Fitness lovers rejoice! It’s finally getting warm enough to consistently work out outside in shorts and a t-shirt. The sun is out, the temperature is slightly warm, and the breeze is slight. We’ve seen more runners, bikers, and yoga aficionados out and about these past few weeks than we have in the past few months in total.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and emerging into the great outdoors for your exercise. Getting back out into the open for workouts can be challenging (we covered the best ways to safely transition from indoor to outdoor workouts here), but once you’re there, the sessions can be glorious.
After a few weeks of wonder, however, it can be easy to stagnate. Your body easily gets used to repetitive activity, and while it might be comfortable for you to run or bike a few miles at your normal pace, that comfort isn’t helping you consistently improve your health.
So how can you step up your game this summer and ensure that you’re consistently improving in your workouts?
- Change it up. If you want to keep improving, you can’t run the same distance and pace every single day. Deliberately vary the difficulty of your workouts (do a fast-paced run one day, sprints the next, and a long, slow jog after) to ensure you’re making the most of your time on the pavement. In that vein, stick to your plan: if you set out to do a fast run, don’t ease up. If today’s a restful yoga sort of day, don’t push yourself. There’s a place and time for each type of variation, and sticking with the plan will keep you on track.
- Add strength training to your routine. While elite athletes spend a lot of their time running, they also always incorporate lifting and core work during the day to keep their muscles up to par with the vigor of their workouts. Consistently working out is demanding, and you need to make sure you’re taking the time to strengthen the muscles that make them possible.
- Stay consistent in mileage. Whether you’re training for a race or not, it’s important to try and stick with the same number of miles each week to continually strengthen your body and improve your fitness. Your running, biking, kayaking, or other favorite fitness activity will constantly improve the more you do it; like many things, practice makes perfect! If you need, stick with a training plan to keep yourself on track.
- Eat well and sleep tight. Yes, this advice may seem fairly generic, but we promise – it’s essential to improving your workouts! We all know how bad it can feel when you’re out for a run after you had a less-than-stellar meal or only a few hours of sleep. Less sleep can even make your muscles lazier and make you more prone to injury. Don’t let that happen: stay consistent with your sleep schedule and nourish your body with healthy, whole foods to help in other aspects of your health regime!
With these quick tips, you’ll find yourself increasing in mileage, pace, and aerobic capacity in no time this summer.
How do you consistently improve your workouts? Let us know in the comments!
If you’ve been thinking all morning about pouring yourself a fourth cup of coffee, you’ve come to the right place. How much sleep did you get last night? Was it quality sleep, or did you find yourself tossing and turning the whole night through?
With our busy, hectic lives, it’s easy to forgo solid sleep in lieu of the many demands on your time. Even if you do get to bed early enough, stress can play a factor in the quality of sleep you get, and a restless night’s sleep isn’t going to do you any favors.
Luckily, there are a few easy tricks you can try to improve your sleep and feel rested, energized, and happy all day long.
- Reset your mind. If you’re struggling to sleep, get up and walk around the house for a few minutes. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes simply resetting and trying again can be the trick to get those zzz’s. At the same time, don’t spend a ton of time trying to sleep – the pressure can actually make it more difficult to do so.
- Keep your phone out of sight. The blue light emitted by electronics – particularly your phone – can keep you awake for hours on end, as it signals the brain that it’s time to be awake. Plus, your phone contains many stressors (social media, email, texts from friends and family galore), that can stress your mind and take it out of sleep mode. Keep your phone away from your bed, or, better yet, out of the bedroom.
- Prioritize a bedtime routine. The more you can standardize your pre-snooze activities, the more your mind will get used to those signals and find it easier to doze off. Read a book each night to calm your mind. Wear actual pajamas – or get into a routine of wearing similar clothes each night – to signal your brain it’s time to sleep. The more you can get your body into a rhythm with your bedtime routine, the easier you’ll find it to get to sleep when the time comes.
- Reserve your bed as a haven for sleep. Avoid work, laundry, entertainment, and socializing in bed. Use this place as a sanctuary and a safe haven for sleep alone. This will signal your brain that when you’re there, it’s time to get some shut eye.
- Try some meditation. Anxiety keeping you awake? Take a few deep breaths and think peacefully. There are many guided meditations you can buy to listen to before bed if you aren’t sure how to do it yourself. Alternatively, try writing down what’s making you anxious and work it out on paper. Sometimes writing it down is just what you need to get your problems out of your head.
- Smell some lavender. The delicious herb is said to decrease blood pressure and calm you down. One trick? If you can sew, make yourself a small pillow laced with lavender and keep it on your bed.
- Fit exercise into your daily routine. Many studies show that those who are active get better sleep and find it easier to fall asleep. If evening exercise tends to keep you awake longer (which makes sense, as your body is in “active” mode later in the day), try switching your routine and working out in the mornings.
How do you get the best night’s sleep possible? We’d love to hear your best tricks in the comments!
Transitioning from mainly in-gym or in-home workouts to outdoor experiences is simply liberating. No matter how much you enjoy your indoor workouts, there’s something totally different about getting out and breathing deeply in the fresh air.
However, after a winter of breaking a sweat on the treadmill, transitioning straight into outdoor runs can be easier said than done. It’s happened to many of us: you get super excited for your first outdoor run of the season, speed off into the distance, and struggle to finish your distance because you started out too fast.
The excitement is totally understandable (and pretty fun, we might add)! But there are better ways to get in a more effective workout when you’re first starting outdoors for the season.
First, you need to give yourself time to adjust to the new outdoor terrain. The treadmill and stationary bike are wonderful, but they tend to be easier than the outdoors due to their consistency and soft grounding. Start off slow and allow your body time to adjust to the challenging outdoor terrain (think hills, potholes, people in your way, etc.) before pushing yourself too far.
Exercising outside requires more agility: with people, cars, bikes, and street signs getting your way, chances are you’re going to have to move a bit more nimbly than the treadmill affords. Beware of your ankles – and again, run a bit slower than normal – to adjust to these roadblocks and ensure you stay injury-free.
When you’re running outside, particular parts of your body take on more impact than they would indoors. For instance, because the treadmill offers more bounce than the pavement, it protects your shins; shin splints can occur when running outside thanks to the increased pressure. Suddenly, your legs need to work harder to go the same distance, and your shins take a beating. Same with your hip flexors and hamstrings: the treadmill primarily engages your quads, but doesn’t do as good of a job with those areas. While your quads may feel strong enough to run miles, your hip flexors and hamstrings will suffer if you push too hard.
On another note, just because it’s nice enough to run outside, doesn’t mean that’s all you can do within your weekly workout routine. Altering your daily workouts is key to avoiding injury and strengthening different muscles that positively affect your overall health. Strength training in particular is key to keeping your body healthy and without injury. Be sure to incorporate some strength work into your week –whether its at the gym with weights or in the park with your bodyweight – to stay in the best shape possible.
When working out in the great outdoors, it’s always best to stay prepared: dress for the weather, always hydrate, and plan your route ahead of time to make sure you don’t get lost on a surprise 10-miler. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about how your body feels. So listen to it! It’s the best thing you can do stay fit – no matter what the season.
The best part about the warmer weather and the springtime air is the ability to get outside after a long winter hibernating indoors. Surrounded by birds chirping and flowers budding, it’s tempting to spend absolutely as much time as possible frolicking in the cool breeze.
Yet, if you’re like many people out there, that breeze also brings pollen – right into your nose and mouth where it wreaks havoc on your happiness. Sniffly, sneezy, and itchy definitely don’t add up to a wonderful, smile-filled spring. Because of this, you might find yourself forced back indoors while others revel in the springtime sunshine.
Popping an antihistamine or other allergy pill may help you feel better, but are there natural remedies to kick up the healing process? After all, these seasonal allergies are caused by nature – doesn’t it make sense that there must be some natural remedy out there to combat their effects?
As it turns out, there is. These include:
- Incorporate the right flavors into your diet, like onions, apples, cayenne and chili pepper, or citrus. These foods might not have a ton in common from the outset, but it turns out each has its own healing properties. Onions and apples contain quercetin, a chemical that may reduce the amount of histamine produced by the body, reducing allergy symptoms. Vitamin C from citrus fruits helps boost your immune system and reduce inflammation (which occurs in your swollen eyes and nose). Spices like cayenne and chili pepper can also help reduce stuffiness.
- Ingest raw, local honey made from bees that live in your region. Bees carry pollen naturally, and studies show that ingesting their honey may in fact help you combat the allergies you have to that pollen. Look for local honey to truly reap the benefits.
- Shower each night. When you walk in the house after a day of commuting, walking and running outside, or even just stepping out to get the mail, so does the pollen that attached to your skin, hair, and clothing. When you get home (and definitely before you go to bed), wash your body and hair thoroughly and remove your clothes and shoes to rid your body of unwanted pollen right away. If you’re a contacts-wearer, remove those and clean them, too – pollen can get stuck there just like it can elsewhere.
- Sip apple cider vinegar mixed with lemon or water. This stuff, while typically not for plain drinking, has potassium that can help break up mucus and aid easy breathing. Sniffing lemon, lavender, or peppermint oils can also have the same effect.
- Eat more yogurt. Some studies have shown that the probiotics in yogurt – which make for a healthy digestive system and gut – can actually help fight off allergy symptoms. As if you needed another reason to chow down on yogurt’s healthy goodness.
- Don’t open the windows and stay inside! As tempting as it is to go out and enjoy the weather, the more you can stay inside, the less you’ll feel allergy symptoms. At the beginning of the spring season, we recommend doing a deep clean of your home to remove allergens (not just pollen, but dust and mold, too). That way you’ll start off fresh and allergy-free and can do your best to keep the inside of your home that way until allergy season ends.
All in all, this season only lasts a few weeks. With these tips, your allergies will fly by the natural way… and you’ll be out enjoying the sunshine and warm weather in no time!
Spring represents a time of renewal. The plants around us shed their protective layers of soil and emerge radiantly and colorfully. We get rid of our puffy coats and long pants and show off our toned legs and beautiful smiles. It’s a time to emerge as your best self, filled with warmth, laughter, and cheer.
And because part of being your best self is eating whole, fresh foods that nourish you, a new excitement emerges: the introduction of in-season spring produce! Farmers markets teem with springtime greens: asparagus, snap peas, and spinach emerge in all their jade glory. Citrus fruits, radishes, and other tart yet sweet pieces act as a delicious accent to nearly any meal. The fresh opportunities are endless when spring produce comes into view.
While the natural world undergoes a period of renewal, it’s time that your diet underwent one, too. How will you introduce spring produce into your daily diet this season? Many of spring’s wonders are easily transferrable between soups, salads, sandwiches, and even healthy desserts.
We also acknowledge that with the emergence of warm weather comes the desire to be outside as much as possible – not hanging out in the kitchen cooking. That’s why we’ve put together five recipes that make the most of spring farmers market produce – without more than 15 minutes of prep time involved. All of these options are also packable, making them perfect for on-the-go meals that don’t keep you tied down to your desk, home, or kitchen.
Wrap up one of these recipes this week in a Tupperware, head out the door, and enjoy the spring weather! We know you deserve it.
- Blueberry Almond Butter Smoothie from Minimalist Baker
- Chickpea Salad Wraps with Avocado Dill Sauce from Love and Lemons
- Strawberry Bread from Two Peas and their Pod
- Spring Vegetable Flatbread by Bev Cooks
- Simple Goat Cheese and Egg Toasts with Peas and Dill from Cookie and Kate
Which recipe did you try this week? We’d love to hear how it went!
You’ve made it to step one: you’ve found a way to fit a few workout sessions into your week, and you’re already feeling like you’re on top of the world. Whether you’re practicing yoga, sweating it out in spin class, jogging a few days a week, or incorporating weight-lifting into your routine, exercise has improved your physical and mental wellbeing and simply makes you feel good.
Perhaps you’ve seen your body change a bit after altering your routine; you may feel stronger, faster, leaner, or mentally clearer. If you want to maximize those benefits, it’s time to add another little something to your healthy day: eating whole, nutritious foods.
Eating the right foods before and after a workout can help you maximize the benefits of your new exercise routine. While many fitness sites will tout the pros of protein powders and supplements (which can be great for you!), we prefer to start with a natural, real foods route. Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, different meals made of whole grains, protein, or a mix of both can help maximize your exercise gains.
First up: rich carbohydrates. If you’re a runner, eating a meal rich in energy-sustaining carbohydrates (not the fast-acting kind you’ll find in white bread or donuts) is key to sustaining energy throughout your workout. Try oatmeal a few hours before your jog for a fiber-rich meal that sustains your energy throughout your entire run. Nutrient-rich leafy green carbs – like spinach, kale, or arugula – help replenish vitamins and minerals after a tough workout, while a banana can replace the electrolytes and potassium you’ve lost through sweating.
Post-workout, protein-rich foods tend to be the way to go. In order to see the muscle gains you’re hoping for, adding protein is necessary to help your muscles repair themselves and build up. Protein is also a key building block to ready your body for the workout ahead. Pop some nuts after your workout to quickly increase your protein intake and aid in muscle replenishment. Protein-rich foods that are also full of omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and lessen muscle soreness. Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein that also contains probiotics, which can help your food digest more effectively.
If you’ve had a particularly rigorous workout, combining whole grain carbohydrates and high protein foods is the perfect way to replenish your muscles, ease soreness, and maximize your strength and endurance gains. Top Greek yogurt with oatmeal-based granola to balance carbs and protein. Bake up some cod with a side of sautéed greens, asparagus, or your other favorite veggie. Add peanut butter to celery and crunch away. Fry a quick egg and place on top of a half english muffin. The options are endless!
All in all, when you incorporate whole foods into your diet, you’re replenishing the nutrients lost during your workout while maximizing the benefits you can enjoy from working your body. It’s truly a win-win!
Whether you’re an avid runner or you’re just getting started in the running game, you’re probably aware that this type of exercise is great for both your physical and mental health. Not only do you need no equipment to fit in a run (except some running shoes, of course), you can also incorporate a run no matter where you are or what season you’re dealing with. Even if it’s snowing, raining, hailing, or just plain cold, the treadmill is always an option.
With spring around the corner up here on the east coast, it’s nearly time for outdoor workouts to come into effect. If you’re anything like us, you can’t wait to feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and the crisp, natural air in your lungs as you survey your favorite running routes.
However, any workout is only as effective as the days on which you change it up. While running your classic daily three miles at the same pace can feel great (and there’s definitely room for this), it’s also important to change your daily workouts to maximize effectiveness. Without incorporating different workouts, it’s difficult to truly improve.
So how can you change up your routine to maximize your workouts while still fitting in a good run?
- Work your speed. If you’re typically a one-pace runner, fitting in some speed work is essential to bettering your skills. Working on your speed once a week will make you a faster runner in the long haul, helping you beat your best times, maximize calorie burn, and build leg muscle. To fit in speed work outdoors, choose a marker (say, your neighbor’s house) and sprint a particular distance, then jog the next few houses. You can also head over to your local track and choose sprinting distances that way. The treadmill makes it even easier to fit in speed work by increasing your speed slightly for a set amount of time on the machine.
- Go the distance. Push yourself to go a little further each time you run as the best way to build your endurance. The long run is all about keeping a consistent heart rate, so you’ll want to build up your mileage slowly. If you’re a one-mile-and-done runner, add a few minutes of slow jogging at the beginning and end this week. No matter how long you typically run for, aim to add 1-2 minutes of running to your routine each week. This will slowly help you build up your endurance to go the distance.
- Work in intervals. High-intensity interval training is a super effective way to get your heart pumping, build muscle, and torch serious calories. This type of workout incorporates intervals of your highest intensity alternating with intervals of rest. To do this outdoors, pick a hill and sprint up it, then slowly jog down (and break at the bottom of you need to). If you’re indoors, time yourself sprinting for 30 seconds at a time (as hard as you can go), or increase the treadmill incline to as high as you can make it without needing to stop, then alternate with a slow jog for 30-seconds.
- Prioritize a slow jog. Every body needs recovery time, and the slow jog is perfect for that. While it may feel like you aren’t pushing yourself, this type of run is essential to letting your muscles recover after a week of hard training. The key to keeping this a recovery run is to make sure your heart rate stays low. Recovery runs also give you a chance to check in with your body: how do your muscles feel? Are your feet sore? Are you struggling to get through this run? If so, you may be overtraining or prone for an injury. Use slow jogs to check in and ensure you stay on track with no snafus in sight.
What’s your favorite kind of running workout? How do you make sure you’re constantly improving?
Have a bad day? It happens to the best of us. No matter how much you try to put it into perspective (“there are so many people out there who have it so much worse!”), sometimes you just can’t help feeling down. Perhaps you had a particularly tough commute. Maybe you slept through your alarm and didn’t have time to stop for coffee. Perhaps you got a snide email from a friend. No matter how small the trigger may seem, sometimes you just feel down.
And that’s okay! After all, we’re human.
When you do have a seemingly unbreakable case of the bummers, you may have a few strategies you try to improve your mood. If not, or if you want to try something new, not to fret – we have a few ideas up our sleeves for helping you go from down in the dumps to high in the clouds.
- Smile. No matter how down you might feel, think joyful thoughts. What makes you smile on a regular basis? Perhaps its your kids or your significant other, a best friend, or even a character in your favorite television show. No matter who does it, envision that they’re there with you, and try to form a real, actual smile! Studies show that even feigning a smile can boost your mood.
- Move. Head to the gym, go for a jog, or even just jump around your living room. It turns out that physical activity isn’t only good for your body, it’s also good for the soul. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical that can help quell feelings of sadness or anxiety.
- Give to others. Doing something nice for another person – even just holding the door open or paying for someone’s coffee behind you in line – can get you in a better mood. It takes you out of your own head (and therefore your problems) and into a mode of compassion and empathy.
- Grab a quick hug. Physical touch with friends, family, or loved ones can decrease stress and improve your overall mood enormously. If your significant other or a close friend is around, try cuddling. If that won’t do, a hug might work. Even cuddling with or petting your dog or cat can help! And if you’re on your own, giving yourself a quick back or neck rub can actually work wonders for your mood.
- Get organized. Doesn’t it nearly always feel good when you’ve finished cleaning a room? Embrace that feeling and use your bad mood to compel you to organize. Doing a mindless task like laundry or washing dishes can offer just the distraction you need to relieve sad times. Getting organized will also instill you with a sense of accomplishment and poise, a guaranteed mood booster!
- Enjoy the great outdoors. There’s nothing like some wonderful sunshine to brighten even the lowest of spirits. If you’re feeling a bit down, head outside. Vitamin D from the sun can make you feel chipper, as can the beauty of the trees or the popping hue of freshly budding flowers. The wind in your hair and natural surroundings can also make you feel like you’re a part of a bigger, more meaningful world – increasing your sense of purpose, confidence, and happiness.
How do you improve your mood when you’re feeling down? We’d love to hear your best quick strategies!
Take a look at those beautiful meals above. How fresh do they look? How crisp, clean, delicious, and hearty? We’re drooling just looking at them!
All of these recipes are filled with in-season, scrumptious spring produce. This time of year is always exciting: the weather gets a bit warmer, the daylight gets longer, and floral dresses come out of the closet to coincide with the beautiful flowers budding out of the ground. And on top of all that, our fruits and veggies change over!
Winter veggies are scrumptiously hearty – sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, blood oranges, and parsnips grace the farmers market and keep us full and warm all year long. Whether you roast them or bake them, winter produce keeps you happy when the weather is cold.
As the weather gets warmer, however, this produce transitions from hearty and heavy to crisp and light. And we love it! Perfect for salads, curries, tacos, and even light soups, spring produce absolutely shines in our recipe palette.
Greens like arugula, kale, and spinach grace our plates with ease and offer a tasty base for all other fruits and veggies. Radishes are crunchy, sour, and sweet. Asparagus, broccoli, peas, and other green veggies offer high levels of nutrition and beauty to your plate. Fruit like strawberries, clementines, pears, and kumquats give us the sweetness we’ve craved all winter long while filling us up with immunity-boosting vitamin C.
With all the healthy benefits and delicious, crisp taste, we couldn’t be more excited for spring produce to come in full bloom. And when it starts to hit the farmers market shelves, be ever ready with the recipes below – which are filled with the stuff!
- Spring Cleaning Detox Salad
- Spring Pea Risotto
- Kale, Clementine, and Feta Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing
- Fresh Spring Rolls
- Thai Green Curry with Spring Vegetables
What are your favorite ways to use spring produce? Let us know your best recipes in the comments below!
What goals do you have this week to ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle? Perhaps you want to pencil in a few runs this week. Maybe you indulged a bit too heavily on the sweets last weekend and you want to prioritize fruits and veggies. Possibly you’d like to spend more time with loved ones, laugh more, or get a few extra hours of sleep.
No matter what your priorities are, we all know that treating our bodies well is key to a long, successful, happy life. In that vein, there’s one activity that we’d like you to try on for size this week: strength training.
It’s easy to get into the same fitness routine week in and week out. Your daily run, yoga class, or cycling routine offers solace within a typically hectic life. However, throwing something new in there every once in a while is key to hitting your fitness goals; your body gets used to your routine and therefore doesn’t enjoy the same benefits as it once did from those same exercises. But lifting weights (or your bodyweight) is intensely beneficial in more ways than one.
If you’ve never picked up a barbell before, don’t fret. Any new fitness routine is a tad intimidating before you try it. Starting off with some smaller weights, particularly in your own home, can get you on the right path to success. Dumbbell-free exercises – like push-ups, burpees, and squats – can also do the trick… no equipment required.
So why exactly should you incorporate strength training into your routine?
- It helps prevent your body from injury. If you’ve avoided lifting weights because you thought you’d hurt yourself, think again. Strength training can actually lessen your chances of injury, as it adds strength to not only your muscles, but your ligaments, tendons, and bones. As you age, adding strength training to your life can also slow the decline of muscle and bone density. This leads to a lower risk of fractures, torn ligaments, pulled muscles – you name it!
- It increases your average metabolic rate, or the rate at which you burn calories during normal daily activities (walking to work, sitting at your desk, grocery shopping, etc.). When you have more muscles in your body, your metabolic rate increases. Lifting weights, therefore, has benefits far beyond the gym itself – that calorie-burning sensation lasts all day!
- It offers a better night’s sleep. While incorporating exercise in your day generally helps you sleep longer and deeper, studies show that adding some strength exercises can truly help you get those zzz’s you crave. Some studies even indicate that it can help with sleep apnea and insomnia.
- It improves your balance and coordination. It turns out that building muscle can help with more than just strength – it also builds flexibility and balance. Whether you’re chasing your kids around, heading to a barre class, or going shopping, having some additional muscle on your body will keep you coordinated, poised, and able to conquer any and all tasks that lay before you.
- It’s beneficial for your brain. Looking to perform more efficiently at work? Hoping to help your teens with their homework? Add some strength training to your day – seriously! Multiple studies have shown that lifting weights is beneficial for your brain and promotes better cognitive function. Blow away your competition at the weight rack – and in an IQ test!
And we haven’t even mentioned: strength training builds muscle, which makes you look stronger, leaner, and more fit overall! It’s a win-win… in so many ways.