LAV: Life After Vacation

I’ve given this blog a go quite a few times over the last few weeks, and each time I deleted everything I had written until a fresh white digital page was before me, curser blinking with too many thoughts and too little words. I’d close my laptop, and move onto a different activity (most likely meal prep). Flash back to the week leading up to my trip. I was so excited for the journey of a lifetime, but I was also anxious about leaving the routine I had put so much time and sweat into (see related: irrational and negative occasional yet powerful fear of regression). Packing my small but mighty carry-on, I remember thinking about this blog and how I would be able to write about my vacation as the ultimate fit-trip. Spoiler alert: that is not what you’re going to read. What you’re going to read is how my vacation was the ultimate trip. Period. It’s been one month since I landed on American soil after 15 – let me say that again, fifteen –  days eating traveling my way through Western Europe, and I finally feel that I have the clarity to communicate everything I want to write about the life of a self proclaimed fiercely dedicated fit chick on vacation.

Blame it on the jet lag or the post-travel blues, but I latched onto my vacation in a series of stages – from positive to negative and everything in between.

I’ll call the first stage, for lack of a better term, the “YOLO” stage. “You only live once – and baby I. am. living!” It was my mantra since our plane hit the ground in London Town. I was still saying it while strutting to my fave sushi place – and digging into three rolls – immediately upon arrival, and I meant it. This trip was the most incredible experience of my life thus far (ICYMI: I left a #TIUgirl and returned a #TIUbride!), and I was totally okay with being out of my routine because separating myself from the gym and MyFitnessPal brought me all of these amazing memories, and also because I knew I’d get right back to my lifestyle – it was a part of me. Stage One was blissful.

Stage Two caught me by surprise, and it came in swinging. Where Stage One was the boy next door, Stage Two was the dangerously irresistable biker dude. Phase Two was Resentment. I stepped onto the treadmill and powered up my Pandora for my first official workout upon my return and with heavy legs all I could think was, “Dang, cardio is HARDIO, girl!” Monday’s #amwo wasn’t any easier. I had to drop set my weights through moves that I powered through previously and I watched as my heart rate struggled to recover on my MyZone tracker app. In hindsight, I know this didn’t make we weak, and it should have been expected. I was asking a lot of my body to react as if my two-week gallivant never happened, and I certainly didn’t prime it for a quick recovery. That same day I had to hop, jump, and wriggle into a pair of pants that were roomy prior to my departure. I felt… frustrated. And I got into the bad habit of blaming my vacation. Feeling uncomfortable in my clothing was at one time a normalcy for me, but over the course of 11+ months my lifestyle developed into a new normal, and I felt so very far from it. Like the 3,908 miles from Philadelphia to Barcelona kind of far.

Snap out of it, Al. Sorry to get so heavy on you there. I was weighing myself down with negative vibes, and I caught myself before I got in too deep. It took a long hard look in the mirror, but I broke up with Resentment and started seeing Stage Three, Acceptance. I was in the swing of things – planning meals, meeting my macro goals (while happily munching on untracked treats, #almondlife), and doing work in the gym when I saw the damn light. Let me be clear: no ab definition, no matter how ripped and shredded and rippling, is worth missing out on – or, even worse, fearing – life. Hell, the whole reason I began this fitness journey was so that I could enjoy my life at my happiest and healthiest. My vacation wasn’t a permanent state, it didn’t define my habits, and it didn’t set me back. Instead it filled me up, expanded my horizons, and made me so incredibly grateful. I accepted the physical and mental – mostly mental – effects of my vacation and we are on great terms to this day. I love you, vacation!

 

Acceptance and I had gotten serious and I was ready to take it to the next level – Stage Four: Action. With the Tone It Up Bikini Series (the place where this whole journey began) nearing closer, I decided to set a new and improved goal and work towards it with razor sharp focus. All of these unexpected post-vacation emotions had me feeling lost, and I knew I needed a little kick in the booty to reignite my fire. I met with my dietician and we determined a plan that I immediately put into action. For me, establishing a clear intention was the key to moving forward.

And now we meet here, at Stage Five: Clarity. Four weeks later, and I’m able to clearly define and understand each complex emotion I felt following LAV (Life After Vacation). Better yet, I’m able to classify them into stages, reflect on them, and use them as tools as I continue on my heath and fitness journey (because I’m in it for the long haul, y’all).

And without further ado, since I can not write without including some sort of list, I present to you a round up of tips sprinkled with words of wisdom and IRL accounts of my experience:

  1. Determine a *realistic* plan. I encourage you to start thinking about your trip a few weeks prior to take-off and develop a key word: realistic plan for how your travels will align with your healthy lifestyle. Do your accommodations and schedule allow you to cook for yourself? Can you vow to make walking your primary mode of transportation? Will you be able to exercise? What are the go-to healthy spots in the area for locals?
    I made my goals Instagram-official with a photo and caption: “Work out every other day, Healthiest choices 80/20, Enjoy every moment of guilt free balance.” Looking back, it was a huge commitment. My goals would come to be affected by countless things beyond my control and that mentally made me feel like I was failing at achieving them. Now I realize my goals were a little vague and a lot ambitious given the variables of my specific vacation. It was a lesson in setting goals that prime you for success, not (perceived) failure.

 

  • Fight Back Snack Attack. Two things became apparent to me during my trip. 1. I can’t control what appears on the menu in front me when I stumble into a corner cafe in Paris (anyone remember my Steak Frites story?) 2. I can, however, exercise more control over snacks and grab-n-go meals. While my fiancé (!!!) stopped more than once – a day – along our walks for sugary street-side snacks (from crepes to stroopwaffles to gelato), I would dip into the nearest grocery store for a bag of roasted almonds or a piece of fresh fruit (seriously, Europe has amazing grab-n-go options). I found that snacks were the best way to keep up the practice of intentional choices and balance out my main meals.
  • Order up! Depending on your destination, anything from cultural courtesies to language barriers can lead to a waiter presenting you with an unexpected plate. While in France, my fiancé and I stopped at a super-real-deal-French eatery for a late lunch where I ordered the salmon with a side of zucchini, beaming with nutrition-nerd excitement. When the dish arrived to our table, the salmon was wrapped with a gorgeously fried, golden brown crepe. Needless to say, it was not the picture of health I imagined, though I should mention, it was probably one of my top 5 meals abroad. My consolation here was simply and powerfully this: I tried. I made the sincere effort to order a healthy item off of a menu I could hardly read (4 years of AP French where you at?!). In every restaurant I went to (it felt like thousands), never once did I order with the mentality that I was going to throw all of my dietary preferences and nutritional values down the drain. At one point, I asked my fiancé, “What do you think my healthy to unhealthy ratio is?” and he replied that my unwavering attempts and dedicated menu translating chalked up to a 90/10 split, but in reality I was probably evening out at 50/50. That, my friends, is something that was hard to accept at the time, but that today, I am proud of. **mentally erases previously mentioned 80/20 goal from Instagram caption and replaces with something much more realistic** Although it didn’t always work out as planned, my consistency and dedication gave me a sense of comfort and pride.
  • Pack n’ Pin. Stow some of your favorite healthy snacks in your carry-on (I reserved a space for RX Bars, Square Organics, and almonds) and, if room allows, squeeze some portable fitness gear into your luggage (think sliders, resistance bands, or a jump rope!) Once the goods are packed, you gotta use ‘em. I turned to Pinterest to download do-anywhere, anytime body weight + HIIT workouts directly to my phone. Online sources like ToneItUp.com and Mission-360.com have tons of videos and printables, from heart-rate pumpin’ to sore leg stretching. The options are endless and a fun way to try a new routine 🙂

Overall, whether it’s a 3-day weekend getaway or a month-long trip around the world, vacation is to be enjoyed! Trust me, as someone who dedicates a very large portion of my life to health and fitness, I know it’s easier said than done, but my best advice is to go with the flow. A healthy lifestyle is your foundation, and it will always be there supporting you, no matter where you are in the world. TL;DR Vacations are literally intended to be a break from our routines, so let go and let live!

Recipe: Apple Maple Chicken Patties

For as long as I can remember, my parents and teachers and doctors and even my favorite cartoons told me, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” And, up until recently, I completely ignored them – thinking that breakfast was synonymous with sugary cereal and that skipping over it was a sure-fire way to save on calories. Needless to say, I was severely misinformed on both accounts. Now my routine looks a little more like this: sweat, eat, repeat.  I might as well have a neon light hovering above my messy bun that flashes, WILL WORKOUT FOR FOOD! But, not just any food. Post-workout protein is essential for muscle recovery and growth.

With a high concentration of protein in my current dietary plan, I’m always looking for new ways to get the goods. Behold! This scratch-made Apple Maple Chicken Sausage recipe is hearty, sweet, and savory all in one protein-packed patty. Not to mention, they’re the perfect compliment to my all-time fave egg muffins (more on that later) and they will be finding a permanent place in my menu, somewhere between PRoats and pancakes.

Ingredients (yields 10-12 patties):
16 oz ground chicken
1 medium apple (about 1 cup diced)
1/4 cup yellow onion (diced)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp EVOO

chickenpatties

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice 1 medium apple (about 1 cup) and 1/4 cup yellow onion and combine in a medium saucepan. Sauté over medium heat until mixture is soft and lightly brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool. In large bowl, combine ground chicken with sautéed apple-onion mixture. Add 2 tbsp maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Form into 10-12 even balls. Spray a large baking sheet with coconut oil and set aside. Heat 1 tsp EVOO in a medium saucepan. Add 3-4 patties at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Transfer patties onto baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Serve 1-2 patties as a side with your fave M1!

 

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Crisp Spring Salad

You know what they say, April showers bring fresh seasonal produce! As much as I looooooove my hearty Winter blends, I’m bidding a bittersweet “see ya next year!” to butternut squash and dried cranberries, ’cause Spring is blowing in and it is bursting with the greenest of greens and the plumpest of berries.

Ultra light and packed with all the micronutrients, every crunchy, sweet bite of this salad will take your tastebuds on a windows-down, music-up joyride (sans pollen).

Ingredients (yields 1 serving):
2 cups kale (washed & chopped)
1 cup raw asparagus (chopped)
1/4 cup edamame (cooked & shelled)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup strawberries (sliced)

For dressing:
1 tsp honey
1 tsp EVOO

SpringSalad

Directions: You’ll need a cutting board, knife, and the biggest bowl you can find! Got it? Good. Start by washing and chopping your kale. Add it to your bowl and massage with your hands. Cook edamame according to package and add to the kale once cooled (if you don’t buy shelled edamame, pop those pods out!). Follow with chopped asparagus and shredded carrots. Give it all a good mix to distribute the veggies. Top with sliced strawberry and drizzle with 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp EVOO for a simple but sweet dressing. Optional: Top with 4-6oz of grilled chicken for added protein. Not optional: Place bowl in lap and shovel into mouth.

P.S. I desperately wanted to include radishes in this recipe for added color and crunch, but store after store was barren of the (apparently) highly sought after root veggie. If you give this salad a whirl, fulfill my dreams by adding radish and giving me a tag 😉 @fitlicity

Talk Food Marketing To Me

Picture me, munching on M3 (probably a kale salad if I know myself) and tapping my way through Instagram stories, only to be stopped by the ever inspiring @KP_tiu_. Kelly, or KP as the Tone It Up community knows her, captivated me with her animated account of a very deceptive (though probably very delicious) gluten-free cookie that KP’s students had brought to celebrate the end of a nursing course. The cookie, due to it’s gluten-free gold star of approval, was quickly and definitively classified as healthy amongst KP’s peers on the nursing unit. Baked into it’s batter were 100% free-of-gluten ingredients including sugar, peanut butter, eggs, and sweet chocolate chips. I hate to burn your warm chewy center, girl, but would you still call that a totally healthy food?

I hate to break it to ya, but we are trained to judge a pre-packed snack by it’s box. Here’s the deal. Food marketing is a multimillion dollar industry, employing thousands people who have but one job – to get their product off the shelf and into the checkout line. Enter: the health halo effect, the act of overestimating or misinterpreting the healthfulness of an item based on a single claim (like the gluten-free cookie). Aisle after aisle, grocery stores are brimming with covert problem-products (nonetheless “Fat Free!”) disguised beneath big-eyed bushy-tailed mascots, picturesque mountainscapes, and shiny emblems boasting buzzword after buzzword. And this is where food marketing leaves us, reaching into pantries and freezers bursting with sky rocketing sodium and sugar levels in granola’s packaging.

KP & I think it’s time for an intervention, better yet, a revolution. As health-conscious consumers, we believe it’s our duty to see past the glowing front-of-the-box health halo. I’ve teamed up with the egg white proats recipe goddess herself for a diagnosis of packaged goods, including blinding buzzwords and translating nutrition labels.

Let’s take a look at some health-food claims blazing your supermarket shelves:

Gluten-Free: Where gluten refers to a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, gluten-free products are a must for individuals living with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and a bonus to those of us who skew our dietary habits towards limited-gluten. However, as demonstrated with our opening act – the not-so-healthy-cookie – gluten-free is often slapped on colorful packaging to conjure the perception of health. What to look for: Eyes on the ingredients and the sugar levels. Gluten-free products can come loaded with sugar and preservatives to take the place of wheat or gluten. In the case of ultra-high added sugar values, you might be better off enjoying a slice of sprouted (or whole) grain bread. – fitlicity

Pictured above: Two variants of gluten free crackers. One is comprised of mainly artificial ingredients, starch carb substances, and added sugar while the other features seeds and complex carb sources.

Low-Carb: Is butter a carb? Nah. I won’t lie to you Mean Girls-style. But sugar is a carbohydrate. Fun fact: carbs are good for you. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy. Sugar is not the enemy – but too much refined sugar without a good balance of the goods (whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins) puts you at risk for health problems, without getting too nursey on you. But your fruits and vegetables and oatmeal (and you all know how I love my proats) all have sugars in them. The difference is the fiber content. What to look for: In general, with some exceptions, you want to pair your carbs with fiber, protein, or fats. Carbohydrates + fiber/protein/fat = slower digestion = slower glucose release into the bloodstream = slower glucose spikes in the blood = less crash and burn and more sustainable energy to get you through the day. – KP

Sugar-Free: From fresh, juicy strawberries, to maple syrup, to frosting straight from the jar (we’ve all been there), sugar takes on many forms and its intake is inevitable. As KP mentions, sugar is not the enemy, but the source can either be friend or foe. Fact: one serving of Entenmann’s chocolate covered donuts holds only 3 more grams of sugar than Trader Joe’s cold pressed green juice. Fiction: chocolate donuts and green juice overlap on the health spectrum. Sugar marketing gets pretty sticky n’ not so sweet if you ask me. The most common sugary claims – Sugar-Free, No Sugar Added, and Unsweetened – are not synonymous. According to the FDA, Sugar-Free products can not contain any natural sugar derivatives, but they can contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose that sacrifice whole ingredients for lower calorie counts. The same goes for No Sugar Added. This tricky label implies that the product packs only naturally occurring ingredients, which isn’t the case. According to the FDA, products labeled “No Sugar Added” can’t be sweetened with any sugar containing ingredients; they can, however, use artificial sweeteners as an ingredient. Products labeled “unsweetened” can contain natural occurring sugars, but not artificial sweeteners. Got all that? What to look for: Before you go swapping greens for deep fried dough, look no further than the source of the sweetness – naturally occurring sugars versus artificial or refined sugars, respectively. Prevent bloating and energy crashes with naturally occurring sweet sources like whole fruit, veggies, and grains. – fitlicity

Pictured above: Mrs. Butterworth’s Sugar Free maple syrup has considerably less sugar than Shady Maple Farm’s pure maple syrup, but at what cost? Look closely, there is no trace of maple syrup in Mrs. Butterworths artificial ingredient list. Say what?! Although it contains a higher sugar content Shady Maple Farms’ ingredient label doesn’t leave us asking any questions. Give me real food any day.

Fat-Free: The issue here is not the fat. It’s the kind of fat you’re looking for (Hello, is it me you’re looking for?). Healthy fats are a staple in anyone’s diet. However, you need to roll with the good fats. The healthy fats. And enjoy them in moderation because too much of anything is just that – too much. A registered dietician is your best bet to determine how much fat you need in your diet if you want to be super specific; however, your satiety level will help you intuitively decide how much fat you need to take in as well. What to look for: Unsaturated fat – specifically your poly’s and mono’s. These are the good guys. Trans fats should be an absolute no. Saturated fat is also something to watch for, as too much long term can contribute to heart disease. Your nutrition labels will break this down for you. Easy enough – if the saturated fat content is higher than your poly- and monounsaturated fat, leave it on the shelf. – KP

Pictured above: Jif’s label is really saying, “25% less fat and 100% more sugar and corn syrup! Buy me!” No thank you, I’ll choose 100% nutty fat over additives any day.

Veggie: All over the grocery store, I see products branded, “Veggie”-whatever. Even touting to have less fat than a potato chip! The healthy option, right? But what are these “veggie straws” really? They’re a potato chip. Plain and simple. Check out the ingredients, you’re getting potato flour and some vegetable puree for color. You’re better off sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store and getting some actual vegetables – these don’t cut it. What to look for: Is it an actual plant? With leaves and stems and you need to wash it before you eat it? Or is it made in a plant? There’s your difference. Stick to Mother Nature’s Factory and eat an actual vegetable, not a potato chip in a vegetable costume. – KP

Pictured above: Case in point. The only thing separating this bag of “Veggie Straws” from a bag of Lays? Tomato paste, spinach puree, and a whole lot of food marketing gimmicks. See below for veggie chip vs. actual vegetables 😉

Organic: The term organic refers to how a product is grown and processed, and may just have one of the most blinding health halo effects of all food marketing claims. Organic dietary preferences are becoming wildly popular (undeniably for good reason – pesticides and GMOs, yuck!) but an organic product is not always synonymous with a healthy product. What to Look For: Read ingredient labels carefully.  Just because a product is free of preservatives and antibiotics, doesn’t mean it contains any less sugar or sodium than conventional products or that its ingredients suddenly gain nutritional value. Butter is butter and sugar is sugar, organic or not. – fitlicity

Pictured above: Organic? You bet! Delicious? I bet. Healthy? Don’t bet on it.

What we’re trying to say is that when it comes to packaged goods – excuse the cliché –  it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The nutrition label doesn’t lie, sister. Before topping off your cart with that pack of gluten-free cookies, take a close look at the ingredients and nutritional values to make sure they align with your needs, goals, and preferences.

For the Love of Carbs

We’ve all been there. Staring at a menu or wandering the aisles of the grocery store thinking: On a scale of carbs to kale – where carbs are dietary sabotage and kale is the reigning health supreme – how good-for-me is this meal? But when the primary macronutrient of leafy green veggies is carbohydrates, it’s safe to say that our scale is skewed, sister.

From the moment Regina George asked us if butter is a carb and Kim Kardashian attributed her curves to a devout Atkins-style diet, “carb” has been universally blacklisted as a four-letter-word. But why the bad rap? Carbs, short for carbohydrates, are an essential part of any healthy diet and refer to food compounds comprised of starches, sugars, and fiber. They are a vital source of energy for the body, providing necessary fuel for both physical (from walking to weight training and HIIT to LISS) and sedentary (brain power) activity. If you’re workin’ on your fitness, let carbs be your witness.

Truth be told, not all carbs are created equal. Based on the glycemic index, or how quickly your body converts carbohydrates into simple sugar, foods are categorized as “complex” or “simple” carbs, often labeled as “good” and “bad”, respectively. (You can read more about the glycemic index here.) However, fast-acting simple carbs like fruit are super beneficial surrounding a sweaty workout session and shouldn’t be totally dismissed. This is why I prefer to categorize carbohydrates as either whole or refined, or “good” and “bad”, respectively. In the tale of two carbs, whole carbohydrates refers to whole grains, fiber-rich veggies, fresh fruit, and legumes and refined carbohydrates refers to white bread, sugar, processed cake and cookie products, soda, white rice, and refined pasta products. What does all this mean? It means that, with the best choices in mind, you can continue your sweet love affair with carbs, girl.

Behold… ALL  THE #CARBS!

Whether boasting beneficial nutrients (shout out sweet potato) or packing a protein punch (I’m looking at you sprouted grains), here are some of my fave sources of carbohydrates:

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*Calculating carbohydrate intake is specific to each person’s individual lifestyle and fitness goals. I highly recommend counseling a registered dietician for dietary suggestions.

 

Recipe: Banana Nut Morning Bite

Ahh, the sweet taste of recipe experimentation. There is almost nothing I love more (except probably leg day) than rolling up my sleeves in my tiny but totally functional galley kitchen, pressing play on a girl-power Pandora station, tossing the season’s freshest ingredients in a bowl, and hoping for something finger-licking good (Tip: there is always a positive outcome with peanut butter  😉 ).

Y’all know I love – and need – a stamina boosting pre-workout snack, and after the success of my PB Cran Protein Bite (where success refers to my boyfriend sneaking his fair share), I just had to mix up another pop-n-go tasty treat. This time, I wanted something a bit lighter in texture that didn’t compromise any energy-inducing carbs and muscle-building protein. A little bit of eating sorting my way through the pantry and one cocao powder incident later, the Morning Bite was rolled, stacked, and of course, tasted.

Doughy, sticky, chocolatey, nutty and sweet (without added sugar), these Morning Bite’s can’t be beat 😉

Ingredients (yields about 10 bites):
approx. 8 large dates (soaked & pitted)
1 serving your favorite vanilla protein (I love Aloha and Perfect Fit)
2 tbsp Trader Joe’s crunchy peanut butter with flax and chia (you can totally sub your fave crunchy PB and B.Y.O. flax and chia to the mix) *Tip: if you’re using a no-stir PB, you may want to add a splash of almond milk for preferred texture
1 tbsp unsweetened cocao powder
1/3 cup unsweetened dried banana chips (chopped)

morning bites

Directions:
Soak whole dates in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes. Once softened, carefully slice dates to remove pits. Blend pitted dates in a NutriBullet or food processor until smooth. Grab the biggest mixing bowl you can find. Combine blended dates, protein powder, nut butter, and cocoa powder. Knead thoroughly until ingredients are evenly distributed throughout dough. Fold in chopped banana chips and roll dough into bite sized balls. Taste one (or two 😉 ). Refrigerate or freeze for later.

 

 

The Fit Friend

Let me begin this post by sending out tidal waves of gratitude to my friends who serve as part-time photographers, boyfriend who acts as my personal trainer, and family who reminds me that you definitely have to add egg to 99% lean ground turkey if you want an edible meatball. My gal pals ran by my side in my first 5k, my bae spots me on leg day, and my mom whipped me up a personal ramekin of gluten and dairy free mac and cheese for the holidays. I am really, truly blessed with an incredible support system. From the bottom of my heart, y’all are the real MVPs.

I believe that, through the ultimate act of self love, my health and fitness journey has allowed me to be a better version of all the roles I play: from friend, to girlfriend, to daughter, and everything in between. Sure, a few of my preferences have shifted (read:  once a Friday-night bar hopper now a Friday-nigtht produce aisle hopper), but change is at the root of all progress, and my healthy habits have only proven to provide me with endless opportunity.

Navigating social gatherings as a #fittie can seem challenging, especially when a looming misperception exists that a healthy lifestyle is synonymous limitation or sacrifice. And to that I say bluntly, “Oh, hell no!” All those good – and potentially greasy – things that come with social gatherings and your goals are not mutually exclusive. That’s right, girl, you can have your #SquadGoals and #SquatGoals, too. In fact, in a balanced life, you gotta have both. In my opinion, health must refer to total wellness; that is, emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being.
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Here’s what I’ve learned from being the token fit-friend:

  1. No Judgement Zone. I encourage you to be honest with your closest friends and family about your health and fitness journey, your goals, and your choices. Don’t be afraid to say, “Allow me to reintroduce myself, I’m Alex and my health is extremely important to me.” Presenting your peers with the opportunity to fully understand your lifestyle will allow them to serve a more supportive role. You might even be surprised to discover a yogi-buddy or running partner you never knew you had! Remember, just as you can ask your loved ones for their unconditional support, you should extend the same to them. Always lift each other up and encourage each other, free of judgement.
  2. Engage Your Pals. Got a group text and nowhere to be? Round up the squad for a fun fit-friendly activity that supports your goals. Get in your LISS with a hike or HIIT at the trampoline park (seriously, so fun and SO SORE). From beach volleyball to skiing the slopes, your options are endless from coast to coast. Top it off with a tasty trip to your fave FroYo shop, you deserve it!
  3. B.Y.O. If your girls-night-in involves pizza with a side of pampering, but a gooey, greasy slice isn’t on your personal menu – don’t pass! Instead, B.Y.O.Dinner to the party. Show off your kitchen skills and share something important to you by prepping enough for your ladies to taste. And hey, if you decide you want that slice after all, go for it girl. (Tip: this is the perfect time to opt for a Craving Compromise! My fave thing to pack is a wheat wrap with all the nutritious fixins)
  4. Plan It Out. The gangs all here… and they came bearing temptations. Defend yourself by entering into social settings with a solid plan and a full belly. Whether it’s sweets, grease, or bubbly, determine a plan for how you’d like to treat yo’self that works for you. Stick to the plan and enjoy it, sister! (Tip: Prior to a Saturday night of booze with your buddies, work a well rounded, nutritional meal into your plan and fight off cravings for late-night eats. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water and you’ll be up and at the gym in no time.)

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cran Protein Energy Bites

As I navigate the current landscape of my fitness journey (which I’ve ambitiously titled Operation Muscle Growth), I’ve made a few changes to my daily routine including what and when I’m eating; tracking macros (macronutrients) and getting pre-workout fuel, respectively. The latter has proven to be a challenging (nonetheless tasty) practice, and after two weeks of banana-belly and one accidental sugar-trap, I was craving some variety in my 6 am bite.

The challenge: a grab n’ go, easy to digest snack that doesn’t leave me feeling full and gives me all the goods to power through my last set of back squats.

The solution: my take on the Protein Energy Bite.

These gluten free, balanced balls of sweet crunchy goodness hit all the macros (carbs, protein, and fat), and come certified with the no-added-sugar and clean ingredient seal of approval. Plus, they don’t discriminate! Pop one in your mouth any time of day for a satisfying superfood infused snack.

Ingredients (yields 10-11 bites):
1/2 cup your fave chocolate protein powder (I love Aloha and Perfect Fit)
1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
3/4 cup Trader Joe’s crunchy peanut butter with flax and chia (you can totally sub your fave crunchy PB and B.Y.O. flax and chia to the mix) *Tip: if you’re using a no-stir PB, you may want to add a splash of almond milk for preferred texture
2 tbsp maple agave blend
2 tbsp unsweetened dried cranberries

pb-bites

Directions:
Roll up your sleeves. Taste-test peanut butter to make sure it’s as good as you remember – it is. Then, in a large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, rolled oats, peanut butter, and maple syrup. Kneed thoroughly with hands to until a thick dough is formed. Fold in unsweetened dried cranberries. Roll dough mixture into bite-sized balls, arrange in your fave tupperware, and store in the fridge to set. Eat crumbs and stray dried cranberries from bottom of bowl. 😉

 

Active Rest Day

I’ll never forget my first real-deal, “I’m doing this shit, I’m gonna get fit” workout. My alarm chimed at 6 am, and a baggy-eyed but bushy pony-tailed me hopped out of bed for a 20 minute treadmill session and full body toning video from ToneItUp.com. The post-workout feeling I had that morning is the same one I get today (and no, I’m not just talking about the HIIT hunger). It’s a combination of energetic endorphins, sweaty ambition, and mental clarity, and it keeps me coming back to the squat rack, day after day.

Run, lift, eat, repeat and one workout turned into 21 consecutive heavily active days. I was proud of myself – and hell, I still am! I went from a girl who couldn’t direct you to the nearest gym if she tried (psst… it’s two floors above my cozy apartment) to a girl who had to consciously remind herself to rest.

As tempting as it is to work up a serious sweat seven days a week, rest is key to your progress. It may seem counterintuitive for people who genuinely love to exercise, especially when physical results start to show, but science proves it’s true! Let me break it down for ya. When you’re in the gym, heart rate pumping, lifting heavy things like freaking superwoman, jamming out to Taylor Swift (is this last part just me?) tiny tears are forming in your muscles. This is totally a good thing, because if – and only if – you allow your muscles to repair, they come back bigger and stronger than before. Repair means recovery meals on days you do work out (I’m lookin’ at you Perfect Fit pancakes) and, you guessed it, rest days. On the contrary, a lack of repair caused by overtraining and improper fuel leads to muscle catabolism, a big fancy word that defines the breakdown of muscle tissue – no bueno. (If you speak science, you can read about it here.)

I knew all of this, I’ve heard it and I’ve read it, and still I was finding myself totally active day after day, week after week. I needed a plan. I needed to change “Every Damn Day Just Do It” to “Every Damn Day (except Sunday) Just Do It.” So, as we entered into the new year, I made like any good fit-girl-in-training and set goals for the months ahead. At the top of that list you can find “embrace active rest 1x per week” written in big, bold, can’t-take-it-back Sharpie. You’ll notice that my goal is not “rest more” or “become a couch potato,” that just ain’t me (not to mention, it’s not a SMART goal ;)). Embracing active rest means acknowledging my body’s needs (hint: recovery) to aid my healthy lifestyle, free of imminent fit-girl guilt.

TL;DR: Your body is working for you – pressing and lifting and moving – once a week, do us both a favor and work with your body by embracing an active rest day.

You may be thinking, what is active rest if it’s not melting into your couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and it’s not a 110 degree power-yoga class? Active Rest is defined by light physical activity and mental stimulation that promotes your healthy lifestyle while allowing your body to do its recovery thang. Check out my favorite tips for active rest, and embrace it, baby:

  1. Plan It Out. Just like leg day on Fridays and LISS on Wednesdays, plan active rest into your schedule. Pick a day that works for you, and be as flexible as you are in yoga, girl. Life could call for a Sunday Savasana day or a Mid-Week Reset depending on your plans. If it’s penciled in as a part of your program, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits.
  2. Treat, Don’t Cheat! One of the many benefits of early morning exercise is it encourages you to make healthy choices all day long. But don’t forget – even when we aren’t workin’ up a sweat, our bodies still require nutritionally dense (and delish) fuel. You aren’t cheating your body by resting (just the opposite, you’re treating it :)) so don’t cheat your body with a day of greasy, empty meals. Instead, treat yo’self with one of my fave Craving Compromises or Everything But The Kitchen Sink dishes that are equally as good for the belly as they are for the soul.
  3. Exercise Your Mind. Before you get to thinking, “Girl, exercise?! This is a rest day!” let me be clear – I’m talking about the mind, not the muscles. Active rest days are the perfect opportunity to focus on our mental game while our physical gains recover. Make time to meditate. Grab your journal and jot down reflections, goals, and intentions. Get that brain workin’ by planning out the perfect Week of Eats (that time spent away from the gym is the perfect opportunity to get your Meal Prep + Chill on).
  4. Light Activity. Emphasis on the light, sweat sister. Here are some examples of activity that keep the blood pumping while allowing for optimal recovery:
    1. Stretching + Foam Rolling
    2. Walking (Tip: Make it an experience! Destination: FroYo with the gals or the new salad shop you’ve been day-drooling over.)
    3. Mobility Practice
    4. Yoga (Tip: Stay away from power-yoga and embrace the ohm. I love to get down with a few down-dogs and inversions.)
    5. Cleaning + Organizing your home
  5. Focus on the Self.  Self-care, It’s what active rest day dreams are made of. Nama-stay at home with a bath bomb, a face mask, some tea, and a good book or go-all-out with a fresh mani, hair do, and massage. Whatever it is, do it for you, girl!

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