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Your Deodorant Might Be Making You Sweat More

We’ve all been there: you just had a killer workout, head into the locker room and are horrified to see dark, sweaty pit stains staring back at you in the mirror. 

I used to not have much of a problem with getting sweaty underarms, but suddenly I found that not only was I sweating excessively during workouts, but they were pretty wet during most of the day too. Gross, right?

I started wondering, why was this happening? Shouldn’t my deodorant prevent this from happening? I knew something wasn’t lining up, so I dug into a little research and what I found was pretty surprising, and definitely something I never thought about.

Ever wonder what’s actually in your deodorant? What do they put in there that makes you stop sweating? 

First of all, deodorant doesn’t actually stop the sweating process like we are led to believe. Aluminum compounds in the product plug up your eccrine sweat glands. The aluminum ions are drawn into the cells that line the sweat ducts, causing those cells to swell and squeeze the ducts shut. This means that all the sweat you produce is trapped under your skin, which causes a build up of bacteria

What I also found was that our bodies can adapt to the presence of aluminum and find ways to unplug the ducts, or produce even more sweat through other glands, which I think is what started happening to me. This can be avoided by switching up deodorant brands every six months to prevent resistance.

After making the switch to a natural deodorant I almost immediately noticed a difference. Not only were my underarms much drier, but they didn’t smell at all – not even after a long day or hard workout.

Don’t settle for a deodorant that’s not doing its job. You won’t regret making the switch.

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How You Can Use Sleep to Optimize Your Fitness

7 is the magic number.

You need three 7’s to win the jackpot, but more importantly, A typical person needs 7 hours of sleep to allow the body to rest and function normally for the next day.

For those of you pursuing fitness goals, rest is a strong part of the equation. Whether you’re working out before the sun rises, when the sun sets, or any time in between, your workout has a heavy toll on the body physically. During your workouts, you are tearing up your muscles (literally) within a short time period. Each set, each rep, or each minute of cardio consumes your body’s energy. So, (you guessed it) you need to replenish that energy somehow. Sleep will always be vital for your health and for recovery.

Many of you gym junkies might think that putting in the work is all you need. But it’s actually what happens outside of the gym that can truly affect the results of your work. 

When you sleep, your body is put into standby mode. Everything is lowered, from energy consumption to the speed of your breathing and the rate of your heartbeat. This is the time for recovery! Growth hormones are released improving the muscular regeneration process, as well as during protein synthesis. Human growth hormone is secreted, and it helps to build up those muscles you worked so hard to tear down.

There are many stages in our sleep cycle, but the REM stage is one of the few stages when the body and brain are at a complete rest period. It accounts for an approximate 25% of your daily sleep and this is actually where humans see extreme growth differences from baby to adulthood (and from smaller muscles to stronger ones). This stage of the sleep is, without a doubt, vital for growth.

Now, we get to the real question. How much sleep do you actually need?

The main determinant of how long you should sleep is whether or not you are active that day.

The general recommended sleep for an average person is anywhere from seven to nine hours. In some studies, however, athletes saw increased performance in their athletic activities when they in fact slept for an average of 10 hours.

But getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. 

To enhance your performance at the gym, you can try some of these tactics (taken from the habits of athletes) to ensure you really do get a good night’s sleep.

7 Tips for the Best Nights Sleep

1. Sleeping at much cooler temperatures.

From personal experience, sleeping at cold temperatures after a hard day of training helped ease the soreness that came with the workout.

2. Take a warm bath.

This can help to ease and relax your muscles to get you all toasty and ready for a good night’s sleep.

3. Never go to bed hungry.

Eating a meal before sleeping is vital as your hunger can keep you up at night.

4. Unplug.

Turn off the electronics! Seriously. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can wait till tomorrow.

For more, here are some tips on how to get to bed earlier and faster. And if you’re reading this late at night, close your laptop and get to bed!

Check out these articles too:

Citations:

  • Robson, David. “The Importance of Sleep.”org, 14 Feb. 2017, https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson5.htm. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.
  • Michelson, Megan. “How Elite Athletes Use Sleep Routines to Boost Their Confidence and Win Medals.”Van Wickle’s, 22 Feb. 2016, https://vanwinkles.com/how-sleep-is-helping-our-elite-athletes-push-harder. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.
  • “Why Athletes Perform Better When They Sleep Cool.”ChiliTechnology, 14 Aug. 2015, https://www.chilitechnology.com/blogs/chili-technology-blog/why-athletes-perform-better-when-they-sleep-cool. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.

10 Coffee Flavors You’ve Never Tried Before

10 coffee flavors

Regular coffee might not cut it anymore…

If you can’t start your day without the sweet nectar that drips from your coffee maker (especially when finals roll around), you’re not alone. There are millions of coffee junkies out there. In fact, some of them like coffee so much that they’ve gone above and beyond when it comes to flavors. Here are just a few fun and unique tastes from coffee brands all over the world.

10 coffee flavors 

1. Spicy Taco

If you like your caffeine with a bit of a kick, consider buying a bag of “spicy taco” coffee beans. They’ll bring to mind all of your favorite Mexican cuisine while still retaining their signature coffee flavor. As a bonus, their heat is sure to wake you up on sluggish mornings!

2. Whiskey

No, we’re not talking about Irish coffee. Whiskey-flavored coffee is made by saturating coffee beans with whiskey for a rich, full-bodied flavor when they’re done roasting. You can buy them pre-made or even do it yourself from home, though you might want to be careful with the latter, especially if you like to sample your goods while you work.

3. Cookies

Ready your sweet tooth! From chocolate chip to macadamia nut, there are all kinds of cookie-flavored coffee pods on the market. Just look for the best drip coffee maker that accepts pods. If you’re unable or unwilling to go single-serve, you can also find coffee syrup made with things like chocolate, caramel, toffee and cookie dough to infuse your thermoses with exotic tastes.

4. Bird Saliva

(Yes, this is real). Made from the saliva of swifters and Jacu birds, these coffees are imported from Asia for both their health benefits and their unique flavor profiles. They might be a little unusual, but your immune system will thank you for taking the risk. In addition, they’ll be a great change of pace for coffee connoisseurs who are tired of everyday flavors.

5. Cheesecake

There’s nothing like a slice of creamy, decadent cheesecake to make you appreciate life’s little luxuries. But what if you don’t have time for a sit-down dessert? Buy cheesecake-flavored coffee instead; it’ll give you the same great taste without the need for forks. You can also use it as a treat or pick-me-up to get yourself through long days in the lib.

6. Maple Bacon

The only thing better than bacon is fatty, greasy bacon drizzled with maple syrup, and thanks to some truly innovative minds in the coffee industry, you can now enjoy this sweet and smokey flavor with your morning cup of joe. Pair it with some protein pancakes for a true breakfast of champions.

7. Apple Pie

Nothing says “homecoming” like mom’s apple pie, and if you buy it as your next coffee flavor, you won’t even have to head home to enjoy it. Mixing sweet and savory ingredients like apple, cinnamon and yeast, apple pie coffee is sure to send your palette down memory lane.

8. Egg

A favorite in Vietnamese cafes, this recipe calls for regular coffee grounds added to a combination of whipped egg yolks and condensed milk. As the coffee sinks to the bottom of the cup, it will mix its tart flavor with the rich, silky one of the egg. The result is basically a breakfast substitute that will taste great and fill you up. Protein coffee, anyone?

9. Absinthe

You probably think of absinthe as a rich man’s alcohol, but if you buy coffee infused with absinthe flavors like fennel, licorice and anise, you can join their exclusive club with a single pot. Just know that it might be an acquired taste if you aren’t already familiar with absinthe.

10. Ultra-Caffeinated

Last but certainly not least, if regular java just isn’t enough to get you going in the mornings, consider investing in the ultra-caffeinated kind. It’s typically made with Robusta beans instead of Arabica ones, and some brands are so strong that they’re named things like “Death Wish” and “Wake The F*** Up.” If they can’t get you going, nothing will!

These are just 10 coffee flavors that you might not see in the average grocery store. If you’re willing to import them or order them online, however, these unique tastes can be yours to enjoy!

10 coffee flavors

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Make Coffee Like A Barista (Without Leaving Your Dorm)
8 Healthy Donut Recipes You Need To Try

Victoria Sport: Best Women’s Active Wear?

Watch out Lulu. You have new competition for most stylish women’s active wear and her name is Victoria Sport.

When Victoria’s Secret announced their plans to discontinue their beloved swimwear line, many hearts were broken. Their reasoning behind halting the production of their beach attire? To focus on Victoria Sport: a stylish and practical active wear for fitness enthusiasts everywhere.

Popular activewear companies, like lululemon and Nike, may have some cute leggings, but their pieces are typically outrageously priced and way out of the average college student’s budget. While I was hesitant at first, I was pleasantly surprised that their new line was great quality, yet still affordable. After giving it a try, Victoria Sport has slowly become one of my go-to active wear brands for cute workout tops, functional leggings, and the best sports bras I own. 

If you’re still skeptical, here are some of my reviews of their most popular pieces:

Let’s talk about leggings.

 

A post shared by Victoria Sport (@victoriasport) on


Lululemon is known for being the best when it comes to leggings, but they are also known for coming with a hefty price tag that can be $100 or more.  Victoria Sport’s signature Knockout High-Rise Tights, on the other hand, range from $62.50-$69.95. Although still quite an investment for most college students, I was fortunate enough to buy these leggings during a sale and quickly I fell in love.

The Knockout Tights are perfect for any fitness guru for three simple reasons: the fabric, the pockets, and the style. The fabric is thick and breathable, it doesn’t show sweat, and most importantly, it isn’t see through. Squat test approved! The pockets are a handy addition because they can hold your keys, ID, and phone so you’re not stuck carrying them around the gym. And, the style of these leggings is what makes them a favorite of mine. Being high waisted, they are more flattering on my figure and stay up even through the most strenuous workouts, which is something I always look for in leggings. 

Now, let’s talk sports bras.

 

A post shared by Victoria Sport (@victoriasport) on


Since my volleyball days, I have always had the hardest time finding the perfect sports bra. Even the most high impact sports bras never seemed to do the job, but Victoria Sport has reinvented sports bras entirely, and that’s why they have been deemed the “world’s best”. Regardless of your need for a low impact undergarment or a high impact undergarment, these sports bras are of supreme quality and are one of the most affordable active wear bras I have come across starting at just $15.

Their cheapest sports option, the Player Racerback Sports Bra, happens to be my favorite. Similarly to their performance pants, their sports bras can be snatched on amazing 2/$25 deal days. With that price, you could buy four Victoria Sport bras for the price of one lululemon sports bra. 

 

A post shared by Victoria Sport (@victoriasport) on

Overall, Victoria Sport has blown me away with the overall quality and comfort of activewear. While lululemon still offers top-quality active wear, Victoria Sport has made a dent on the active wear and ‘athleisure’ scene this year, and you can thank me (or hate me) later for getting you hooked on Victoria Sport.

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Try This Productivity Hack When You Need To Get Sh*t Done

tip for when you want to get shit done

This productivity hack really works.

You know when you read something on the internet, just randomly, and a post speaks to you like the author was INSIDE YOUR BRAIN and had figured out exactly what makes you tick? Well, that happened to me reading Autumn’s post yesterday. 

tip for when you want to get shit done

Her post (read the whole thing) is all about three strange quirks that help her stay healthier. #3 is my favorite, and probably not least because it’s a productivity hack, too. Autumn plays strange mental games with herself. For example:

“I cannot watch another episode of Gilmore Girls till I write for 10 minutes.”

Or, the one that speaks to my soul:

“Must respond to two emails before I mindlessly scroll FB and IG for an hour.”

I play these kinds of games with myself ALL. THE TIME. In fact, I’m doing it right now, writing this post. My reward? Um, cheese. It’s always cheese, friends.

fit approach sweat pink sweatguru

What I love about these games is how quick and easy they are. In our over-scheduled, hyper-connected lives, they’re such low-hanging fruit. No planning, prepping, tracking, or logging. No sharing on the internet and finding all the right hashtags to pair it with. (Oh. Hang on. Present post excluded 😉 )

It reminds me, too, of one of my favorite pieces of advice I ever received about writing.

Just write three sentences. Just sit down and write three sentences.

Chances are, you won’t quit at three. It’s the starting that’s the hard part. Once you get over that getting started hurdle, you’re more likely to just steamroll through whatever project is on your plate. 

I love these little mental games—and also, hearing that I’m not alone in using them to get shit done. What secret, or not so secret, tactics do you rely on to get yourself to just do the thing?
 
This article was written by Alyse Mason Brill and contributed by Fit Approach. It’s part of our Fit Approach Friday series! Check back every other Friday for more awesome content from Fit Approach.
 
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9 Easy Ways to Live a Little More Fit Today

christina chu

Because sometimes, you just don’t want to go to the gym.

Life is hard. Between work, school, friends, family, and you-time, staying fit sometimes does not even cross your mind. However, it doesn’t take expensive studio fees and luxury leggings to be your fittest self. Below are some simple ways to stay fit.

Maintain good posture.

We are all guilty of this. We might start off mindful of our posture, but after sitting at a desk for long hours, we catch ourselves hunched over. Roll those shoulders back and lengthen that spine to prevent back and neck pain.

Drink more water.

Staying hydrated is key to staying fit. Try carrying around your favorite water bottle and taking sips periodically.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Walking in uncomfortable shoes can cause hip, back, and knee pain, which can affect your daily life. Put on a pair of sneakers the next time you’re heading out for class and feel the difference.

Carry a healthy snack in your bag.

Sometimes, it pays off to be the mom of the group. Throw some of these snacks in your bag so you reach for healthier options rather than the sugary, processed foods you probably reach for when you’re hangry.

Breathe.

Especially during times of stress, it’s easy to literally forget to breathe. However, finding your breathing pattern and being able to control it will help lessen that anxiety you feel.

Include vegetables with every meal.

 

Truth time: it’s hard to eat a salad for every meal. But, it is manageable to include at least one vegetable with every meal. 

Walk.

Whether this is by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car a little further away in the parking lot, or strolling to class instead of taking the bus, get moving.

Stretch before bed.

fit

As easy as it is to just face-plant in your pillow at the end of the day, take 5 minutes to stretch out your muscles and relax before you sleep. 

Sleep.

You’ve had a long day, and it is so important to rest up. Put away the Netflix or extra homework you like to do as the overachiever you (probably) are. Snuggle up and sleep – your body needs it.

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How to Get at Your Goals, According to Psychology

We got goals.

Everyone does, right? Yet how many times have you set a goal, only for it to slowly slip from consciousness and become abandoned within weeks…? I don’t know about you, but I have quite the goal graveyard.

We tell ourselves, “I’m going to lose weight,” or, “I’m going to workout more,” but without true intention and action, those words alone don’t make anything happen. They don’t have any meaning on their own.

I’m here to direct you through adding meaning to your goals. I spent the past semester learning about personal health and behavior change, so believe me when I say I gotchu. Get ready for the science to blow your mind.

Goal Getter: A Comprehensive Guide to Realistic Goal-Setting

According to the health belief model, whether or not a person will change their behavior is based on their perspective. They have to believe that the perceived benefits, barriers, and consequences are too great to ignore. This, paired with this is the belief in one’s ability to succeed in making a change, influence someone to take action. That belief in yourself is called your self efficacy

There are several stages of change, illustrated in the transtheoretical model of behavior change.

  • Someone in the “precontemplation” stage believes that there is nothing wrong with them and that their behaviors are just great the way they are.
  • Then, “contemplation” includes thinking about changing, but not being incredibly serious about taking action.
  • The “preparation” stage is when you start to actually plan for the behavior change. For example, you might buy a gym membership or plan a new workout regimen
  • Those preparations quickly turn into action; this is the stage where the behavior change is actively being made.
  • After six months of action, one enters the maintenance stage, and voila! A change has been made. 

How to Get at Your Goals, According to Psychology

So that’s how it all goes down. When you find yourself in the preparation stage, it’s important to set goals to fuel your action phase. Not your big goal, your “I’m going to get in shape!” or your “I’m going to build my resume!” These goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. To clear up what that kind of goal looks like, let me break it down with an example.

“I’m going to workout (with a mix of strength training and cardio) 4-5x a week for a month straight before the first week of May.” 

Specific: Outlines what type of exercise will be performed and how many times per week. An example of a non-specific goal would be, “I’m going to go to the gym more.” 

Measurable: It’s certainly possible to measure how many days per week one works out! Check.

Attainable: For someone who’s pretty fit who has access to a gym, there should be no problem getting in the gym 4-5 times a week. Check.

Realistic: Similar to above, this goal is pretty realistic. Something that wouldn’t check the box (for me, at least) would be, “I’m going to squat 500 pounds by next week.” See what I’m getting at?
Unrealistic goals, or aiming higher than is kind or forgiving to yourself, might seem like a good idea but they can set you up for failure and low self esteem. If you’ve taken a year off exercise, maybe don’t start with 4-5 times a week. There’s a difference between starting off strong and overdoing it

Time-bound: This goal has an end date and clarifies how long the intention will be set for. Of course it could continue after the first week of May, but the fact that it’s set for a month straight is a good sign. Check!

Goal Getter: A Comprehensive Guide to Realistic Goal-Setting

Get the point? I hope so! Now you’re ready to begin goal-getting.

It’s important to remember that goals are mere guidelines and that your journey towards reaching it won’t always be smooth sailing. You have to be prepared for hardship and failure. After setting your goal, write down every single thing you could think of that would block you from attaining it; these are called barriers. 

If you plan ahead and decide how you will react to each barrier as it meets you, you will be less likely to abandon your goal when the going gets tough.

In terms of the example goal I’ve been using, some common barriers to working out include time, materials, relationships, etc. You may believe you don’t have time to workout, you may not have a gym membership, or you may prioritize school and friends over working out. As long as you know this, you can plan for the change and ensure that these barriers won’t get in your way. Make time, use what you’ve got, and if it’s really important to you, it’ll show.

Now, all you have to do is start. I promise you that the hardest part of doing anything is just getting going with it. I can’t promise you that it will be easy, but I know that it’ll be worth it.

Anything you could wish for is already yours, you just have to unlock it! Armed with these tools, you’ll be sure to succeed. Determine what you want to change and GO GET IT. You got this.

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What’s the Best Time of Day to Work Out?

what's the best time of day to workout?

Morning, midday, or midnight? What’s the best time to get your workout in? 

The answer is that it depends on what time works for you. The key to workouts is consistency– pick a time that you’re most likely to get to the gym and get moving. Even though there is research indicating that sticking to a specific workout time can result in better performance, higher oxygen consumption, and lower perceived exhaustion, the benefits of exercise are tightly linked to the quantity of exercise done. 

 

To find your preferred time of day, consider the following:

Timing

Are your days busier in the morning or night? Sometimes, it’s more difficult to work out at night as your responsibilities build during the day. 

Energy

How do you feel throughout the day? Body temperature typically increases throughout the day, so muscle strength and endurance peak in the late afternoon. The afternoon is also when reaction time is quickest and heart rate and blood pressure are lowest. 

Sleep

What time do you go to bed? Since exercise increases heart rate and body temperature, working out too late in the evening (generally after 8 p.m.) may cause you to struggle to fall asleep.

Enjoyment

Consider the type of workout you want to do. What’s going to incentivize you and make it a great workout? Does your favorite instructor teach at night? Do you love to watch the sunrise when you run? When is your workout buddy free? Working out shouldn’t be a chore, so optimize your circumstances to make it fun.

Life is all about balance-  struggling to fit in workouts shouldn’t be a major stressor in a college student’s life. Reaching your goals comes best with you setting your own schedule. Keep working!

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What Does It Actually Mean to Listen to Your Body?

How many times have you heard a health professional say to listen to your body? They say your body knows what it needs. It’s supposed to tell you what to eat, how to work out, when to rest, and so much more. 

In reality, though, you probably decide all that stuff based on a whole bunch of other factors. What’s the latest superfood in the news? What workouts are your friends doing? How much exercise are you “supposed” to get in a week? How much time do you have?

I can relate.

Because, really, the problem here is that your body doesn’t speak English. You can feel when you’re tired, but you don’t know if your workout was too hard or you didn’t get enough sleep. Your stomach might be upset after dinner, but you have no idea if it’s caused by the pizza you ate or the plethora of stress you’re under. It’s easy to let your favorite foodstagrammer tell you to go dairy-free or pick up Crossfit because you overheard someone in your class who looks amazing say that’s what they do.

How do you know if that’s right for you, though?

Research.

research

If you’re curious about a new workout or dietary shift, look into it before you make any changes. The number one thing to check here is whether it’s safe (which means no crash dieting or working out until you’re sick). Talk to a doctor or other health professional about the changes you’re considering. See what people are saying about the pros and cons.

Check in.

Why do you want to make these changes? Do you want to get healthier, lift heavier, run faster, or are you pursuing aesthetic goals? Are you looking for a challenge? If you’re feeling good as you are, there may be no reason to change anything. The fact that someone else isn’t eating a certain food or is working out a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Experiment.

If you’ve decided it’s safe and you want to try something new for a good reason, go ahead and do it.

Check in (again… and again… and again).

This is where you really need to listen to your body, and I’ll help walk you through it. These are just suggestions, but they should give you an idea of what to look out for.

If you’re eating differently, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel before and after my meals?
  • Is it different from before?
  • Are any problematic symptoms I noticed going away?

If you’re trying a new workout routine, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel during my workouts?
  • Are my joints hurting?
  • Am I dizzy?
  • Do I have enough energy to complete each workout?
  • Am I exhausted after a workout, or do I feel accomplished?

No matter what, ask yourself:

  • Do I feel awake and energetic throughout the day?
  • Are my “healthy” changes getting in the way of my social or academic life?
  • Am I enjoying eating/exercising this way?
  • How is my sleep?

Adjust accordingly.

listen to your body

Now you know what feels good (or doesn’t) and you can keep doing the same thing or try something new. It’s up to you – and your body. And once you start listening, your body will thank you.

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Why I Wake Up at 4:30 in the Morning

Why I Wake Up at 4:30 in the Morning

Some people call me crazy.

We’ve all said it before: “I just wish there were more hours in the day.”

Between classes, work, internships, food, sleep, daily hygiene, relationships, and me-time, it may seem like every day flashes before your eyes due to the volume of activities you have to do. But who’s to say that this isn’t manageable?

With the help of Google Calendar, an alarm clock, and the support of loved ones, it is doable. That’s why I wake up at 4:30 in the morning.

Is it easy? No. But is it worth it? Yes.

Waking up at 4:30 means being awake and productive before the majority of the world is even up making breakfast. Waking up at 4:30 means crossing something off your checklist before 10 AM. Waking up at 4:30 gives you those hours in the day you were asking for, and allows you to sleep peacefully at night knowing that you’ve made the most out of your day.

What’s my motivation?

I don’t live in my home state. Raised in Illinois, I moved to Boston for college, a situation you may relate to. This means that my family has given up a lot for me to just live here, on top of paying for tuition. So who am I to not make the most of my time here?

Why I Wake Up at 4:30 in the Morning

Plus, this view at dawn is pretty cool.

Some people call me crazy. “You’re doing so much. Why would you do this to yourself?”

But we’re at a time in our lives where we are supposed to be a little crazy. To be honest, we’re young, and life is short. It’s not long before the nature of life will take over, our metabolisms will slow down, and we may start a family and have a stable job. This is the time to do everything you’ve ever wanted and more. An early morning alarm clock may be the key to doing just that.

So try it out. Make it a realistic goal by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier every week. Gradually work yourself toward an earlier time and see how much work you can do in the mornings. You’ll be surprised by how much you can do when the rest of the world is sleeping.

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How to Make Friends After College

Going away to college was the scariest and most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Originally from Los Angeles, I packed my bags and not-yet-broken-in snow boots and headed to Madison, Wisconsin for my four-year adventure. I remember the shopping trips with my mom as we prepared for Antarctica. I accumulated endless piles of down, fuzzy slippers, and neck warmers (who knew there was such a thing?!).

While I was eager for my new adventure and my first snow, I was nervous about heading to a place where I knew no one. To this day I get asked: why did you go to Wisconsin? My answer is simple: I wanted a new culture, a new city, and new food (cheese curds and brats are a Wisconsin staple).

I wasn’t nervous about making friends. In college you are thrown into social situations with thousands of people your age: classes, Greek life, events, study groups, intramural sports, etc. I quickly found my niche and my way in a sea of 40,000 Sconnies.

After graduation I left for Chicago, my one year of big city life. Chitown is a hub for Big 10 Alumni, and there are an endless amount of opportunities for recent graduates to work hard and party harder. But, whereas on a college campus everyone and everything is at your fingertips, out in the “real world”, making friends and finding your way takes a bit of work.

Graduating soon? Here are some things I’ve done to navigate a new city, and make new friends. Being an adult isn’t so bad. In fact it rocks.

Alumni Clubs

Before you graduate, visit the Alumni Association on campus to learn more about Chapters across the globe. Reach out to the local chapter in your new city to get details on upcoming game watches, volunteer opportunities, and networking events. In Chicago, I remember walking into a Wisconsin Bar with dozens of screaming football fanatics of all ages. It smelled like college (or more specifically, a frat house). Bond with local alumni over beer, football, and life in your new city. Who knows, your tablemate may also be an executive at a big company (networking at its finest).

drinks-1746272_960_720

Get Sweaty

We’re all about being fit, and staying active post graduation. Whether you are a yogi, runner, cyclist, or barre fanatic, there is a gym out there for you. After the big move, take a few weeks to settle in and drop in for a few classes around town.

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Once you’ve found your go-to training spots plan your workouts and stick to the same class time. I was a 5 a.m. regular (I still have no idea how I did it) and after a week or so me and the other crazies were high-fiving and fist-pumping after an intense sweat session. Go up to the other crazies and introduce yourself. Suggest grabbing a coffee post-workout, or meet up for a healthy cocktail. Sweaty friends are the best. On a budget? November Project is a free running and bodyweight workout offered twice a week in 30+ cities. #Justshowup and give some hugs.

Volunteer for a Local Nonprofit

Giving back not only helps the community, it helps you. There are hundreds of nonprofits and volunteer organizations that need assistance or support–not only with your time, but with your leadership and skillset. As a young professional, board positions at a nonprofit are excellent opportunities to grow as a public speaker, networker, and community leader. Choosing groups closely tied to your background and passions is a great way to meet other like-minded volunteers.

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Join a Sports Leagues

Stay active all year round by joining a sports league. Dodgeball, running, volleyball, softball, and more—there is no shortage of fun ways to get outside, kick something, or work up a sweat with other 20 somethings in the big city. The Sports Leagues also double as social clubs with happy hours following games. Sweat then sip—my kind of icebreaker.

MeetUps and Networking Groups

Step outside your comfort zone and head to a Meetup or Networking Event. Even more daring, go solo. The list of groups can be overwhelming, so narrow in on something you’re interested in: Nonprofit professionals, Single in my 20s and Loving It, etc. The majority of attendees are in the same boat as you, and looking to meet other people with similar interests.

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Moving to a new city is overwhelming in itself, so give yourself some time to settle in and learn your turf. Favorite coffee shop (check), new gym (check), hair dresser (ladies—you know this is important)…check! Ask around, say hi to your neighbors, and start exploring. That social calendar of yours will fill up in no time.

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Attitude Adjustment: How A New Mindset Changed My Life

They say your attitude determines your direction…

My name is Casey Douglas, and I’m a self-proclaimed “fan” of fitness. But I haven’t always been. As a child, I was far more into chocolate Hostess cakes than I was into after-school activities, and my “health” wasn’t really something that was on my radar.

I did have one hobby, however: artistic gymnastics. You know, that sport involving floor, beam, bars, and vault (think Simone Biles, but way less awesome). I was a decent competitor and enjoyed gymnastics overall, but still, ironically, I quit because there was “too much conditioning.”

However, gymnastics gave me the empowering knowledge that my body was capable of strength and endurance.

My athleticism went into hibernation until I started high school and joined the cross country and track teams. This decision drove a physically and emotionally profitable career of running and I owe a great deal of gratitude to those 12 seasons of pavement pacing.

Right before I started school at Boston University, I began training at a boot camp facility, where I discovered weight lifting. Admittedly, I feared becoming “big” and “bulky,” but I fell passionately in love with the sport and the challenges that came with it, that those quickly became things that no longer scared me.

Now, my life is a conglomerate of these things. I am a girl whose heart is split between double-digit mileage runs and challenges that test my strength. I’ve found my home at Boston’s toughest boot camp, Beantown Bootcamp, where each day my passion for fitness continues to grow.

IMG_1595From the surface, my fitness journey may seem rather simple — a girl who has grown as an athlete as time has passed. However, I quickly learned that health is so much more than just the physical aspect and my body is meant for more than aesthetic.  

 

When I was 9-years old, I stood next to other girls in gymnastics class and wondered why my legs touched one another while other girls legs did not. When I was 14, I felt thick as I ran amongst my tall, lanky competitors. And, as high school progressed, I found my self-disdain and disappointment grow larger.

In 11th grade, I crash dieted. I knew crash diets never work, yet I continued. Eventually, I began to cope with my sadness in the only way I knew how: with comfort food. This pattern continued until October 8th, 2014.

On that fateful day, after a night of compulsive overeating, I awoke with guilt, horrible stomach pains, and a sugar-hangover. In that moment, I knew that my lifestyle of emotional eating would perpetuate my cycle of low self-esteem and poor body imageAdditionally, I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to overhaul my negative attitude and rearrange my lifestyle.  I needed to understand that those legs that may or may not touch, helped me run faster and jump higher.

I look back at the loneliness of my high school days and don’t recognize the person I was.

Now, I am 30-pounds lighter, eat nutritious foods, and enjoy treats in a blissful moderation. I find joy in pushing my body to accomplish new fitness feats. I focus more on what my body can do rather than what it looks like. And I work towards weight PRs instead of weight loss.

Boot camp gives me life and continuously lights up my mornings. I am happy, whole, and in love with the fit lifestyle I lead. And I am honored to join Fit University, a place that celebrates each individual’s unique journey.

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Fitness Taught Me To Love Myself No Matter What

My name is Danielle, and I want you to know that my fitness journey is still in progress.

I have been a dancer since I was very young, but I became interested in fitness my freshman year of high school.

My Dad taught me the basics such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, and lunges to get me started. They were easy-to-follow moves, and I continued to do them.

I began to get bored with my routine and I asked my mom to take me to her gym. I tagged along one day and did one of the workouts she was learning from her personal trainer. The workout kicked my BUTT.

Funny thing is, I’m seriously not exaggerating when I say that: I ended up passing out at the gym. And nearly dying. Okay, that part’s a bit dramatic. But it was frightening; my eyes rolled back, my lips turned blue, and I distinctly remember my hearing fading.

At this point, I realized how important eating enough and staying hydrated were. We went in the morning, so I hadn’t felt hungry beforehand and I generally didn’t drink very much water. That was definitely a wake-up call to the nutritional aspect of fitness.

Loving your body requires more than physical activity.

Up until my senior year of high school, I had just tried to figure out the basics. But then, I wanted to be pushed, so I took a weightlifting class. That’s when my love for fitness really took off. As much I loved learning the new lifts, I also learned about other important aspects of training such as how long each rep should be, the correct form for each movement, and about what it meant to believe in and push yourself. 

Not in just the physical sense, but also mentally. High school is filled with immature, like-minded beings who only have one image of what beauty is, so people said a lot of hurtful things. Most of them would claim to be joking, but words hurt.

Along with taking this class, I began to kick box in my local area. This team was incredible. The encouragement and determination of the other members was so inspiring. Everyday after school, I would have dance practice and then I would head to train with them. Even though I had no free time, I was happier than ever and loved spending my days active and on-the-go.

Then I entered my freshman year of college, and I was struggling. I have always been a busy-bee and managed my time well, but this first semester was unlike anything I had ever encountered.

The stress I put on myself became emotionally, mentally, and physically straining. The stress became apparent and my optimism quickly turned into constant crying, calling my parents two or three times a week because all I could manage to feel was hopeless and tired.

Weight (and muscle) slowly slid away because the stress would sit in my stomach, not allowing me to get a full meal down. My hours of sleep became smaller and smaller because I would try to fit too much done in to too little of time. A never ending cycle was established resulting in me being absolutely drained all the time. With my lack of sleep, energy, and food, there was no way I was making it to the gym. 

 

A photo posted by Danielle (@boss_danielle) on


Even though I looked relatively strong, I was weak.

I was not healthy. 

So for my health, I ended up transferring to a school closer to home, and so far it has been the best decision. I have found a balance between school, my friends, getting my workouts in, and extracurriculars. I am involved in the Dance Company at my school, work out regularly, and have recently joined the Women’s Lacrosse Team, along with my participation in clubs, studying, etc.

My (incomplete) fitness journey has been a whirlwind, but it’s made me who I am today. Fitness goes beyond the aesthetic of one’s body. It is something that you do because you love it and you love yourself. It helps you gain an appreciation for yourself that you never had before. You can squat 250 lbs? Heck, then you can do anything!

The encouragement I get from my friends, family, and people I don’t even know has been tremendous. Every insult that has ever been said to me, has only made me try ever harder because I am a strong, independent woman and I love what I do. Some days are harder than others, but you keep on going.

 

A photo posted by Danielle (@boss_danielle) on

Fitness has truly taught me to love myself — no matter what comes my way.

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7 Printable Punny Valentine’s Day Cards for Your Swolemate

punny valentine's day fitness cards

Happy Valentine’s Day #fitufam! Remember the days of giving out vday cards to all your classmates? Well, we’re bringing it back. We put together 7 punny Valentine’s Day cards for you to give your fit and healthy loved ones. Print one out and give it to them alongside one of these 8 healthy Valentine’s Day breakfasts then head to the gym for a Valentine’s Day partner workout

For the gym rat…

valentine's day fitness

valentine's day fitness 

valentine's day fitness

For the foodie…

valentine's day fitness

valentine's day fitness

valentine's day fitness

For the yogi… 

valentine's day fitness

Don’t have a printer to print? Just share this link 😉

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What They Don’t Teach You in College: Post Grad Life

It is supposed to be an exciting time in one’s life when they graduate from college, but what they don’t teach you is what life will be like post grad.

I recently graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Kinesiology and a concentration in Clinical Exercise Physiology. While in college, I was extremely involved with my sorority and a list of other activities, one of those being exercising and living a healthy lifestyle. 

Now that I have graduated, I’ve moved away from my college town and my friends who were my accountability partners. We had each other’s back on everything from relationship advice and working out, to complaining about why our professor put 7 chapters on our test. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been as easy as it was for the past 4 1/2 years.

This isn’t meant to scare or worry anyone about post grad life because it is exciting. However, reality starts to set in when you have to decide whether you’re going to start grad school, go to work, or travel; the options are endless. With all these changes that are going on its important to prioritize your life. 

Post grad life can be thought of as a two part deal: what you can control in your life and what you cannot control in your life. For example, what you can control is what you’re going to wear, whether or not you’re going to workout, or what you’re going to eat. You can’t control the weather or other people’s decisions. The key point?

Focus on what you can control.

Life is stressful and if we focus on what we can control we will live a happier life. Take what is stressing you out, set it aside, and focus on what you can control. I am a big believer in the idea that everything will work out how they are intended. Whether you are like me and you’ve just graduated or you are just starting college, remember not to stress too much, have fun, and be healthy and fit because this time in your life doesn’t last forever.

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Your Shoes May Be Killing Your Workout: Here’s Why

Although the holidays have passed, we all know that stylish workout clothes can make it feel like Christmas year round. A fit lifestyle often comes with an growing love for workout clothes, and if you’re anything like me, your sneaker collection continues to grow extensively. When shopping, many people prioritize the style or color of their sneakers over their function and design. Do we all do the same workout? No, so we are we buying the same shoes?

Bruce Wilk, physical therapist and owner of The Runner’s High, a running specialty store in Miami, says, “The average time a consumer takes to pick out a pair of running shoes is about 10 to 15 seconds.” 10-15 seconds isnot enough time to assess if a sneaker fits and will work for its intended activity over time. 

While style is definitely important (you want to buy shoes you want to wear), the correct shoe will prevent injury and also maximize the progress you see during your workouts. Outlined below are three types of workout shoes that all are designed very differently for their different purposes. There are many more types, like cycling, hiking, or Crossfit shoes, and I highly encourage you to do research and pick the right option for you!

Running Shoes

Running sneakers are designed with more cushion and stability than the regular training shoe. While some exceptions exist, like minimal shoes like Vibrams, most running sneakers provide shock absorption via air pads and cushions in the heel. Within this category there are many different types of sneakers designed to support the range of running styles our bodies fall into. Every person’s running gait is different, so to find the running shoe perfect for you, go to a running specialty store to be fitted.

At the store, an employee observes your running style and habits to fit you in the best shoe. Be sure to bring along a pair of your usual running socks, and shop later in the day. Your feet swell during the day, just like they do during a run.

Running sneakers are not designed for the lateral motions of regular training, and the padding makes it difficult to balance and exert force during weight lifting. If you want to avoid injury and see progress in your lifts, get a pair of lifting shoes!

Weightlifting Shoes

Ever seen people wearing Converse at the gym? No, these people aren’t making a footwear fashion statement- Converse have a solid, flat base that is characteristic of a weightlifting shoe! Lifting shoes don’t absorb impact like running or training shoes do, so they use all of the force your body produces to move weight. This is also why some people lift barefoot if the gym allows it- a minimal shoe helps strengthen muscles and stabilize the body.  

Additionally, some lifting shoes even have a 1/2-1″ raised heel. Olympic-style weightlifters use these shoes to achieve a deeper squat through increased ankle range of motion. They also help to improve your overall position as well so if you’re looking for a serious shoe look for that raised heel!

Cross Training Shoes

Cross-trainers are designed to play multiple roles in the gym. You can use them for almost any activity — yoga, elliptical, stretching, or a Zumba workout. Cross-trainers are oftentimes heavier than a running shoe, as they have more support for lateral movements. 

Unlike running sneakers, there are less options, as most training shoes don’t differentiate by foot type. Because they have no specific function, they are perfect if you like to mix up your workouts. You also need a general sneaker so you don’t wear down your running sneakers at the gym!

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This Phone Case Will Improve Your Workout

Behold, a phone case that basically makes the gains for you.

Ok, maybe not exactly. But, the Selfie-Z Magnetic Smart Phone Case has shown up all over social media and people everywhere are transforming the way they approach lifting, learning new techniques, and bettering their form. This case has strategically placed magnets on the back so you can just stick it a machine, press record, and lift. Even though it might seem like an unnecessary purchase, it will help your workout immensely. Here’s why: 

 

A video posted by Selfie-Z™ (@selfie_z) on

Check Your Form 

Stick your phone to any piece of gym equipment using the magnets on the back, record your workout and boom, it’s like the paparazzi is just ready to watch you slay your lift. This will help you check your form when you do not have anyone around to check it for you, and it is certainly easier than balancing your phone on top of a foam roller or blender bottle. Seriously, this is a huge help. 

Use the Timer

If you’re doing a HIIT or Tabata workout, just pull up the timer on your phone and get to work. Instead of having to constantly check the clock and waste time, which, in turn, slows your heart rate, you will have your phone right in front of you. And, while you’re casually dying and gasping for air, you’ll be able to watch the seconds pass by until you are finally done with your jumping lunges. #winning 

Take Better Gym Selfies 

Let’s just be honest – whether we admit it or not, we all love to take a good gym selfie. Even if it’s not for social media, it’s nice to have photos to see how far you’ve come. This phone case makes taking the perfect selfie super easy, and best of all, there won’t be any more awkward angles. 

While a bit on the pricier side ($39.99), this phone case has the power to transform your workouts. Try it out for yourself — test your limits, track your progress, and take selfies while you’re at it, but also don’t forget to have fun while staying fit! 

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How to Show Everyone You Love Them on Valentine’s Day

Growing up, Valentine’s day meant one thing: candy.

You would craft the most wonderful box you could think of. You would arrive at school and set out your box proudly, waiting for the time you could hand out the candy you oh-so-carefully picked out and receive all the wonderful, cartoon-filled valentine’s day cards your classmates made. You couldn’t wait to get back home, rip open all of the cards, and shove as much pink, heart-shaped candy into your mouth as you possibly could.

But as time continued on and you continued to grow, Valentine’s day developed a whole new meaning. It wasn’t about candy suckers and cards taped shut with heart stickers… It was about your relationship status. 

Not only was it about whether or not you were in a relationship, but it was about what you did and the gifts you got on Valentine’s Day.

You see, once you become a teenager, society begins to tell you that you “should” be in a relationship.

Society says that in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, you should be showered in jewelry, flowers, chocolate, a fancy date, etc. The constant commercials filled with romance are overwhelming.

But I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way. 

To me, Valentine’s Day is something much deeper than that. It doesn’t have to be about a romantic relationship: it can celebrate platonic relationships, love for your family, and love for yourself.

Valentine’s Day is all about the celebration of love!

So instead of dwelling on how single you are, or how you can’t find somebody, or how everyone sucks, why not ditch all that and be positive? Spread the love to those around you and just show your appreciation for them.

It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. All you really have to do is say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I love you and I am so grateful for you! Happy Valentine’s day!” It may not seem like much, but it means so much to the person that is receiving it.

BE A RADIANT BEAM OF LOVE AND DON’T LET ANYONE TRY AND TEAR YOU DOWN. The day can be whatever you make of it. And if you don’t feel like spreading the love and would rather just sulk, well at least let me give you some ideas for activities that incorporate loving yourself.

  1. Watch your favorite movie.
  2. Take a long, relaxing bath while listening to your most soothing playlist.
  3. Go to the gym, take a walk, go for a run outside, whatever makes you feel good.
  4. Put on some good music and dance around.
  5. Make your favorite meal.
  6. Get a manicure/pedicure.
  7. Buy yourself the Valentine’s Day essentials (chocolate and flowers). There should be no shame in this purchase.
  8. Do something with your friends!
  9. Do something creative.
  10. Go visit your family.
  11. Do something that you love to do that you haven’t had time to do lately.
  12. Sleep in.
  13. Have a lunch date with your friend.
  14. Write down a simple list of things you love.
  15. Try something new. It can be as simple as getting off campus and going to a new restaurant.

No matter what you decide to do, just make sure to spread the love. Whether that is calling an old friend, texting someone to let them know you miss them, or complimenting a random stranger, just embrace the day with open arms and keep smiling. 🙂 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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5 Ways to Become a Morning Person

The goal: Be a person who gets up before 7am, goes for a run, and proceeds to conquer the day.

The reality: When your 7am alarm goes off, you hit snooze. Ten minutes later, another snooze. An hour later, you may be up, but barely awake. 

Breaking up with the snooze button is a constant struggle. Every morning, I imagine myself waking up all smiley and ready to take on the day, and every morning, I turn back to the snooze button.

For those of you who are currently riding the struggle bus on becoming a morning person, I have your back. Here are some things I have done to take back my mornings.

Don’t eat late. 

Staying up longer than necessary leads us to late night cravings that you have to stay up even longer to satisfy. If you can, try not to eat too much before you hit the hay. My rule of thumb is not to eat a lot if I’m planning to sleep in two hours. That said, be sure that you eat enough and don’t go to bed hungry.  

Don’t press snooze.

No matter how tempting it is to hit the snooze button, don’t do it. Give yourself a pep talk and resist the temptation. I’ve learned that when I snooze I feel groggier for a longer period of time than when I just get up at my first alarm. Plus, you don’t sleep quite as well when you’re hitting snooze every few minutes; hitting the snooze re-starts your sleep cycle.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is so important. Classes and work and socializing make your schedule hectic, though, which results in sleep deprivation. If you manage your time wisely and don’t overextend yourself, you can definitely avoid this. Make it your goal to get 7-9 hours of sleep at least 3-4 times a week. Getting up in the morning is a lot easier when you’ve slept enough the night before. 

Hydrate and get moving.

Once you’re out of bed, drink a glass of cold water and do a quick stretch or workout to get your blood pumping. Why drink cold water? Because it will instantly wake you up so you can feel energetic. In addition, getting active in the morning will help you feel more alert and motivated to conquer the day. 

Eat breakfast.

The moment I lay down to sleep, I start dreaming of breakfast. I just can’t help but think that sleep is like a time machine to breakfast – sorry I’m a foodie at heart. Seriously though, don’t skip breakfast. After a long night, your body needs some fuel to pump that blood sugar and metabolism up. I feel like breakfast provides me with energy I need to get through my day and wake up my brain.

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Reasons to Love and Hate Winter in the Northeast

No one likes the feeling of being chilled to the bone. But who doesn’t like being snuggled in a blanket in front of the fire? There are pros and cons to every season. So. Let’s talk about winter.

Pros:

Outdoor winter sports.

You get to wear the fuzziest warmest clothes you can think of and still get a workout!

Hot chocolate.

YUM. ’nuff said.

Spring Break is right around the corner.

Two months of back to school and spring break marks the end(ish) of winter!

New Year. New You?

The chance to set new goals, wipe your slate clean and continue bettering yourself.

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Cons:

It’s cold. 

But, now you can wear that pretty new parka or your favorite college sweatshirt or your fleece pajamas… all. the. time.

Calories. 

But, who cares? You are enjoying yourself and as long as you appreciate things in moderation, it’s not a bad thing to overindulge in Christmas brownies on Christmas or have heavier meals in the winter.

Shorter Days.

But, that means maybe a few more movie nights? Plus, it doesn’t last forever, so enjoy new candles and fun holiday lights in the meantime.

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No matter what, nothing lasts forever, not even a Northeast winter! So, try new winter sports, foods, and activities and enjoy it while it’s here!

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Hot Chocolate That Will Keep You Warm and Healthy

The weather outside is frightful, but this hot chocolate is soooo delightful.

Winter is in full swing, and you’re probably starting to feel the affects of the cold weather. Freezing fingers and toes, runny nose, maybe even some frozen hair?

While meals like soups and stews can be great, nothing warms me up quite like a cup of hot chocolate! With a few substitutions, this traditionally sugar-heavy beverage can easily fit into your fit lifestyle.

 Time: 10-15 minutes

When to eat it: after sledding, after going outside, dessert, breakfast (I won’t tell anyone)

Perks: No refined sugar, gluten-free, can be vegan, prevents you from getting hypothermia

Sh*t You Need:

A mug, saucepan, spoon

2 cups of almond milk (or milk of choice)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 

A pinch of salt

6 Tbsp chocolate protein powder

2 Tbsp cacao powder

1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)

The Recipe:

1. Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Blending them will make it a lot easier, but if you don't have a blender stir with a fork in a saucepan.

2. Heat ingredients over low heat until simmering. Pour into 2 mugs, and top with whipped cream, coconut cream, or drink as is!

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Did you make this recipe? Tag us at @gofitu and use #fituniversity!

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Thoughts You Have at the Gym, As Told By Parks & Rec

Thoughts You Have at the Gym, As Told By Parks & Rec

You walk up to the gym and are ready to crush your workout. Sometimes, things go a little differently; we’ve all gone through it before. Here’s how it all goes down.

How you think you look when you walk into the gym:

How you actually look walking in:

At first, you come in with optimism.

But two minutes in on the stairmaster…

Like seriously, why am I sweating so much??

Then, you go over to the squat rack and see that not one but two are open.

And you hit that new PR.

But then you try a new piece of equipment…

*slowly walks away…*

When someone spots you on that last rep:

But then you find out that they’re the kind of person that slams their weights.

You start talking to that cute guy/girl,

And they let you work in on the same machine.

Foam-rolling is always a great idea at the end of your workout,

Along with your protein.

Finally… your workout is complete!

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How I Balanced My Love For Food and Fitness

How I Balanced My Love For Food and Fitness

Balance is everything.

Think you’re a foodie? I’m sorry, but I most likely have you beat. Living in Boston, there is always a hot new restaurant, festival or event, plus a seemingly limitless quantity of classics like Mike’s Pastry, and I love them ALL.

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and any excursion into the city oftentimes revolved around food. I grocery shopped and cooked for my family often, and my parents instilled the fun of trying new cuisines and the value of a night spent with friends around the dinner table. Through high school, my friends and I dressed up for nights out for dinner in the city, spent hours in our favorite diners and wore PJ’s while baking cookies.

As high school went on, so did many vicissitudes of my health and body image. Embarrassed when I couldn’t run the mile during my freshman-year gym class, I trained and ran a seven-minute mile during my sophomore year and beat the rest of my class. While the mile was not a big deal to my classmates, I had trained and worked my ass off for this moment.

I lost nearly thirty pounds via Weight Watchers my sophomore year, only to travel to Spain and gain it all back. I started running cross country my junior and senior year and cried before every race. Working on my fitness and health was not yet a desirable action for me, and every feat was a tortuous and emotional fight to the finish.

 

Young scrappy & hungry @hamiltonmusical

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Fast forward to my freshman and sophomore years at Northeastern University, where I treated my body just about the same as I did during high school.

I ate anything and everything 75% of my time, and enjoyed my time in a new and incredible city like Boston. The other 25% I ate INCREDIBLY clean and healthy, but often had breakdowns, hating how I looked and felt. While I wouldn’t take back these years, I knew in the back of my head that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and the best for me long-term. Forcing myself to make that change? I’m still working on it.

My epiphany came when I found the type of exercise that inspires me. I’ve consistently “worked out” since I was thirteen, which meant going on the elliptical and then MAYBE doing a few minutes of weights. Unsurprisingly, my body had not changed in years, and I was getting tired of the monotony of dragging myself to the gym. I’ve tried barre, spinning, yoga, and just about every other type of workout class out there, but nothing stuck and seemed like a workout I would consistently want to do.

I started my first co-op this summer. One day, I happened to get off at the wrong exit and drove by CrossFit South Shore. I had always been intrigued by the style and intensity of CrossFit, and on a whim, I signed up. It was one of the most impulsive things I’ve done, but after doing CrossFit for five months I’m finally starting to understand what I need to stay motivated and excited about my fitness and health. CrossFit got me back into running, and I just ran my first 8k turkey trot with a faster mile time than I ran 5k’s in high school. I became a dog runner and run a pooch named Hazel three times a week, which keeps me accountable. Plus, hello, dogs!

Finding a fitness routine that I enjoy has helped me establish and value the connection between my body’s performance and what I fuel it with. I’ve slowly started to realize that some type of change is necessary for me, and although I’ve had many setbacks, I’m on the right path to finding a healthy balance between enjoying Boston and enjoying how my body looks and feels. Over the past few years I’ve gained weight, but the first step comes with being more selective, specifically with my time and food.

The biggest change I’ve made? I’ve tried to revolve less of my time around food. It hasn’t been easy, given that for me, the best time is around the dinner table, but my friends and I make an effort now to try out new workout classes around town and go on walks. I also signed up for Weight Watchers again with a friend (check out our Instagram @TheBuffChix!), and although the weight isn’t dropping like it did in high school, it is a step in the right direction in my health journey.

I honestly would feel deprived and left out if I said “no” to all of the activities my friends invite me to, but there are many choices that aren’t worth it anymore. If I know I’m going to a great Italian restaurant, that means I should prep the rest of my food for the day. Then I enjoy company and eat pasta at the restaurant and LOVE IT! Teaching myself to be insightful with my choices will help me make the #gainz I want through CrossFit, run the times I’m aiming for with my 10k, and also eat the food I’m drooling after when out with my friends. I’ll never be able to eat clean all time, but right now, I’m working on doing that most of the time, and that’s the most anyone could ever ask for.


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Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

stick to your new year resolution

Every year do you find yourself losing motivation or not following through with your New Year’s resolution? Well, this is a new year and you have made new resolutions, so here are a few tips to make sure you stick to them! 

Make your goal realistic.

Sometimes when you set a big goal it is hard to see results, the light at the end of the tunnel. Go for the big goal, but it might be easier if you make smaller goals so you see success along the way to encourage you and motivate you to continue.

Make a routine.

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Depending on your resolutions make a routine. When you are trying to eat healthier, workout more often, or reach your push-up goal, make a schedule. Get into the habit of working out every morning or every day before dinner. Get in the habit of packing your lunch the night before so you cannot use the “no time” excuse. Dedicate Sunday or Saturday morning to cooking in bulk for the week. Therefore, when you have a busy day and cannot cook you still have a homemade healthy meal.

Remind yourself.

Make an inspiration board to help remind you of your goals. Want to get healthier? Make it full of workouts or healthy foods and inspirational quotes. Trying to swear less or be more positive? Fill a board with alternative words that reflect the language and attitude you want to have.

If you’re trying to simply trying to enjoy life more or be a nicer person or take life day by day, live slowly and enjoy each moment create a board with inspirational quotes or pictures to remind you. These could be pictures of things you enjoy doing. 

You can carry physical reminders with you, too. Wear a new bracelet, and tell yourself you’re putting it on for a specific reason. When you see it, it’ll give you a friendly reminder of your resolution. Not into jewelry? Change the background on your phone to a quote or a picture to that reminds you of your goals. We are always on our phones, so you’ll be sure to see it! And hey, if your goal is it limit your phone use, then put a big X or stop sign on your phone screen. Need a more jolting motivator? Set alarms on your phone with titles that remind you to eat an apple, do 10 push-ups, or take 3 deep breaths and remind yourself to take life moment by moment.

Set a time limit.

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It is much easier to achieve a goal when you set a time limit. For example, say you want to be able to run 5 miles by spring break, you won’t eat out for 3 months, or you will do three acts of kindness per day. Quantifying your goals eliminates any doubts about what you want to accomplish.

Reward yourself. 

Every time you cook a meal or are able to do one more push up, put a dollar in a jar. This is a great way to save money – and you can spend it on a bigger reward later. Or if you finish your goal early tell yourself you’ll reward yourself with a massage, your favorite restaurant meal (Skyline Chili would be mine), or even a pricy studio workout. Incentives are a great form of encouragement.

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The Love-Hate Relationship with Biking in College

Cambridge is definitely a biking campus. I mean, you could get around solely on foot (or using the public bus, if you so wish), but it’s bound to be a real struggle. Activities happen all over the place, lectures and labs are on opposite ends of the city, and your accommodation is unlikely to be bang smack in the center of town.

I got my bike on my very first day in Cambridge, which is now over three years ago. To be completely honest, once I had the bike, I was sure I was going to avoid using it unless absolutely necessary. I mean, I was very comfortable riding a bike and everything… but in a city? With cars on the same road? In the rain? Cold? None of those sounded very appealing to me. I probably ended up using my bike twice a week on average.

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Fast forward to today. My bike is my “baby”. I can’t imagine life at Cambridge without it. It cuts travel time significantly, allows me to view the world from a (slightly) different perspective and well, just makes the whole experience very Cambridge. That said, there are still days when the thought of having to get out of bed and bike somewhere is the last thing I want to do. I’d say my predominately hate love-hate relationship has definitely transformed into a predominately love love-hate relationship with biking around Cambridge, but those less-than-okay days still do exist. So, here goes…

A few thoughts on the loves and hates of biking around in Cambridge:

Love #1: It’s fast.

Simple as that. Biking is quicker than walking any day. And when you have to get from A to B with not much time between classes/labs etc., this matters.

Love #2: It’s a great form of physical activity.

Yes, walking is great. But the bike ride gets in some more intense movement in my day without needing to get in a structured workout.

Love #3: It builds confidence.

Regularly being on road with cars and other bikers has made me much more confident on the bike. Those effects permeate throughout other things in life and make me an all-around more confident person.

Love #4: It gives you a different view on life.

Whether it’s whizzing past beautiful sights, biking over bridges, or chatting with friends along the ride, everything looks a little different on a bike. I love the different perspective I get when I’m on my bike.

Love #5: It’s eco-friendly.

Biking is such a green mode of transportation. Okay, so is walking, but both of these beat the bus any day!

Love #6: It brings about a mindset shift.

This has probably been the biggest thing for me. I used to be so apprehensive about biking. I used to dread it, to say the least. But I’ve learned to not only be okay with it, but truly enjoy it and in general, it’s made me a much more flexible and a stronger person. True, this may be a culmination of all the others put together, but I feel strongly about it and hence it deserves to shine and standalone.

So, I obviously love biking, but the “hates” exist too…

Hate #1: It’s no fun in the cold (and dark).

My hands get extremely cold. Like extremely. Hence, biking in the cold can be painful. My hands freeze, my ears freeze and my nose turns Rudolph-red. Having grown up in Asia, I find 3:45pm sunsets pretty mentally tough. And biking in the dark is just not fun, and it can even be a little dangerous. 

Hate #2: It makes carrying multiple things a real challenge.

Going to a potluck, coming home from grocery shopping, or anytime I have to carry multiple things, biking is less than ideal. I do have a basket, which makes life slightly easier, but doesn’t totally solve the problem.

Hate #3: Parking can be stressful.

As I said before, Cambridge is a biking city. This means bikes are everywhere, and also that trying to park your bike in a safe place sometimes takes longer than the bike ride itself. But you find strategies if all the places are filled, like locking your bike to your friends’ bikes (at least groups of three, to be safe). That said, it can be a hassle.

It might seem to some that this is exaggerated, unnecessary, overplayed. For some it’s simply a matter of occasionally getting on a bike or not. I totally get that. But for me, the biking journey has been a defining part of my university experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Food Trends That Will Get You Excited For 2017

Food Trends That Will Get You Excited For 2017

Get excited. Get cookin.

With 2016 coming to a close, we reflect on the wonderful era of zoodles, cauliflower rice, sushi-ritos, and rolled ice cream. Fortunately, 2017 holds plenty of new food trends to look forward to. Below are the new year’s food trend predictions:

Turmeric

The main spice in curry has been gaining prominence for its anti-inflammatory properties. Used in grain bowls, tea, roasted vegetables, and even smoothies, turmeric is an inexpensive must-have in your pantry!

 

The #color of fresh #tumeric is so #beautiful and full of so many #healing #benefits

A photo posted by Kisha❤Kind (@kisha.kind) on

 

Food Foraging 

Approximately 40% of food in the US goes to waste. Expect that number to drop in 2017. Carrot tops, beet leaves, and cauliflower stems are being put to use in numerous recipes in an attempt to reduce this percentage. 

 

Dinner-in-a-Box

Companies like Blue Apron and Plated ship their customers (typically busy people, like yourself!) the exact ingredients for a recipe of their choice so cooking at home becomes more convenient without sacrificing health and comfort. With being overwhelming busy becoming the new normal, whether for better or for worse, these start-ups will skyrocket.

 

For tonight’s take on takeout, whip up sesame chicken with fresh bok choy and jasmine rice.

A photo posted by Blue Apron (@blueapron) on

 

Goat Meat

Goat meat often goes under-appreciated, but it has the same amount of protein as chicken breast and more iron than beef. The flavor can be described as sweet, mild, and not at all gamey. Try out this recipe to integrate this protein into your diet!

Also this..

 

Bowls

You’ve seen it before: those trendy grain bowls that look so simple yet so delicious. Good news, it is only just the beginning. #InWithTheBowlOutWithThePlate

 

A photo posted by Christina Chu, CPT (@foodietunes) on

 

Everything Sparkling

This soda alternative doesn’t just go well in your ~adult~ drinks, but is great by itself or with fruit flavoring! Advice I got from the Dig Inn barista: Take lemon seltzer water and add a little bit of agave… you’ve got healthy Sprite!

 

Savory Yogurt

We’ve had savory oats, but can savory yogurt be done? Try out these recipes for a quick lunch/snack!

Have you tried one of these trends? Tag us at @fituniversityituniversity and tag #fituniversity! Happy New Year!

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8 Hanukkah Gifts You Need to Give (or Get) This Year

8 days of Hanukkah means 8 presents!

Here are some gift ideas that fitness lovers need to have. Or you can just give these presents to yourself, too. A “To Me From Me” is always a good gift to get.

1. This trendy Swell water bottle

2. A foam roller 

3. Graze snack box subscription 

4. Or make your own healthy snack gift basket/box using the person’s favorite snacks … Trail mix anyone?

Buy These 8 Hanukkah Gifts5. Yoga mat (with matching holder and headband if you’re really reaching for the stars here) 

Buy These 8 Hanukkah Gifts6. A pack of workout/yoga classes or personal training sessions you and your friend can take together 

7. This happy journal (who doesn’t need one of these?) 

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8. A gym bag filled with a lock, towel, and, of course, a shaker bottle! 

Have a happy Hanukkah! 

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5 Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Your Fit Friends

We’ve all been there: you glance at your calendar, realize you have a holiday party tomorrow, and you’re totally gift-less. You love your friends, but you’re crazy busy and sometimes forget to plan ahead. It happens to the best of us.

But no worries! Here are five gift ideas for your fit friends that work not only your limited college budget, but also your limited time frame. And hey, maybe you can get someone to give you some of them. 

1. A subscription box

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These are gifts that keep on giving. We all know it gets harder and harder to stay healthy as you get busier, but these boxes make it a little easier. Pay for a few months of a snack box or general fitness box and your friend will think of you every time a new one shows up at the door.

Bonus: all you have to do is sign up – the company takes care of delivery.

2. A massage

When you’re into working out, it’s important to rest and recover properly, but we don’t all do it. Get your friends a gift card to a nearby massage studio and remind them to take care of themselves!  

3. Energy bites

gift ideas -energy bites

Whip up a batch or two of energy bites and print out the recipe. Wrap it all up nicely and give your friends some healthy snacks for the holidays. Doesn’t everyone appreciate being given food? Plus, since you gave them the recipe, too, they can enjoy this gift long after the first batch is gone.

4. An insulated water bottle

Staying hydrated is key to staying healthy. It helps beat pain and fatigue, improves digestion, and can even improve your mood. Grab a good insulated one and it will keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, making it as perfect for rehydrating post-workout as filling up on coffee for class.

5. A healthy cookbook

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Most bookstores (and even Targets) have a wide variety of cookbooks. You can get one for your gluten-free friend, one for your vegan friend, and one for your friend who eats anything at the same time. What’s that they say about teaching a man to fish?

So don’t stress about gift-giving this season, just use one of these easy gift ideas that are totally useful and require minimal effort – and have fun!

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5 Tips For Digestive Health During the Holidays

Anyone who’s gone way overboard at Christmas dinner (who hasn’t?) knows that overeating can wreak havoc on the digestive system. As glorious as enjoying a homemade feast can be, holiday indulgences can leave many of us feeling… well, backed up. 

Good news is, you can prevent indigestion this holiday season with these 5 tips for better gut health.

1) Get healthy beforehand.

If your digestive tract is already healthy, it will be much more well equipped to deal with the onslaught of Christmas dinner. 

Probiotic supplements containing important bacteria strains can help restore gut health. Frequently consuming fermented foods like Kombucha and sauerkraut also do wonders for a leaky gut. For more info on healing an unhealthy gut, learn the “four R’s” of gut health

2) Stay hydrated.

Remembering to drink enough water is hard even on a normal day, let alone on some of the most exciting days of the year. Alcoholic beverages like wine, cocktails, and champagne dehydrate your body, and sugary beverages like sodas and ciders can throw off your stomach’s natural balance. Enjoy these beverages in moderation, and don’t forget to drink water alongside them!

4) Know your “no no” foods.

If you’re sensitive to gluten or dairy, or know that a particular food/ingredient doesn’t agree with your stomach, be extra careful about it this time of year. Unfortunately, those sensitivities don’t disappear on holidays. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family what’s in their dish to avoid digestion issues. 

4) Be mindful of portion sizes and variety.

At holiday meals, it’s especially tempting to load up your plate with 10 different dishes and go back for seconds and thirds. Mixing too many different foods in gargantuan portions is sure to lead to an upset stomach.

Being mindful of how full you are and strategically choosing the dishes you want most can help prevent indigestion. If you’re prone to making 2 or three plates at holiday dinners, consider making your first plate smaller, and going back for only the foods you really enjoyed on round two.

5) Keep exercising.

Maintaining your regular exercise schedule throughout the holiday season is crucial. Not only does it help keep your body’s metabolism and general health regulated, but exercise also promotes gut health by facilitating the transport of food through the digestive system. Frequent exercise also can relieve holiday stress, another prime contributor to indigestion. 

Holiday meals are meant for indulging on foods you don’t have year round. We totally endorse indulging away; but remember that if you take these steps, your digestive system will definitely thank you.

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5 Things to Love About the Holiday Season

Why the holiday season is the best season

Before I start, I must admit: I celebrate Christmas and therefore, may have a slightly bias towards Christian traditions.

 

It’s the holidays, everyone! And if you’re anything like me then it is one of your favorite times of the year. Summer is awesome, of course. Spring and Fall are cool in their own separate ways, too. But the holidays to me are something different. Something special.

In my mind, this is the time of the year where people are the happiest.  I feel there is a warm feeling no matter where you go this season, and because of that, I love it.  So here’s a list of things to love, and not to take for granted, this Holiday Season.

The Music

Music, in general, is something I love.  Whether you’re by yourself, at a party, bar, you name it –  it gets the people going.

All jokes aside, though, I love Christmas music. It helps jump start the holiday season and somehow keeps it going. It’s like an energy drink for holiday spirit. Call me crazy (and mostly everyone I know does) but November 1st is when the Christmas music starts for me. In my opinion, it’s never too early to jump start the festivities; plus, the songs are great too.

What’s my favorite holiday song, you ask? Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

The Snacks

Gingerbread men are the GOAT for me, and there is no telling me otherwise. Nothing beats homemade cookies, cakes, pies, you name it during the season. 

Window Shopping

Actual shopping is a ton of fun, but newsflash: I’m a broke college kid and can’t buy everything. So what’s the next best thing? Window-shopping.

I’m not sure where everyone lives (I’m currently up in Boston) but walking down 5th Avenue in Manhattan during this time of the year gives me chills. Between all the big shops like Macy’s and Lord and Taylor to Rockefeller Center, it really is a wonderful sight to see.

Movies

Home Alone is by far my favorite. Can’t beat Kevin McCallister. Get cozy with some hot chocolate and fire and go watch your favorites!

Decorations

The lights, the ornaments, stockings, and of course, the Christmas tree!

It was the week after Halloween when Boston started putting up its Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall – like I said, it’s never too early to start the Holiday season.

 

Although the list can probably go on forever, these are my top 5 favorite things to love about the holiday season. Between setting up decorations and window shopping, try to squeeze in a few workouts if possible; after all, this is Fit University!

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An Open Letter to College Students from A Cancer Survivor

Dear College Student,

I know many of you are young, between the ages of 18 and 24. Some of you are older, having gone back after a few years off, or just going part time to make ends meet while you take classes toward your degree.

Please, DON’T GIVE UP!! I still remember my college days, and tend to forget I’m not in my early 20’s. I don’t FEEL like I’m 47, almost 48, but age is funny. It doesn’t seem like 25 years ago I was thinking of what I wanted to be when I grew up. All I knew was I liked to party! College is the time when you should do that. Take full advantage of living in the here and now before being an adult and being responsible for another human being becomes your life.

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When I was in my early 20’s, I could not even fathom what the next 5 years had in store for me, let alone 25! My advice to you? Keep your plan fluid, your bank account growing and your mind open. See, I never dreamed I would get married, get divorced, move 600 miles away from my hometown and start everything over on a whim, find the man of my dreams, get married again and later start a family. But that is exactly what happened. My “idea” of what I THOUGHT my life would be like and what it actually was vastly changed in a matter of months. I lived most of my early life for other people, not for myself, and when I decided to live on my terms is when life started happening.

Have no regrets, and take responsibility for your choices.

If you fail a class, don’t blame the instructor, look within. That is a hard lesson to learn, and even harder as you get older. No one likes it when someone plays the victim. Stand up for yourself and do the right thing.

Don’t get a credit card, or if you do, make sure you have the cash to pay it in full every month. They make it so easy for you to get one in college, but credit is not income! It’s not fun to graduate with a crushing debt of student loans and credit cards. Besides, no purse or pair of shoes is worth filing bankruptcy over. Nothing feels better than having a bank account that has a positive balance after all your bills are paid.

When you plan for your future, know it can change in a the drop of a hat.

Nothing is guaranteed. They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes, and that isn’t too far from the truth. My life was turned upside down by a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis when I was just 36, and a new mom to a 3 ½ month old baby. You can read more about this difficult cancer here. Nothing on earth could have prepared me for what my doctor told me. What I learned though, was to live in the moment, to be thankful for the little things, and that when everything is stripped away, friends and family are more important than any earthly possession.

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It’s been 11 years since that day I got handed a diagnosis of mesothelioma, and I had a lot of time to reflect on my life, and what kind of legacy I want to leave. I know that nothing is forever, and when it comes down to it, I had to find it in myself to get through the tough stuff. Just know that what seems insurmountable now is temporary, and you will come through it. When you are in your 40’s you will look back and see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve done, and be proud of who you are. Like my favorite quote from the movie Auntie Mame says “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death, you’ve got to LIVE!!” So go out and live.

Sincerely,

Heather Von St. James (Who still thinks she’s 25)

To learn more about Heather Von St. James and her mission behind finding a cure for mesothelioma and a ban on asbestos, visit www.mesothelioma.com/heather

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How to Eat Healthier at the Dining Hall

The dining hall is a place that makes living/creating a healthy lifestyle a challenge for many college students. Eating nutritious meals seems ridiculously hard in college, especially on a meal plan. Not only are you busy and not cooking for yourself, but there’s also an omnipresent spread of pizza, French fries, and dessert available in the dining hall 24/7. 

I mean, campus meal plans have their pros and cons. You can’t complain when your university prepares variety of healthy food items. Yet even then, it’s difficult to eat normal portion sizes – many cafeterias present you with an unlimited buffet.

But even if you do live on campus with a meal plan, there is hope to eating healthily on the regular. Here are some strategies I follow:

Seek Out the Healthy Items

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Yes, being on a meal plan is limiting, but you have the choice to choose the healthy options at the dining hall. Most dining halls have vegetables, a salad bar, omelettes, and grilled chicken. Next time you are at the dining hall, search for these types of items. You can even combine them in creative ways to prevent boredom.

Accountability

Want to reduce your temptation to snag unhealthy food items? Tell a few of your friends about your health goals so they can help you stay on track. Make a game of it and try to see who can make the best healthy meal out of what’s available.

Be Smart About Navigating the Dining Hall

My number one tip is to load up on breakfast. Why? Because it helps give you some energy to start your day and makes you more likely to make healthy choices all day. Some of the dining hall options I usually stick to:

  •  Oatmeal mixed with fruit and yogurt with nuts, fresh fruit, and granola. This is usually the fastest meal to get because you don’t really have to wait in line. Plus, it’s sweet, satisfying, and full of healthy carbs and protein.
  • Omelets. Because you can pack them with veggies and eggs are protein powerhouses, omelets are delicious and nutritious. If you don’t have time for an omelet, grab a hard boiled egg and some fruit.

For lunch and dinner, try to be creative and have a good balance of produce, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrate-rich foods. Something like a sandwich with veggies and your favorite protein would be a great meal combo. Instead of a normal salad, you can throw some chicken, veggies, or tofu together and add corn, potatoes, or rice for some extra carbs. Don’t just stick to the same thing every single time or else you will get board of eating healthy very quickly.

And of course, if you want some fries or dessert, have them – just maybe not every day. Still, they’re delicious and balance is important. You can also make some healthier and dorm-friendly desserts when the sweet tooth hits. 

Want more ideas on how to build healthy meals in the dining hall? Follow me on Instagram to see how I stay healthy on a meal plan.

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How to Enjoy the Holidays and Stay Fit, Too

The holidays are right around the corner, which can derail some of your fitness goals if you let it.

No matter the holiday you’re celebrating, there is bound to be lots of food, family, and friends involved. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you balance your holiday fun with your fitness goals.

1. Its not all about the food.

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It’s easy to focus on your favorite holiday treats: the cookies, the pies or that special dish your aunt only makes for Christmas… The important thing to remember when you are bombarded with all these amazing foods is that you will drive yourself nuts withholding them from yourself completely.

Yes, I mean it. Indulge in a few of your favorite holiday special treats. But after savoring the final bite of your favorite pumpkin pie, move away from the food and chat up friends and family. Chances are you haven’t seen them since last year. Instead of focusing on the food, focus on those around you. 

2. Eat yo veggies.

Since we are talking about food already… lets not forget our vegetables.

Ever been to a potluck where everyone (literally everyone) brought a veggie platter? Yeah, me neither. If you want to keep up with your fitness goals, you gotta eat yo veggies. Try not to skimp out on the vegetables, especially during the holidays. Be the one to bring in the vegetable platter, and try to fill up around half your plate with some yummy greens this holiday season.

3. Drink water.

Sub out some of your favorite holiday drinks for a glass of water. Seasonal drinks are notorious for their sugary contents (which is what makes them taste so yummy!). Staying hydrated is necessary for your body to bring in all those nutrients you’re getting from your holiday meals.

4. Get up and move!

Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you have to slack off on your fitness. Go for a walk with grandma and grandpa. Play a game of soccer or football with your cousins. Call of up some old friends from home and go ice-skating. Or maybe all the family time has you going crazy; excuse yourself and hit some solo time in the gym or on a run.

It doesn’t have to be a long or intense workout, but moving and working up a sweat over the holidays will make it easier when you get back to school and back on your own routine.

5. Be realistic with your goals.

This last one is hard. We all put lofty expectations on ourselves, especially over breaks. So set up small goals for yourself. If you are home for five days maybe make it a goal to go workout three out of the five days. Or only have one slice of pie over family dinner.

Whatever the goal may be, it is okay if you fall a little short on your own expectations over the break. Don’t dwell on it, you are human and the holidays should be a happy time. So don’t stress yourself out and make a pact with yourself to get right back on track when you get on your own routine. 

I hope these simple tips are useful as you head into a fun filled season of family, friends, and giving. Happy holidays!

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The Weight Room, and Why I Keep Coming Back

The Weight Room, and Why I Keep Coming Back; Fitness

So you want my fitness story?  I don’t really think I have one.  

After putting so many miles in on the treadmill, one day I just walked into the weight room. I don’t know why, but I did know that  being surrounded by people stronger than me didn’t scare me. It gave me the “strength” — no pun intended — to work harder so I could keep up with the rest.  

 

A video posted by E i l e e n (@simplyeileen_fit) on

I liked the feeling of burning muscles, pouring sweat and feeling like I may cry out of exhaustion because I knew I could push through that weakness.  This would discourage most people from ever walking into the weight room again, but I knew I had found my sport, and I knew I wanted to get better.

Now, I live for callused hands and soaked through shirts. I live for that moment when I can push the last rep of a personal record, put the bar down, and do a little happy dance because what I thought I couldn’t do, I just did.

No one can deadlift for you. No one can push past that limit for you. No one can tell you where and when your comfort zone ends. You have to find it, you have to journey through it, and you have to go even further. It’s all you. And that’s what I love the most.

When my mind tells me to stop, that’s when I have to tell it, “No, Eileen. You can do this.” 

So you want my fitness story?  I don’t have a story, because its not over.  

Each day when I step foot into the gym, there’s a new goal. Form, focus, reps, whatever, it all leads to the main event. 

Each day I get up and I train, making the choice to work towards my goal of walking on the NPC stage.  Each day I make the choice to work towards the day where I’ll earn my IFBB Pro card and the day where I’ll qualify for the Olympia roster.  Each day I work towards the day where they announce my name as Ms. Bikini Olympia.

Each day I get up and I train.  And that’s why.

So you want my fitness story?  Just keep reading, keep watching, and see for yourself how it unfolds.

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4 Reasons You Should Run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day

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The best way to celebrate Turkey Day!

When you think of Thanksgiving holiday traditions, you normally think of playing football in the yard, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cooking with the family, and more. But for my family, we do something a little different…

About five years ago, my mom and I began a tradition of participating in a annual Turkey Trot in our community. This Turkey Trot is a 5k/10k walk or run on the morning of Turkey Day! The beauty of this? You get to stuff yourself silly with all the Thanksgiving food you can imagine. #earnedit

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, here are 4 reasons you should run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

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You’ll Start Your Day Off Right

Thanksgiving morning we wake up at 6am, have a light breakfast, lace up our shoes and hit the road! When we get to the race location, we check in, get our numbers and wait by the start line. Families gather around, a DJ’s playing music, and everyone is pumped to get started.

I’m from northern California and in November the mornings are pretty cold. Typically 30-40 degrees but sunny! We all have beanies, long sleeves and gloves on. Some families dress up as turkeys, wear matching tutu’s, full costumes and more. It’s hilarious. Once the race starts, my mom and I usually stay together the best we can. Which leads me to….

You’ll Get To Spend Quality Family Time

If you’re looking for a way to get your family to exercise together, planning something fun and exciting like a Turkey Trot could be your answer. What’s better than sharing your love for fitness with your friends and family? The great part about Turkey Trot’s is that they’re meant to be low key and fun so even if your mom and dad aren’t huge runners (or runners at all), they can still do the whole 5k, a little over 3 miles, and feel damn good about it! Because there’s nothing better than…. 

You’ll Get The Greatest Feeling of Accomplishment

If you’ve ever run a race before, you’ll know that feeling of running through the finish line is SO rewarding. You wipe the sweat off your face, grab a banana at the finish line and in this case, get back to the house and begin cooking for dinner! Apple pie and stuffing awaits….

Turkey Trot

You’ll Have The Best Post-Workout Meal

After running a 5k, your stomach is more than ready to eat all the festive food for the day. You’re so hungry after a race for a reason – you just put in WORK – and let’s face it, your Thanksgiving dinner is the perfect way to refuel. And in case you’re wondering, here’s why you should work on out Thanksgiving.

I encourage everyone to create a family tradition this Thanksgiving, whether that include some sort of fitness activity or any other activity to join your family and friends together. Consider researching or starting your OWN Turkey Trot for the holiday, because who doesn’t want to trot around like a turkey before you feast?? 🙂 

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How I Fell in Love with the Post-Workout High (And You Can, Too)

Starting Something New…or Trying

I’m a college gal. I love to eat, sleep, talk, explore, learn, and (above all) live.

I emphasize “live” because I am so much more alive now than I was when I started college three years ago. Three years ago, I was waning off of my high school days, when I depended entirely on sports practices and pasta to get me through.

I love sports, dancing, and gymnastics and growing up, I never stopped moving. In high school, I loved coming home with the post-practice or post-game high feeling like I just took on the world. I’m 5’4” and weighed 103 pounds entering college. I was 18, moody, and definitely immature.

I started college and lived across the street from the gym, literally. My window’s scenic view was of the treadmills on the third floor. I wish I could tell you that I had a routine and went to the gym to make progress. To be honest, I only went to the gym a couple of times all year to “workout” and a few other times for intramural volleyball games. My “workout” wasn’t the most effective thing in the world. I think I benched once in the weight room and I ran around the indoor track a couple of times (and I hate running so you know that didn’t last very long). But beyond that, what was I doing? Nothing.

I was going to the gym because I didn’t know what to do without sports practices and when I got to the gym, I really didn’t know what to do.

I joined the Club Sailing Team during my fall semester, too. Surprisingly, I did this having never sailed before. This was my opportunity to meet new people and learn a new sport – I love a new challenge. Sailing is a sport, but a very different one from the ones I was used to, where I was doing long distance running or sprints.

I gained ten pounds my freshman year with no routine or good habits. For me, the freshman 15 was a real thing, even if it wasn’t the full 15. It’s not that I felt uncomfortable at the gym or that I had no desire to be in good shape. I just didn’t know what I was doing.

Sailing in one of my first regattas for the sailing team!

Sailing in one of my first regattas for the sailing team!

My Cancer-Free, Ass-Kicking Best Friend… and Personal Trainer

My sophomore year, I chose to live with random roommates. One of these roommates, Gabbi, became my best friend. She was a brave, smart, bubbly girl who changed my life.

Before we moved in to our on-campus apartment, she disclosed to me that she would be missing the first couple days of school because she needed to go to the hospital for her very last round of chemo. Gabbi survived Ewing’s Sarcoma and lived to inspire every person she has ever met. Sure, she had her extremely unfortunate happenings and not everything is perfect, but damn, did she make the best of everything – to me, that’s what it means to have it all.

I learned and developed more positive habits simply from spending time around her. I learned to listen more. I learned to respond not in a quick and thoughtless way, but in a gentle and caring way. I learned to clean up after myself, how to dress well, and most importantly, how to take care of myself. This was a girl who played field hockey for years, was more fit than most girls our age, was driven and determined to conquer everything (including cancer), and started going back to the gym as soon as the doctors finally let her do even the littlest of things.

My fitness story starts here – the cold walks through the fall air at night to get to the gym because Gabbi was going and if she could do it, I was damn well more than able to do it too. She loved a good workout and I loved the post-workout high that followed. I learned to appreciate yogurt and granola, home cooking, and being some of the last people at the gym – but hey, we did it anyway. My eating got better, my attitude got better, my mind got better and I was growing.

My fitness journey started because I was fortunate enough to have a mentor and motivator living with me and dismissing all of my excuses. She didn’t pressure or force me to go. If I made an excuse, she would just say, “Okay, I’ll see you later then” and walk out the door. I decided I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t want to not be the best version of myself. 

By the end of sophomore year, I had gained seven more pounds and the scale didn’t matter to me anymore. It still doesn’t, because I know I am strong and capable and those numbers reflected back at me do not define me.

It's so important to be surrounded by good people who lift you up and push you to be your best. Thanks, Gabbi! XO

It’s so important to be surrounded by good people who lift you up and push you to be your best. Thanks, Gabbi! XO

Getting in the Groove

My third year of college, I started working at a spin studio, Cyc Fitness, got hooked on it, and incorporated strength training. I worked at the spin studio at least three days a week and was spinning around four times per week – now that provides a damn good post-workout high. Between spin workouts, I would use Kayla Itsines BBG guides periodically, but never fully committed to completing the program.

During the spring semester of my third year, I studied abroad in Barcelona and joined a gym. I would go for a run once in a while, but the gym was located between my school and my apartment, so I had no excuse to skip it everyday. I completed Kayla Itsines BBG program in May for the first time and it felt amazing!

Now, I know I’m only one workout away from a good mood everyday. I feed off the post-workout high on many days. Being back on campus this semester, my routines vary based on my schedule, classes, activities, etc. But I make time for myself because exercise is equally important to me as everything else in my routine.

"Working out" is actually fun!

“Working out” is actually fun!

So, Here I Am

And so now, looking back on that whirlwind of sophomore year and trying to explain it to you – it starts with a thank you to Gabbi, for being my rock. I want to translate this experience into a relatable story because not everyone has a best friend who kicks cancer’s ass and yours in the same year.

The biggest lesson I want you to take away is that I learned I can’t be someone else, but more importantly, that I shouldn’t want to be. I am comfortable and confident wearing my skin everyday. People are meant to motivate and inspire you. Women encourage, support, and challenge each other. Women look each other in the eyes, fearless and inspired.

I learned that the change starts with you. One million people can tell you how to fix something, but it will never start until you want to change it. And your reason for change should be for you because other things may come and go, but you will still be standing. So when you start your fitness journey or need help continuing, know that there is no high so good as the one you feel at the end of a workout, nothing cleaner than the freshness of supplying yourself with the goodness of food and exercise, and no feeling so good as the end of the day when you feel alive.

And so my question to the readers is: what makes YOU come alive?

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#StrongIsTheNewSkinny

#StrongIsTheNewSkinny

 

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8 Fitness Box Subscriptions You Need To Try

8 Fitness Box Subscriptions You Need To Try

Being a busy college student makes it hard to go shopping. Setting aside our textbooks and notes for even a day is impossible at times. But thanks to all of these companies that have come up with the brilliant idea of providing monthly top quality fitness items, we don’t have to stress anymore.

Below is a list of a few of my favorites that I personally have subscribed to and some that I love what they offer and hope you do too!

1. Gainz Box, $39 monthly* This company provide the best brands for the Crossfit community. They have everything from apparel, mobility, snack, supplements and so much more. When you sign up for Gainz Box, you get 10% off your first box! They provide a monthly, 3 month, 6 month, and an annual subscription. I have personally subscribed to this box and the quality of products is 5-star! It is also a veteran-owned company so that gets an extra star in my book.

2. BarBella Box, $49 monthly*– This box is very similar to Gainz Box except it is more exclusive for women. They have clothing, supplements, mobility and goodies as well. Subscriptions come monthly, quarterly or annually.

3. The Runner Box, $20 every 2 months*– This is great for the runner or want-to-be runner in all of us. It comes with nutrition bars, energy boosters, personal care and running accessories. This company is owned by two women who personally run marathons themselves. They are extremely active and passionate about the endurance community.

4. BuddhiBox, $34.95 + shipping  This company was started by female entrepreneur and yoga instructor, Maxine Chapman. She started the company to share her favorite yogi things and help enhance her students’ practice. Every month, a portion of the sales goes to support a different global charity. They provide fitness items, skincare, and fragrances. You can also buy individual products off the site as well.

 

5. Vull Sports, $53 If you are anything like me, you love athletic wear, and having the cute sports bras and shorts must. Vull Sports sends you a monthly subscription for sports bras. It is owned by a four-time Crossfit regional athlete so she knows what women in the fitness community is looking for. 

6. The Feed, price varies* This company is pretty sweet because you can curate your own box based on what kind of fitness you like!

7. Athletic Foodie, price varies * Owned by Olympic Gold Medalist Garret Weber-Gale, who was diagnosed with dangerously high blood sugar, this box makes healthy food taste great. Weber-Gale wants you to see the connection between what you put into your body and what you get out of it.

8. Paleo Life Box, $35 month* Each month, you get about eight to ten paleo snacks from some of the best companies out there. It delivers monthly, quarterly and bi-annually.

There are so many companies out there that provide this service and these are just a few that I love. It’s so nice to know that at least once a month on my doorstep there will be goodies and lets be honest opening up a package brings out the kid in all of us.

If you get a subscription box, make sure to post it on social media and tag @gofitu and #fituniversity!

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Finding Balance After The Freshman 15

If you follow me on Instagram, you can tell pretty quickly that I’m a foodie that loves to cook healthy. I’ve always had an active lifestyle, but making the connection between using my body and fueling my body didn’t come easy to me. It wasn’t until I sparked a love for cooking that I found a healthy balance between eating well and treating my body the best I can.

 

A photo posted by Michelle (@healthfulbites) on

Before College

During my senior year of high school, I really started to understand that what I put into my body would make all the difference in my athletic performance. I played competitive club volleyball with the goal of being a recruited college athlete, and making a commitment to healthy eating was a big step forward in the recruiting process.

That year, I completed my first Whole30 and realized that a paleo diet made me feel amazing. I learned that I don’t do too well with gluten and dairy, and also that a lot of restaurants didn’t offer the best choices for my new healthy balance.

Rather than giving up, I became a master chef. Within the parameters of my college apartment, of course. I cooked my way through numerous books, and learned to love it. For the rest of the year, I was eating mostly paleo, and I felt great. I also lost around 10 pounds. I ended up getting recruited to play Division III volleyball, and couldn’t have been happier with the result.

Freshman Year

Then, I was thrown into freshman year of college. 

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Pretty, yes. But I’m not walking to the grocery store for healthy snacks in this mess!

Playing a fall sport and being on a required dining hall meal plan meant that a paleo diet was nearly impossible to maintain. Since I couldn’t cook for myself or plan my own meals, it was almost as if I had started over. I no longer knew the best way to fuel my body with these unfamiliar options.

Coupled with the stress of school, I had gained the freshman 15 by December. I was no longer happy with how my body performed or felt. I knew something needed to change.

Finding a Healthy Balance

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Healthy balance for me- a bunch of my favorite things on one table!

The summer after my freshman year, I did some work. I retaught my body how to understand food as fuel. I lifted 4 times a week and did cardio twice a week to keep up with out of season training. I started journaling my food choices, and went back to my paleo diet, with the occasional gluten free treat or grass fed cheese.

As a result, by the end of the summer I could feel my body embracing the healthy balance between foods I loved and foods that fueled me. Since then, I’ve lost most of the weight I gained my freshman year, and have taught my body and mind to have a better, balanced relationship with food.

Today, I stay active through my sport and lifting. I have my own kitchen on campus, which makes preparing for a healthy lifestyle that much easier. If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone wanting to stay healthy in college, whatever that means to them, it would be to plan ahead.“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Whether that’s planning time to meditate, work out, or take a nap, make sure to leave time for you.

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You Can Have Your Sweets and Fitness Journey, Too

I was fit my whole life, but my fitness journey didn’t really start until I went to college. After high school, I couldn’t imagine not being active. Growing up, my parents had always signed me and my brother up for various classes for tennis, soccer, and swimming. Some days I would dread these activities and ask why I couldn’t eat like a normal child (read: have Lucky Charms for breakfast or soda with dinner). Little did I know that the healthy lifestyle my parents enforced would become my choice – and my passion.

You can have your cake and fitness journey, tooFast forward to my high school years, when I left home to attend a private Christian boarding academy in Colorado. There, I played volleyball, soccer, and basketball. You may be thinking that I must have been some crazy amazing athlete. Wrong! I had to work harder than the rest of the other girls to be any good.

I’d get frustrated at myself because I wanted to be a naturally gifted athlete. However, I later realized that I really wanted to play because it was my passion. I did not like to think that all that mattered were wins and losses. Sure competition was great, but enjoying the work was more important to me. Playing sports was my biggest stress reliever and no matter what happened at my games and practices, I still had fun.

When my high school years came to a close, I didn’t want to leave my life of having sports practice every day. I had no idea what I should do to stay active. 

Freshman year of college happened and I had a firm belief that I would not gain the dreaded freshman 15. My metabolism back in high school had been fast. I could eat a bowl of spice noodles, Oreos, and Hot Cheetos in one sitting after practice and be hungry an hour later. 

When I mention this part, people immediately tell me that I’m so lucky, but I hated being skinny. Gaining just one pound was such a struggle in itself. I wanted to be normal. My first year of college was pretty awesome, but my eating habits took their toll.

For me, almost every lunch consisted of two huge plates of food along with either cake or cookies and ice cream. My parents kindly suggested that I should eat healthier, but I mostly ignored them. I “tried” to eat healthy, but having a buffet with so many options and a dessert section made it hard. I mean who can resist getting a cookie or two and maybe pizza while walking through the cafeteria?

I figured that I still had my high school metabolism. I was wrong, and I gained weight.

My eating habits weren’t the only things that changed during my college years. I also started struggling with fitness and self-love. I found myself being a cardio bunny and spending a few hours a day in the gym trying to lose the unhealthy weight I gained. I let the number on the scale determine how I saw myself.

My second year of college was tough. It wasn’t just challenging academically, but I was battling with myself. I had created a hole where I constantly kept digging deeper and deeper. I hated myself because I had set such high expectations for myself both academically and physically. My struggles were masked with a smile on my face, stress eating, and exerting all my energy at the gym. It wasn’t till the summer before my junior year that I realized I needed to change my mindset and create a healthy balance between nourishing my body and fitness.

I have been working on creating healthy relationships with food and fitness that I can carry into the future, but I am a work in progress. On days when I’m feeling down, I try to remember my journey and why I started it, and that keeps me motivated. In addition, I like to mix up my workouts, doing everything from BBG to weight lifting to cardio to yoga, in order to keep me feeling healthy and motivated. Remember, healthy looks different on everybody, and you don’t have to do the same workouts as others.

You can have your cake and fitness journey, too

Happier, healthier, and loving a balanced lifestyle.

And you know those dining hall desserts? It’s okay to have that cake or cookie every once in awhile, because life is supposed to bring us happiness. I still enjoy my desserts, but I limit myself to Saturday’s as my day. When I know my diet is 70-80% clean eating, I don’t feel guilty about having something sweet here and there. 

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How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

I remember the first time I took interest in food.

I was with my mom in the kitchen and told her I wanted to cook, just like she did. And since I was about three feet tall and my head didn’t even meet the stove, she let me wash the cabbage instead. So there I was, little preschool me, on a step stool proudly wearing my princess dress with a “crown” that was actually a handkerchief, and I was washing cabbage— and having the best time of my life.

How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

When it all began…

As years went by, I still wanted to cook, to turn plain ingredients into enjoyable dishes; but my mom told me “once you see the stove, you can cook”. So I grew.

I grew a lot faster than the kids in my grade (thanks puberty) and ended up being “tall” for my age at 5’7”. As promised, once I started to grow, I started to cook.

How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

That’s me and my 5’3″ mother, both surpassing the “you must be this tall to cook” requirement 

At first, I made simple foods like steamed broccoli, pasta, and sautéed veggies. Then I moved on to making sushi, dumplings, lasagna, foods that aren’t just a dump and stir (but those are still good too!). My mom would always make sure that I ate all my food groups, especially my vegetables. She wasn’t a huge dessert person, so we ate fruit instead.

How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

The whole gang chomping down some post-dinner fruits

Little did I know that not everyone has such an awesome mom like I do. She instilled the healthy habits that my peers are struggling to pick up now. I try to eat dinner with company whenever I can, I always include vegetables at every meal, I stay active, and I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go. I learned the baseline of a healthy lifestyle when I was young so it doesn’t even feel like a chore now that I’m older, but it is what it is: a lifestyle. 

How My Mom Changed My Life With Food

I just went out for a run, she actually loves me, I promise

How do you thank someone who set you up for a well-off future? How do you thank someone who has guided you to your passion, one that you are going to follow for the rest of your life? (For those of you who don’t know me, food is now closely tied to my career goal. I study nutrition at school; it’s truly become a passion)

Well, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Happy Birthday, 妈妈. I love you thiiiiiis much and I can’t wait to see you over Christmas break. I long to cook with you and make your amazing chicken soup. I cannot thank you enough for all the things you have taught me, from multiplication to knife skills. Even more, you taught me how to be independent, humble, patient (still a work in progress) and confident, and that’s something that I am eternally grateful for. I hope you have an amazing birthday because you deserve it, and my infinite gift to you is to make as big as an influence on the world as you did for me.

I Went Abroad For a Year, And Stayed Fit

I Went Abroad For a Year, And Stayed Fit

Go abroad, eat pizza, stay fit.

When you think about spending a year in Europe, usually eating your body weight in pastries, pasta, and baguettes comes to mind first. Not, staying fit. But being the hyperactive individual that I am, I realized that during my year abroad, I’d be gym-less and in charge of keeping myself from becoming morbidly obese, so I took it to the internet to try and figure out how in the world I was going to do this. And now here I am, post-year abroad, with a better taste in food and wine, but also with more endurance and strength. Here’s what I did: 

Explored my beautiful city by running through it.

I spent my year abroad in Paris so there was a ton to see, not to mention many parks to run through. Paris is also incredibly walk-able and easy to navigate, with metro stops every 100-or-so yards, so if by the end of my run I was terribly lost, I could just hop on the nearest metro line and find my way back home. 

 

 

Ya girl ran 9 miles (16.75K) today 🏃🏼 now taking volunteers to carry me around all day 😴

A photo posted by @upsidedown_fitness on

 

Pinterest workouts

romaI’m not one for spending too much time on Pinterest but if you search a specific kind of workout, you can find a ton of infographics with different workouts you can just do with your bodyweight! I also brought resistance bands with me abroad and used those to strengthen my body, rather than adding more weight to my bag with small dumbbells. 

Psssst: Follow Fit University on Pinterest for workouts like this.

Youtube Videos.

I found so many awesome YouTubers who post full workouts that you can do with minimal space and no equipment. I stayed with a host family in an actual house, so I didn’t have to worry about neighbors hearing me jump around in my room and making noise. I did have to worry about my host family thinking I was a complete lunatic for working out in my room, but it ended up fine and my host mom even asked if she could join me once or twice! Some of my favorite YouTubers are MillionaireHoy, Christine Saulus, and Fitness Blender. I still do their workouts at home, too!

And hey! Follow Fit University on YouTube for workouts like this too.

 

 

 

Just Wing it

Some days I wanted to squat heavy but with no access to a squat rack or weights, I got creative. I put all my textbooks in a box and held that as a weight during a workout. This technique was also used multiple times when I wanted to work shoulders, or use books for tricep kickbacks and bicep curls. 

Check out these recipes, too: 

How I Stayed Fit and Didn’t Hate It (Even After I Quit Sports)

Fit Tips From a Hyperactive Former Athlete

The many phases of staying fit.

I’ve been active my entire life. Or as I like to say, “hyperactive.” AKA, I like to do everything and anything to get my body moving. Starting at the age of 2, I played sports. I did the basics like gymnastics and dance when I was younger, until my complete lack of grace came to light and pulled me into more conventional suburban kid sports like soccer, basketball, softball, and volleyball. I even learned figure skating (despite my ungracefulness)! My “professional” athletic career ended pretty early when I retired after my freshman year of high school, but my active lifestyle was far from over.

My dad has always been an active guy, and he’s a firm believer that “sweating it out at the gym” can solve most problems. So when I quit organized sports, I was quick to find a new activity that would keep me moving (and keep my dad off my back about going to the gym). So I agreed to go with him to my first hot yoga class at a studio in Cambridge, MA called Baptiste. Immediately, I was hooked.

 

A photo posted by @upsidedown_fitness on

It took me a while to understand the “yogi” mentality. I had to get used to the facts that you cannot “win” in yoga, that you aren’t competing with the people in the class who can put their feet behind their head and stand on their hands no problem, and that you’re focusing on yourself and pushing your own limits. Being the ambitious and motivated person I am, I didn’t want to start yoga the “wimpy” way (to me, “wimpy” yoga was done in a normal temperature, where you’re not sweating out your body weight every class). So, intensity in mind, my dad and I would hit Baptiste every Wednesday throughout the rest of high school. We were the only father-daughter duo in class, and my dad would proudly tell to anyone who would listen. 

Outside of yoga, I’d go for the occasional run followed by an ab workout.  This yoga/sometimes run & abs routine carried itself into college. Despite the fact that I was in a new place with new people, my workouts rarely changed. I went to the school yoga classes (unheated, unfortunately) and would sometimes reluctantly push through intense time on the elliptical, immediately followed with some ab work. Basically, I did the quintessential “girl workout” that is rarely useful for achieving the kind of fitness goals you think it will. Thankfully, I have an older sister who explained to me that the weight room exists, and that if I wanted to get any stronger, I should go down there. Yeah, to make a fool of myself, I thought. But I did it anyway.

 

A photo posted by @upsidedown_fitness on


I never started lifting for any specific goal in particular. It was just another activity I could participate in to switch up my routine before I died of boredom on the “dreadmill.” I figured I had nothing to lose by going down to see what all the fuss was about….so I went. I entered the big, scary weight room. My first experience in the weight room went a little like this: 

  • Enter weight room.
  • Look around thinking “what the f*** are all these machines for?”
  • Find the free weights and attempt to pick up weights heavier than the 5 pounds.
  • Discover that I can’t.
  • Pick up the 5 pound weights and try to figure out what to do with them now that they were successfully lifted into my hands.
  • Do some bicep curls and try to copy one of the guys down there who knew what they were doing.
  • Fail miserably.
  • Retreat back to the cardio room.

This first time wasn’t the most successful, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet (that treadmill had gotten pretty unbearable). Eventually, I looked up some good arm exercises for beginners online and began incorporating strengthening into my routine. I tried Kayla’s BBG, which not only introduced me to HIIT, but more fun full body exercises where I could use weights. The notion that girls shouldn’t lift because they will look bulky or manly is squashed every day by strong ladies lifting heavy and looking good doing it. Trying something new saved my life when it comes to fitness (even though it was scary and I felt like a fool at first). Now, I feel like I have so many options when I enter the gym that my workout routine could never get boring (even to my ADHD mind).

If you’re on the fence or feeling stuck with your current routine, take it from me: if you hate your workouts, give something else a try. You never know where you might end up. 

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What a Former Meathead-Gone-Vegan Actually Eats in a Day

vegan eats

A day in the life of an experimental vegan.

6 weeks ago, I became a vegan. DUN DUN DUN. 

Don’t worry meat-eaters, this isn’t a lifetime thing (I don’t think…). I’m just in the midst of a two-month long vegan experiment. And you know what? I’m actually loving my plant-based vegan lifestyle. Under the watch of Skylar Griggs, I’ve squashed all worries of not getting enough protein and am actually eating a ton of food, AND I’ve even lost weight (which was part of the plan btw, based off my test results from Inside Tracker and Cenegenics). 

So you’re probably wondering…what does a former meathead-gone-vegan eat on a daily basis? How on earth does this former meathead-gone-vegan get all the protein she needs? Which bar will this former meathead-gone-vegan turn to instead of her beloved Quest bars? The answer my friend, lies in my Instagram. 

I present to you, a day in the life of eating for a former meathead-gone-vegan.

6AM: Pre-workout

Generally 2 clementines, a banana or a piece of toast with some coconut oil based buttah. Sorry, these things are not Insta-worthy.

8-9AM: Post-workout

I try to get the highest amount of protein in this meal because #gains (I should say #gaines but I won’t, though I kind of just did.) At the start of The Vegan Experiment, I went to GNC and tried to find myself a good plant-based protein powder. My goal was to try to find something that was high in protein, low in carbs & fat but didn’t taste like grass. I settled on Sunwarrior, vanilla flavor. It has subtle tastes of grass. That’s what I used here in my post-workout smoothie bowl.

For the record, after a few weeks with Sunwarrior, I got myself a package of Vega Sport to see what all the fuss is about and lemme tell you, that shit is good. Turned my smoothie green which I wasn’t expecting (the power itself is white) but it’s delicious and has zero notes of grass.

On other occasions, when I don’t gone home after my workout, I make myself overnight proats or I’ll head to a coffee shop and first get myself some sort of iced soy latte (giving me quick sugar and some protein) and then I’ll follow it up with toast and avocado. If I don’t have toast & avocado in the morning, I’ll usually find a way to squeeze it in at some other meal of the day. The obsession is real.

 

I love me a good breakfast sammmich 🤗 #fituniversity

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

It’s safe to say breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, here are some other post-workout breakfasts I’ve enjoyed…

 

Simple veggie breakfast hash: tofu, broccoli, sweet potato. 😋 #fituniversity #theveganexperiment

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

11:15AM Pre-Cyc

I’m a Cycologist at Cyc Fitness Boston (come ride with me!) and usually teach the 12pm classes. So somewhere between 11-11:30, I grab myself another piece of fruit. Maybe a shot of espresso if I need some added energy.

2PM Post-Cyc

I need carbs and protein post Cyc…I’m usually hangry. This meal usually consists of some sort of grain (quinoa, brown rice or cous cous), some sort of bean (black or chick pea – is a chick pea a bean??), lots of greens, lots of veggies, and some sort of dressing (guac, hummus, or olive oil). Ginny, the 7YO I babysit always asks, “Why do you eat salad EVERY DAY?!” Because it’s delicious and damn good for me Ginny! That’s why.

And sometimes if I’m really hangry, I’ll get Chipotle.

If I’m not teaching that day, I have the same sort of lunch…just an hour or so earlier.

PS: Don’t go double beans at Chipotle. Learned that the hard way.

3/4PM Snack

I don’t stay full for very long. A few hours after I eat, I generally start to get hungry again so I have myself a little snack. I’ve become a huge sucker for D’s Naturals No Cow Bars. Consider them the vegan version of Quest Bars. They have essentially the same exact amount of protein and carbs (including fiber). Fat is even a little bit lower on the No Cow Bars. My favorite flavors are the Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Crunch & Raspberry Truffle. No photo evidence for you but trust me on it.

7/8PM Dinner

One of my favorite dinner stapes is  the same ingredient you can find in this meal. It racks in 25g of protein per serving and tons of fiber along with it. I generally use it as my base and top with veggies, of course.

Other frequent dinners are generally similar to my lunches…salads, grains and veggies. 

Or sometimes I go for tapas instead 😉

It’s been surprisingly easy to go out to eat, most restaurants have at least one vegan option on the menu or a few that I can at least modify to fit my needs. Thank god sangria is vegan.

 

Stratie takes Barcelona. 🍷🍷🍷

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

9/10 PM: Dessert

Sometimes (most of the time) I get hungry one last time before bed so I have myself half a Complete Cookie and maaaaybe top it with some nut buttah.

Follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@sarahjgaines) to see how the rest of #TheVeganExperiment pans out!

Check out these articles too:

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan
Why I’m Going Plant Based
Follow My Whole 30 Journey
What You Need To Know About The New FDA Nutrition Labels

What It’s Like to Be an Olympic Trial Athlete (in College)

A few months ago, Jesse Garn competed in the Olympic trials. Jesse is a recent graduate from Binghamton University. He graduated this past May, meaning that all of his pre-Olympic training was done during his final senior semester. 

Jesse grew up in Marcellus, NY. There, he attended Marcellus High School, graduating in 2011. He continued his education at Binghamton University for 5 years, and is now 23 years old. Post-graduation, Jesse is planning to continue his running career through the next Olympic cycle and hopes to have a better shot of making the next Games (Tokyo 2020). In addition to running, Jesse is also a certified ACE personal trainer and a certified lifeguard.

The accomplishments of Olympic athletes are incredible: competitors dedicate their lives to their bodies’ ability to perform, risking everything to make it to the big event. Jesse, though he talks of his pursuit of the Games quite casually, is no exception. In an average week, he runs 50-60 miles– broken up into various increments, of course. On top of a full course load (and not to mention a social life), his ability to find time for his Olympic-level training is an impressive feat in itself. (It’s a good thing he runs fast.) 

jesse garn

When I heard about Jesse’s accomplishments, I reached out to see if I could ask him a few questions. Through his answers, I got to know an Olympic-trial athlete who– shockingly– seems like a totally normal college guy. 

1. How did you get started with running competitively?

Jesse started running (starting the domino effect that has led to his Olympic aspirations) in 7th grade. He ran modified cross country for his middle school, and claims that since then, he has “simply kept up with it”. He definitely did more than keep up: by the time he graduated senior year of high school, he had become a sectional champion more than once, and was also a New York State Champion for the 1,000 m run. 

After graduation, he decided to attend Binghamton University to run Division I cross country at the collegiate level.

2. What does your training look like?

“My training changes depending on the time of year,” Jesse says, “but a typical week would include 50-60 miles of running.”  Those runs would be broken down into a few distance runs, 2 track workouts, and one long run.

“It’s normal for me to take one day off a week to rest,” he explained. (Yes, even Olympic-trial-running athletes need rest days.) 

Jesse also does a little bit of cross-training. “Outside of running, I enjoy swimming to stay fit. So I’ll do that to cross-train, as well as strength, conditioning, and biking.” In short: Jesse’s legs do a lot. 

3. How do you fuel your training? 

Jesse doesn’t have a terribly struct diet. While many athletes track their food and make sure to eat certain types of foods before or after training days, Jesse eats like any other normal college student. “I ate at the dining halls on campus more often than not,” he explained. 

However, Jesse does make sure he’s eating enough. “As long as I was having 3 meals a day with snacks, I considered myself okay.” 

Since Jesse trains in the afternoons, his lunch tends to be his smallest meal. No one like running on a full stomach. Helloooo cramps, am I right? 

“The day of a competition, it’s difficult for me to eat due to nerves,” Jesse confesses. “But I usually have a big breakfast, a small sandwich, and snack frequently after leading up to the race.” What are examples of pre-race snacks? He says he usually grabs a protein bar, some pretzels, graham crackers, and Gatorade. Foods he knows won’t upset his stomach, but that will give him the fuel he needs to perform well. 

4. How do you balance training and classes?

Seriously, I think Jesse got pretty lucky that the trials didn’t happen to fall on finals week. But Jesse says he never really had any class conflicts. He was able to make his running practices every day, and managed it all just fine. In fact, Jesse graduated this past May with a B.S. in Biochemistry and minor in Health and Wellness studies. 

“I had plenty of time after practice to finish schoolwork and study as necessary,” Jesse insists. “Frankly, I think being a student-athlete made my life more structured, and in a sense, easier to balance.”

5. What was the hardest part about making it to the Olympic trials? 

“The trickiest thing with qualifying for the Olympic Trials is the obvious one – hitting the A standard.” The A standard is the running time needed in order to qualify for the highest marks to be considered for the Olympic Games. 

For the 800 m, which was Jesse’s run, the time to beat was 1:46.00. This was coincidentally also the Olympic Standard for that event, which is the time needed to qualify for the Games.

“My personal best remains 1:46.98, and my season best was 1:47.11,” Jesse explains. “So I actually never hit the standard, but since they take 32 people to the field, I had to wait on others who had run faster than myself to declare/scratch.” This means that Jesse had to wait for the groups of runners who had records better than his own to compete against each other first. Jesse ran with a group of runners with times comparable to his own.  “When all was said and done, I entered as the 28th seed.” There are some fast runners out there– the competition sounds intense. 

6. What does it mean to you to have the potential to be going to the Olympics?

“If someone had asked me at the beginning of my college career if I had the potential to make the Olympics, let alone the U.S. Olympic Trials, I would have seriously doubted them,” Jesse confessed. He never would have put himself up to the task. However, those that saw his talent thought otherwise.

“My coach recognized my potential, and each year I continued to develop and run faster.” And he’s still improving.

“I am amidst the search for a post-collegiate, professional group to train with,” Jesse continued. He’s planning to compete again in the 2020 Olympic Trials– this isn’t the end of Jesse’s running career. “There,” Jesse explains, determined, “I will hopefully stand a better chance at becoming a finalist in the event I go with competing in.” Right now, Jesse’s think it’s either going to be the 800 m or 1500 m/1 mile run.

7. Tell us about the trials! Were they anything like what you expected?

“The U.S. Olympic Trials were insane, in the best of ways,” Jesse began. “Eugene, Oregon has hosted the event many times, and their venue is like no other. I have raced at their track, Historic Hayward Field, four times now.” But this experience wasn’t like the rest. The energy in the familiar venue was entirely different, much more emotional and electric.

jesse garn

Jesse at the Historic Hayward Field

“I actually felt I handled the pressure best going into this event, better than any other.” Jesse says that this might be due to his familiarity with the venue, in terms of the check-in and warm-up procedures leading up to the race. He knew what formalities to expect.

Jesse claims that “the race itself wasn’t by any means perfect, finishing 6th of 7 in [his] heat”. However, only a half second (exactly) separated Jesse’s time from the winner’s. “So I was content being in the mix,” he says. 

The race! Jesse's the one in the green.

The race! Jesse’s the one in the green with the yellow shoes.

Despite the fact that he didn’t finish first, Jesse is altogether pleased with his run and with the experience of the event. “Having battled a few injuries this past year, it was really icing in the cake. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to be a spectator and witness the emotion of other runners in their successes and/or short-comings.” I can’t even imagine the tensions running high and the intense determination Jesse was surrounded with.

“It was truly an event of upsets and surprises. Every single race, jump and throw was thrilling.”

Check out these articles, too: 

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan

vegan

At first glance, you wouldn’t take me for a meathead. I’m 5ft, hair often in pigtail braids, and the majority of the time, you can find me either dancing, smiling, laughing or singing. 

What you think of when I say “meathead.”

 Actually me…

 

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

 
But my small stature and fun times aside, I’m gonna put it out there and call myself a meathead. Here’s my justification:

  • I’m accustomed to 5-6 small meals a day, each consisting of lean protein
  • Egg whites, chicken, ground turkey & greek yogurt have been my go-to’s for years
  • I find great joy in picking things up and putting them down
  • There’s nothing I love more than a good flexing picture
  • My last names is GAINES – seriously. Check my bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. 

So yes, I think it’s safe to say that I’m somewhat of a meathead. A meathead that’s about to go vegan.


I know. I know what you’re thinking…”What is she doing? How will she get enough protein? Vegans are crazy. This girl is crazy.” But hear me out.

For starters, I’m not doing this forever (at least I don’t think I am). I am adopting a vegan diet for a two-month long experiment. Veganism is such a heated topic: you’re either a vegan and want everyone in the world to be one too, or you think that vegans are a buncha crazy hippies. But putting all the generalizations aside, there is something to be said about a plant-based vegan diet.

The China Study, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition,” found a direct correlation between the growth of cancer cells and the consumption of animal-based milk products. Another massive study showed that red (and processed) meats are associated with significant increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers. Fabulous. On the contrary, meat contains certain amino acids – the building blocks of life! – that you simply can’t find in plant-based foods. Not to mention, meat provides all that good protein we need to build muscle. (In all fairness, I tried to find studies that said eating meat was good for you and I honestly couldn’t)

But the question remains…what do we do? Who can we trust?

The answer is simple: our blood.

Did that sound creepy? I apologize.

But it’s true! Who better can we trust than ourselves and our physical reactions? The incredible thing about our bodies is that every single one of us is different. Every single one of us will react differently to the same adjustment made to our lifestyle. In case you haven’t realized it by now, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way of eating or exercising that works for everyone. You have to experiment and figure it out for yourself. So that’s what I’m doing…. a two-month long experiment, adopting a plant-based vegan diet. That’s no animal by-products whatsoever: no fish, no meat, no dairy, no Quest bars *gasp*.

To conduct this experiment, I’ll be tracking my food intake, energy levels and mood on a daily basis. I’ll also be working with Inside Tracker, Cenegenics and Skylar Griggs to get serious about this experiment. 

Before I get into my results, a quick note about why I was really excited to do this experiment and document it on behalf of Fit University: As young people, we have the attention span of a gold fish. We take every statement we hear as truth and eat up what the media wants to be the next big trend (i.e. fad diets). Now, I know these are broad statements, but when was the last time you really dug into a claim made about the newest superfood or “7 minute workout that really works?” I was excited to do this experiment because I was excited to share the data I collected from it, and expose you all to that data. Real science is often not seen in health & fitness articles we skim through on a daily basis…until today. #sciencebitch

So without further ado, here we go. My body as a carnivore as of July 15, 2016…

Inside Tracker: Blood Don’t Lie

vegan experimentBefore starting this experiment, I asked a few people why I should or why I shouldn’t go vegan. The pro-vegans said I should do it because it will make me “healthier.” While the anti-vegans said I shouldn’t do it because I’ll miss out on certain macro & micronutrients that are so readily available in animal-based products. Steak was also a common answer – straight up, “Don’t go vegan because steak.” Fair.

So to really see just how healthy going vegan will make me, I turned to Inside Tracker. Inside Tracker lets you see “how healthy you are on the inside” by analyzing the level of minerals/vitamins/lipids, etc. in your blood and giving you nutritional, physical and supplemental recommendations to improve those levels. Here’s how it works:

  • Schedule a lab appointment to get your blood drawn (this is included in the price of the test).
  • A few days later, open your email with results and recommendations for improvement. Easy as [vegan] pie.

As a society, we’re so caught up on what fitness should look like on the outside, that we so rarely stop and think about what’s going on on the inside. Inside Tracker let’s you into that unknown layer and gives you scientifically backed info you need to improve it. 

While I won’t list every biomarker I had tested, here are a few that I think are most important to analyze in this experiment. At the end of the two months, I’ll get my blood work done again and see how things have changed. Let’s start with the bad stuff!

Glucose: Normal levels are 70-99mg/dL.

AKA sugar, AKA Carbs. Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy. Having high glucose puts you at risk for Diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and other fun things. Read more about glucose here. My glucose is in the normal range but as you’ll see from the graph below, is creeping up to borderline high.* Inside Tracker recommended I consider a vegetarian or vegan diet to lower my blood sugar. I think they know something…….

inside tracker

*You’ll see that I had my blood work done back in January and my glucose has increased since then. Too many acai bowls, Sarah!

HDL: Normal range is 40-50 mg/dL (men), 50-59 mg/dL (women).

HDL means high-density lipoproteins, if ya wanna get fancy. If not, “good cholesterol” will suffice. Inside Tracker says that HDL acts “as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver where it’s broken down. If your levels of HDL are low, you may be at greater risk of poor heart health.” My HDL came in just a few points above low. But good news…if I lower my glucose, my HDL should increase. On the opposite side of the spectrum, both my LDL (“bad cholesterol”) total cholesterol were optimized. Sweet!

Triglycerides: Normal range is < 150 mg/dL. 

A complicated way to say fat cells. If you eat more than you burn, calories turn into triglycerides. Like HDL, high tri’s (not a medical term) are associated with high glucose. My level of triglycerides was high and one of Inside Trackers recommendations was to lose weight (omg how could they?!). This will connect with my findings from Cenegenics..but more on that later. 

Iron (Ferritin + Hemoglobin): Normal ferritin range is 24 – 336 ng/dL (men), 11 – 307 ng/dL (women). Normal hemoglobin range is 13.5 – 17.5 g/dL (men), 12.0 – 15.5 g/dL (women). 

A necessary mineral in our bodies that does all the things. My iron group showed optimized based off of my ferritin (protein that stores iron) and hemoglobin (iron-containing little guys that carry O2 from my lungs to my brain, muscles & digestive system). Optimal levels of iron improve strength, increase endurance, and enhance overall aerobic performance. As Skylar told me, this is an important mineral to keep track of during the next 2 months as vegans are at a greater risk of iron deficiency than meat eating peeps. Read why iron is so important here.

Calcium: Normal range is 8.5-10.2 mg/dL.

Keeps yo’ bones strong. My blood shows that my calcium levels are currently optimized – which is very interesting when you look at my bone density test done by Cenegenics. Stay tuned. But according to my blood, my calcium is good. Again, Skylar let me know that calcium is another mineral vegans need to be aware of since we tend to think of calcium coming from milk, yogurt & other dairy products. 

Vitamin D: Normal range is 20-50 ng/mL.

Think of Vitamin D as Calcium’s best friend. VD helps the body absorb calcium and therefore, keeps your bones healthy. My current VD levels are swell but I’ll need to be wary (and potentially take a supplement) since very few foods – especially vegan ones – contain VD.  

vegan experiment

My results
 Glucose: 89mg/dL
 HDL: 50mg/dL
 LDL: 67 mg/dL
 Triglycerides: 148mg/dL
 Ferritin: 63ng/mL
 Hemoglobin: 14g/dL
 Calcium: 9.9mg/dL
 Vitamin D: 42ng/dL

Cenegenics: Hello Sarah, Meet Your Body 

So now that I have a rundown of all things blood, I decided to take things a step further to see how this whole vegan thing would affect my body on a more physical level. Enter, Cenegenics. Cenegenics’ main goal is to help patients “get and stay healthy through a personalized program of nutrition, exercise, corrective hormone therapy, and nutritional supplementation.” Cenegenics provides a ton of tests, a few in which I was particularly interested in for this experiment.

It’s easy to think that we’re healthy or fit – or an the contrary, unhealthy and unfit – but Cenegenics takes the guessing games out by giving you real data on the spot.

RMR: Average is ~1350 for a woman my age & height.

Resting Energy Expenditure. In other words, how many calories you burn if you were to sit in bed and watch Netflix ALL day. Of all the tests with Cenegenics, I was most excited for this one. I’ve always attributed my difficulty losing weight to having “a slow metabolism.” When in reality, my metabolism is quite great for a woman my age… 17% better than the average, in fact! This is probably (definitely) due to the amount of muscle I’ve earned over the past few years. More muscle = stronger metabolism. What my RMR results made me realize was that my slow metabolism excuse can has got to go, and I just like to eat a lot – more than my body burns unfortunately. 

Body Fat: Normal range for the average person is 18 – 24% (men), 25 – 31% (women). 

The percentage of fat to muscle in your body. A certain amount of body fat is needed to for basic functions of living but too much fat can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and more! While I fall in the “normal” class for BMI, Cenegenics does recommend women don’t go above 25% body fat. So yes, I have more body fat than I should – GASP. This goes back to the Triglyceride count with Inside Tracker…remember it was high? So yes, I said it. I’m overweight. Do you not trust me as a fitness professional anymore?

Cenegenic’s DEXA scan showed I hold the most fat in my upper thighs and lower stomach, where women tend to hold fat. On the plus side (no pun intended), the scan showed that I have essentially zero visceral fat (bad fat surrounding your organs that can lead to all kinda bad diseases). Another thing that was cool about the DEXA was that is showed me my body fat % in each of my limbs..the meathead in me was very happy to see that both my right & left leg have pretty much the same amount of muscle. #symmetry

I’m interested to see how this number changes over the next 2 months. Based on my RMR, Skylar has me eating 2000 calories per day, which with exercise, should have me at ~1500 net calories per day. If you’re not good at math (like me!), that means I should lose some weight over the course of this experiment. I couldn’t really care less about losing weight – that was never my intention with this experiment – but what I do care about is not losing any muscle. Sure, I could lose weight by going vegan (a common misconception), but if I’m losing muscle and gaining fat, I will be one very sad lady. That’s why I’m working with Skylar, to ensure I’m eating both the proper amount of food & the proper types of food so that doesn’t happen.

VO2 Max: Normal range is 33.0 – 36.9 (women), 42.5 – 46.4 (men) for someone my age. Other ages found here.

How efficiently your body exchanges oxygen… the higher your VO2 Max, the better. To put it into perspective, endurance athletes like Lance Armstrong rack up numbers in 70-80 range. Your grandma that chain smokes? Probably 10-20.

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

My 44.2 score put me above average and in the “Superior” fitness level. *Pats self on back*

Mark explained that leaner people tend to have higher VO2 maxes, so this number could potentially raise if I lose some weight. We shall see.

Bone Density: Normal range based on a T score at or above -1.0.

I didn’t have any expectations for this test…I’m young, I exercise, I’ve only broken one bone (knock on wood), and like Inside Tracker showed, my calcium levels are good. So it was very surprising when two vertebras in my spine showed Osteopenia – bone density lower than normal. Granted, I’m right on the cusp on Osteopenia and normal, but still…this is an issue that needs addressing and I would have NEVER known if I hadn’t taken this test. If you’re familiar with Osteoporosis, Osteopenia is one step below it. This was especially alarming to me because my mom has Osteoporosis so it clearly runs in the family…and again, I’m only 22!!! Wtf bones.

Mark explained that taking a Vitamin D & Calcium supplement and eating an alkaline diet – lots of leafy green veggies – could help to improve this. I’m pretty sure that changing my diet over the course of 2 months won’t make a huge difference but this is something that I will be getting a second opinion on and actively working to improve.

Of all the tests I had done, this was certainly most shocking. It just goes to show you that our bodies have so much going on in the inside that we may never know about. This is why it’s so important to be proactive and treat your body right. Eat good for you foods, exercise, and give your body the love & rest it deserves. Experiment with what YOUR good for you foods are. Figure out what kind of exercise you love most and what works for your body. I may thrive off toast & avocado and you may live off bananas & peanut butter. I may be a meathead and you may be a runner – we will probably never workout together and that’s ok! See you in yoga maybe? 

My results:
 RMR: 1613 calories
 Body fat: 30.9% (37.8 lb fat, 84.3lb lean)
 VO2 max: 44.2 ml O2/kg/min
 Bone density: L1 = -1.2, L2 = -1/4, L3 = -0.5, L4 = -.3

Summary

Over the next two months, I’m switching from a heavy animal-based diet to a plant-based vegan one. I’ve started the experiment off with blood work from Inside Tracker and a few physical tests from Cenegenics. I’m working alongside Nutritionist & Registered Dietician Skylar Griggs to make sure I’m getting all the macro & micronutrients I need. At the end of the two months, I’ll be getting all of these tests done again to see how things have changed. For better? For worse? Til death do us part.

I’ll be checking in back here after a month with an update but if you wanna see what I’m eating & feeling on daily basis, make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Snapchat: username is @sarahjgaines for both.

As I begin my vegan adventure down the road of legumes, kale and tofu, I leave you with one final thought….

vegan Until next time, friends!

The Life of A College Ninja Warrior

Northeastern engineering student by day, Ninja Warrior by night.

Who is Josh Levin?

Well…have you ever watched that show on NBC where everyday people do insanely difficult obstacles for a chance to win 1 million dollars (so basically just enough to pay off tuition and maybe a Chipotle burrito or two)? Josh is one of those people that runs the obstacles. And he succeeds.

I luckily had the chance to interview Josh about the life of an American Ninja Warrior. You can catch Josh tonight 7/11 at 8/7C on NBC.

Josh2

This dude is STRONG ^^

Fit U: First off, what was your experience like on American Ninja Warrior?

Josh: My first experience on American Ninja Warrior was awesome! This has been something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, (I started watching the Japanese version ‘Sasuke’ when I was about 15) so even getting the callback from my audition video was super exciting. From there, I traveled down to Universal Studios Hollywood in early April to film the city qualifier episodes. Staying up both nights until 5am was pretty exhausting, but definitely worthwhile.

What were your competitors like?

Having been an avid fan of American Ninja Warrior for so many years now, getting the chance to not only meet but compete alongside some of the top names in the sport such as Kevin Bull, Flip Rodriguez, Jessie Graff, and Jesse La Flair was an incredible experience! Also, the Ninja Warrior community was extremely warm and welcoming to new competitors, and everyone had extremely interesting backstories in addition to being top-level athletes in many different sports.

How did you prepare for the competition?

I prepared for the competition by traveling to as many different Ninja Warrior gyms as I could all over the country to prepare myself for the variety of obstacles I would be facing. I also made sure to keep up with my climbing training as much as possible since climbing is by far the best way of training for Ninja Warrior.

*Fit U note: Check out Josh’s NU Snapchat takeover where he shows us a day of training!

How do you balance schoolwork and training?

For the last 6 months, I was actually pursuing a co-op at Apple in Cupertino through Northeastern’s co-op program in conjunction with my mechanical engineering degree. While there, my internship was as a manufacturing design engineer, so I did a fair amount of back-and-forth travel to China to visit manufacturing vendors. During my trips to China, I fortunately was able to find an excellent climbing community in Shanghai and trained there most weeknights after work. I also trained at Ninja Warrior gyms both in China and California for the duration of my co-op.

What are some of your favorite foods to keep you fueled throughout your busy day?

My favorite go-to snack is peanut butter and a banana. Literally all my friends can attest to this. I also like Clif Bar Shot Bloks to keep the energy high during competitions and long study sessions.

What is your go-to song to get pumped up before a climb or a workout?

I don’t really listen to music before training sessions, only just before when I compete. And that song is a secret for now 😉

How can Boston students get involved with climbing/Ninja training?

I recommend starting out with rock climbing for giving the best overall base of strength, coordination and problem solving to compete on American Ninja Warrior. Many universities have climbing walls on campus, but even if your school doesn’t, (like Northeastern) there are plenty of local rock climbing gyms popping up all over the country in major cities. After you have mastered the basics of climbing, it may then be the time to go visit a dedicated Ninja Warrior gym to test your abilities.

Josh

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of trying out for American Ninja Warrior?

If you’re thinking of trying out for American Ninja Warrior, go for it! Remember that as a TV show, American Ninja Warrior isn’t necessarily looking for the best athletes in the world, they’re looking for personalities. Being athletic helps, but if you can show that you have lots of energy and are passionate about ninja warrior, that goes a lot further than the number of pull-ups you do in your submission video. They’re actually casting the first-ever College Edition of American Ninja Warrior, so be sure to visit www.anwteam.com and apply with your team today!

You can follow Josh Levin on Instagram @josh.levin and give him #fitufam support for his run tonight!

3 Steps to Staying Fit This Summer

summer fitness

Some people love having a strict workout schedule year-round. However, there are a ton of people who would prefer not to stick to such an unrelenting exercise regimen, especially during the summer.

After all, during the summertime you’re out of your normal routine. You want to enjoy your vacation to the fullest. Maybe you just plain old hate the heat. Even though staying on track might seem difficult, staying fit during summertime really is not as painful as it sounds – I promise.

Here are some ideas to help you stay fit this summer:

1) Find a workout that you enjoy.

You don’t have to go spend an hour at the same gym, doing the same thing every day to stay fit. There are plenty of fun summer fitness activities: beach volleyball, swimming, and biking outdoors are just a few of them. Doing workouts that are fun and new will help you stay fit without even thinking about it.

2) Find a workout buddy.

Having a friend to workout with will help keep you focused. If you don’t feel like exercising, you’ll still go anyways because you already made plans with someone who’s counting on you to do so. Don’t be that person that cancels last-minute. Working out with a friend will also help you stay motivated during the workout itself. Not only because someone else is watching and suffering pushing through it with you, but also because working out with a partner opens up a whole new realm of fun exercise possibilities! Try this fun outdoor partner workout, or maybe this one too.

Even better, your friends will be happy about it, because you’ll be motivating them as well! It’s a win-win situation.

3) Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself.

Fitness does not mean never going out to eat or taking a vacation. Sometimes, the best way to stay motivated is to take a small break.

The summer should include relaxation, and you should be resting your body every once in awhile anyhow. After taking a week or two off from working out and/or eating a certain diet, you will feel refreshed, motivated, and ready to start again.

Last but not least, don’t forget that fitness is not all or nothing. You can most definitely stay fit and have fun over the summer.

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Q&A with IPF World Champion John Haack

On June 25th, the world saw one of the biggest showdowns in powerlifting history.  

In the Men’s 83kg Open Division at the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) World Classic, the 23 year-old American John Haack and the 25 year-old New Zealander Brett Gibbs went head-to-head in an incredibly close matchup.  Haack came out on top with an unbelievable performance, going 9/9 in his lifts for 813kg/1789lb total (including a World Record 298kg/657lb squat)! Keep in mind that he competed under the harshest and most strict powerlifting federation in the world, the IPF, where everyone is drug-tested and rules for every lift are regimented. Additionally, he competed on the world’s biggest stage.  

I had the opportunity to ask John Haack himself some questions, following his monumental victory. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: What inspired you to begin lifting and around what age?

A: I started training for football and wrestling when I was in 7th grade, so around 12-13 years old.

Q: What drove you to powerlifting?

A: When I went to college, I met a friend in the gym who competed in powerlifting in high school. We started training together using the program his old coach gave him. We decided to sign up for a meet together. I ended up taking best overall lifter and quickly fell in love with the sport.

Q: What do you believe is the number one mistake beginner powerlifters make in their training?

A: I would say the biggest mistake is maxing out too often and failing reps in training. Those two are the quickest way to a plateau.

Q: Is your training periodised? If so, which form of periodisation (ie DUP, traditional block, etc) do you employ?

A: I typically stick to a DUP style of periodization.

Q: What song did you listen to before stepping on the platform for your 3rd attempts?

A: A$ap Ferg-Let it Go (Riot Ten remix)

Q: What was going through your head as you stepped up and executed your world record squat?

A: My football coach always told us to imagine ourselves making a huge play, whether it was a sack or scoring a touchdown, and then go make it a reality. I’ve stuck to that train of thought. I just kept picturing myself hitting the lift.

Q: In your early lifting years, what was your weakest lift, and how did you overcome any plateaus?

A: My weakest lift was and still is overhead press.

For breaking plateaus, there are three basic ways to do it. The first is to simply add size. The same lifter is typically going to be stronger at 200lbs than he would at 180lbs. Next, you can increase your neural efficiency. This can be achieved by simply practicing the movement more, upping your frequency or number of sets you do. Finally, you can better your form. Are you putting your body in the most optimum position for your leverages? Playing around with these three has helped me to continue progressing.

Q: Where were you in your lifting career five years ago? If someone told you five years ago that you’d be a world champ, would you have believed it?

A: Five years ago, I was training in my high school weight room, wanting to be the strongest kid in school. I would have never guessed I’d be where I am today.

Q: For any aspiring powerlifters seeking success in the sport, what would be your best piece of advice for them?

A: Find a gym that is powerlifter friendly and train with the strongest/most experienced guys there.

Q: What are your goals moving forward?

A: Long term, I’d like to hit a 2000lb raw total and be in the debate as the GOAT of powerlifting.

 

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8 Instagrams to Inspire Your Healthy Fourth of July

7 instagrams to inspire your healthy 4th of july

Having a hard time picturing a healthy Fourth of July? Let these Instagrams inspire ya.

The land of the free, and the home of the creative #foodstagrammers.

Though the temptation is real during this holiday to just go after those store bought cakes topped with an American flag made from processed and sugary icing, it is important to remember everything in moderation.

If you are looking for healthy Fourth of July food options, check them out below!

Who said it is just avocado toast that’s trending?

I scream for coconut milk ice cream!

Don’t you love it when your food looks like a kaleidoscope image?

 

A photo posted by Taylor (@hummusjunkie) on

Waffles are great, protein waffles are even better, but PATRIOTIC PROTEIN WAFFLES?? #icanteven

A close-up America-themed yogurt bowl is even better.

 

A photo posted by Taylor🍪 (@foodandfearless) on

If a patriotic protein waffle is #icanteven, what happens when you add zucchini…

 

A photo posted by Jordan Krause (@jordankrausefit) on

Might as well add a little lovin’

For the land of the #foodstagrammers!

 

A photo posted by @beccasbowls on

From Fit U, we wish you a safe, healthy, and happy Fourth of July!

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