Freckles in April: 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

32

I love my birthday so much. Yeah, it's a day to feel special and eat cake and maybe open a gift or two but I also love the chance to reflect on where I'm at in life. And every year I think, "You know...I'm doing pretty good."


I'm kind of scared to even write this down because we all know how the universe works but: I feel like I've got my shiz together. I've taken charge of my health- I'm active, I eat healthy, I take good care of myself and I feel so so good. I've put a lot of time and effort into our house and it's a really pleasant place to be. My relationships with my family are good. I have a small business I'm proud of. I feel...on top of things.



I mean, sure, I have off days (side eye at my thyroid) but I mostly feel like I'm where I always thought I'd be at 32. A decently competent adult who handles stuff and has boring adult plans (office expansion! savings plans for my kids!) and occasionally does fun things like taking my husband on surprise trips and chopping all my hair off.




For 32 all I can really wish for is more of the same. More waking up early in the quiet of a clean, sunlight-filled house. More good times with my family. More long lunches with friends. More days exploring the outdoors and eating good food and reading amazing books.


I really can't complain. Life is good. Bring it on, 32!


My skirt will be released next week but right now I've got a fun birthday deal going on for Lark. Check it out!


Pictures by Chrissy of Let Me See You Sparkle Photography, who fit me in for a suuuper last minute birthday shoot yesterday and got me my pictures just a few hours later. Girlfriend is amazeballs.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Splurge or Save | Albion Fit Edition

If you haven't spent at least a few minutes drooling over Albion Fit's swimsuit line then what have you been doing with your life? Everything they do is gorgeous!

...and expensive.

Clothing retailers get their clothes one of two ways: they can design and manufacture their own (which is more expensive but it means they'll be the only one who carries that stuff) OR they can buy from wholesalers and resell at a markup (cheaper, but your competitors will likely have a lot of the same styles in their shops). Going by Albion's about page, it sounds like they do the former.

Which means the swimsuits I found are knockoffs and not the same suit bought from the same wholesaler and sold at wildly different prices. There will likely be quality and fit differences. If I was a better blogger I'd order them and compare for you but my blog budget right now is basically $10 per year for my domain so I'm just going to write about it and say caveat emptor.




Albion Fit Island Hopper One-Piece Cutout Suit vs CupShe Fashion on Amazon

There's a $98 difference between these suits. The Amazon reviews are decent- mostly sizing complaints.


Izabal Switchback Crop and Black Hipster Bottoms vs CupShe Fashion on Amazon

A $125 difference. The leaf print in the Albion suit is definitely a larger scale print, which isn't as obvious in the other suit. Again, the Amazon reviews on the cheaper suit are decent. Lots of girls sharing pictures and their measurements so you can check the fit.

CupShe also carries this high-neck bikini in the leaf print- similar to Albion's Izabal style but not a direct copy of anything they've done.

I'm willing to bet Albion's quality is totally worth the money. If you've got the budget, go for the better swimsuit. But if a $100+ swimsuit was never on the table for you then meh, might as well give the Amazon version a try, right?

After stumbling upon the Albion knockoffs I went down the rabbit hole and found a bunch more that I could directly line up to much pricier brands. I'll be sharing those as well- stay tuned!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ten Years



I'm cheating a bit because we actually celebrated 11 years of marriage in December and these were taken for our tenth anniversary the year before but I wasn't blogging then and I wanted to post them.

Our wedding pictures are meh. We didn't set a big budget for a photographer and we got what we paid for- probably less, actually, since our photographer "went through a hard time" and disappeared with our wedding pictures for over a year.

I have so many words for him.



So when our 10th anniversary approached, I told Aaron I wanted some new pictures.


I wanted a new dress- something that flattered me a bit more. I spent months searching and finally found this one from ModCloth. I'm dying to find somewhere else to wear it!


I wanted pictures that ditched the stiff posing and reflected 10 years worth of being each other's safe place. No weird leaning or faux casual snuggling against iron railings!


I wanted a cool location. Downtown Gilbert is such a treasure trove of colors, textures and cool details.


I wanted a photographer we knew and loved. We hired Jed Davis. He and his wife are good friends of ours and he and Aaron have worked together in the past. He was fantastic, as we knew he would be. AND he delivered our photos promptly. I will never take that for granted after our experience with our wedding photographer!


It's been over a year and I still go back and look at these all the time. They turned out so well and were everything I wanted. We agreed we need to do it again after another 10 years!











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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: The Food Part

One of my fav reminers. Food is fuel and exercise is a celebration. [source]


I've spent several weeks writing various iterations of this post and then something would change and I'd delete the whole thing and start over. Here's the truth: I have not totally figured out the food part. I feel like I've got the gym down; I go 4-5 times a week, I follow my lifting plan, I know what I'm doing and I'm seeing slow-but-steady progress.

Food is more difficult for a lot of reasons:
  • I'm not the only one I'm feeding and my kids and husband are particular about their food. 
  • Unless you see a professional food coach or doctor (and even if you do) there's bound to be some trial and error finding the right balance. 
  • I'm kind of a picky eater and some of the staples of weight lifters (eggs, fish) make me gag. 
  • We generally eat Michael Pollan style and a lot of protein powders and supplements that people use to hit their goals have long, sketchy ingredient lists


Here's where I SHOULD have started (but didn't): figure out how many calories you should be eating and how many you actually are eating. 

I didn't think I needed to do that. I ate fairly clean and had trained myself to stop eating when I started to feel full. I figured following my body's cues was getting me what I needed.

Surprise! I was undereating by quite a bit. I'm an ectomorph, which means I don't carry a lot of extra body fat. And since I wasn't eating enough calories to sustain my activity levels, my body was basically metabolizing my muscles for energy, even as I tried to build them. I dropped 3 lbs and started to feel totally trashed the rest of the day after the gym. Not in a "that was a good workout!" way, but in a "am I coming down with something? I might be dying" way.

There are a LOT of great options for fueling your body for exercise. I started counting macros because the logic of it appeals to me and I follow a lot of people on IG who have gotten really great results. I calculated my macros and it spit out higher calories along with a high carb/protein and low fat ratio for me. It didn't take long for my energy to come back and I started building a little bit of muscle. I bumped my calories up a little higher to put me into a surplus based on the caloric burn I saw from my FitBit and I finally gained back the weight I lost and a little extra.

Left was May 2016, right was earlier this week. Also, if you don't follow me on IG you may have missed my big chop

I debated long and hard on whether or not to share these pictures (so awkward for me) BUT it was these kinds of side-by-sides that convinced me to revamp my eating and increase my calories.

It took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to get here. Counting macros initially drove me INSANE and made me food obsessed. I went back and forth with it for ages. Also, even though I knew I needed to eat more there was a big mental block that kept me from doing it consistently. Eating more is scary. I had to slowly work my way up, especially because I'm a pretty light eater and had to train myself to eat more food more often. I got to 1900 calories. Then 2000. Then finally bumped to 2200 a couple weeks ago and I'm feeling really good (if a little uncomfortably full some of the time).

Very sad realization I had after I hit 2200 calories- in order to hit my protein goal I was consuming a LOT of dairy. Whey protein powder, Fairlife Milk, greek yogurt, etc. And I broke out like whoa. I decided to go off dairy for 2 weeks and see what happened. Within 3 days my skin cleared up. This is seriously the saddest lightbulb moment I've had in my entire life. I've struggled with breakouts for like 15 years and apparently dairy wasn't helping anything. So I'm off dairy at the moment. In a month or two I'll slowly reintroduce and see if there's a level I can tolerate without breaking out. I really miss cereal and milk.

My biggest and best tip to macro counting success: plan your food out and log it in the morning. Initially I was eating what I felt like over the course of the day and adding it to My Fitness Pal and then getting SO FRUSTRATED at the end of the day when I'd still need like 50g of carbs or 27g of protein. Now I sit down in the morning and plan out my whole day of food. I start by inputting breakfast (my big post-workout meal) and dinner (the meal I share with my family that needs to be something they'll eat). Then I use lunch and snacks to fill in as needed to hit my goals. I can mess with the amounts and types of food until it fits my macros before I even start eating for the day. Also, it's really nice to know exactly what to eat when I get hungry. I used to get so hungry in the mid afternoon and it was always a scramble to figure out what to eat. Now I just check my food log for the day and go grab my snack. It makes life easy.

I'm not an expert. I barely know what I'm doing so I'm not going to give any more real direction but I AM going to give you a list of resources so you can decide if this is worth trying.

Some resources for other people who are also trying to figure out The Food Part:

Macro Counting 101: If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start here.

TDEE calculator: "Total Daily Energy Expenditure" aka how many calories you burn in a day. This is also where my FitBit came in super handy- I adjusted my calories upward based on the average it charted over the course of several weeks.

Macros calculator: Useful even if you don't want to count macros because you can adjust for your goals and how aggressively you want to pursue them and it will tell you calories as well as macros.

My Fitness Pal: Use the free version to keep track of how much you eat. It's a pain at first and there's a learning curve as you figure out how to eat and track but I swear it gets easier. You'll need measuring cups and a food scale though.

Body type quiz: May or may not be useful to you, depending on if you fall heavily toward one body type or are more of a balance of the three. But if you're strongly one over the others then it may influence how you eat and train. I actually switched my lifting program, increased my rest periods, upped my carbs and changed my ultimate goals and expectations based on my body type and the recommendations I found.

Eating for your body type: related to the quiz above, I found this article and the graphics super useful on days I need a break from tracking my food. Some days I just do this:

From Body Type Eating

Some foods that make life easier
(I wrote most of this before I figured out my dairy thing. So there's a lot of dairy in here that I'm not eating right now)

Costco rotisserie chicken: I buy a chicken, shred it up, then stick measured portions into tupperware containers and keep them in the freezer. I'm chronically struggling to hit my protein goal so it's really nice to have a source of lean protein ready to roll at meal time.

Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes mix: This is a pancake and waffle mix that's pretty clean and high in protein. If you mix it with Fairlife milk and eggs you can get even more protein in. They're a little bland on their own but I kind of feel that way about most pancakes. The toppings make it for me- I like plain greek yogurt (more protein!) and berry compote (I use my frozen berry mix from Costco. Reduce on the stove, mash up, pour over pancakes) with a small drizzle of maple syrup to sweeten it all up. My Costco currently carries this for cheaper than Amazon!

Fairlife milk: I'm picky about milk. For years I've exclusively bought organic whole milk BUT, again, I have to work to hit my protein goals and I have trouble keeping the fat down so we've been doing Fairlife instead. It's filtered in such a way that increases protein and calcium but reduces sugar and lactose. I get 2% and chocolate (can't talk myself into skim. Maybe someday). The chocolate is mostly for Aaron but the other day we were out of other options so I used the chocolate milk in my Kodiak cakes and made chocolate pancakes and it was awesome.

Protein Powder: I was really reluctant to add protein powder to my diet because of the sketchy ingredient lists but the truth is that I can't consistently hit my protein macros without it. A girl can only eat so much chicken, you know? I found some yummy-ish flavored options but turns out all that fake sugar really upsets my stomach. I switched to plain whey for a while and my tummy handled it but my skin didn't. Now I'm doing brown rice protein (which tastes and smells exactly like brown rice. I actually really like it but it's still higher in sugar than I'd like and I'll be looking at other options when this canister is gone).

Greek Yogurt: I mix it into oatmeal, throw it on pancakes, and blend it into smoothies.

Halo Top: Not everyone likes this but, for me, the Chocolate and Oatmeal Cookie flavors are totally worth eating. If you're unfamiliar, it's a low-fat, low-sugar, higher-protein ice cream. An entire pint of chocolate is 240 calories. A pint of regular chocolate ice cream is just under 1000 calories. Tip: let it soften for a few minutes before you dig in. It'll go from sort of weird and crumbly to creamy. Although, confession: I like it weird and crumbly.

Quinoa and lentils: High in carbs and protein and low in fat, which is exactly what I need. I keep these stocked as well as whole grains like brown rice and barley.


Instagrammers who are better at this than I am and worth following:

@laurenbhealth - esp her IG stories. She does a lot of how-tos and good tips
@butteryourmacros
@thatmacromomlife
@iheartmacros
@caligirlgetsfit
@biceps.after.babies



If you made it this far, imagine me patting you on the back. This post was a beast.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

A Few Links

Just a few things I enjoyed reading on the internet this week and you might as well.

How to be happier according to the world's happiest man (who is, apparently, a Tibetan Monk originally from France).


How our perception of Harry Truman changed. I saw this graph this week charting presidential popularity. It's about Trump obviously but the most interesting line, to me, was Harry Truman's.


I knew he'd been unpopular at the time but didn't realize he'd had such a crazy fall from grace (his highs and lows are comparable to Bush 43 but he did it in 400 days vs W's 2000ish). It send me down the rabbit hole of reading about Harry Truman and here we are.


Reality contestants spent a year cut off from the world. Buuut turns out their show barely aired. (h/t Katie)


This girl planned her wedding in 5 days. On the one hand: good for her. Way to focus on your relationship and not the extra fluff of wedding planning. You don't need it! On the other hand: it may not have been stressful for her but I'd imagine it was for a lot of other people who had to scramble to make it work (the caterer, friends and family who dropped everything at the last minute to be there, etc). Mixed feelings!

Painful, horrible, terrible things most girls have experienced. Buzzfeed, man. Never not relateable.




Also relateable: Chris Pratt's IG series "What's my snack?"  I'm working on a (very long, probably useless) post about food for my gym series and I snort laughed watching his videos. I've been there.


Have you read anything good this week? Share!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

We went to Barnes and Noble on a family date night a few weeks ago and right there on the "new releases" shelf was THIS.

Ok, I generally feel like I know about stuff. Even as a person who hasn't blogged in a while, I usually hear about upcoming things- promising new brands, interesting restaurants, new releases by famous authors. It's part of being in the blogging network- you just hear about stuff. But I had *no idea* The Chemist was coming out.

I hopped onto my library app and apparently I was the only one who didn't know about The Chemist because the waistlist was like 300 people long.

A few weeks later Janssen texted me and offered to share her audiobook version with me. There were still like 250 people between me and any copy from my library so I took her up on it and binge listened to it over the next few days.

Let me begin by admitting that I have a very weird relationship with Stephenie Meyer. I can't put her books down but I also know they're kind of terrible. I hate that I love them. When I bought one of the Twilight books I hid it under a pile of clothing in my closet because I felt so conflicted about owning it.

I do think her writing is getting better. The Chemist is maybe her least terrible in terms of writing style (although I haven't read The Host in ages so I can't say for sure. But it's def better than Twilight with its endless descriptions of Edward's marble torso). And I have to give her props for trying out different genres- The Chemist is a kind of black-ops thriller. She dedicated it to Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne and you can see their influence.

I quite liked the heroine. She's smart and capable which does my feminist heart good. Wimpy, moony Bella drove me bonkers through much of the Twilight series and Alex is kind of the anti-Bella. She can take care of herself and that was really refreshing coming from Stephenie Meyer.

Downside: this is still a very Stephenie Meyer love story.

They've known each other less than a week before someone utters the L-word. There's an assumption from early on that they're going to be together forever which would be reeeal creepy if they had just met on Tinder like normal people. Some of the love interest's dialogue made me a bit gaggy. LET IT BREATHE, MEYER. They can get together later in the book without these constant declarations of undying affection; why rush it??

Romantic tension just isn't her strong suit. She's more of the "throw them together and get it over with" type.

Fortunately, the rest of the plot is really fun with a secret government agency and torture and revenge and awesome dogs so I enjoyed it. I have no idea how much of it would hold up under scrutiny but you can tell she did her research and tried to make it as plausible as possible.

If you're a Stephenie Meyer hater, I doubt this one will sway you. But if you've enjoyed her other stuff then you should go grab this one.

Then come back and talk to me about it because no one I know has read it yet and I want to discuss.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting That Last Bit of Product

I kind of thought most people knew this trick but I just explained it to a friend and blew her mind. SO, here are some really ugly pictures I took in my husband's lab just now to explain how to get as much as possible out of makeup tubes with that annoying packaging that leaves a lot left at the top and bottom.


I LOVE my Wunderbrow but the packaging is so annoying. Fortunately, there's a way to get at ALL that product left at the top and at least a little bit from the bottom.



Products like this have a rubber gasket at the top to scrape excess product off the brush when you pull it out. I suspect it also helps keep the product from drying out since it limits airflow into the tube, so don't do this until you're pretty much at the end of what you can reach with the brush. It serves a purpose but it also limits how much you can get out.


Take a pair of needle nosed pliers and force the edge between the gasket and the edge of the makeup tube. Remove, rotate the tube and do it again. Work your way around the perimeter and the gasket should start to pop out a little bit.



Push the edge of the pliers under the lip and push the gasket up. Remove it from the tube.


Done! Now the brush can get at all the makeup stuck up at the top. It can also go slightly further into the tube without that gasket in the way so you can get a bit more out of the bottom. I'll get a couple more weeks out of my Wunderbrow now!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

On Having a Difficult Child

Stinky, aged 3


My oldest son was 6 weeks premature. He was a tiny little thing but he caught up quickly and became a healthy and strong toddler. He was my sidekick and we went everywhere together- library story time, the zoo, splash pads. He was sweet and funny and smart and I adored him.

And then he turned 3.

Here's what I wrote on my kids' private blog when he turned 3.5:

[Stinky] has become a big bowl full of sass and mean lately. Whenever I ask him to do anything he snaps, "NO Mom. STOP. Just stop talking." 
Um yeah. It infuriates me. 
He seems to be physically incapable of using a nice voice when talking to [Baby 2]. He's always yelling at him and just generally being mean. He refuses to share and has zero tolerance for when [Baby 2] is sad. It really upsets me and I've been at a bit of a loss as to how to handle it. At this point, [Stinky] just spends large amounts of his day in time out. 
This is probably the largest reason I haven't blogged here lately. I find it difficult to say nice things about [Stinky] and it makes me feel bad. He's my baby and I love him but I kind of want to send him to boarding school. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's a phase and it will pass! 

I could have written that exact same blog post at any point last year. It took six years to pass.

Part of the reason I decided in December that I wanted to blog again was because I had this incredibly difficult child that I just really needed to write about. I needed help. I needed suggestions. I needed commiseration. I needed to see if anyone else out there was dealing with this.

And then...we inadvertently figured it out.

Let me back up.

Stinky (now 9) became difficult at 3 and only got harder as he got older. The way in which he was difficult is always hard for me to define though- he could be really sweet and helpful at times (and he adores his little sister, thank heavens) but he could also be sneaky, manipulative and mean. He wasn't normal-kid-naughty; he was on a whole other level. I caught a lot of it but most of this ugly energy was turned toward his younger brother (almost 7). They were either best friends or Stinky hated his guts; there didn't seem to be much of an in-between. Aaron and I often wondered at what point a child's behavior should be considered abusive. We were always on eggshells.

One night over Christmas break I hid the baby monitor into their room. The way Stinky treated and talked to his brother while we were present was really awful and we were curious what he said when he thought we weren't listening. The things we heard terrified us. We immediately went back to their bedroom and removed him to the guest room.

Then I cried.

See, we'd tried everything. Over the years we'd offered incentives and given ever-increasing consequences. We'd given him more one-on-one time with each of us. We discouraged some friendships and encouraged others. We tried a couple different sports. We'd done therapy twice a month for a year at $100 per session. After his last meeting with his therapist she told me she didn't know what else she could do for him and recommended elevating him to a special clinic 45 minutes away to be "evaluated."

We were out of ideas. We loved him but he was hurting our family and he seemed so beyond reach. We didn't know what else to do except take him to the clinic and hope that labeling the problem would help more than it would hurt. We even considered taking him out of school, wondering if someone there was spurring his behavior in some way.

Then abruptly...he was better.

I mean, he's not a perfect child or anything, but his behavior is now more of what you would expect from the average 9 year old kid who doesn't like doing chores.

It's only been a couple months so I can't say with total certainty that he's moved on from the behavior we've dealt with for the past 6 years but I think I figured it out.

Stinky is a textbook introvert. His brother is an extrovert like whoa. We all find him a little exhausting, to be honest, but Stinky is the one who fields most of his energy because they're close in age, shared a room and are playmates. I think he simply kept hitting a wall where he was all-peopled-out and then his brother would just keep coming at him with all his energy and love and enthusiasm and he couldn't handle it and it turned into this big, ugly, behavioral problem.

He needed his own room.

After all those years, he just needed his own. damn. room.

When they shared a room he had nowhere to escape and have quiet and be alone. Now, he'll often disappear toward the end of the afternoon and go read a book with his door closed. He has a place where his loving-but-exhausting brother can't get to him without permission. He has a chance to rest and recharge and be by himself.

This might be a forever change or it might just be a small reprieve- whatever it is, I'll take it.

Moms with difficult children- I see you. I see how hard you're trying. I know the worries and the tears and the exhaustion and I want you to know that you're not alone.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dress Appropriately Please



My husband is still a believing Mormon (along with most of our friends) so I've still sort of got one foot in the church, even though I officially resigned over a year ago. I attend church with my family every other week but generally eschew other activities unless they're geared toward my kids. Last month, though, I noticed a new announcement in the bulletin. The stake organized a running and walking club and the first meeting was the following Saturday. "That's a fun idea," I said as I showed it to Aaron.

I'm always looking for ways to get more cardio in and I seriously considered joining the group heading out that weekend.

Until I got the email.

Aaron forwarded the information from the stake when it showed up in his inbox and it looked fine. All cardio and fitness levels welcome. Here's where we're meeting and the time. This is the route. Bring your own water.

Oh and: dress appropriately please.

dress. appropriately. please.

I guess I've been out of the church long enough now that an adult man telling other adults how to dress struck me as incredibly off-putting. That used to feel normal but now it has effectively snuffed out my interest in the running club. I just don't care to have my clothing policed while I'm running.

Or ever, really.

As a private institution the LDS church has every right to dictate what people can or cannot wear to events. But something to keep in mind: would you rather someone show up in a tank top...

...or not at all?



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Monday, March 6, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Rest, "Rest" and REST

When I first started going to the gym with my own cobbled together plan I worked out 3 days a week and rested the other 4 days. Because what's what rest days are for, right? Resting. Sitting around. Not doing things.

And then I started doing Shortcut to Size. I was DYING I was so sore after the first couple days and was so relieved to see a rest day. Until I saw the fine print.


Remember that every rest day should be an active rest day. Rest days are for recovery; they're not an excuse to be lazy. Get out and hit 15-30 minutes of HIIT cardio today, or perform 30-60 minutes of your favorite activity: hiking, biking, walking, playing a sport, etc.



Me, complaining to Aaron: they're not rest days! They're "rest" days! Agghhhhh everything hurts and I'm dying.

That particular program really pushes the HIIT but I hate cardio that's just for the sake of cardio. Instead, as much as possible, I get outdoors.

Aaron: You hike so much!
Me: I'm not hiking, I'm "resting".








Hiking is my rest day activity of choice. I've always loved it but didn't get out very often because it's hard to go with my whiny kids or to coordinate schedules with hiking buddies. Now that I think of it as a necessary part of my fitness routine, I've started occasionally going alone when it's convenient for me (which I love!) and I've found new trails that push me.


I've schedule my lift days so that my hip hop dance class falls on a rest day then I try to hike one of the other rest days. If I can't hit a trail somewhere I'll go for a run or push my daughter around the neighborhood in her stroller for a while. I try to stay more active on my "rest" days but I do also try to have at least one real rest day each week. My muscles need it.


Which brings me to REST. Sometimes you need real REST, not "rest." My thyroid got wonky in January and I dropped my gym time down a lot for a couple weeks until we could get my medication sorted. I didn't hike so much. I went to bed earlier and slept in whenever I could. If your body feels sluggish and you're exhausted it's possible that you need REST*. Train less. Sleep more. Let your body work on healing and rebuilding. Then get back to it!


*or possibly more food. We'll talk about that.




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Friday, March 3, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Optional Gear that Makes Life Easier



You don't need anything fancy to go to the gym. Breathable clothing that you can comfortably move around in and supportive shoes- that about covers the necessities. BUT if you've been going to the gym for a bit and realize, hey, this is maybe something that might stick, then here are a few things that might make your life a little easier and more comfortable.

An armband for your phone

If you feel like music improves your exercise, you're not imagining it. There's actually a study that shows listening to music increases your endurance by about 15%. I am almost physically incapable of exercising without music. One time I accidentally brought a dead pair of headphones to the gym and it was, without exaggeration, the worst workout I've ever had.

A few weeks ago I watched a video of a healthy living blogger doing pushups with her phone in her sports bra and I found myself thinking, "Oh honey, why." I used to keep mine in there too but it got sweaty and gross and sometimes it would fall out or down and it was super annoying. Plus it feels weird to fish your phone out of your boobs in public if you want to change the song or answer a text.

This armband is currently on sale for six dollars. I've had it for years and it's only just barely starting to show a little wear. It's a good investment.

[also, please drop your best gym jams in the comments. My playlist has changed very little in the past few years and it's feeling a bit stale! Help!]


Gloves 

It took me a long time to give into the gloves. My gym is mostly old people and a lot of them wear gloves and so my brain sort of subconsciously made the association that weight lifting gloves are for old people. But then I started lifting heavier weights and my hands were getting beat. PLUS my legs are significantly stronger than my arms so my leg days are sometimes limited by what my hands and arms can handle. Gloves help me grip heavier barbells. They're not a necessity but they are really nice if lifting sometimes hurts your hands.

[I linked to mine, which I actually bought at Target for cheaper, but I've only had them a few months and they're starting to fall apart a bit. I like them ok but I'm sure there are other options out there that will hold together longer]


FitBit (or something similar)

I recommend this...sort of. There are caveats. I inherited Aaron's FitBit when he bought himself an Apple Watch for Christmas, otherwise I doubt I ever would have bothered. I do actually really love it but it has limited usefulness if you're lifting.

FitBit tracks steps but lifting weights involves a lot of staying in one place. I can kill myself in the gym for an hour and only get 2500 steps. It feels like my fitness tracker isn't giving me much credit for the fact that I am putting a LOT of effort toward getting fit. There are plenty of days where I get a really good workout in but still don't hit the 10,000 recommended daily steps. It's weirdly demoralizing, especially since I have friends who get like 16,000+ steps a day (you can follow your friends and see how they're doing, cheer them on, etc through the FitBit app).

But FitBit does track caloric burn. Figuring out what and how much to eat has been the hardest part of all this for me (working on a post about this) and seeing how many calories I've burned has helped me make sure I'm eating the right amount.

Also, it just makes me be generally a lot more active. I've added miles to hikes just to see how many steps I could get. I go for walks with my daughter in the stroller because my FitBit says I'm being lazy. So there's limited usefulness when it comes to lifting weights but, overall, having a FitBit makes me move a lot more throughout the rest of the day.


A silicone ring

Lifting weights while wearing metal rings isn't a great idea. There's a lot of pressure and it can damage your ring or your finger (Google "degloving injury" if you've got a strong stomach). If you wear a wedding ring and the idea of taking it off to go to the gym makes you feel weird, a silicone ring is a great alternative. I got a 4-pack from Amazon for cheap and I love them. Also, I don't get guys bothering me at the gym very often (see: almost everyone is aged 65+) but the few times it has happened were all on days I wasn't wearing a ring. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but it's nice to just be left alone while I do my workout.


Resistance Bands

My gym has stretchy bands but they're the straight kind and I was always having to knot them to make loops for banded squats, some of my ab exercises, etc. My gym time is limited (I have one hour between when it opens and when I need to be home to wake my kids up for school) and it always took me several minutes to get them knotted comfortably and to the proper length. It felt like such a waste of precious time. I finally just bought my own (looped) resistance bands. They're only $12, which is totally worth it for me. Plus having them opens up some home exercise options for days I can't make it to the gym.


Clothes 

Workout clothes don't have to be fancy but it's nice to have a couple changes, especially if you get sweaty and don't want to be washing your sports bras every day. Try TJ Maxx, Ross and Wal Mart for really affordable gym clothes. I got an $89 pair of yoga pants for $15 at TJ Maxx a few weeks ago and they're fantastic. The Danskin Now line from Wal Mart is (I'm embarrassed to admit) pretty great and comprises most of my gym wardrobe (if you watch my IG stories, this comes up a lot). Make your stuff last by washing on cold and laying flat to dry.


Good socks 

Decent socks are weirdly important to me when it comes to working out or hiking. If all I have left in my drawer are those ones that slip down into my shoe every time I move then I probably won't even leave the house. I recently got a pack of men's Adidas socks from Costco and I love them SO MUCH.

[I think these are maybe the same ones but they were way cheaper at Costco. I've also seen some good options at TJMaxx recently]



Again, none of this is necessary (well, except for the clothes and socks but you know what I mean). You can get into great shape without any of it! But sometimes the little extras just make life a bit easier.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Know Your Brain

5:15 comes reeeeal early.


I tried doing Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guides a year or two ago and really loved it. I ultimately couldn't stick with it, though and I've recently figured out why.

If I always know that I have to go hard then eventually I quit.

I have to be able to go into my workout saying, "I'm pretty tired, I can have an easy day." Inevitably, I'll get warmed up and get into the zone and have a great workout. But if I wake up knowing that I'm going to get my butt kicked then I often can't force myself to even get out of bed.

I know it's totally silly! But that's how my brain works and knowing that (and working with it) has given me the best and most consistent exercise I've ever had in my whole life.

I mentioned this to a friend the other day while we were hiking and she thought for a moment and said she can't make herself exercise if she knows she's gotten less than 7 hours of sleep the night before. She can't look at the clock as she's trying to fall asleep because if she sees a number past 10:45 then her brain gives her an automatic pass to skip the gym the next morning, whether she feels well-rested or not.

Exercise and fitness are as much mental as they are physical. If you can figure out what game your brain is playing then you're well on your way.

see also: this article, which I found super fascinating and comes to mind a lot when I'm at the gym

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Year Round Skirt Style with Lark Skirts

I haven't taken pictures of myself like this in a while. But, as it turns out, style blogging is a bit like riding a bike. Which is good because somebody's gotta take pictures of my skirts and I happened to be available. And affordable.

Lark is releasing a new skirt each month in 2017 and this lovely green number went up in the shop this morning for the month of March. Some of my skirts are a bit more seasonal but I think this one works year round so here are some styling options for spring, summer, fall and winter!


Top from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Shoes from Target (similar)

Those blue pinstripes!! So good.


Top from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Necklace from CDavis Designs
Wedges from Payless, I think? (similar)

Shirt from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Moccs from Payless (I also have Minnetonka ones, which I love and have held up a bit better than my Payless moccs. I've gone through about 4 pairs of those! Payless brings them back each fall and I grab a new pair every year)

That neckline though
Shirt from TJMaxx (similar)
Skirt from Lark
Shoes by Miss Mooz via Nordstrom Rack (similarish)


And YES all my shirts are from TJMaxx because that's where I went the other day to find styling options for this skirt. They're all recent and under $20, because that's how TJM rolls (bless them), so you might be able to find them if you go look! I tried to find the brands online and give links to the exact styles but my Google searches came up surprisingly empty. That's what happens with no-name brands, I guess. But TJM is really good right now! If you have one local, it might be worth your time to pop in.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Track Your Progress (OFF the Scale)

Booty check: still no booty :(


The scale says I weigh exactly one pound less than I did a year ago. My measurements and progress pictures show a much bigger difference.

Five years ago I took my bust, waist and hip measurements and wrote them on a piece of paper to keep by my computer for when I ordered clothes online. Eventually I transferred it to a note on my phone and periodically measured myself again to make sure it was still accurate. The result is that I have a running list of measurements for the past five years (minus pregnancy) on my phone and it hasn't changed much...until the past 8 months. Since July I've taken an inch off my bust and hips and an 1.5 inches off my waist.

The scale has limited usefulness. Take measurements. Take pictures. Weigh yourself from time to time if you want to, but don't worry too much about what it says. Evidence of change will likely show up in other ways (like arm muscles!) and that will keep you motivated.

(This is where I SHOULD show you my progress shots but I take pictures in my underwear and sports bra and I cannot bring myself to put pictures of myself in my underwear on my blog. Sorry/you're welcome?)


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