At Home Fitness Tips & Equipment

Now that we are all social distancing, the gym is temporarily not a safe place. While I’m going to miss lifting heavy I NEED endorphins to keep my cool. A time of heightened anxiety mixed with a lack of exercise could put me in a state of panic. Luckily, the only equipment required to work up a sweat is your body so for those of you on house arrest, voluntarily quarantined or just don’t feel like leaving your house I’ve put together my five favorite ways to move outside the gym.

*Disclaimer – I am not a doctor or medical professional. Please check with your physician before starting any new workout programs.

**All Amazon links in this blog post are affiliate links.

Yoga With Adriene

Yoga with Adriene is my favorite way to wind down after a long day. I’ve rambled about Adriene on here a couple times but she is 100% worth the hype. She has a yoga for everything! Yoga for when you are hungover, yoga for when you are anxious and some faster paced yoga when you want to get a sweat on. Adriene’s at home yoga programed is designed to require little to no equipment – you honestly don’t even need a mat. I’ll be relying heavily on her yoga videos to keep me sane during my voluntary quarantine.

Blogilates

Cassey Ho, creator of Blogilates, was the first fitness influencer I found. My first ever blog post on here was about starting her program PIIT28 back in 2015. I’ve tried all of her programs at this point. In college I loved her apartment/dorm friendly workouts and post grad she helped wean me back into fitness with the aforementioned PIIT28 program. Cassey is 110% pep! Even though her workouts are no to low equipment she can make all of your muscles burn in a 15 minute video. At this time I personally recommend her free sample PIIT28 videos or anything from her apartment friendly series.

Home HIIT

If Cassey isn’t your cup of tea but you still want to get your sweat on there are SO many other home cardio options. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is my go to cardio. It’s quick, effective, equipment free and still kicks my ass. Some of my favorite fitness influencers who post free HIIT routines are Natacha Oceane, Whitney Simmons and Nikki Blakketter but honestly if you search on youtube SO MANY will come up. If you really want to challenge yourself with HIIT you can purchase resistance bands on Amazon to up your strength.

We also invested in a pull up bar, foam roller and some yoga blocks to help us stay agile while we are sheltering in place.

Play Outside

This only works if the weather is nice and you’re not literally on house arrest BUT nothing boosts my mood and lowers my anxiety more than being outside. I used the word because there is so much more you can do besides walk and run. While right now you may way to avoid touching things like monkey bars or slides, there are still other ways to get in that sunshine. In addition to running you can stretch in the sun, practice a walking meditation, sit outside or go on a bike ride. Sunshine, when we have access to it, helps lower tension and increase endorphins. Apologies if you are trapped in an eternal winter – things will get sunnier eventually.

Dance Party

In the end it’s all about getting your heart rate up and burning off a little tension. If blasting David Bowie and shaking your butt is what makes you happy then hop to it – no need to formalize anything. This is especially helpful for all my fellow extroverts out there who are slowly losing their minds being trapped in their houses. Dance it out babies! Or sing it out! Lay on the floor and roll it out – whatever feels good for you!

These are my top tips for keeping your body moving while we practice social distancing. I’ve posted about this on my Youtube as well. Video included below.

It may feel like a strange new world out there but at least we can keep ourselves healthy and happy with a little in home movement. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas on how to beat cabin fever. I’ll be dancing in my living room if you need me.

But Really Though, I’m doing Sober October (kind of)

Happy Sober October friends!

If you are not a millennial and have no idea what Sober October is, all you need to know is that people have made a hashtag out of not drinking for the month of October.

The purpose of being sober differs for everyone but the hashtag allows participants to motivate one another and hold themselves accountable. I am unintentionally participating in Sober October because a couple months ago Brenton and I cut back on drinking. We went from drinking on a Friday or Saturday night to grabbing a drink with a friend maybe once a month. We did this because we realized that alcohol wasn’t doing us any good. As much as I love a nice glass of wine (and will still enjoy the occasional glass) cutting back on drinking has benefited me in multiple ways. I wanted to share those benefits with you just in case you needed that extra motivation to take an alcohol break. 

Reduced Anxiety

As someone with generalized anxiety I’ve learned that alcohol (and caffeine) are some of my worst triggers. Having a couple glasses of wine can take me from having a good time to worrying about the wildest things. I recently learned that having enough alcohol to feel like you had a drink the next morning (even if you aren’t hungover) can escalate anxiety for another 7 days. So while we were drinking two glasses of wine once a week I was basically escalating my anxiety and letting it simmer back down just to bring it back up again. Eliminating alcohol has not *fixed* my anxiety by any stretch of the imagination but it has helped reduce triggers. An added bonus is now that I don’t get drunk, I don’t get hangovers which means I no longer get anxiety induced shame-overs (if you don’t know what a shame-over is consider yourself lucky). 

Better Sleep 

I am awful at falling asleep. If I keep my sleep hygiene impeccable I still struggle to fall asleep at night. Adding alcohol to this mix was not helping. The nights we drank we usually stayed up later which caused me to sleep in the next morning breaking my normal bedtime/wake time routine. By cutting out alcohol I’ve been able to get myself in bed WAY before midnight every night and I wake up within an hour or two of my normal weekday wake time. 

Time Management

I honestly did not realize I wasted SO much time drinking and watching TV. We would get stuck in these mindless TV rabbit holes until the early hours of the morning. Now that I am able to keep myself to my weekday wakeup time I’m immensely more productive during the weekend. Eliminating alcohol has changed how I spend my free time and so far that allowed me to tap into my more creative side, work on personal passion projects and be conscious about my veg time. 

*Honorable mention to my skin clearing up. Now I’m not saying I’ll never drink again.

Honestly, I still have the occasional glass of wine or margarita if I feel like it but so far the pros of not drinking outweigh the cons. As someone who doesn’t drink at work events I can promise you that in a healthy work environment no one will care or notice if you decide to skip the booze and go for a soft-drink or water. So, even if you’re a few days late to the party – are you giving Sober October a try? 

I’m Ditching Diet Culture

I’ve made a major fitness mistake; I’ve been actively participating in diet culture.

Dietician Christy Harrison defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that worships thinness, promotes weight loss, demonizes certain foods and oppresses people that don’t match others picture of health. Diet culture is an oppressive fatphobic, food-phobic system. It teaches us that juice cleanses, 1200 calorie diets and excessive macro tracking are the only ways to be happy in your body. Diet culture is a joy thief. 

As someone who loves exercise and the fitness industry, I have fallen hard into the clutches of diet culture. I tried to become a booty builder and eat 1gram of protein per body weight. Then, I followed all the fitspo’s and copied their diets. Debated going vegan just to be part of the vegan body-builder movement. I #mealprepped and yet, none of it ever made me happier. Movement improved my mood but obsessing over what or when I ate never made my life feel full; instead it made eating in to a chore. 

Anti Diet Influencers

I’ve been sitting with this uncomfortable feeling towards diets trying to determine my next move.  It wasn’t until I saw one of my favorite booty builders Madalin Giorgetta go anti-diet culture that I realized I needed to dig deeper into this. Sad to say but it wasn’t until I saw an influencer, who had made most of her fame off of the fitness industry and being conventionally pretty (that I love and follow), throw it all away for this message. Her willingness to shake up her life for this message encouraged me to dismantle diet culture. Through her influence I realized that I have thin privilege. I will never be rejected from a job for being too fat. As someone with this privilege I need to use voice to speak out against diet culture and fatphobia. 

This sounds like a mission so to frame learning experience I’ve tasked myself with answering these questions: 

  • What does health/wellness mean? And why do we associate diets with health?
  • Why are we afraid of “fat”? What does fatphobia look like in our everyday lives?
  • Is body neutrality better than body positivity? 

Want to come on this journey with me? Let me know in the comments. 

Movement as Medicine – Move Your Body a Little

Movement as medicine and trying the Feldenkrais method. 

At 10:30am on a Saturday morning Brenton willingly accompanied me to a dance studio. Why? So we could try a Feldenkrais class. Feldekrais method is a movement class focused on moving your body in the most natural way. I highly recommend starting your day with a class like this if you can; it was so relaxing. 

This class, which revolves around small movements and lying on the floor, triggered a breakthrough for my relationship with movement. Little movements are just as important so we can use movement as medicine for our bodies and minds. Want to reap the benefits of movement? Carry on reading! 

Movement as medicine for the body. 

I have chronic upper back pain. What started as a tweaked shoulder at 18 has turned into years of massage therapy, doctors visits and tiger balm. I’m not a doctor, but I did notice my pain increased anytime I stopped working out completely. After doing a little research I’ve discovered that 80% of adults will experience back pain. According to the ACA one of the best ways to combat and prevent back pain is to move (“Motion is Lotion” is my new favorite catch phrase from this research). While lying on the floor in our Feldenkrais class the instructor reminded us that our movements did not need to be big, they needed to feel smooth and natural. I love the imagery this provides. When you move your body in a way that feels smooth, and only to the point where it is easy to return to your starting point, you are providing lotion to your tight muscles and joints. 

Not only is there some valid commotion about motion and our joints but there’s also validity in the importance of movement and our immune systems. According to this study as little as a 20 minute walk can boost your immune system. What I love about this is that it proves that small and slower motions are beneficial for the body. You don’t have to run a half-marathon to reap the benefits of movement in your body. 

The Feldenkrais Method

During a Feldenkrais class you dive in to the fundamentals of movement by laying on the floor and being lead through small movements, starting with the neck and moving down to the soles of the feet. The instructor had us go from moving one segment of the body to moving multiples at the same time. An example of this would be laying on the floor with your feet planted and your knees towards the ceiling, then moving your head one way and your legs another. With each movement we were told to focus on how our bodies felt; was it easier to move our legs and head to the left or right? How far over could we take our knees before we had to start using extra force? We built from there but the premise was the same, small, natural movements. 

Movement as medicine for the mind. 

Focusing on movement has changed my physical body significantly but it has changed my mental health even more. I find slow movement, like this Feldenkrais class or Yin yoga, excruciating at times because I JUST WANT TO WIGGLE AND MOVE. The small movements force me to live presently, and notice the smallest changes in my balance and focus. Classes like this are meditation for those of us who struggle to sit still. It’s amazing for my nervous system and creativity. 

My one true movement love will always be high intensity exercise. Whether its weight lifting, HIIT, or plyometrics creates dopamine, serotonin and all the happy hormones. This is amazing for my mental health because as Elle Woods said “happy people don’t kill their husbands”. 

Let’s move! 

So, have I convinced you? Assuming you have the privilege of being able to move, try moving! Go for a run, a walk, or just stand for 5 minutes in your house. Do it if you can and let me know how you feel! 

Gift Guide for the Fitness Inclined

Oh the weather outside is frightful and your Christmas shopping list is not delightful so to make your shopping less stressful, read below read below read below!

Happy Holidays! I know the most wonderful time of the year is usually synonymous with the most stressful time of the year so to ease some of your shopping discomfort I’ve come up with a list of gifts that are budget friendly, easy to buy & will still have time to be delivered gift guide for any fitness lover in your life. I love giving people items that are cute & useful in their day to day life especially if they are setting intentions of practicing healthy habits in the new year. 

**All links in this blog post are affiliate links

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Resistance Bands!

Resistance bands & hip circles are the new cool kids at the gym. The instagram fitness community swears by these, especially if you need a way to up your leg day without upping the weight you are lifting. I’m a huge fan of these and for under $25 they are a thoughtful gift for your gym friend who’s trying to build a booty!

Leggings!

Queenie Ke makes amazing gym & budget friendly leggings. I have a black pair of these that I hold to the same caliber as my Gymshark leggings.

Gym Bag!

Any gym goer knows how much of a pain it can be to carry your water bottle, keys, IDs, warm-up clothes & whatever else you deem necessary for your workout. A nice gym bag is an amazing gift that can be both cute and functional. You can get creative and buy one in a fun color or stick to the classics like I did.

Water Bottle!

Single use plastic is out and cute reusable bottles are in. A reusable water bottle is a great gift because regardless of how many someone owns you can always use an extra. I chose this one because it was cute, well priced and BPA free.

Yoga Mat

Yoga mats are the BEST gifts. You can never have too many! Depending on what flooring I’m on I’ll use two at a time to cushion my achy old gymnast body. Bonus: they’re super cute!

Hope this helps anyone with a last minute shopping list that is a mile long! Let me know in the comments what your favorite fitness item is! Happy shopping!

But Really Thought Tries – Barry’s Bootcamp

I love to dabble in fitness classes. When I lived in SB I took Barre classes all the time but since the move I haven’t been frequenting the studios. I’m currently opting for a weight lifting gym sessions during the week. I’ve started to get a bit bored so I decided to expand my fitness horizons and take up classes again. Recently, this has taken the form of a tumbling class, which has the added bonus of rekindling my love for gymnastics

The cardio queen in me was feeling a bit underwhelmed by all this lifting and flipping so on Saturday morning, so I dragged B to the hardest cardio I could think of – a Barry’s Bootcamp class.

Barrys Image 1
Cardio Queens Unite 

Barry’s Bootcamp is self-described as a high-intensity interval workout (think HIIT) with “killer music” and “signature red lights”.  Upon arrival, we were eagerly greeted at the front desk, were given a locker and met the instructor. The instructor talked us through the workout split as the class requires specific moves to be performed at specific intervals/timing. We started on the floor with resistance bands and weights, then we moved to the treadmill, then back to the floor for arm, then off to the treadmills we went to finish the class.

Barrys Image 2
In my head this is what the red lights looked like…in reality they were just red light bulbs instead of white. 

Highlights included:

  • The treadmill and and the single touch option to switch incline/speed
  • The red lights
  • Full length mirrors to check form

I truly enjoyed the class but it was insanely challenging. I know that fitnesses classes work for me because someone else provides the rules. It’s easier to slack when I pick the pace for my HIIT so having someone tell me what to put the treadmill on and for how long prevents me from cheating myself.

I will definitely be taking another class at Barry’s but I will not be doing their recommended 3-5 classes a week. I love that the class gave me workout inspiration and I can now create a similar workout for myself at the gym (saving me a cool $40 per class).

Have you tried Barry’s? Did you love it or is it not for you?

Starting Fresh & Following Through

I love first days. Whether its a first day of school, first day at a new job, or first time in workout classes, being a newbie is fun. Starting fresh feels good. A new start the ultimate moment for positivity and optimism. No one expects you to master anything on your first day- especially if you are trying something new. The honeymoon period in a new job, relationship or while forming a habit is amazing…unfortunately it can fade rather quickly.

This year, I have set myself a couple goals some tangible and some, like being braver, that are larger in concept than application. To avoid setting myself up for failure I am changing up my goal setting. I paid attention to what worked and didn’t work for myself last year and I want to continue with that. For example, I learned that I am horrible at taking on vague goals without a plan. I cannot simply state I want to get fitter and commit to it, I have to take baby steps. Last year I started by working out one day more a week at a time, then eating better and then trying new workouts. If I had gone cold turkey on my Dominos lifestyle I would have quit by February.

Another observation I made was that rigid goal setting does not work for me. I am fickle; I cannot commit to a Whole30 lifestyle or a work out every day gym routine. Rigid goals make me feel like every slip up is the end of the process. It’s easy to quit when I feel discouraged. To combat this I now set intentions. An example from last year is instead of telling myself that I am going to meditate everyday or else, I tell myself that I intend to meditate everyday. It feels less harsh to me and makes accomplishing my goal of meditating easier. I’m applying it to this year by setting the intention to opt outdoors for at least 30 minutes one day each weekend. It can be a hike, a run or a walk through an outdoor shopping center as long as I make it outside and move.

A third observation, that ties into setting intentions, is adjusting my approach to my goal when things don’t work for me. For example, in an ideal world I would wake up at 6:00 am every weekday and do my morning yoga and set my intentions for the day. Unfortunately, I am not a morning person. I’m horrible at sleeping which makes motivating myself to get up damn near impossible. Instead, of beating myself up for not getting up every morning, or not working out at all, I just adjusted my schedule so I can do my workouts in the evening. A morning cardio session isn’t going to happen most mornings and I’m okay with that. I’ve let it go.  

While the above are all important I believe the essential tactic to not quitting when things stop being shiny and new is finding the why. Instead of focusing on the result I am focusing on the reason. It’s easy to get discouraged when results don’t appear immediately but if I have a good why I stand a better chance of completing my goal. It doesn’t always make it easier but it helps remotivate me when I dwell on why I’m doing something instead of the task itself. That being said, if I don’t have a good reason why, I let it go.

Handstands

With the start of this new year I have started a new job, started a new workout schedule and moved to a new city. I’m relishing in this sweet honeymoon period but I’m also trying to prepare myself for the future. Commitment is hard.

Let me know what goals you’ve set for yourself and how you keep yourself accountable!

Invasion of the Sniffles

If a “HHAAA-CHOO!” rings out from another office I will immediately cower at my desk. The germs are coming. There isn’t enough Purell in the world to make me feel safe in this situation.

Cold season is year round when you work in an office setting. It doesn’t matter if it is an office of 15 people or 1,500 someone will always have a virus to share. My first year in the workplace I got so many colds I thought my body was rejecting adult life. I was also a temp and only had 3 paid sick leave days a year. It was rough.

Fortunately, my immune system caught up (around the same time I started working out more often – a coincidence, I think not) but occasionally the sniffles win the battle. On the days that they win and I can’t stay home sick I’ve turned to some homeopathic methods (and some not so natural ones too) to make my days manageable. *Warning! I’m obviously not a doctor or a medicine woman. This is just what works for me.*

  1. When the sniffles come in full force I take something with pseudoephedrine and/or advil. I hate taking medicine, I feel weird about taking things that the pharmacist checks my ID for but when you need to make it through the work day this will save your sick booty. I’m a huge fan of Alka Seltzer cold/flu if the weather is cold but on warm days I stick to something in a capsule.
  2. If the cold is flirting with me but hasn’t kicked in I use Zicam. I have no idea if it actually works but the placebo effect of the nasal swabs is sufficient. At the first sign of a cold or sore throat I buy a pack of these and start using them religiously until the sniffles are subdued.
  3. Once I’m in the thick of the cold, need daytime relief and can’t slather myself in Vick’s Vapo rub, I turn to peppermint essential oils. I love putting a little bit of peppermint on my temples to ease my stuffy sinuses.
  4. When I need immediate relief I attempt a forward fold. It may sound counterintuitive to bring your head between your knees with a headache but it definitely helps.

What are some of the ways you keep the sniffles at bay?

Fitness is Fun? My Relationship with Fitness

My relationship with fitness has been similar to many of my relationships. On and off, with a lot of drama and unnecessary pints of Ben & Jerry’s. We would flirt, I would run a half marathon or go to the gym for a couple months, but I wasn’t ready to really commit myself to my health, or end my drunken late night hook ups with Dominos and Taco Bell.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my fitness relationships failed because I jumped in a little too quickly. I went straight to the engagement without going on a first date. My success this round has come from slowly working my way into fitness.

In January of this year, I began with a 30 days of yoga challenge on the YouTube channel “Yoga with Adriene.” If I can be anyone (besides Katie of course) when I grow up I want to be Adriene. Her yoga videos are calming, silly and human. She renounces the yoga robot lifestyle. Her catch phrase is “find what feels good” and makes me feel like yoga is a choice – not a chore.  

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The Hangover Yogi Slayer, Adriene

She is a beautiful and gentle soul. Her videos reminded me of the positives of working out like being flexible, feeling that wonderful muscle shake, and getting stronger. But she also keeps it real — girl has a yoga for hangovers video. It reminds me that even if my alcohol calories will always stand between me and the six pack of my dreams — that’s ok. There is a safe yoga space for me on YouTube.

After completing a month of yoga, I decided it was time to get serious about fitness, but needed a program that was still free just in case I decided later I wanted to back out.

In February I began a blogilates fitness calendar from Cassey Ho. Cassey is the peppiest and most motivating fitness instructor, but damn she goes hard. I “completed” the February workout calendar by doing about half of the videos each day. Luckily, Cassie loved me enough to stick with me through to March.

I realized this relationship with fitness was getting serious around mid March. I began questioning my late night relationship with fast food and I began to call my long time lover Dominos less frequently (I’m sorry, I still love you D). I began to crave healthy food like veggies and chicken. I began asking Katie for fitness advice. I actually did all (read most) of the videos for each day on the March calendar. My body may not have changed much externally but I began to sleep a little better. I felt like maybe I was getting a bit stronger.

At the beginning of April, I bought the ring: PIIT28. PIIT28 consists of pilates and hiit workouts six days a week. My love of just three months, blogilates, had convinced me that Cassie’s new workout program could make me get the results I have been pining after. I purchased the workout program, but not the meal plan since I have so many weird dietary issues already. Like I mentioned earlier, Cassie is INTENSE and this program is no exception. This program had me feeling muscles I haven’t felt since I was doing ballet 6 days a week in high school. By Day 21 I began to notice small changes in my physical appearance (ok so I may have just lost my mind when one of my friend complimented my muscular arms) but more importantly after I finish the workouts I feel like a BEAST.

Lest you think I am all sunshine and rainbows, PIIT28 does have its negatives, which I think I understand well now after a few months of working with the program. I will be sure to post about those soon!

What workout programs have you been loving? Do you use free online programs? Do you also yell obscenities at your online workout coach to make you feel better? LMK!

-Em