Six Things I Look for BEFORE Investing in a Gym Membership

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I have always loved being in a gym environment. Now, I realize not everyone loves the gym. Maybe it’s being around others, the driving time to even get to the gym, or not knowing what to do, people have countless reasons for not ever wanting to have a gym membership. The good thing is you can get results anywhere! However, I wanted to write a quick post for those individuals who do have a gym membership. I have been a member of several gyms over the last ten years, but I always do a walk through before actually signing up for a membership. Here are six “must have” equipment items a gym needs to have before I invest in a membership. These items help me stay engaged in working out consistently because they offer variety & an enjoyable workout.

 

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1.) Bumper Plates and Barbells

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Now, most gyms will have squat racks or benches with barbells, but not all gyms have bumper plates. Bumper plates are ideal because they are smooth all the way, which allows you to do exercises like deadlifts or hip thrusts much easier. The other plates at the gym have edges (like an octagon) so every rep you complete from the floor isn’t as smooth because it catches the edge and sometimes it shifts the barbell. Now, it’s not the end of the world if the gym doesn’t have bumper plates but it’s a big win if they do. 

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2.) TRX

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TRX training continues to get more popular. Even studios like Orange Theory or small group studios have them. They are great for your strength training program because it allows you to make an exercise easier or harder. Plus, it stabilizes your core with every exercise. 

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3.) Cable Machine

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This is another great machine to do a wide variety of upper body and core exercises. I don’t do much for lower body strength exercises, but there are a few isolating moves you can do.

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4.) Kettlebells and Medicine Balls

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These two pieces of equipment are great for more explosive exercises, as well as “aerobic” strength moves.  Plus, they make doing cardio fun! 

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5.) Plyometric Boxes

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Not only are they great for basic moves like step ups or elevated glute bridges, but you can also do explosive exercises like box jumps. Not all gyms have these soft boxes like mine, but it’s a huge plus if you enjoy doing box jumps since because they provide a soft landing. It also helps if you have a mental block or fear of not being able to land on the top of the box. 

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6.) Assisted Pull Up Machine

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For most women, it’s hard to do a pull up and in order to get stronger at them, you have to practice. The pull up machine is a great tool to use to improve your upper body strength. The more weight you use, the more the machine will help you. The goal: use less weight every month so you can eventually complete a pull up on your own. The assisted pull up machine is also great for completing higher reps. I’ll use it if I’m trying to complete 15 reps. 

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So, if you currently have a gym membership and are not using any of the following equipment items, walk around your gym to see if they are available. Stay tuned for next week as I have prepared to share my favorite go-to exercises using the equipment above!

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4 Exercises to Do Daily

4 Exercises To Do Daily

Exercise is therapeutic to me and I find a way to move daily. Whether it’s leisure walking, yoga, strength training, interval training, foam rolling or mobility drills, these movements clear my head and make my body feel good.

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Now, we don’t want to stress our body every day so doing movement like leisure walking or mobility drills is a great way to move with low intensity. The four movements below focus on improving or maintaining your mobility in your hips and thoracic spine, as well as engaging your core and helping you move in a better range of motion. They can also help you improve exercises like squats or lunges, as well as relieve low back pain.

I complete all of these movements before every strength and interval workout.

It’s my warm up and gets my blood flowing. You can also do these movements to wind down at night in front of the television. I even recorded these videos in my own living room!

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Squat to Stand – complete 5-10 reps

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heels on the ground the whole time. Don’t let your heels rise off the floor. 
  • In the down position, lower yourself down to a position that’s comfortable. If you have tight hips, it might be challenging. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders slightly down. You should feel some engagement in your upper back. Also, using your elbows, push them against your knees, letting them slightly go out. You’ll feel a good stretch in your hips.
  • In the up position, focus on feeling a good stretch in the back side of your body.

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Lateral Lunge – complete 5-10 reps each side

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heel on the side you are lunging towards. If you are finding you can’t keep it down, lift your hips and chest so you are higher off the ground.
  • Drive the toes up on the extended leg. You should feel a better stretch in your inner thigh.
  • For a challenge, keep your hands off the floor and as you move side to side, keep your hips as low as possible. Pause for a few seconds at each side.

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World’s Greatest Stretch Combo – complete 5 reps each move

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Movement One Key Tips: Keep the front foot flat on the ground and fully extend your bag leg by squeezing your quad strong. I prefer to keep both hands on the inside of the front foot. Focus on feeling a good stretch in your hip flexor (back leg).

Movement Two Key Tips: Drive the toes up, keep a flat back and ease into the stretch. You should feel a good pull in the back of the leg.

Movement Three Key Tips: Keeping the front foot flat and back leg extended, slowly rotate with your upper back. You should keep the front of the back leg still, not letting the front of your hip rotate. For the arm reaching up, focus on reaching the hand towards the ceiling, as if you are trying to touch it. You want to get a nice stretch in your upper back.

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Inch Worm – complete 5 to 8 reps

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This is a great move to engage your core, shoulders, hamstrings and calves.

Key Tips:

  • As you walk out into a push up position, brace your core and reach your hands out as much as you can without letting your low back collapse. This challenges your core and shoulders. 
  • As you walk your hands back to your feet, brace your core again to avoid letting your hips sway back and forth. Try to walk your hands to your feet, driving your heels to the floor. If you can’t get your hands to your feet, find a range of motion that works for you.

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Struggling with keeping your heels down in these movements? Start working on your ankle mobility.

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You’ll want to focus on your front foot. Drive your knee as far forward as you can without letting your front heel lift. How good is your mobility? Ideal ankle mobility is when you can get the center of your knee past your big toe. Complete 10 reps each side for 2-3 sets.

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Three Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts Under 25 Minutes

25 Minute or Less Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts

With the weather still being too cold, I have had to keep my interval training workouts indoors. While treadmills aren’t the most liked piece of cardio equipment, you can use them to put together a short, effective workout. Like I talked about in this article, you should always prioritize your strength workouts first but if you have more time, interval training is the next piece to burning fat and increasing your metabolism. These workouts could also be done after strength training (if you can only exercise 2-3x a week), but I would do about 10 minutes of intervals.

Here are three workouts I have been doing lately using a treadmill. For you, pick three speeds/inclines that get you out of your comfort zone. I have listed mine. You’ll notice the speed and time will vary, but at the end of each interval, you want to feel like you’re working hard.

Three 25 Minute or Under Treadmill Workouts

Workout #1 – Flat Sprint Intervals 

Warm up – walk at a comfortable speed for 2 minutes

  • After each interval, I hop off the treadmill, decrease my speed to a slow walking speed and rest as long (about 30-40 seconds) as I need until I can sprint again. Including the warm up, this takes me a little less than 25 minutes. If you are finding you are needing longer rest time between each interval, subtract two 60 second intervals from the workout. At the end of the workout, I cool down until my heart rate decreases (1-2 minutes).
Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds

Workout #2 – Sprints with hills 

I will complete this workout on treadmills where the highest speed or incline is less than my gym’s treadmill. Again, I warm up and cool down just like the previous workout example. I also rest as long as I need with each interval (usually 30-40 seconds).

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds

Workout #3 – Don’t Like to Run? Try This. 

Note: Treadmills vary with incline. Luckily at my gym, the treadmills go all the way up 30%. Most treadmills go up to 12-15%. Remember, find three inclines that push you outside your comfort zone. If you find the highest incline doesn’t challenge you, try increasing your speed or trying Workout #2. I will complete Workout #2 when I visit my parents using their treadmill. Rest as long as you need after each interval. I usually drop the incline to 10-12% after each interval and when my body feels it’s ready to complete another interval, I increase the incline back to where it needs to be. If your legs are tired, I would decrease the incline to more of a flat incline during every rest period.

Key tip for incline walking: Brace your core and pump your arms. By avoiding holding onto the rails, you’ll work your abs, glutes and legs much more.

Warm up – 2 minutes at a comfortable pace

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds

 

Whole30 is the best nutrition program to follow

My Whole30 Experience and 15 Reasons Why I Feel It’s the Best Nutrition Program to Follow

I’ve known about the Whole30 program for a few years. I remember reading their first book in 2014 “It Starts With Food” and having mixed emotions. At first, I loved learning the science behind their nutrition program, but it was hard not to get a little defensive because many of the foods they said weren’t ideal were in my diet regularly. I had thoughts like, “well, that’s not realistic for me. I can’t eliminate Greek yogurt forever.” I also had a hard time relating to the authors because they never talked about what high calorie/less nutrient foods they consumed from time to time. But, my thoughts completely changed after their second book was released “The Whole30” and Melissa’s third book “Food Freedom Forever” because they started feeling relatable! Aw, Melissa loves Cadbury eggs and cupcakes AND she eats them? Ok, now I’m listening!

I’ve done two short versions of the Whole30 before and felt a big difference in my body. I could work 12+ hours but still have energy to go to the gym afterwards. I learned what foods I could live without because they affected my body in a noticeable way. Most of all, I slayed my sweet tooth.

So, after the holidays, I wanted to participate in the official “January Whole30” to feel involved in their community and challenge myself to complete a full 30 days of the program. Luckily, I found a friend who was also doing it, so it’s been fun to support each other.

Since I’ve done two short versions in the past, there wasn’t a lot of shock to my routine. I had already taken out a few things of my regular meals (protein bars, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, lentils) Sometimes I indulge in bread, pasta, peanut butter or cheese, but most likely I’m eating something I enjoy or am at a favorite restaurant.

January Whole30: There were a few things I had to take a break from in my weekly routine including the following:

  • Half & Half in my coffee – it wasn’t much since I only drink 8 oz. a day, but 1.5 TB was removed (daily)
  • 1 Tsp sugar in my coffee (daily)
  • Plain Rice Cakes (about 3x a week)
  • Brown or White Rice (about once a week)
  • Tillamook Cheese (about once a week)
  • Going out to a favorite restaurant 1-2x a week (pizza, Thai, Mexican, burger)
  • 1-2 Desserts a week (sometimes it would be a few squares of chocolate and other times it would be a slice of cake or cookie.)

January Whole30 Replacements

I went 28 years of not being a coffee drinker until I took a trip to Vienna, Austria. The coffee was amazing and I wanted to continue to enjoy it once I returned home. So, we bought a nice espresso machine and my little cup of Joe brings me joy in the morning.

Thanks to Nutritiously Rooted, I was given the tip to use coconut oil for a dairy-free ‘cream’ option. I put maybe ½ tsp of coconut oil into my 8 oz. coffee and blend it with a blender. Delicious coffee! It has a subtle sweetness & creaminess.

15 Reason Why I Believe the Whole30 Program is The Best Nutrition Available

  1. It’s free!
    • Like many programs out there, you have to invest in their products. Whether it’s breakfast/snack/lunch/dinners you eat every day, meal replacement shakes/bars, energy drinks, cleanses or supplements, most of the time you hear they feel great because they use their products. The Whole30 is just food and their entire program is free on their website. Although the books are a great resource, they are not necessary to be successful.
  2. You feel amazing from just food (hence their first book, “It Starts with Food!”)
    • Again, no magic here. Just food. It’s amazing how hard work and dedication towards eating the right foods can transform so much in your mind and body.
  3. You feel way more than willpower during and after the program (MY FAVORITE REASON)
    • Your willpower will get stronger the more you test it. But sometimes testing your willpower leaves you with a feeling of being deprived. It’s like you secretly want it, but are choosing to not indulge. The Whole30 gave me a whole new perspective on my favorite foods. When normally I would jump to get a Dairy Queen cone, PCC cookie, or any homemade dessert, after completing the Whole30, I didn’t have the same feeling around them. Instead of feeling like “YES! GOTTA have it now!” I had thoughts like, “do I really want it?” Throughout the program, I did have thoughts that specific foods like pizza, cookies or nachos sounded good to eat, but those feelings were never strong enough to actually eat it. I was even around pizza, homemade cookies and ice cream during my Whole30, but felt at peace around them and not deprived. Even as I was approaching my last few days of the Whole30, I wasn’t counting down the days until I could eat cookies, pizza or dessert again. These are feelings I never thought would exist for me. I’m aware that this may change months down the road, but I know I can always resort back to a Whole30 when I feel I’m craving sugar more than I want to.
  4. You learn what works for you.
    • After doing abbreviated versions twice, I learned I feel best when I don’t eat beans, cottage cheese, protein bars, Greek yogurt, etc. Even though rice & oatmeal are excluded in their program, I have found I don’t notice a difference in my body when I eat it, but they aren’t a regular item in my meal plans anymore. Sometimes I can have a little cheese and be fine, but if I have too much, I notice a negative impact. Same with bread. A little is fine, but several slices makes me feel different.
  5. Taste buds are transformed (2nd Favorite Reason)
    • Since you do not consume any added sugar or artificial sugar, simple things like strawberries taste really sweet. Your taste buds transform! My new cup of coffee tastes sweet without sugar and I can taste the ingredients in every meal. A few years ago, I remember eating my favorite go-to protein bar after taking a six week break. It didn’t even taste good and I haven’t gone back since. Another positive with having your taste buds transform: you need less of your favorite sweet treats. You are simply satisfied with less.
  6. It changes your relationship with food.
    • Not only did it help me slay my weekly sweet tooth, but I recognized eating habits with other areas of my life. If I was feeling upset, it was natural to comfort those feelings with something sweet. Many people learn how to re-work their eating habits so they aren’t emotionally eating. For example, when the Seahawks lost versus the Falcons on 1/14, I wanted a cookie. But, those feelings were stemming from my sad mood vs. actually wanting a cookie.
  7. Your energy skyrockets naturally.
    • My energy stayed steady all day throughout most of the program. No crashes. No naps. No wanting to skip a workout because I was tired. I had a few days that didn’t feel like my energy was through the roof, but I could easily pinpoint why.
  8. You elevate your cooking skills.
    • Since you are eating real food 24/7, you get lots of practice preparing meals and it’s actually fun. Your confidence in the kitchen increases the more you experiment with new recipes.
  9. Your skin glows.
    • I do my best to take care of my skin by washing my face every night and moisturizing twice daily, but I felt like I had a better glow compared to my normal.
  10. It doesn’t feel like a diet.
    • Could I follow the Whole30 diet forever? If I wanted to. I know there will be moments when foods that have sugar, gluten, dairy, etc. will come up, but I can choose if I want to indulge. What I can do forever is follow the Whole30 90% of the time. Every meal I cook from home (but one) follows the Whole30 and is very satisfying! With practice, I also know how to eat out at restaurants while still following the Whole30 plan.
  11. Weight Loss/Fat Loss.
    • I noticed throughout the program that my body felt firmer, especially in my arms & legs. I lost six pounds. This is a nice perk and can keep your motivation high to continue but it’s definitely not my favorite reason why I love the Whole30.
  12. You become a leader to others.
    • Since I have practicing cooking mostly Whole30 meals at home for a few years, I have found I’ve inspired others along the way. Whether it’s sharing a go-to recipe with my sister or cooking for others, people start to pay attention. My father-in-law actually lived with us for 10 months and he has even told us he eats way more vegetables now (living on his own) because of our cooking.
  13. Recipe library!
    • This is another great reason why I love the Whole30, new recipes! When you are sick of your healthy go-to recipes, I find myself wanting comfort food. The Whole30 allowed me to add more recipes to my go-to dinner menu. Eggs mildly bother my throat so I can’t eat them too often. This forced me to find new breakfast foods and it was a fun experience. Plus, it’s something I can easily continue post Whole30. I did buy their cookbook and it’s been fun to experiment with recipes. I made a homemade mayo, which I really liked and also found new recipes that I can make every month.
  14. Tough love!
    • Melissa Hartwig is famous for her tough love talk to the Whole30 community and I couldn’t be more thankful. I always keep her in mind when it comes to taming my sugar dragon. Throughout the beginning of my Whole30 this month, I had thoughts like “Am I wanting to eat fruit because I want something sweet?” and “Is this going to tame my sugar dragon?”
  15. Nutrition Label King/Queen.
    • The good thing about reading labels with everything you buy is eventually you don’t have to do it anymore. You form a habit (and remember) what items don’t have added sugar, carrageenan, or other non-compliant ingredients. Days before starting my Whole30 journey, I did notice I was buying some items that weren’t Whole30 compliant like deli ham and sausages, but it gave me that awareness. After finding new foods, I can easily replace them with better options.

Bonus: My husband loved every single Whole30 meal I made. He did not do a Whole30 with me, but he enjoyed the meals and even commented that he feels best when he eats that way. For those of you worried that your family members won’t do the program with you, it’s totally okay if they don’t. I made my Whole30 meals but would add items like bread, rice, tortillas, sour cream, etc to many of his meals. He did enjoy official Whole30 meals too. It’s a win for me and him.

Hopefully this blog post gave you more insight on my Top 15 “wins” with the Whole30 program. If you’re having feelings that this program is too strict, just try it. How you feel after completing the program is worth it!

Here is an example of some of my meals. Some are super simple while others take 30 minutes or less.

Bruges

As far as small town charm, Bruges is just as great as Rothenburg, Germany. 

Two Nights

Enjoy the Market Square

From restaurant terraces, the Bell Tower and old buildings, this square is quite charming. There are even a few food vendor stands. We split an order of Belgian-style French fries and a hot dog and simply people watched. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, a farmer’s market is held in the Market Square. It was so fun to shop the stands and I only wished we would have rented an apartment so we could cook like a local.

Visit the Church of Our Lady

This holds the famous Michelangelo statue Madonna and Child. It’s the only statue that was able to leave Italy! The church was under construction during our visit and there is a fee to see the inside, but we enjoyed it.

Enjoy the local desserts

Ok, the moment you step into the square you can smell chocolate! There are chocolate shops everywhere! As as matter of fact, they have an entire “Chocolate Row” street dedicated to their famous Belgian chocolate. I bought chocolates from the well known Dumon shop and B&B. The Belgian waffles are also delicious! This one is from Chez Albert. Yum!

Take the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour

An 1856 brewery, we toured both the new and old areas of the brewery. They still kept the 150 year old beer casks and cooling rooms. Funny enough, the highlight of the tour was the viewpoint from the top of the brewery. It overlooked all of Bruges. It was a great tour and ended with a freshly brewed beer.

Rent a bike and ride the outer skirts of town

We peddled all over the place! We had 3 hours with the bikes and rode around the city moat viewing original windmills and stopping at a park to take a break and watch the lazy river make its way around. Locals here were picnicking, reading books and taking naps.

Wander the city and enjoy it’s beauty

Some locations are so pretty they are known as the Postcard Canal View or Picturesque bridge. We enjoyed walking to the Minnewater which is filled with weeping willows, swans and a peaceful lake. If you like ruins, be sure to check out the Crowne Plaza Hotel. In the basement rooms are lined with original stone walls and there are many display cases filled with what modern archaeologists found here.

Other highlights

The Basilica of Holy Blood : This double-decker church, built in 1150, holds the drops of Christ’s blood a Crusader brought back from Jerusalem. We were there to observe the relic itself. This church also has a pretty painting at the alter and it tells the story of how the blood arrived in Bruges.

For local cuisine, try the mussels! I’m not a big seafood person, but when I travel, I love to have as many local experiences as I can. No matter what restaurant you choose, it’s a good meal to split because the pot is huge!

Five Easy Fast Food Meals That Don’t Require Hitting up the Drive Thru

We live in a society where we want many things fast. Don’t want to cook? We want to get a meal fast and sometimes that means hitting the drive thru. It doesn’t take much effort when you’re driving home from a long day of work. I remember these days very clearly. Wendy’s was my go-to. “I’ll take a number 1 with cheese and ketchup only with a diet coke.” Sometimes I would eat it in the car, other times I would wait until I got home. Next thing I knew, I was on the couch for a nap.

Two questions I had to ask myself:

  • Are Wendy’s cheeseburgers my absolute favorite burger?
  • What can I replace that’s also fast and convenient?

The answer was no, Wendy’s is not my favorite. So, I started to replace a high calorie mediocre fast meal with something more nutritious, but still satisfying.

 

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1.) Canned tuna or chicken

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This takes less than 5 minutes to make. I will add chopped celery, mayo (a super easy recipe I just started making) and light onion. I’ll eat it with a spoon or wrap it in lettuce if I have it available. This is one of my main items for emergency food and I always make sure I’m stocked up on it. Note: Be sure to read your labels on these canned foods. It should be about three ingredients (chicken/tuna, salt, water). Try to avoid buying canned food with soy.

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2.) Rotisserie Chicken

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This requires a quick stop at the store but a much better choice than my go-to Wendy’s. Plus, it is definitely more than one meal so you can use the rest for other meals throughout the week. Pair it with a salad in a bag or prepared in a box from the store and you’ve got an easy meal. Option four works too.

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3.) Cooked Meat at Deli Counter

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Another option I’ll use from time to time is just grabbing a cooked piece of meat at the deli counter. They also usually have salmon available too, but I’m not that much of a fish fan.

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4.) Stir Fry Vegetables

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This is a great side dish for any of the above, plus you don’t have to worry about your vegetables going bad since they are in the freezer. Grab a handful and saute your veggies. You can even chop your deli counter or rotisserie chicken to make it an official stir fry.

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5.) Omelets

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This is another easy five minute meal. If you have fresh vegetables to add, great! If not, use your frozen veggies & cook them up first. Deli ham chopped into chunks could be a nice addition if you want a ham and egg omelet.

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Practice Makes Progress

Since this is the beginning of a New Year, we all get excited about our goals. How can we not? Motivation is high and you’re ready to put in the effort to make it work. It’s easy to visualize what success looks like.

What We Think Success Looks Like

But many times that excitement fades because you will have days when you don’t want to put in 100% effort or you start to lose that motivation. It happens to all of us! The main reason people don’t follow through with resolutions is because of setbacks. It’s easy to think, “I failed and I’m giving up.” When your mental energy is burned out from making decisions all day, all you have left are your habits and they are either good or bad. But, how do we transform those bad habits to good habits?

There are so many success stories in our society. “I failed three times before I made it.” J.K. Rowling was denied by a dozen publishers. Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Bill Gates’ first business failed.

What success actually looks like

Working towards your goal is hard work and the only way to conquer your goal is to work it, accept that a setback or obstacle will come, but from learn it and move forward. 

This approach can help you with everything in life. Whether you are trying to become debt-free, lose weight, eat healthier, exercise consistently, strengthen a relationship, or land a big job.

Two questions to ask yourself when a setback occurs:

1.) What could have caused this?

2.) What can I practice next time?

Practice makes progress.

When you analyze why a setback happened, you’ll have the opportunity to get back on track faster. You may try something new and find out it didn’t work at all. Go back to the drawing board until you find what does work.

You may notice over time that the more you learn, the longer you will stay on track too because you won’t be constantly working through obstacles. You’ll have new work-arounds to keep you moving forward without slowing you down.

With this mindset and effort, results will happen. You will chip away at your debt, you will lose weight, you will consistently make better nutrition choices or get more exercise, your relationship will feel stronger or you will learn what it will take to land that job you want.

It’s easy to reflect on my own journey. Exercise is effortless for me but it’s because I have decades of practice with playing sports and loving the feeling of being active. But with my nutrition habits, I have decades of practice of eating processed foods, desserts and take out consistently. With seven years of practice for me, I’ve realized I’ve completely transformed my nutrition, but it didn’t happen overnight. If I never practiced getting better after my first nutritional setback (essentially given up), I’d be sitting at Day 1, starting over again.

Over the course of the year, I want you to remind yourself of all the success stories that happened due to failing first. Remind yourself that having a setback gives you an opportunity to learn, push yourself and eventually change yourself for the better. With this mindset, you’ll be able to reflect at the end of the year and realize how far you’ve grown.

How to do a perfect push up

How to do Perfect Push ups

Push ups are a fantastic strength exercise for building upper body strength, core strength and transforming your arms. Plus, you can do them anywhere! Most importantly, you want to make sure you are doing them correctly to avoid an unwanted injury.

Three common mistakes with push ups: 

1.) Low back sag – many times when this happens, your core and glutes are not assisting you with the exercise.

Key tip: squeeze your glutes and brace your core as you lower down and push yourself up. If you find this is challenging, place something between your legs, squeeze it and imagine you cannot let it drop the floor. This will naturally help you engage your glutes and core. Still too hard? Try elevating yourself so you are no longer on the floor, but using a bench, bar, etc. 

2.) Hand and shoulder position – many people like to place their hands wide and when they lower down to the floor, their elbows stick out to 90 degree angles. This puts your shoulders in a bad position and can eventually lead to an injury.

Key tip: focus on keeping your hands 45 degrees from your ribs. Your elbows should slightly tuck back instead of out. 

3.) Reaching with your neck – this is another common mistake I see often and it puts your neck in a bad position since it causes forward neck posture.

Key tip: focus on leading with your chest and keep your head still, as if it cannot touch the floor. By keeping your head back, you’ll keep your neck in a better position. 

In this video, you can notice my head reaches towards the floor and my elbows flare out instead of back.

What about girl push ups? Please don’t do them. By performing push ups from your knees, you put yourself in a different position where your core and glutes don’t work. You also shorten your hip flexors.

If you can’t do a push up from the floor, try elevating yourself to a higher position and focus on getting your chest to meet the bar, bench, couch or whatever else you are using. Remember, imagine your whole body coming down and up in one (head down through glutes).

Range of Motion is Key

To see your body and strength transform, you’ll need to make sure you are challenging your range of motion. If you are doing a push up on the floor, but can’t hit your chest to the floor, put yourself in an elevated position so you can get the full range of motion.

Many times when coaching, I have individuals use a bar for push ups to work specifically on a full range of motion. As they get stronger, the bar gets placed lower and lower until eventually they are doing push ups on the floor!

The Perfect Push Up

  • Elbows tuck back and flare out at 45 degrees
  • Head down to glutes comes up in one (glutes/core engaged)
  • Head stays still

 

 

Yes, You Can Enjoy Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

Yes, You Can Have Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

The holidays are here and we all have our own holiday traditions to celebrate. We all know it can be challenging to maintain your weight and weight gain is common during this time of year. But, it doesn’t have to be this way and by focusing on a few solid strategies, you can enjoy your treats and stay fit too.

Schedule Your Workouts Like an Appointment 

How to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays

Exercise is essential to maintaining your weight over the holiday season.  Don’t look at exercise as a punishment for enjoying your favorites holiday treats, but more as a way of feeling good physically and mentally. The holiday season is busy and stressful for many people and it’s very easy to make it appear that you don’t have time for your normal workout routine. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do for your exercise program. Take a look at your schedule week(s) in advance and plan your workouts like an appointment you can’t miss. No excuses allowed. Don’t pick days that *might* work because this makes it easier to possibly talk yourself out of skipping it if your day doesn’t go as planned. Remember, workouts don’t have to be an hour long to be effective. Simply find a way to consistently move at least three times per week.

Look Forward to Your Splurges 

Everyone has a certain “bliss” point. Some people may love their cocktails, while others like sweets or savory meals. Regardless what you love, have a plan for when you want to enjoy it. This goes back to looking at your calendar and writing in your fun activities. This helps you stay aware of days where you may indulge in something more calorie dense and it can help you say no to something tempting that may come up unexpectedly. I love looking ahead because it reminds me it’s important to make a good choice today because I know I will really enjoy (fill in the blank here) at my holiday party on Saturday.

Ask Yourself if It’s Worth It 

Temptations are everywhere this time of year. Whether it’s holiday parties, treats at work, or special “holiday” items that only come around once a year, it’s hard to say no. I’ve been there before where I found myself eating everything that crossed my path for years during the holiday season. In order to break this cycle, I had to start focusing on what foods I truly enjoyed and which foods I could easily pass on. Create a short list for yourself of foods or drinks that are too good to pass up. Also, think of items in the past that weren’t “blow your hair back” good and practice saying no this month.

My worth it foods: our family holiday cookies, homemade pie, Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner, or a meal at one of my favorite restaurants.

Not worth it items: most store bought items, fast food and most alcohol.

Practice Consistency

The holiday season can really challenge your healthy habit consistency. Weight gain or weight loss occurs when you are consistent. During the holidays, if you find yourself consistently indulging and skipping your workouts, most likely you will start the New Year heavier than before the holiday season. However, if you consistently stick to your good habits during the holidays, but savor your favorites, you will start the New Year without any setbacks. Here are a few things to keep in mind this month.

  • Make 80% of your meals filled with a good source of protein & vegetables.
  • Stick to your workout calendar.
  • Find work-arounds when something doesn’t go as planned.
  • Bring your water bottle with you everywhere you go.
  • Find ways to decrease your stress that don’t involve food or alcohol (hot bath, tea, a good book, phone a friend, listen to relaxing music, etc.)
  • Learn what to say to friends or family members who pressure you to indulge when you really don’t want to.

Find Go-To Emergency Meals

Since the holidays are so busy, plan in the back of your head what you could eat in case you find yourself doing last minute holiday shopping, working late or anything else where you are not wanting to cook. It’s okay if you don’t want to cook a healthy meal, but don’t let it be an excuse to cave into comfort food. The old me always ordered pizza or went out to a comfort food restaurant. This is where having a go-to emergency meal is essential and if you do decide to make something from home, make it as quick as possible.

At home ideas: reheated leftovers, canned tuna/chicken, an omelet or lastly, a good protein shake. Keep veggies in the freezer (or in the fridge) that you can easily whip up for a side.

Have a few go-to restaurants: Preferably, pick somewhere where you aren’t tempted by comfort foods. I can definitely make a good choice at a Mexican restaurant, but if I’m tired or stressed, I will eat the free chips that come out right away. However, Chipotle works great for me because I have to buy the chips and it’s a no brainer to pass.

My two go-to places: Whole Foods Salad Bar or Chipotle (salad, chicken, salsa, fajita veggies and a side of guacamole)

 

The Best Strength Exercise You Aren’t Doing

If you have experience weight training, you are very familiar with the squats, split squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups. These are staple moves whether you are following a workout DVD, taking a group fitness class or exercising on your own. While these are great exercises to master, incorporating different movement patterns is essential to a balanced strength program. Whether I’m working with a client or talking to a friend about exercise, most of them aren’t familiar with a lateral lunge or lateral movement.

Do you find yourself moving laterally? If not, the lateral lunge is a must for your weekly strength sessions.

Coaching Cues

  • Initiate the movement by driving your hips back. Your knee (of the side you’re lunging towards) should be in line or slightly behind your big toe.
  • Push your heel (of the side you’re lunging towards) through the floor. Often I see the heel lift when individuals try this exercise.
  • Always work your range of motion. The goal is to sink your hips low enough that it’s level with your knee.
  • Brace your core as you start to stand up and transition your weight back to the starting position.

Where should you feel this? Your glute (hip) on the side you’re lunging towards, inner thigh and core are all working in this movement.

Before adding weight to this exercise, focus on getting into a good range of motion first. Once you can get into an ideal range of motion, choose one of the following exercises.

Goblet Lateral Lunge

20161101_111257This is the first progression from body weight lateral lunges. Holding the weight in a goblet position helps you sink into a good range of motion, while also engaging your core.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Single Arm Lateral Lunge

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The second progression is taking the weight onto one side. This forces your shoulders to stabilize while challenging your core even more.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Lateral Lunge with a Pause

20161101_111304 Another great progression from the single arm example above. This exercise still forces your core to stabilize, but challenges your hips with the pause at the bottom. I always focus on letting the weight touch the floor for 1-2 seconds. Then, drive the force up through the power of your hips. It’s a tough move, but effective.

Complete 2-3 sets for 6-10 reps each side.