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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Light Activity. Emphasis on the light, sweat sister. Here are some examples of activity that keep the blood pumping while allowing for optimal recovery:
- Stretching + Foam Rolling
- Walking (Tip: Make it an experience! Destination: FroYo with the gals or the new salad shop you’ve been day-drooling over.)
- Mobility Practice
- Yoga (Tip: Stay away from power-yoga and embrace the ohm. I love to get down with a few down-dogs and inversions.)
- Cleaning + Organizing your home
- 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!
Monday through Friday, you’re a Meal Prep machine. Containers locked n’ loaded with crisp greens, healthy grains, and power-packed protein. The organization is your work-week solace. When the hustle and bustle is just beyond your control, you can rely on Meal Prep to have your back (and your belly). Friday wines into the weekend and – being the totally balanced, go-with-the-flow babe you are – you have a craving to cook up something soulful and spontaneous that says, “self-care Sunday vibes” all while nourishing your bod to meet your goals.
If you can relate, press play on your fave girl-power Pandora station, throw your hair into a messy top knot, and meet me in the kitchen (rosé optional) for some delicious and nutritious Everything But The Kitchen Sink meals.
Pause and put down the cutting board, babe. Before we get to chopping we gotta have the goods. Behold the expertly-stocked trifecta: fridge, freezer, and pantry. A combination of leftovers and staple ingredients, these are the items you are guaranteed to find in my kitchen at all times – long after the meal prep is done.
Fridge: greens (kale + spinach) // unsweetened almond milk // bananas // nonfat greek yogurt // liquid egg whites // leftover fruits + veggies
Freezer: protein variety // frozen veggies (brussels + broccoli) // ezekiel bread // whole wheat pita
Pantry: quinoa // Banza // powdered peanut butter // maple syrup // honey // evoo // balsamic // organic marinara // organic chickpeas
Now, let’s get cookin’ good lookin’ 😉
- Toast Two Ways. There’s no better way to kick off the weekend than with a toast – and I’m not only talking about champagne, ladies. I love to pop two slices of ezekiel bread in the toaster and top ’em two ways – savory and sweet – to cover all my post-workout carb and protein needs. Scramble egg whites with leftover spinach and veggies for the right, and whip up some powdered peanut butter as a sliced-banana base for the left. It’s totally up for debate, but I say the best way to eat these toasty treats is alternating bites for maximum flavor.
- Perfect Pita “Pizza”. Take it from a lover of all things greasy-cheesy-carbs, this minimal-prep dish for one is so damn delicious and better-for-you, you will never consider a classic pizza parlor again. Start with a whole wheat pita, organic marinara, and EVOO. (Tip: I recommend Trader Joe’s Apocryphal Pita. If you don’t have a TJ’s near you, check labels for whole ingredients and minimal sugar). Once you have your base going, it’s toppings time, babe! Experiment with the three key pizza perfecters: protein, veggies, and flavor. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until pita reaches your desired crispiness. My favorite combos are chicken (pre-prepped) + spinach + tomato + onion with a balsamic glaze and chickpeas + kale + brussels + garlic with a maple-balsamic glaze.
- Soul Bowl. This bowl tastes just like its name, a big bowl o’ good-for-the-soul. Start with a base of 1/2 cup cooked quinoa. Sauté or roast any left over veggies from your bottomless produce drawer and finish it off with lean protein. Think shrimp + zucchini + yellow onion with a honey garlic sauce, salmon + brussels + mushrooms with a maple balsamic glaze, or chicken + broccoli + avocado with fresh salsa. Bonus! Take the Soul Bowl to the dark side (dark chocolate, that is ;)). Mix 6 oz of nonfat greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter and top with your favorite sweet nibbles: sliced banana (or any fresh fruit), cacao nibs, grainless granola, and a drizzle of honey. This is my fave Friday night treat 🙂
- Sludge it Up! One fork full of Sludge will have you reminiscing on your fave memory of mom’s home cooking. It might not look (or sound) pretty, but tastebuds – and ~TBH~, moms (she promised I’d say that one day) – know best: it’s what’s on the inside of Sludge that counts. To make a classic Sludge, heat two stove burners at the same time – this may mean you have to put down the rosé 😉 Prepare one serving of Banza (or your go-to pasta substitute) on one burner and one serving of ground turkey on the other. Combine prepped Banza and 2 cloves chopped garlic with ground turkey. Stir in organic marinara and spices to taste (I love a dash of pepper and oregano). Dig into your leftovers and toss in diced onion, sun dried tomato, or spinach (or all three)! Mix n’ serve with a side of your favorite steamed or sautéed green veggies, like brussels and broccoli. Feeling extra fancy? A side of ezekiel “garlic bread” is the perfect compliment.
- Superstar Salad. Thanks to the leftover game, gone are the days of snooze-fest salads (no offense, romaine). Combine leafy greens (kale yeah!) in a giant bowl and start choppin’ fruits and veggies to your heart’s content. Don’t be afraid to experiment here! Winter vibes call for hearty add-ins like hummus, sweet potato, apple, squash, and cauliflower. Make it fresh and fruity with mixed berries, fresh cucumber, cooked quinoa and toasted walnuts. Add everything and anything… but the kitchen sink 😉
What happens when you challenge an entire city to workout for the chance to win $10k in cash prizes? Introducing, #MyCityMoves coming soon to Philadelphia. I am proud to join a bad-ass group of influencers on a mission to turn Philly into the nation’s fittest city. Our team is ready, are you? Register here before March 6 to compete. Let’s be fitter together.
I’m going to get fit, I thought, as I typed my name into My Fitness Pal for the
first third time (I wouldn’t actually begin my fitness journey for another year). I matter-of-factly answered the app’s prompts – height, age, weight, activity level… activity level? For all intents and purposes, My Fitness Pal considers activity level as an individual’s daily routine – at home, at work, or a combination of both – not including purposeful exercise. Be honest with yourself, my inner fit-girl nudged as my finger hovered from active, to lightly active, and finally, sedentary. I actually had to google “sedentary” to convince myself it applied to my day-to-day. Much to my chagrin, it most certainly did. A graphic designer by trade, 8-10 hours of my day are spent with my nose pressed into my Macbook, perched in a rolling chair, housed in a cubical, situated in an office.
There was a time when I viewed my 9-5 as a limitation to achieving my health and fitness goals. But we all know so-called limitations are often poorly-dressed excuses; and we all know we gotta pay the grocery bills (shout out to my main man Trader Joe!). So what do we do? We work, and we Make. It. Work. Today, my workplace is an extension of my healthy lifestyle, and by implementing theses simple practices, yours can be, too!
- Meal Prep. You’ve read it before (probably from me), “a Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” Truer words have never been written. To make the office a happy, healthy space, we must start outside of the cubicle. Setting aside 2-3 hours on a Sunday to prepare meals for the week makes it easy to pass on the office pizza delivery and prevents pricey lunch-time purchases. Don’t know where to begin? Check out my Meal Prep tips here! (Tip: Pick up a trendy lunch tote to transport your meal prep containers in style.)
- Fill Up First. Walk into your office, greet your coworkers with a smile, and head straight for the water cooler, girl. Before you get lost in your inbox and to-do lists, fill up a tumbler with cold H2O and get to sippin’. Make filling your cup a priority, and you are more likely to continue refilling throughout the day. To support your healthy, active lifestyle, it’s recommended that you consume at least half of your body weight in ounces, per day. Why water? Proper hydration prevents cravings (not today, office donuts), eliminates bloat, metabolizes all those meals you prepped, and improves mental alertness. Not to mention, a mermaid-inspired tumbler or chic S’well bottle is the perfect desk accessory.
- Take a Walk. More often than not, the only breaks we take from our work day are to fuel our post-HIIT hunger. Which, if you’re anything like me, means mindlessly munching on M3, one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the fork. I encourage you to dedicate time (5, 10, 20 minutes) to break from the bustle and get outside, free of distractions. Become aware of your surroundings and let the fresh air flow through your mind and muscles. Chances are, you’ll return to your desk energized, inspired, and ready to take on that tough-to-tackle task you’ve been avoiding.
- Stretch it Out. If you’re reading this from your desk, get back to work! Just kidding 😉 Keep reading and take note of your posture. Are your shoulders tense? Neck pressed forward? Leg tucked up in your chair? Back and core hunched? I find myself in this position far too often, and it’s my cue to get up and stretch! Take it to a private place and extend your gaze to the ceiling. Sweep your hands over head and take a forward fold. Repeat this a few times, wiggling your toes, bending your core, rolling your shoulders or doing whatever feels good for you. Return to your workspace with a refreshed body and mind.
- Personalize and Project. Whether you have a corner office with a view or a quaint middle-of-the-office cubicle, it’s important to make your workspace a vibrant reflection of your balanced lifestyle. From private details like a motivational desktop wallpaper (download here) to #girlboss-inspired desk accessories and stationery, your surroundings will project your Positive Mental Attitude and keep those post-BootyCall endorphins flowing all day long.
- Tone it Up. Workin’ it out doesn’t have to stop while you’re working. Take your fave moves from the gym to the office and fine-tone all day long. Give me 20 calf raises at the water cooler, 15 squats in the restroom, 10 booty kick-backs while M3 is in the microwave, and keep the core engaged from 9-5.
What if I told you there was a place, a place where you could build-a-booty? The kind that rappers rhyme about, the kind that makes Nicki Minaj throw side-eye, the kind that puts the peach emoji to shame? Stop dreaming, sister! This place exists, and I call it… the gym. I hate to burst your bubble, butt you ain’t gonna get the ass you want by sittin’ on it 😉
If you follow my daily dose of fitspiration on the ‘gram, you know I love (I mean really, love) leg + glute day. Something about the sheer power of the lower-bod vs. the squat rack makes me feel like a bad ass (with a good ass 😉 ). That booty burn is just about the only thing that can get me out of bed before sunrise on a Friday.
While my B-cup totally volunteered as Tribute during my fitness journey, my tight & toned tush dreams are staying alive – thanks, in part, to these three moves (honorable mention to the classic Back Squat):
- Stiff Leg Deadlift (Barbell): tones the hamstrings + lifts the booty
*squeeze at the top*
- Weighted Glute Bridge (Kettle Bell): pumps up the entire glute + (bonus!) works the core
*lower, lift, squeeze, repeat*
- Kneeling Squat (Smith Machine): isolates the tush + emphasizes the top of the booty
*lift, push hips forward + squeeze at the top*
Sprinkle these moves into your favorite Leg Day routine for an extra butt-burn, follow immediately with protein, and wait for the pump. Here is a Leg + Booty Burner that left me begging for foam-roller mercy.
Now, get to squattin’!
The most important thing about a Health & Fitness Journey is right there in the name. Key word: journey. May I present a montage of ~inspirational~ quotes to spare you a lengthy, wordy explanation of what you already know I want to write. Drum roll please…
That’s right! This whole fit-life thing – despite being as cliche as crying over spilled unsweetened almond milk 😉 – is totally about the journey. All that good (and sometimes not-so-good or scary) stuff between setting a goal and checking it off? That’s where we challenge ourselves, where we meet determination, where we adapt and achieve. It’s where we witness the power of progress and the beauty of becoming.
At this mile-marker of my personal fitness journey, I’m all about maintaining and sustaining. For me, that means making choices that promote a happy, healthy, balanced lifestyle. But what happens when the TIU Bikini Series is over, and you find yourself so far from your starting point with your future in front of you like an open road disappearing into a inspirational-quote emblazoned horizon? (See above 😉 ) When you’re in it for the long haul, acknowledging achievements is key for keeping mental game and physical gains strong. Check out my three favorite ways to measure progress. Spoiler alert: not one involves a scale.
- Pose for the Pic. First things first, in the spirit of a health & fitness journey, let’s abandon the terms
“before”and “after”and call it all progress. Grab ya white wall, grab ya Calvins, and smile, girl. Pictures help make clear all the progress our minds may dismiss when we look in the mirror each day. Place ’em side-by-side and you have an entirely new perspective on your progress – physically and mentally. I challenge you to look beyond the developing abs and take note of the expression on your face, your posture, and your post-HIIT glow 🙂 Remember, you were always beautiful, but now your workin’ on being faster, stronger, and healthier.
- Focus on the Fit. When it comes to clothing, I encourage you to forget the number printed on the label and instead hone in on how pieces feel on your body. Maybe a stubborn button latches up with ease. Maybe your fave jeans are hugging your curves like never before – haaaay booty gains! Whatever it may be, wear what feels good, sister! Confidence is your very best accessory.
- Respect the Reps. Close your eyes and picture yourself crushing 15 reps of that exercise. You know the one, the one you dread seeing listed in the Daily Moves. For me, it’s plyo-lunges and lateral tricep extensions. I mean really, who the hell invented plyo-lunges?! The thing is, with consistent effort, one day your body will accomplish what it couldn’t two weeks, two months, two years ago. You’ll go for another 15 plyo-lunges. You’ll pick up a 10lb dumbbell for that lateral tricep extension. And that, fitties, deserves a big-ass gold star of progress.
Above all, remember that your progress, and your journey, is entirely unique to you. Let go of comparisons and keep doin’ your thang – happy looks good on you, girl 🙂 I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite quote that has resonated so deeply with me as I navigate this happy, healthy, fit lifestyle. Read it n’ repeat it:
It’s no secret that I love planning my weekly meals (shout out to those Overlapping Ingredients one more time, y’all). In fact, I love it so much, that somewhere along my fitness journey, Friday night bar hopping was replaced by Friday night aisle hopping at my beloved Trader Joe’s. (A tip for all my Trader Joe’s shoppers from a gal who lives directly above the busiest location in America: hit the store Friday after 7 pm or 8 am on the dot Saturday morning and thank me later for bountiful shelves and low lines.)
But let’s keep it real, despite any number of hours spent and lists made, life will barge in on even the most flawless of plans – a meeting will run late, your sweet potato fries will char, you won’t be in the mood for that M5. Your only defense? Be prepared with the fully stocked kitchen trifecta: cart, pantry, and freezer. Today, we’re talking The Art of The Cart.
The perfect cart is a beautiful balance of familiar foundation ingredients and the excitement of the latest seasonal produce (hello, butternut squash!). Whether built into my planned recipes or the ever important “weekend refrigerator buffer”, these are the staple items I can’t go week-to-week without:
- 1 carton Almond Milk (unsweetened, original flavor) – The milk of all trades. Think smoothies, baking recipes, emergency mug cake, and Sunday morning Cheerios 😉
- 1 carton Liquid Egg Whites (or 1 carton eggs) – Egg white muffins are almost always on my weekly menu. Egg whites are also a must for on-the-fly baking recipes and quick scrambles on busy weekends.
- 2 8oz containers Greek Yogurt – #TIUapproved Craving Compromise? Yes, please! Schedule a healthy sweet treat and stay on track.
- 1 bunch Bananas – Didn’t buy enough bars for this week’s M4? Eat alone or pair with nut butter for a super easy and satisfying snack. Also, you guessed it, fab for baking.
- 2 16 oz packages Leafy Greens – From superfood-status meal additions or as the base of an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad, kale and spinach always have a place in my cart.
- 1 package Heirloom Tomatoes – My fave “dinner is taking too long” munchie 😉 You gotta give yourself one!
A mix of fresh-picked and packaged, each of these essential ingredients serve multiple functions in my kitchen. Plus, paired with items from my perfectly prepped pantry and always-full freezer (blog coming soon!), they come together to create quick, healthy meals when life doesn’t quite go according to plan.
Flash back to LBF (life before fit), a series of sad salad chronicles in which my leafy combo of choice consisted solely of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and diced cucumber. Praise change, people, ’cause these days this girl will put just about anything on top of a bed of kale and quinoa – and it. is. magic.
Fun fact: I’m a real-deal Gemini. So, naturally, my favorite things in life are a little bit of everything, all at once. And food is no exception – crispy and chewy, crunchy and gooey, tangy and sweet. Introducing the Tangy + Sweet Kale Quinoa Salad. A bed of kale and quinoa cradle sweet wintery favorites like blueberries and sweet potato while juicy tangerines tingle your tastebuds. Top it with honey-lemon shrimp for an added tangy + sweet protein punch.
(P.S. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and it seems my favorite measuring tool is a “pinch”. Go with your gut, girl. Start small, you can always add more flavor!)
Tangy + Sweet Kale Quinoa Salad (yields 2-3 servings)
- 3 large bunches Kale – about 5-6 cups chopped (washed, massaged, and chopped)
- 1 cup Quinoa (cooked and cooled)
- 1 medium Sweet Potato (chopped and roasted)
- 1 tsp EVOO
- pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 cup Blueberries
- 1/4 cup Pecans (toasted)
- 3 Tangerines (peeled and sectioned)
- 12 oz cooked shrimp
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1 tsp EVOO
- 1 1/2 tsp honey
- pinch of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Quinoa: Cook up 3/4 cup quinoa (to yield 1 cup cooked) in your favorite way. (Check out this awesome guide to cooking quinoa here!) I love to combine mine in a rice cooker with 1 cup water and 1 cup low sodium Vegetable Broth and let it brew on the “brown rice” setting while I get my chill on.
Sweet Potato: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray and set aside. Peel 1 medium sweet potato, slice into rounds (about 1/8″ thick) and quarter rounds into wedges. Place sweet potato wedges in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp EVOO and your favorite seasonings until evenly coated. My go-to is a dash or two of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Spread seasoned sweet potato wedges on baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes, tossing periodically.
Pecans: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet generously with non stick cooking spray. Evenly distribute pecan pieces or halves and toast for 5 minutes. Be careful! Pecans burn easily.
Honey-Lemon Shrimp: Remove any tails or shells from thawed, precooked shrimp. Heat 1 tsp EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lemon juice and honey, stirring for about 3 minutes until a sauce begins to form. Add cooked shrimp and heat for about 3-4 minutes, tossing ingredients until shrimp is covered in sauce. Pinch in salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Remove from heat to keep from over cooking.
Salad: In a large bowl, combine chopped kale and cooled quinoa, tossing thoroughly. Add toasted pecans, roasted sweet potatoes, whole blueberries, and tangerine slices – give it another good toss! Top individual servings with 4-6 oz Honey-Lemon shrimp, allowing the sauce to act as your dressing.