No Gym? No Problem

With being a gym employee comes with a free membership as long as I am employed.  Logic would say that having access to the facility and working there would mean I would be a total gym rat, right?  Wrong.
For one, it is insanely difficult to muster up the energy/willpower to drive myself to work– I mean, the gym– when I have either already been there during the day, or will be going back there later in the evening to work.  Plus, I hate working out in front of my coworkers and all the gym regulars.
Call me paranoid, but I swear I get stared at sometimes because without my usual blue work shirt and white scarf, they are trying to figure out where they’ve seen my face before.  And that sh*t makes me feel self conscious, which is not what I want to be when I’m trying to throw around heavy objects.
Working out at home, however, has no excuse. Because you live there.  See how that works?

 

All you need is some space, a computer, maybe a smart phone, and 30 minutes.  No expensive equipment required!

Youtube

There are a ton of exercise resources on Youtube.  I have created a playlist of at-home workouts featuring some of my favorites, or new ones I want to try.  Channels I recommend are Blogilates and FitnessBlender, but definitely search for your own as well.  There’s everything from strength building, to cardio, to pilates and yoga, to name a few.   Sometimes the moves take some getting used to if you’ve never done bodyweight exercises before, but that’s the beauty of Youtube– you can pause the video and rewind as much as you’d like!

Pinterest

There is fitness GOLD on Pinterest.  Though some workouts claim false information (“Burn 100 calories with this routine!”) there are some great routines on there to get your heart rate up.  Mix and match different routines to create a full 30-minute workout.  Or add at-home cardio moves in between body-weight exercises create your own.
To start you off, here’s my “Fitness” board with some great resources on it as well:

Dance

This may sound stupid, but it’s actually really fun.  Make a 30 minute long play-list of your favorite songs and then dance it out!  Throw in some squats, push-ups, ab exercises, lunges, planks, and any other body weight exercises you can think of in between.  Again, search “body weight exercises” if you need ideas for moves.  Mix it up– dance for a full song, then do as many squats as you can for the next song, then dance again.  Or just throw in some moves whenever you feel it. The point is to make it fun, and get you out of breath!
This one is especially great for if you’re having a bad day and need a pick-me-up.  Literally dance like nobody is watching and have fun while getting some cardio in.

Apps

I mentioned this in my Favorite Health and Fitness Apps post, but here it is again.  Your phone/iPad are great for equipment-less exercise.  Some great ones that I have personally used and like are SworkIt, Nike+ Training Club, and 7 Minute Workout.  Just search “workout” in your app store and take a look at what comes up.
Got any other tips for at-home and equipment-less workouts?  Leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

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3-Ingredient PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Can we all just agree that there is no better combination than peanut butter and chocolate?  
Though Reese’s does a bang-up job of making a perfect candy, sometimes it’s hard to justify the sugar, calories and fat in a package of Reese’s for a pretty small treat.
Enter: 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cups.
This is a variation of a recipe for PB cups I have seen online countless times before, but this recipe uses only three wholesome ingredients: peanut butter, dark chocolate and bananas.
Here’s where the guilt free comes in:
Peanut Butter: Though high in calories/fat, it’s plant fats, so it’s nothing to fret about. The fats also help fill you up, so one of these is plenty– and this is even coming from ME, so you know it’s true.  Just make sure to choose a natural PB– one with the only ingredient listed is “peanuts”, to avoid added yucky filler stuff you don’t need.
Dark Chocolate: Not so full of sugar like semi-sweet or milk chocolate!  Gives it a much richer taste.
Bananas: Provide the smooth base for the center and natural sweetness, so it is the perfect substitute for the powdered sugar that many other homemade PB cup recipes call for. 
Plus, thanks to being made from bananas and dark chocolate, these are way heartier than regular PB cups, so just one is rich enough that you won’t feel the need to binge-eat 10293840234 of them like you would a regular Reese’s Cup
Wham, bam, PEANUT BUTTER CUPS, MA’M.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup of Natural Nut Butter of Choice– I chose regular peanut butter as I prefer it, but if you are an almond or cashew butter person, go for it. 
1 Medium Ripe Banana
1 1/2 cup Dark Chocolate

Recipe yields about 9 peanut butter cups in a regular cupcake tin.

Create a double broiler on the stove by filling a small sauce pan with water, placing a heat-safe bowl on top of the pan, and turning the water on to boil.  Add the chocolate to the bowl.  The boiling water will heat the bowl, which will melt the chocolate without burning it.  Stir the chocolate occasionally to ensure it melts evenly.
While the chocolate melts, mash the banana in a bowl with a fork. Add the peanut butter, and using an electric mixer, mix the banana and peanut butter.  If you don’t have an electric mixer, you can use a regular spoon, but the mixer really helps make a fluffy, and uniform texture for the center.
Add paper liners to a cupcake tin and spray lightly with cooking spray so the cups don’t stick.  As soon as the chocolate is completely melted, turn the heat off and begin spooning about a tablespoon of chocolate in the bottom of each liner.  Then, add about tablespoon of banana/peanut butter mix, making sure to press down a little so that it is sunk down in the melted chocolate.  Add the rest of the chocolate on top, making sure it completely covers each blob of PB/banana mix.  Picture how a Reese’c up looks: blob of PB inside a shell of chocolate.  You want yours to have the same effect.

Freeze cups for about an hour before serving,  allowing the chocolate plenty of time to harden.  Keep in the refrigerator and eat within a few days, or keep in freezer for even longer shelf-life.
Or eat all of them in one sitting and don’t worry about storing them.  No judgement here.  Enjoy!

PS: I did not include nutrition info on here, because I had a little left over PB/banana mix and there are countless different kinds of nut butters and blends of dark chocolate you could use, so I didn’t feel my nutrition information would be accurate to everyone else.  Plus, the point of this recipe was to use as few ingredients as possible for a sweet treat, as opposed to making something gross and fake tasting that was low in calories/fat.  If you’re curious, feel free to plug all of your ingredients into a calorie counting app or website, and see for yourself 🙂

PEACE, LOVE, PEANUT BUTTER & CHOCOLATE.

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BEAUTY REVIEW: Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, AHAs, Serums, Sunday Riley, Beauty
Image Credit to Sephora, with personal edits.

At the end of last month, I caught a seat on the bandwagon.  Tons of beauty bloggers (AKA– Zoella, Tanya Burr, Anna Saccone) were all raving about the Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment serum.  Zoe Sugg especially, as she has spoken before about having problems with blemishes.  She swore this helped clear her face up, and I am incredibly susceptible to promises in regards to acne.

So, using a pre-paid gift card I got from winning a contest at work, I ordered a bottle.  I figured I’d try it with this unexpected free money, and see what happened.  One week of twice-a-day use, until I realized how much I was actually using, and then a few more weeks of only using it at night, I’ve gone through the first bottle pretty quickly.  So I ordered a second a few weeks ago, thinking I’d have it for when I run out the first bottle.

And then I checked my bank account reality hit.   Two bottles in a month and a half?

This serum claims to promote “good genes” by plumping, brightening, exfoliating, and reducing hyperpigmentation.  It’s main ingredient is lactic acid, which is supposed to be a skin care savior, according to beauty culture.  I try to do my research on ingredients in products, in hopes that I will one day be able to track trends in what does and doesn’t work for my skin.

For instance: Lactic Acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), which is all the rage in skin care right now.  AHAs are exfoliants, and work to basically help encourage skin to shed it’s top layer of cells that can clog pores and leave you looking dull and lifeless, and help new, healthy cells shine through, thus creating a glowing and beautiful complexion.

The lactic acid is what drew me to this serum, as all AHAs have been shown to help reduce the appearance of acne scarring, and dark marks– which is my main focus for my skincare right now.  I’ve also read that AHAs can help reduce fine lines, and wrinkles by promoting the growth of new collagen in the skin, which is what keeps it looking “plump”, if you will.  This is claimed to help reduce physical skin puckering from acne scarring as well.

All in all, this product (aside from the pungent odor of the actual serum) got rave reviews for acne suffers, so I enthusiastically hopped on board.

Unfortunately, at the tail end of 6-weeks using this product, and am getting ready to return my unopened second bottle.  Maybe my skin problems are just bigger than topical products, but aside from an initial excitement and a little bit of “Oh, I think my redness is looking better… Maybe?!” in the beginning, I have noticed nothing different with using this product.  Which is super disappointing, as so many reviews and research had me thinking this may be the answer to all of my problems.

Therefore, that second bottle has (thankfully) never been opened, so back to the store it goes.  As serums and masks with AHAs become more and more mainstreamed, this product really just felt like I was paying for the label.  Which, unless it is a miracle product, I am not willing to do.  Sorry ’boutcha.

Does anyone have a good exfoliating serum? Or something recommended for acne sufferers/acne scars?  I’d love to hear about it.

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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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