My Workout Playlist

workout-playlist

Cardio is the worst. But it’s also the best. Except it’s mostly the worst. Sometimes. But having a good workout playlist can make an absolute nightmare actually sort of fun. Especially if you’re fighting the urge to dance your pants off and not fall off the treadmill.

If you agreed with any of the above statement then my favorite workout playlist is for you. It’s appropriately named “WERK OUT” as these are all songs that make me want to move; a total bonus when you’re trying to actually motivate yourself to move.

When it comes to a workout playlist, I have a few requirements. My exercise jamz need to be high energy, fun, bouncy, and easy to sing along to (in my head). Bonus points if the song makes me feel like I’m dancing at a club, but without the heavy make-up and hair sticking to my sweaty neck.

(Sidenote: Does anyone else ever feel sexiest when they’re working out? I feel powerful, I’m usually in tight pants that make my legs look amazing, and am buzzing with endorphins. And I’m usually staring at myself in a mirror. Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not alone in this.)

Follow this playlist on Spotify and download it in time for your next workout— or shall I say werk out. If you use it make sure to tweet me and let me know! Do you have a go-to workout playlist? Share it in the comments!
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Starter Tips for Getting Healthy

About three weeks ago, some friends and I decided that we would join together in a motivational group to help us get our lazy tooshies back in gear.  There may or may not be a group text/Facebook group involved, along with some entertaining memes about squats and Yoda.  Drop dat ass, you must.


Much like the New Year, I started off the group strong and determined.  I’ve lost 35lbs before.  I was a regular gym goer for a few years.  I used to drink protein shakes and take flexing pictures every week to track my muscle progress.  It shouldn’t be that hard to just jump right back into that routine, right?

WRONG!

There is a reason you don’t jump off the couch one day and run a marathon.  You have to train.

Willpower is like a muscle.  If you are used to not using it, it will be hard to find it when you need it.  You can search Pinterest for motivational pictures of sweaty-but-gorgeous girls with 6-packs (and a full face of flawless make-up… like wtf is up that?) all day long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll help you resist binge-eating macaroni and cheese at 11pm.

If you’re trying to jump back into it, or jump in for the first time, start small.  Set reasonable goals for yourself, and reap the reward of pride and motivation you’ll have after achieving those goals.  Ride the high of accomplishment onto bigger things, and continue adjusting your goals as your motivation and willpower grows.  Once you actually see yourself achieve making changes, it’ll be so much easier to do harder things.

Before beginning this motivational group, I was leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle and was not worrying about my eating or exercising habits.  I was eating mostly convenience foods, and very little fruits or veggies.  I was also back to drinking a fair amount of diet soda.

My January Goals were:

1.  Do not buy fast food anymore, including meal breaks at work.  Start bringing my own healthy meals.

2.  Exercise 5 times per week, including 30 minutes of cardio and a specific strength training program I planned for myself.

3.  Replace almost all of my daily drinks with water, and drink at least 100 oz. of water per day.

Can you guess which goal I’ve the hardest time keeping?

With a constantly changing work schedule, and being almost completely absent from exercise for 5 months, why in the world did I think I would be able to convince myself to drag my sorry ass to the gym (and struggle in front of my coworkers, might I add) 5 times per week?  Duh.

Therefore, I have decided to revise my second goal as we approach February.  For some reason, despite the fact that I hated it and it was hard, I really enjoyed running at the park near my house this summer.  It was entirely mindless, and an almost automatic process to wake up, put on my sneakers and head out the door.  And starting my day off in that way made me want to make healthier choices along with it.

So as we come into February, it looks like I will be starting to run again.  Please pray for me.  My willpower needs some serious training.

Now it’s your turn.  What are your small goals to start yourself off?

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Favorite Health and Fitness Apps

Original image from Pinterest, with personal edits.

I’m a bit obsessed with understanding everything about my body.  I’m constantly circulating through new apps or websites to track my health, or learn new things.  Through the dozens that I have tried (and seriously, it’s pathetic how many are on my phone right now), I have three that seem to be my most-used and most recommended to others:

MyFitnessPal

My most used and tried and true is MyFitnessPal.  MFP is a very user-friendly and no fuss calorie counter.  You sign up, set your current weight, specify your goals, and there ya have it!  It automatically sets nutrition goals for you based on your basic information, but you can also adjust it if you are looking to hit specific targets as well– like, for those who are on a special diet program.  You add your food to your daily tracker either by entering it manually, or by scanning barcodes on the packages.  You can also save “meals” that you frequently have for easy and quick tracking.

For fitness, you can track your cardio and strength training as well.  The app will adjust your daily recommended caloric intake based on your exercise for the day so you can better judge how much food you should be eating based on your activity level.

My favorite part of this app though is it’s ability to sync up with other apps.  I can sync my FitBit to it, so it will automatically adjust my caloric recommendation based on my daily level of movement that my FitBit tracks.  I have yet to find an app that doesn’t sync with MFP, so it’s a really great app to start with.  It’s my go-to when I want to keep track of my food, and I use it almost daily.

MFP can also be accessed online, and you can use the community features.  It has forums to talk about fitness or health related activities, plus a blog option allows you to a place to reflect and help stay focused on your goals.  This was my favorite part of MFP when I was first trying to lose weight in 2012.

Fooducate

Very similar to MyFitnessPal, but has a slightly different feel.  It is a calorie counter, but if you update to the Pro version of the app, you can also set specific dietary needs or goals: gluten free, allergies, vegan or vegetarian, Paleo, lower blood pressure or cholesterol, breastfeeding, heart healthy, etc.  This one was actually recommended to me by a college professor.

You track your food pretty much the same as with MFP, but Fooducate also doubles by serving you with nutrition information as well.  When adding a food to the app, it gives you a letter grade for that item based on your dietary needs and the overall nutrition of the food.  It will also alert you if the food you are entering goes against any of your specified dietary restrictions (ie. if you enter french fries, it will alert you it goes against your dietary specifications to eat “heart haelthy”).  I love using this app for grocery planning and using the letter grades to plan my meals, as I like to think about the quality of the food I am eating as well as the caloric intake.

Fooducate also has a community aspect like MFP, and as a bonus, connects to the iPhone Health Tracker option.  It is not as user friendly as a calorie counter as MFP is, but does a great job of helping you understand the quality of your food, which is why I use it with MFP.

SWORKIT

SWORKIT is an exercise app that a friend introduced to me not that long ago.  It is essentially a no-equipment circuit training workout app.  You can choose from 4 categories: Yoga, Stretching, Cardio and Strength.   Each major category also breaks down further for more specifically targeted exercises, like upper body strength, boot camp cardio, etc, etc.  The app allows you to select the type of workout you want to do, the amount of time you wish to exercise, and then will take you through a workout.

It’s great for a beginner, as the app will show you a video example of the move you are supposed to be doing as it goes, so you can learn as you workout.  Even as someone who considers myself a workout novice (or, at least at one point I was, but let’s not talk about that), it still has challenging moves so it can give you a good workout despite not using any equipment.  I did an upper-body strength workout last week and was still sore two days after, if that gives you any indication.

It also tracks your workout, so you can see your progress as time goes on.  SWORKIT syncs up with MFP too, so your workout calories get added into your daily calorie count automatically.

I purchased SWORKIT Pro to avoid the ads, and it still only cost $2.00.  It really comes in handy when I don’t want to drive to the gym (like today, for example), but would also be totally fine to use at the gym too, like using the yoga moves or ab workouts.  I definitely recommend this one to anyone.

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Combine all three, and who needs an expert?  You have your own gym, dietician and nutrition teacher all rolled into one (sort of!)

What are your favorite apps?  Share them in the comments, I’m always looking for new ones!

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HOW TO: Fit in at the Gym

(Paul Revere voice)

“The Resolutioners are coming, the Resolutioners are coming!”

Yes folks, ’tis the season of not being able to find parking at the gym, and your usual routine being interrupted by someone you’ve never seen before using your machine.  Happy January!

As both a gym employee and gym goer, I have enjoyed seeing both sides of January.  The annoyed but trying-to-be-patient face of the gym-regular AND the newbie with eyes as big and round as dinner plates (Mmm, dinner) as they try to figure out how to adjust the weights on the machine that said gym regular is waiting to use.

 Everyone was a newbie once, so I am definitely not knocking anyone trying to better themselves (I am trying to do the same right now,  but more on that at another time).  I’m just saying, it can be a rough time of year for all involved when it comes to gym.

Which is why I thought I’d help out some of the newbies by sharing a few tips from the inside.  As an employee, I see everything and hear everything, so I thought I’d share my knowledge that I’ve picked up over the years.

Exercise tips

1. Grunt.  It makes you look like you’re working really hard and is super impressive sounding.  If people stare at you, don’t worry.  It just means you’re doing it right.

2. Slam around weights.  Again, it’s all about being seen and heard at the gym.  The louder, the better. Assert your dominance and show them that you belong by illustrating your comfort with the equipment.

3. If you see someone’s water bottle or towel hanging off a machine, just assume they forgot it there and the machine is free.  Go ahead and use it, it’s fine.  And if someone comes back and gives you the  stink eye while you’re working out, it’s probably just because they’re jealous of how fit you are.

4. Make sure to leave your sweat stains on the equipment.  It shows how hard you worked and will motivate the person after you to work harder.  Cleaning it off when you’re done may seem like the responsible and clean thing to do, but it’s really just the opposite.

5.  Make sure you go out and buy special clothes just for the gym.  T-shirts and comfortable, stretchable pants/shorts just won’t cut it.  And the more expensive, the better.  And gentlemen, the cotton shorts are your best option.  You know, those ones that are super thin and basically just look like giant boxer shorts?  Those are perfect.  Gotta make sure you let your boys breath, ya know what I’m saying?  It’s just healthy.

6.  If you use chalk when you lift, make sure to sprinkle it all over the floor and leave some still on the bars when you’re done.  The person after you will be so grateful that you left some for them to use too, even if they don’t use chalk.  You’re so thoughtful!

7.  It’s totally okay to give someone unsolicited advice.  If they’re doing an exercise you’ve never seen before, then they probably are wrong and would love to have your help.  After all, there is only one way to do things when it comes to exercising.

8.  Pre-workout and protein are non-negotiable.  Get a GNC Gold Card and make sure everyone sees it.  Also, like #7, if someone is drinking a brand of protein that you don’t like, make sure to let them know.  They probably had no idea how bad it was and will appreciate your advice.

9.  Don’t worry about reracking your weights or picking up your equipment.  That’s what the gym employees are for, and it just gives everyone a little extra cardio when they have to walk around and look for the equipment they need.  So, really, you’re just doing everyone else around you a service by leaving the place in shambles.  Good job, you.

10.  Gym hours are just a suggestion.  If it’s closing, but you still have a few sets left to go and still wanted to shower, that’s totally fine.  The staff will totally wait, it’s not a big deal.

And finally, the most important rule:

11. It isn’t supposed to be fun.  You’re here to work, so act like it.  Smiling, laughing, or enjoying yourself of any kind shows weakness.  Just keep your head down, finish your workout, and then go post about it on Facebook.  Exercise is serious business.

So there you have it.  Follow all of my tips and you’ll be a gym expert in no time.  Happy January!

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Green Peanut Butter and Banana Breakfast Smoothie

HOW TO: Breakfast Smoothie Guidelines | Candidly Kelsey

As lazy as I consider myself in general (which is really, really horribly lazy), it is 10xs worse in the morning.  Getting out of bed, finding pants, and getting coffee is basically my daily trek up Mount Everest.  Especially now that my schedule is so erratic with my different jobs, it makes it really hard to just hop out of bed in the morning like I was used to.

In college, when my schedule was super consistent, my favorite part of the day would be Breakfast.  Even when I had to wake up at 4:30am several days a week to work the opening shift at the gym, I would still cook myself amazing breakfasts.  It was just such an essential part of my day that I didn’t mind waking up an extra 20 minutes early to get it done.  Eggs, hash browns, bacon, coffee and scrolling through Buzzfeed before the birds even started to sing? Uh, yes, please!

Now, however, it takes a crowbar, and the dog jumping up on my face to finally convince me to get out of bed.  And I’d gladly skip breakfast if it meant not having to leave my bed.

Which presents a problem: breakfast sets the tone for your day, so it’s never wise to skip it.  Especially if you are a person who battles with their weight.

To fix this problem, I started adopting breakfast smoothies.  Nothing is easier than spending 5 minutes tossing things into a blender.  And they’re so variable, you can make something delicious with what you have in the kitchen.

It’s important to have a good ratio of macronutrients:  Fat, protein and carbohydrates.

Fat 

Fat being bad for you is a taboo that we need to get away with.  We need fat in our diet to keep our bodies healthy, and most people aren’t getting the right kinds of fats.  Plus, fat can help keep you full, so why not start out the day with a little healthy fat to tide you over until lunch time?

Protein 

It’s not just all about muscles.  Amino Acids break down to do important things in the body.  They keep our brain firing as neurotransmitters, either directly, or helping to create other neurotransmitters, which help keep us awake and alert.

Carbohydrates 

Especially, what we call “complex” carbohydrates.  Whole grains, fruits, and veggies take longer to digest and don’t spike your blood sugar like refined grains do– which will make you sleepy after the spike goes down.  Pairing the protein with a complex carb will keep you full longer as well!

Then add in some other important goodies:

Fiber 

Again, stay fuller longer.  And help that digestive system!

Vitamins and Minerals

It’s hard to absorb vitamins and minerals on an empty stomach.  Eating them in their natural form, in fruits, veggies, etc, can help them be digested easier.  It’s like taking a morning vitamin, except better!

SMOOTHIE GUIDELINES:

Fruits smoothies, sweet smoothies, chocolately smoothies, coffee smoothies, savory smoothies! Mix and match ingredients to get what you like, but to start you off, here is my go-to recipe:

Green Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

2-3 generous handfuls of spinach
1 medium banana
2 tablespoons of nut butter of choice
1 tablespoon of soaked chia seeds

To make, add all ingredients to a blender.  Fill at least 1/2 way with water, as the chia seeds tend to make it a little thick.  Add a few ice cubes and blend.  Add more water to achieve desired texture.

The benefits?

You got the greens in the morning, if, like me, you have a problem getting them during the day, the banana for sweetness, the nut butter for those healthy fats, and the chia seeds for a little more healthy fats (omega-3), complex carbohydrates, and fiber.

Don’t have any bananas?  Toss in what you do have: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries?  Just as sweet, but be careful of the seeds in the strawberries.  You can keep the nut butter if you want a play on a PB&J.

Prefer kale, or another green?  Swap that out for spinach, but be sure to adjust for sweetness, as not all greens have as mild of a flavor as spinach.  Toss in some extra berries, or some unpitted dates for sweetness to help with the bitter flavors.

Want a chocolatey smoothie?  Add your favorite chocolate protein powder, or some cacao.

Fruity smoothie? Skip the nut butter, toss in whatever you have.  Swap out the water for your juice of choice, being careful of the sugar content.  Frozen mango or pineapple with some orange juice could make a tangy tropical creation.

As you can see, the sky is the limit.  The more variety in your smoothie, the more benefits you’ll get from it.  Mix and match with different things until you find your favorite!  And hopefully this is more helpful than just offering you one simple smoothie recipe.

What is your go-to breakfast? Let me know in the comments!

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