Love Yourself

Are you resolving to better your eating habits this year? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. The New Year is a perfect time to take stock of what you’ve been digesting over the past year or so, create some concrete goals, and move into 2017 fresh.

We aren’t talking dieting here: perhaps you want to eat more fruits and vegetables (always good!); maybe you want to be more intentional at the dinner table and enjoy every bite; perhaps you want to ingest more protein to build more muscle; or maybe you want to absorb more omega-3’s for healthy skin and hair. Your eating goals should always reflect your individual priorities, and how your body and mind feel after eating certain things.

That being said, there’s one strategy we’ve found that practically guarantees healthier eating: Sunday night meal prep! How many times have you come home from a long workday during the week and felt too tired to cook up a nutritious meal? It happens to the best of us, and when it does, you end up eating salty take-out, a flash-frozen dinner from the freezer, or a mishmash of crackers, cookies, and the cereal that you find in your pantry. Not exactly ideal for healthy living!

When you prepare many of your weeknight meals ahead of time, however, you’re guaranteed to have at least a couple meals during the week ready for when you get home from a busy day. Simply throw your pre-made meal in the microwave or oven, warm it up, and there you have it: instant healthy, delicious dinner. This practice also helps you bring your lunch to work more often, saving money on expensive cafes and take-out mid-day when your stomach starts rumbling.

One way to do put this strategy into action is to make a family dinner on Sunday evenings and cook enough food so that there are leftovers you can eat for lunch at the beginning of the following week. You can also prep by multi-tasking: as you’re cooking a meal on Sunday for dinner, chop double the onions, throw another pot on the stove, and make a whole separate meal for the rest of the week. Store in Tupperware and enjoy come Monday!

How can you start implementing this practice? We’ve put together some fun, nutritious, scrumptious recipes that are easy to make in big batches on Sunday evening. With simple, customizable ingredients and a few spices, these recipes practically guarantee you’ll love each meal of the week, even if they were prepared a few days prior!

Try out a couple this month and let us know how it goes. We look forward to hearing about a healthier, happier you come February.

  1. Sweet Potato Chili from Cookie + Kate
  2. Chickpea Tomato Minestrone from Vegetarian Ventures
  3. Scrambled Egg Muffins from Fannetastic Food
  4. Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Blue Cheese from the Kitchn
  5. Roasted Chickpea Taco Salad from Two Peas and their Pod

We hear you: budgets are difficult to stick to – kind of like New Year’s resolutions. Many people start the year with great intentions and a commitment to their goals and end up falling off the bandwagon a few months in. But we know our Earth community, and we know you’re stronger than that! This is the year that you conquer your greatest achievements.

Through our research, we also know a little reason why so many goals don’t get accomplished: they aren’t realistic in the first place. Setting out to lose 30 pounds in a month is intensely difficult and devastating. While we certainly admire this enthusiasm, we’ve also come to recognize that one primary ingredient to setting resolutions and sticking to them is making sure they’re realistic.

Now how can you accomplish his with budgeting? Creating a budget can help you save for your emergency fund, pay off debt, or store away a little extra money for a vacation you’ve been dying to take (and deserve!). Budgeting (the right way) ensures you stick to your goals through and through, as you know exactly where your money is going, how you want to spend it, and what you’re striving for with that pot of gold.

Step one to a successful budget: take the time to fully understand your finances. Download last year’s spending and earnings using an app like Mint or Wally, or simply log into your bank account online and download an Excel document. Take a few hours to understand how much you took home, spent, and saved. Categorize by merchant or category (restaurants, clothing, insurance, mortgage), and dig in deep to really get to know your spending habits.

From there, take your necessary expenses (your home, food, insurance, debt, medical costs, taxes, etc.) and separate them out to start creating your budget. Now comes the important part: add in some wiggle room for surprises. It may seem counterintuitive to add unknown costs to your fixed monthly/yearly budget, but it’s more than necessary. Each month, something is going to come up: your car gets a flat tire. The sole on your favorite boot rips and you need to buy new ones. You leave your rain coat at your daughter’s soccer game. There’s a pair of pants on sale that you’ve been eyeing for months. Things happen; this is the year we plan for them!

Now that your necessities and emergencies are settled, divide up the rest among your other yearly priorities (travel, date nights, etc.). Then compare to last year’s spending and see if the budget you’ve made is realistic. If you spent $5,000 on travel last year, and only have enough room in your current budget for $1,000, perhaps you’ll need to cut another category (lunches out with coworkers, brand name toiletries). Of course, it’s very important to be realistic here: vow to cut out those expenses that you can cut out. For instance, if you need coffee to survive in the morning, don’t vow to never buy a cup on your way to work this year (what if you run out at home? Catastrophe!). Cut out the stuff you truly don’t need, keep the expenditures that help you live your best life (without overindulging, of course), and be realistic about the expectations you set for yourself.

Ensuring realism the entire way through your budget is a recipe for guaranteed success this year. Throughout 2017, take a step back, evaluate your progress, and reassess how far your budget is taking you toward your goals. If something isn’t working, readjust! Try reverse budgeting – take the amount you want to save out of your paycheck as soon as it comes in, then split up the rest among remaining expenses.

Remember – budgeting and sticking to financial goals has to work for you. Challenge yourself this year, but be realistic in your goal-setting. We practically guarantee success!

Have you started thinking about your New Years’ resolutions yet? Many of us have, and chances are at least a good number of us have decided upon goals that revolve around fitness, health, or nutrition. Every year, an astounding number of people resolve to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, stress less, or undergo other changes that relieve health woes.

Unfortunately, studies show that after six months, only 40 percent of people are still on track to accomplishing their resolutions. This year, we’re here to make those resolutions stick – it’s time to become your best self, whatever that means to you! Whether it’s saying no more often, logging more time at the gym, or simply fitting more movement into your day, this is the year that you cross those goals off your list.

Now, studies show that it takes an average of 66 days to convert a new practice into a habit. That’s over two whole months of implementing that action consistently. The key to making this happen? Set realistic goals. Make your resolution as specific and measurable as possible to ensure you stick with it. For instance, “working out more” is a general goal that can feel daunting and can be difficult to persist with; going to the gym three days a week is much more attainable.

Another way to do this is to split your goals into baby steps. Rather than “losing 30 pounds,” resolve to lose one pound per week for 30 weeks. Starting the week off with that smaller goal makes it feel more doable, and you’ll be less likely to give up. Take your goals day by day, week by week, rather than looking at them over a year; the specificity will make your goals more manageable.

As you set out your specific, measurable goals, take the time this week to really consider the “why.” Why, exactly, do you want to accomplish this goal? Does your gym time coincide with your desire to live longer? Does your desire for better nutrition stem from a need to lower your cholesterol for a healthier heart? Do you want to stress less to act as a good example for your kids? Really drill down into the “why” of your resolution, and write that reason down. When you feel like giving up, take a look at your reasoning – chances are, it’ll drive you to keep going.

On that note, it’s important to associate your goal with the good. For instance, it’s easier to stick with a fitness goal if you’re doing it to increase your longevity, health, and happiness – not to get back at an ex-boyfriend. Tackle your goals for you and the people you love. It will truly help you stay on track!

It’s also important to associate your goals with the good in a different way: make them fun! Exercise shouldn’t be dreadful; experiment with different machines, classes, and outdoor regimens until you find one you truly enjoy. Allot some time on the weekends to enjoy your cooking and breathe in the smells of your veggie-packed chili. The more you enjoy the road to success, the more likely you are to stay on it.

When you hit a significant milestone, treat yourself! Did you finally fit in four runs this week? Buy yourself that new dress you’ve had your eye on. Have you been fitting more vegetables and fruits into your diet for an entire month? Grab a decadent slice of cake at the grocery store – you deserve it! Rewarding yourself associates accomplishment with positive memories, making it more likely you’ll stick with it through the next obstacle.

All in all, it’s critical to stay confident. You are stronger than you think! As you go through the strides toward success, never be afraid to switch gears. If something isn’t working for you (say, you try to fit in salads but hate them), switch things up (vegetable soups are great). Reevaluate your triumphs after a few months, change your regiment as needed, and keep going. After all, you’re doing this for you, and we promise… living a healthier lifestyle is all worth it!

The time has come… the holidays are here! With many festive days coming up within the next week or two – Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve, and more – we hope you’re feeling that joyful, wonderful holiday spirit just as much as we are. Chances are you have some exciting party plans filled with family and friends, food, drinks, and laughter galore.

While these parties are a blast – and you most definitely deserve to have some fun this time of year – they’re also not the best for your fitness and nutrition goals. Between limited time to stick with your typical exercise and healthy routines, and the omnipresence of cakes, cookies, and chocolate, this time of year can certainly throw you off. And while you should obviously take the chance to spoil yourself a little, it’s also important for your overall health (it is the time of year that colds come along, after all) that you stay on a fairly healthy path.

What are some key tips for enjoying the “holidaze” the healthy way?

  1. Don’t skip meals. While it may be tempting to skip breakfast or lunch to “save the calories” for a huge dinner later, this isn’t an effective option. Skipping meals may lead you to binge later on unhealthy goodies. Start your day with a light, protein-rich breakfast (like scrambled eggs with spinach), and continue with a fruit-and-veggie-packed lunch. With your mood and metabolism stable, you’ll be more likely to eat the right portion of the good stuff come dinnertime.
  2. Fill up on protein and fiber. Whether before the meal or during, sticking to the dishes that prioritize protein (fish, meats, beans, eggs) or fiber (dense veggies, lentils, nuts) will ensure you chow down on the good stuff first, rather than those simple carbohydrates and sugars that you burn quickly (white bread, cookies). Always add as many veggies to your plate as you can; they’re filled with vitamins, fiber, and water that pack your tummy with nutritious goodness.
  3. Savor your food. We all have fond memories of how delicious some of our favorite, traditional holiday meals can be. Take the time to eat slowly and savor every bite at the table this year. Eating mindfully – paying attention to the tastes in every bite – allows you to enjoy your food more while getting fuller, faster.
  4. Eat your favorites, and stay away from the rest. We know that every holiday table is filled with beautiful, festive, delicious foods that look divine. But if don’t tend to enjoy sugar cookies, don’t grab them. Fill your plate with the dishes you know you really love; don’t waste your hard work on something you don’t truly enjoy. If there’s something new on the table, try a few bites, decide on your preference, then either scarf it down or leave it be. Your discerning taste buds will thank you!
  5. Always enjoy holidays guilt-free. There’s no need to ever feel guilty about what you eat, particularly around the holidays. If you’re dying for a slice of holiday pie, go for it, and enjoy every second of it! Abandon any negative voices in your head (after all, the holidays are all about love and positivity!) and indulge guilt-free. You deserve it! In the same vein, never feel guilty about respectfully declining food your family offers you. It’s your body and your decision, and if you’re full, you’re full. Tell your loved ones you’ll try the dish next year, and move forward into an enjoyable, relaxing evening!

How do you stay healthy throughout holiday parties? What are your best tricks? Let us know in the comments below. 

healthy-holiday-travel

If you traveled this Thanksgiving to visit friends or family, you know how hectic holiday trips can be. Between large crowds, traffic, and the planning that goes into the holidays in general, it can be easy to feel a little stressed about traveling this time of year. Add this stress to the fact that traveling interrupts your normally healthy routine and doesn’t always lend itself to the healthiest decisions, and you can come through holiday travel feeling a bit under the weather.

Of course, the last thing you want to feel when you arrive at your holiday celebrations is tired and drawn. When you’re seeing your friends and family for the first time this year, you want to feel your absolute best! Luckily, there are a few key strategies you can follow to feel healthy and happy during holiday travel.

  1. Commit to one fresh, healthy meal during the day. Unfortunately, airports aren’t known for their nutritious food choices. While airport restaurants are improving each year, it can still be difficult to find a vitamin-packed meal in a airline bar or on the plane itself. Combat this problem by packing up a small salad complete with fresh, leafy greens, water-and-fiber-rich fruits and veggies, and some nuts. The salad will stay good for at least one day, and you’ll be able to get through your trip feeling nutritiously fulfilled.
  2. Always pack a reusable water bottle. While you can’t bring a full bottle through airport security, you can bring an empty one and fill it at the water fountain once you’re at your gate. This bottle can be your savior during lengthy travel; the air in planes is notoriously dry and can easily dehydrate you, making you feel sluggish. As you go through your travels, use your bottle to drink more water than normal (8 ounces per hour is a good rule of thumb).
  3. Avoid sickness with a bit of prep. Ever come home from traveling with a cold? There may be a reason for that – when you travel, you’re often surrounded by many people in close quarters (think: your tight airplane row), which can make catching a cold easy. Add that to the dehydrating effects of airplane travel and a different sleep schedule, and a cold can easily make its way into your life. Ingest some extra vitamin C a few days before your trip as a precaution, and bring small cleansing wipes to remove bacteria from your airplane seat, folding table, headrest, and arm rests.
  4. Keep your sleep schedule in check. No matter how many time zones you’re traveling through, try to keep your sleep schedule normal. Sleeping on a plane isn’t always easy; check out this article for some great tips to sleep well while traveling. We find that a lavender-scented neck pillow is soothing and comfortable enough to do the trick, as well as wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  5. Fit in some walking and stretching. During your layovers or after your flight, make sure not to sit immediately if possible – take some time to walk around the airport and stretch. Stretching your hip flexors, calves, and hamstrings is important after a long flight to avoid stiffness. Getting your heart rate up a bit is even better; do some speed walking through the airport or go for a quick jog when you get to your destination to get your blood circulating and your heart pumping.
  6. Stick with your routine as much as possible. If you take medications and vitamins on a daily basis, be sure to continue that routine throughout your travels. Do you use a specific face cleanser each day? Bring it with you (in security-safe bottles, of course). Keeping true to your everyday will instill a bit of normality into your day, even if your routine is off and your days are hectic.

How do you stay healthy while traveling? We’d love to hear your tips – leave them in the comments below!

thanksgiving-leftovers

It’s finally here – Thanksgiving has arrived! Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and turkey align your table and emanate an aroma of sweet and savory; the laughter of family and friends travels through the air like a soft breeze.

Perhaps you’ll spend the day with loved ones, sharing memories, reminiscing about good times and the not-so-good times, but staying thankful all the same. Maybe you’ve decided to travel this year to spend time with loved ones far away. Perchance you’re taking this holiday as a day of solitary, cooking yourself a nice meal and reflecting on the year behind and the coming year ahead.

No matter how you spend today, chances are you’ll be chowing down on some absolutely delicious food – so delicious that you will settle into a tired stupor as soon as the meal is finished. Roasted squash, homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green beans dunked in a hint of butter, carrots glazed in maple syrup, and a turkey that was baked, basted, and spiced the whole day through have probably lined your table, devoured by the ones you love.

Apple pie, squash pie, chocolate treats, and pumpkin breads switch you from savory to sweet at a moment’s notice when the meal comes to a close, you’ve relayed your thanks for the year, and you have room in your stomach for just a few more bites.

All of this is part of what makes Thanksgiving so special: eating scrumptious food, spending time with the ones you love, and taking a few minutes to remember what you’re grateful for and what makes your life so special. When the day is over, however, chances are you’ll have some cleaning to do – including wrapping up some delicious leftovers.

Arguably the best extension of the holiday, Thanksgiving leftovers can provide you with a filling, wonderful meal for days after the festivities are over. Not only does whipping up these leftovers save you some money for the week, it also ensures no food is wasted. 40 percent of food today in America goes uneaten, much of which ends up in landfills and in turn creates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

This year, get creative with your leftovers and put together a few inspired, yummy recipes to share with your loved ones! Forget the normal Thanksgiving turkey sandwich; from smoothies to biscuits, ideas for using up leftovers are absolutely endless!

Try out one of these recipes this week to extend the holiday and make the most of the food you adored.

  1. Roast Turkey Cobb Sandwich from Closet Cooking
  2. Mashed Potato Waffles from Simple Roots Wellness
  3. Turkey, Cranberry, and Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Foodie Crush
  4. Cranberry Orange Smoothie from Cotter Crunch
  5. Sweet Potato Biscuits from Home Cooking Memories

destress-unplug-relax

When we’re stressed, our bodies create hormones, like cortisol, that run through our systems. This creates a natural “fight or flight” response, where our heart rates go up and we start breathing heavier. This response is innate because we used to use it to protect ourselves from predators back in the day; now, it comes up quite often in much less dangerous, but still serious, situations.

The problem is, many of the things that might instigate that response in you – work, a stressful call from a family member, a picture on Facebook of your friends out without you – come at you all day every day, particularly through your phone and computer. Because we have these devices on us at all times, stressors literally follow us around – it can be increasingly difficult to get a break from all the stress.

The holidays – from Thanksgiving through the New Year – can be an especially stressful time of year, with more demands (work, family, friends, parties, cooking, shopping, and more) taking up even more of your time. While this time of year is supposed to feel joyful, it can sometimes feel as though you’re always preparing to get to the joy – and never truly getting there.

That’s why it’s become extra important in this plugged-in era to take some time to unplug and de-stress. It can sound nearly impossible, with the demands on your time coming in from all sides, but remember: everyone deserves a break. Make a pact with yourself to take an hour a day during this holiday season to unplug and unwind. But how can you ensure that you stay away from your devices?

relax-destress-unplug

While the holidays can certainly be an incredibly busy time, it’s vital to fit in daily fitness as a means to focus on you. Exercise boosts endorphins and releases stress – studies show that only 20 minutes per day can provide you with these benefits. Turn your phone on silent and let the music bump through your headphones; then jam the time away in an exercise class, on the treadmill, or in the yoga studio.

In other healthy strategies, take some time to cook yourself a delicious, wholesome meal. Truly focus on the act of cooking, smell the aromas, and listen to the boiling, sizzling goodness. Make sure it’s a wholesome one; healthy food, balanced with protein, fiber, and carbs, ensures your mood stays level, rather than spiking with a sugar intake of cookies and chocolate.

Get crafty. Activities like knitting or doing a puzzle are repetitious ones, which can be soothing while also ridding your mind of intruding, stressful thoughts. Pick one of your favorite ways to get crafty and let your mind wander.

relax-destress-meditate-unplug

In even more soothing fashion, hop in the bath tub. Light some candles, grab a book, and read the hour away soaking in warm water. You literally can’t be tempted to bring your phone in with you (or it may get soaked – not worth the risk). Instead, let your mind wander into the whole new world of a novel.

If sitting inside makes you anxious, head out for a walk. This can be a particularly effective technique when you’re in the office, as it allows you to step away from the computer and clear your head. Don’t take your devices on your walk; instead, take the time to notice the world around you. Take stock of the leaves, the snow, and the beauty in the every day. We promise it will help take your mind off all those perturbing stressors.

How do you de-stress and unplug during the holidays? Send us your ideas using the comments below.

5-reasons-why-SO-TIRED

This past Sunday, we set the clocks back all around the country, providing an extra hour of much-needed sleep and some extra time to revel in the coziness of Sunday morning relaxation. Setting the clocks back generally feels marvelous on the day of. But as the week goes on, that change can mess with your sleeping patterns and daily routine, particularly because it gets darker one hour earlier each night.

If you’re having trouble sleeping this week, it may have something to do with your body adjusting to the seasonal change. However, if you find you’ve been extra tired for quite a while, don’t just attribute it to the time change – there might be other factors at play.

There are many reasons for daily sleepiness – not getting enough sleep, of course, is the primary target. But other, non-sleep-related factors can also get in the way of your daily vivacity and liveliness… and some are pretty simple to combat. So what other factors might be contributing to that “I-literally-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open” attitude?

  1. You’re dehydrated. Water makes up the majority of our blood and bodies. Even a little dehydration can cause the blood to thicken slightly, making the heart pump harder and causing your body to feel overtired. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day is the general rule of thumb, but every body is different. On top of your H2O intake, eat plenty of fruits and veggies – they’re filled with the stuff.
  2. Your sleep schedule is all over the place. Staying energized during the day means keeping up with a consistent sleep schedule – that means getting up around the same time every day (within 1-2 hours at least), even on the weekends. If you don’t have a 9-5 job, you might wake up at different times daily, which doesn’t allow your body to get into a routine. Set an approximate bed time, follow a ritual each night that cues your body to enter sleep mode (read a book, listen to calming music), and set your alarm for around the same time each day. It will help – we promise.
  3. You don’t shut off your screens. As you may know, our phones and computers emit blue light that set off a signal in our brains that it’s time to wake up. When you’re on one of your devices right before bed, it can be difficult for your brain to settle into sleep mode. Turn off devices one hour before bed and entertain yourself with a magazine or book as you get ready to snooze.
  4. You’re stressed. When we’re stressed (whether because of work, family, friends, or even the holidays), our body undergoes a fight-or-flight response, activating our brains to defend and stay active rather than settling down to relax. Stress can make it extra hard to fall asleep at night, leading to fatigue the next day, and can also tire your body out as the day goes on. If you’re feeling stressed, talk it out with someone close to you or dedicate some time to doing those activities that relax you.
  5. You aren’t eating right. Some foods – like those rich in fiber and protein – enter your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace, giving you sustained energy, while others – like high-sugar carbs – enter your body quickly and provide you with a jolt of energy. If you’re tired quite often, take note of your energy patterns – do you feel super high energy for short bursts of time, then find yourself teetering off fairly quickly? You may be eating foods that are high in sugar rather than those that keep you full for long periods of time. Opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats throughout the day to keep you energized for hours on end.

How do you counteract sleepy feelings during the day and turn around your low energy levels?

november-recipes

Happy November! The beautiful fall season is in full swing: if you live in certain parts of the country, the leaves have changed into their gorgeous colorful glory, decorative pumpkins align doorsteps and sidewalks, and sweaters, chunky scarves, boots, and vests litter our seasonal wardrobes.

With this season, as with all others, comes the emergence of delicious fall produce. The deeper we get into the colder seasons, the heartier our fruits and veggies become. And that’s great news, as we crave thick, warm meals that fill us up and warm us up during chillier weather!

The depth of fall – November in particular – is encumbered by a variety of fresh veggies and fruits that you’ve probably already seen littering the stands at the farmers market. Apples and pears are the highlight fruits for this season… no wonder apple pie is such a great Thanksgiving staple! You’ll find a wide range of apples lining the supermarket shelves and farmstands – from Gala to Honeycrisp to heirloom varieties, November is a perfect time to try them all (whether raw, in pies, soups, salads, or stews).

Hearty, filling vegetables really shine in November, particularly those with an orange or green hue. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash are perfectly sweet this type of year and make for a great weeknight side when roasted with a bit of rosemary. Pumpkin is a classic November choice, found in every recipe from our breads to our soups. On the green side, tough, leafy greens like kale and chard shine in the fall and don’t break down as quickly as their cousins spinach and lettuce. This makes these greens great for baking – and who doesn’t love having the oven on in November to warm things up a bit.

White veggies also come into play – potatoes and cauliflower can add a little edge and chewy goodness to nearly any meal you make this time of year. Chop up a few potatoes and throw them in your favorite soup – whole or pureed – to add some texture and to keep you satisfied for hours on end. Cauliflower is delicious roasted or sautéed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Believe us when we say it: November is absolutely amazing when it comes to fresh food. If the reasons above didn’t prove it to you, try whipping up one of these delicious recipes this weekend. Complete with a wide variety of the aforementioned fruits and veggies, these meals are absolutely guaranteed to help you enjoy fall in the best way possible: through delectable, healthy, satisfying food!

  1. Turmeric Cauliflower Steaks from the Kitchn
  2. Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich with Apples, Pesto, Kale, and Blue Cheese from Two Peas and their Pod
  3. Healthy Carrot Muffins from Cookie and Kate
  4. Smoky Pumpkin and Black Sesame Seed Hummus from Vegetarian Ventures
  5. Kale Chickpea Stew from Naturally Ella

What are you dying to cook this November? Let us know in the comments below!

training-plan

What leads you to be healthier mentally and physically, lessens your stress load, and improves the strength in your muscles AND bones? No, this isn’t a magic supplement. It’s running!

Jogging is an amazing form of exercise for many reasons. First, you can do it practically anywhere – no special equipment or machinery needed. It allows you to explore cities new and old, get lost in the beauty of nature, and lets you feel free in your surroundings. Studies show that running helps fight fatigue, gives you a boost of energy, strengthens everything from your core to your calves, and makes you mentally tougher.

Running is also one of those activities that lends itself to goal-setting. Experts say that people who set and meet long-term fitness goals (for instance, signing up for a 5K or half marathon) end up being more satisfied with their workout routine – and their lives more generally – than those who work out sporadically, without goals, or not at all. It turns out that the feeling you get when you cross an accomplishment off your to-do list has some real benefits!

When it comes to setting goals, of course, you need to plan out a way to get there. When running is concerned, it’s critical to have a training plan.

training-plan

While you may prefer to accomplish your goals in a more free-spirited manner, hear us out on this one. There are so many benefits to following a training plan… and they aren’t solely confined to running. These training benefits apply to any fitness obstacle – climbing a particular mountain, swimming a certain distance, or lifting a specific amount of weight.

To start off, training gives your workout a whole new meaning. While the general goal of “being in shape” can get stale, working towards a concrete distance, speed, or date gives you the little bit of pressure you need to truly improve. Circle that final date on your calendar and schedule in your runs or workouts accordingly. Check off each one as you accomplish them – you’ll love the feeling.

Training also forces you to try new things. One day might call for speed work (while you typically lean towards relaxing, longer jogs) while another might call for cross-training in the form of swimming or spinning. Your plan might force you to give your body a break from the running grind with a bit of yoga or foam rolling to stretch out your muscles. No matter where your plan takes you, know that you’ll never be bored!

As you move through your training, you’ll find a common theme – a training plan always emphasizes improvement. While it can be easy to get in a rut doing the same workout each day, training ensures you’ll always be pushing your body towards its breaking point and into the zone of self-betterment.

In this way, training helps you realize how strong you truly are. It turns out that you don’t have a limit – you can always keep improving! While you may have thought a 4-mile jog was your maximum at one point, your training teaches you that you can conquer – and exceed – a much higher mileage.

With all these benefits, now seems like the perfect time to pick a goal and train towards it. Remember, with any training plan you choose, you don’t need to conform to it completely. Use it as a guideline, always improve, and above all else, enjoy! You’ll feel like your best self – we promise.

Do you enjoy training for races or other milestones? How do you accomplish your best feats? Let us know in the comments below.