiar? In today’s technological society, we are almost always staring down on our devices. We work 8-5 jobs where we sit in front of a computer for most of the day. We are addicted to our smartphones and are always tilting our heads down to look at the phone. These are things that will not change and will only be getting worse as technology advances. Unfortunately, it leads to terrible posture and can potentially lead to help problems. According to surgeons and spine experts, the head weights about 10-12 pounds. When you constantly lean your head forward and down to look at your phone it equates to a 60 lb weight pulling on the spine. This is why we are starting see so many more back, spine, neck, and head injuries and soreness from something as simple using a smart phone and getting angry at twitter. So what should you do to fix or counteract these issues? Here are some helpful tips that I’ve used to fix my posture and improve my fitness levels.

  1. Good news! You are already here looking at ways to fix your posture. That is the first step. In order to fix your posture, you need to be aware of the problem in the first place. Constant thought and consideration for how you are standing or sitting is needed in order to fix your posture. Simply remember to keep your shoulders back and head up straight is the best way to initiate the change to improve your posture
  2. Alignment: Think about your body on X-Y Axis. Your shoulders, ears, elbows, and hips should all be aligned as if it was a Y-Axis. Your shoulders should also be horizontally even on the X-Axis. By using this visualization, you will start to see how much you need to change and improve on the posture. Keep this in mind when you are practicing improvement of the posture
  3. Pull your shoulders back, roll your hips forward and look straight ahead: Everyone’s posture is different but oftentimes, these simple tricks will get you closer to a true, natural posture. Whenever you start to notice your posture is slipping, take a minute to really focus on these three areas and concentrate on keeping everything aligned.
  4. Strengthen your Core! Core (front and back) strength is essential to proper posture. Here are a few core exercises that you can do in less than 10 minutes on a daily basis that will prove wonders for you core strength and, in turn, your posture.
    • Planks: Both high and low planks are amazing for full core and back strength. Take a few minutes each day to hold a high plank. Don’t worry about how long you hold it for, just make sure your form is perfect and hold it until you can no longer howl perfect form. Best thing about planks is you can do them pretty much anywhere. You can even do them at work. Find and isolated area and hold. It’s a great way to get the blood flowing when the day feels like it is dragging along.
    • Superman: This is a great one for your lower back, which is a key area to strengthen for better posture. Lay flat on your stomach with your hands extended out in front of you. Lift your legs and chest off of the ground and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then return back to the ground and rest for 5-10 seconds. Repeat until failure.  As your back gets stronger, you can add in a medicine ball to lift with your arms. This will add more weight forward and help strengthen your upper back as well as your lower back.
    • Leg Lifts: This exercise is great to strengthen your lower core muscles. This area is key to help keep your hips forward (an area that is typically not thought of having an impact on posture). Lay flat on your back with your hands by your side. Lift your legs about 6-inches to a 1-foot off the ground and hold until failure. Drop your legs and rest for 15-20 seconds. Then repeat until failure.
  5. Office Equipment: If you work an office job like me, then you spend most of your day sitting in front of the computer and killing your posture. One easy way to help fix the posture while sitting at the desk is to sit all the way forward in your chair. Also, align the computer monitor’s height to the same level as your eye-level when looking straight ahead. Other options to fix your posture at your desk it to get two things. Get a standing desk that can be raised and lower. This will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Your muscles will get sore if you stay in either position too long. Alternating between standing and sitting will allow your muscles to stay fresh and not get tired and lose posture throughout the day. The other item you should get is an Exercise Ball/Yoga Ball for a chair. This will help your posture because it will force you to sit up straight and not slouch.
  6. Posture Brace: A great tool to help you improve you posture! A posture brace will help keep your shoulders back and chest forward. I have one that I will typically wear for a few hours a day when I am at home doing chores or if I am running errands. A brace is great during these monotonous activities where we aren’t focusing on making sure our posture is aligned. During these activities, we are just going through the activities and trying to get them over as quickly as possible.

Hope you find these tips and exercises useful. If you have any other tips or tricks that you find work well for you, please feel free to comment below!

*\ Hogwarts Running Club /*

It’s that time of year again! New year starts and your fitness resolutions are going strong. You are hitting the gym, trails, or paths and getting in your workouts. Unfortunately, sooner or later you will most likely run low on motivation and most likely quit your new years resolution. Statistically speaking, only 8% of people will successfully follow through on their New Year Resolutions. So the question here is how do you make sure that you are part of that 8% of people who succeed? One way I’ve found success sticking to my fitness and running goals is by joining virtual running clubs. Our lives are always busy and it’s very easy to find excuses to skip workouts or meet ups. Virtual running clubs are a great way to be part of a motivational community while being able to do your workouts on your own time, when it fits your schedule. A few recommendations would be: Virtual Running Club, I Love To Run, Geek’d Out Running Club, Whovian Running Club, and Chilton Running club. All of these are great options, but my favorite one and the one I’m going to focus on is the Hogwarts Running Club!

Last year I joined the Hogwarts Running Club with the goal to run more consistently and it absolutely worked! I feel in love with running a few years back when I was in college and I found it increasingly difficult to consistently find time to run now that I had a fulltime job. I kept coming up with excuses like I’m too busy, too tired, the weather isn’t great, etc. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. The Hogwarts Running club is amazing because it’s not something you are doing on your own. You have house teams for support and motivation while also competing against houses and earning money for charities. Here is how it works:

The Virtual Races:

The Hogwarts Running club has 6 virtual races throughout the year. They are all Harry Potter Themed, so you can get your nerd on while running! These are very simple. They open up registration throughout the year for each race. You simply sign up for a small registration fee and they will mail you the race medal. All you need to do is run/walk the miles for the race. They can be completed all at once or spread out over a few days if the distance is to far. The medals are all amazing and definitely worth adding to the collection, but the best part of this running club is the registration fees are donated to a different charity for each race. Some Charities that the Hogwarts Running Club worked with last year were To Write Love On Her Arms and Back On My Feet.

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Mad-Eye Moody Constant Vigilance 5K – 2017

The House Cup:

In addition to these virtual runs that go on throughout the year, the House Cup is really a great way to keep all the members motivated to run throughout the year and not just during the virtual races. How the house cup works is you download the App Charity Miles and join the house team (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin) that you will be competing with throughout the year. I’m a little biased but I’d say team HRC18HUFFLEPUFF is the best! We might not win every week, but we definitely have the most fun. The house cup is a weekly competition that compares the 4 Harry Potter House Teams on Charity Miles and points are awarded based on how many miles each team put in that week. This is a really cool feature that, if you follow along regularly, can help you stay competitive and motivated.

Hogwarts Express – Platform 9 3/4K – 2017

Facebook Community Rooms:

The other great feature of this virtual running club community is that each house has a dedicated closed Facebook group. These groups are meant to be community for those with like minds to help motivate each other, ask questions without being judged, share funny memes and photos, and basically anything that is related to Harry Potter and Running. One thing that is great is that you will most likely identify with a specific house group and when you join that group, you will have thousands of like-minded people to help motivate you. I’m a Hufflepuff and absolutely love the community page. It’s full of fun people who are all trying to help each other stay motived, share their struggles, and post recipes of their favorite cookies! Each House group is different and I would recommend checking out Pottermore to get sorted into your house.

The main reason I like this virtual running club so much (besides the fact I’m a huge Harry Potter fan) is that you can do one part of the running club are all of it. It’s up to you and what you feel is the best for you. If Harry Potter is not your thing…….that is totally fine. I would recommend searching for other virtual running clubs out there that fit more of your interests and can help you reach your New Year Resolutions.

If you have any virtual running clubs that you are a part of that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear more about them! Feel free to leave a comment and tell me more!

Embracing Change and Fear

The New Year is here and you, me, and everyone else out there is busy setting New Year Resolutions and getting after it! Whether your resolution is about getting healthier, working out, reading, cooking, or socializing more, you are planning on doing something that will require a change in your life. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on where your life has been going and what you want to improve on in the future. Reflection and change are necessary for a happy and successful life, but they can be the hardest things to do.

Those New Years Resolutions that you’ve set are there because you’ve identified areas in your life that you want to make improvements on. These improvements may be areas that you are happy with but want to get more involved with, or they can be negative aspects you want to change. Either way, you need to make change and with change comes uncertainty and the need to leave your comfort zone.

Change and uncertainty can be scaring for a lot of different reasons, but stepping outside your comfort zone is necessary when making changes in your life. So here are a two helpful tips and ideas to help you face those fears, embrace change and make 2018 your best year yet!

  1. Breaking Habits and Setting Routines Takes 21 days

This is typically a rule you’ll see when you are looking up information about quitting smoking, better eating habits, or working out more. By the end of the three weeks you will see that your cravings for old habits are all but gone. You will still have some urge to go back to the previous habits, but you have the recent memory (Recency Bias) of the good habits and that will help carry you through the resolution for the following months and years. Key tip here: Dive head first and all in to that resolution!

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FEAR Has Two Meanings

2. FEAR Can Have Two Meanings

The biggest obstacles that people run into when trying to make change is being afraid. There are many reasons for someone to fear change, but all the reasons have one thing in common. They are based in our minds and halt us in our place. I am someone who battles anxiety everyday, so I am very familiar with this experience. One of the thoughts that really help me embrace my fears and not be controlled by my anxiety is the following: FEAR has two meanings. Forgot Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. Our fears are often based on uncertainty and our mind trying to make excuses for us. Getting outside your comfort zone is key to change and success. Face those fears and embrace the change!

 

Running With a Cold?

If you are a runner, you are almost guaranteed to run into some circumstance that will cause you to have to take a break from your scheduled training. Whether it is an injury, work, vacation, family emergencies, and so on. I’ve recently been struggling to get over a cold and cough that just will not go away. It has really put a damper on my training routine that I have had planned. So it made me ask the question, when is it okay to continue training when sick and when should rest take a priority?

I absolutely hate to take breaks in my training because too long of a break can throw off the routines that take forever to get setup. At the same time, I’m extremely cautious and make sure I do not work myself into an injury. Avoiding injuries can be easy with proper stretching, preparation and mindfulness. The one thing that you cannot plan for is getting sick. Eating healthy, drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep, and removing stress from your life are great ways to stay healthy. But even the healthiest among us will catch a cold from time to time.

The week I have been fighting a cold that involved a sore throat, upset stomach, and headache. As much as I wanted to get out and put some miles under my feet, I had to listen to my body and rest. Three days of medicine and extra hours of sleep and the headache and stomach ache were finally gone and my legs were screaming “LETS GO FOR A RUN!” Unfortunately, the cough had not subsided. So now I’ve got to make a choice, go for a run or keep resting?

running while sick

 

My rule of thumb (and what you’ll most likely see other runners mention) is that if the cold is from the neck up, then you are good to go and train. In the past I would go running while congested and by mile two, the sinuses are completely clear. Honestly, I swear a good run will work better then most decongestant medicines. Just be prepared to be wiping you nose every other minute of the run. The reason for saying “from the neck up” is because if your stomach is acting up, then you are risking getting sick while training and throwing up (or it coming out of the other end). It’ll be messy and you really should be focusing on hydrating and eating properly until your stomach settles down.

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The issue I was concerned about this time with my cold was the cough. The problem with a cough and running is that at any moment a coughing fit can arise and breathing becomes difficult. Add that to the exertion that happens when running, and there might be some trouble. I decided that I felt well enough to go for a short run and at a comfortable pace. This way if I had to stop mid run I could walk back, and not exerting too much effort by simply jogging means that if my cough does pop up, I can at least slow down and catch my breathe before continuing. Ultimately, it was a great workout. I decided to go for a 3 mile run at a 9 minute pace (that being my half marathon pace). As I turned home, I felt really good and no sign of coughing, so I went one more mile just to get some more steps in for my legs to be happy. Afterwords, I made sure to drink plenty of water and loaded up on the electrolytes by adding in NUUN tablets to the water. After that water was downed, I brewed some green tea to help sooth the throat soreness that had picked back up after the run.

Lesson here that I’ve learned, listen to your body but do not be afraid to push yourself. You can certainly train while sick but be extra cautious and make sure you are prepared to have to stop and take care of yourself. Also, the other lesson here is that it is important to stick to your training plan to insure you hit your race goal, but taking a few days off could and most likely would help your over all training by not pushing yourself into an injury or extended illness.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how you approach training while sick or injured. Please feel free to leave comments here and let’s get a discussion going to help out the rest of the running community!

 

Recovery Tip: Ice or Heat an Injury

Should we ice or heat to recover from an injury? This is a question that all athletes and trainers have been asking for a long time. If you have ever seen the great 90’s movie, Rookie Of The Year, you know that some people have an interesting take on the recovery approach….Now we all know heating up ice cubes is ridiculous and won’t work, but Icy Hot products are one of the most popular recovery products in the market. They are great for aches and pains, but there are some injuries where heating or icing could actually cause added harm.

Exercising to stay healthy and improve your fitness is always great, but unfortunately at some point you will run into an injury. It’s to be expected when you are trying to push yourself to make improvements to your body and health. Set backs and injuries can be expected when training, but the good thing is that there are plenty of options out there to treat any injury. The bad news is that there is so many options out there that it can be confusing on which ones to use. So instead of trying to pick out the right product at the local pharmacy, let’s get back to the basics.

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When to Ice an injury:

Ice should be used on acute injuries. These are injuries that involve swelling or bruising. Ice is almost always the answer to any fresh injury. It’s primary role is to help slow down and reduce any swelling and inflammation. Examples of injuries to ice:

  • Rolled ankles/joints
  • Freshly pulled muscles
  • Impact injuries (hit by pitch in baseball, tackles in football, etc.)

Always remember, when it comes to icing an injury that you do not forgot the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

When to Heat an Injury:

Heat should be applied to injuries that involve tight muscles, spasms, and chronic pain. The key to heating injuries is to improve blood flow and loosen muscles. The key to recovery with heat will be stretching after heating. Here are a few examples of injuries to heat:

  • Back Spasms
  • Lingering pain in muscles (not freshly pulled muscles)
  • Stress Headaches and neck pain

It is important to not mix these up. If you were to switch ice or heat on these injuries, you could be making the injuries worse. Icing a spasm would cause more tightness and pain. Heating a rolled ankle would increase the blood flood to the area and increase the swelling.

Please make sure to go see a Physician for serious or lingering injuries. Major injuries require expert opinions and testing. Icing a torn ACL would be great for pain management and reducing swelling, but you will need surgery. Let’s hope you never have to experience that example or one like it.

Best of luck out there in your path to a fit and health life. Remember that small injuries will occur, but that is no need to quite or give up. Embrace the recovery time and hit the ground running once the pain is manageable or completely gone.