Category

Move

Grab 2 kettlebells for this quick and intense circuit

burn out your legs

You'll need:

2 kettlebells

The workout:

  1. Goblet Squat x 6-8 reps  
  2. Rows x 6-8 reps 
  3. Offset Lunge x 8-10 each side 
  4. Upside-Down Press x 6-8 each side
  5. Modified Get up x 8-10 each side 

Complete the circuit 3-5x and you’re done!

This workout was created by Andrew Storm, NSCA-CPT and SplitFit trainer.

SplitFit lets you pay only $20 for a personal training session by having you split the cost with friends (sometimes strangers, too). They consider themselves "the Uber of fitness." Download the app, see each trainer's availability and book a session right then and there.

Use code FITUFAM2 to get your first 2 sessions totally free. 😛

Download the app

Try This Quick Strength Circuit When You’re In Between Classes

strength circuit

You'll need:

1 kettlebell
pair of gliders
pair of dumbbells

The workout:

  1. Kettlebell Swing x10
  2. Dumbbell Push Press x10
  3. Bodysaw Plank x10 (don’t have gliders? use facecloths/towels under your feet on a smooth surface instead 👌
  4. Alternating Lateral Lunge x10/leg

Complete the circuit 2-3x and you’re done!

Beginners option: Complete 8 reps per exercise.
Advanced option: Complete up to 15 reps per exercise.

 

This workout was created by Kristina Sadlo, NSCA, CSCS Strength + Conditioning Specialist, and SplitFit trainer.

SplitFit lets you pay only $20 for a personal training session by having you split the cost with friends (sometimes strangers, too). They consider themselves "the Uber of fitness." Download the app, see each trainer's availability and book a session right then and there.

Use code FITUFAM to get your first 3 sessions for just $10 each. Personal training for $10? Can't really go wrong with that one 😛

Download the app

20 Minute Cardio Finisher

20 minute cardio finisher

Cardio Finisher

Complete the following circuit 4x, resting appx 1 minute between each circuit. Each circuit should be 4 minutes long!

  • 30 seconds step ups
  • 30 seconds jump squats
  • 30 seconds stair jumps
  • 30 seconds burpees
  • Repeat.

This is a great way to squeeze in a workout if you have a really busy day, or feel free to add in to the end of a weight training session for some added cardio.

Have you joined the #fitufam yet?

No equipment needed

Full body worked

Done in less than 20 minutes

The Stages of a Dead Lift PR, As Told by Buddy the Elf

Preparing to try for a personal record for any lift is an emotional thing.  You’re nervous, frustrated, and exhilarated all at once.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I’ve expressed some of the things I go through during a training session, as told by my favorite Christmas movie character, Buddy the Elf.

The Night Before

Carb loading for the big day with anything you can get your hands on (preferably candy, candy corns, candy canes, and syrup)…

The Day Of

Walking into the gym ready to dominate like… 

And then you walk to the squat rack and stretch while you mentally prepare yourself… 

While you warm-up, you watch some powerlifters throw around 495 pounds like it’s no problem… 

And, finally, you’re mentally ready and you start setting up your barbell…

Only to drop a 45 pound plate on your foot because you were just so ~in the zone~… 

This psyches you out and you realize that this PR is going to be much more challenging than you thought…

Dropping the barbell mid lift, you get extremely frustrated because you know you’re strong enough to pull this weight…

So you give yourself a pep talk to get your head back in the game…

And just when you think you can’t do it, you hit that PR with such ferocity that you can’t help but do a happy dance… 

Your lifting buddy comes over and is just as proud as you are…

And you walk out of the gym with great pride, either entirely exhausted… 

…or so jazzed about your PR that you can’t help but cheerfully skip out…

Either way, you just did what you once couldn’t do, and you can’t wait to do it again! 

Check out these articles too: 

Strength Workout Moves for When You’re Short on Time and Equipment

Working out can seem like a big time commitment, especially if it’s not easy for you to get to the gym. With classes coming into full swing, working out may not be your top priority. But if it is a priority to get in a good sweat sesh, there are plenty of options if you don’t live near a gym or don’t have the time to get to one. Here are some easy moves you can add to your workout at home, in the park, or anywhere else you are able to get a good sweat in!

1. Jumping Jacks

I really like doing jumping jacks to warm up before a workout. This plyometric movement involves getting your heart rate up and limbs moving quickly. Doing 100 at a moderate pace usually gets me warmed up enough to start doing dynamic stretching or other movements before I start my workout. No weights and no space required for this one!

2. Squats

If you’re looking for a booty burner, this is it. Squats are such a versatile movement- you can do them with or without weight, fast or slow, or add a jump! The weights don’t have to be dumbbells or barbells either. Use whatever you have on hand, like the books you said you’d read this semester. 😉

3. Push Ups

Okay, so push ups aren’t exactly my favorite exercises. But that’s only because I’m not good at them…YET! Push ups are a great exercise for your entire upper body, both core and arms. To make them more difficult (or easier), you can add weight on your back, elevate your legs or arms (or do them on your knees), or add a clap in between. The possibilities are endless!

4. Burpees

Burpees are one of the classic no equipment workout moves, and for good reasons. But have no fear! They incorporate both strength and cardio movements, and can also be easily altered. A simple burpee starts by dropping to the ground by placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Once you’re in a plank position, hop back up and jump in the air; that’s one rep. To increase the difficulty, you can add a push up when you’re in a plank and increase the speed at which you do them. To make them easier, slow down, step back instead of hopping back, or take out the jump at the end of each rep. 

With these four moves, you can create endless different workouts for yourself when you’re short on time, space, and equipment. By changing the reps, speed, and variation of each movement, your workouts will stay interesting and keep you motivated to getting fit and staying fit!

Check out these workout articles too:

Why We’re Hosting The First Ever College Fitness Festival

college fitness festival

The Back to School Blowout is BACK, and it’s better than ever.

What’s up #fitufam! Sarah here, your Chief Community Officer 👋  👋  👋

You may have seen a save the date floating around about and no, it’s not because I’m getting married 👰. It’s for Fit University’s 2nd annual Back to School Blowout, the first and only fitness festival just for college students.

Sign up for The Back to School Blowout here.

We created The Back to School Blowout to help college students in Boston and the greater New England area kick off the semester in a fun and healthy way. The goal was always to bring together students, brands and organizations to sweat their way through a full day of community building and getting to know the resources in the area. Last year we had over 200 students take over Copley Square and offered up a number of workouts for students to try. Despite a huge downpour, everyone stayed out and finished an intense bootcamp led by our ambassadors… in the pouring rain. 

This year, we wanted the Back to School Blowout to accomplish a few things:

  • Be prepared for weather: order as many Fit University branded umbrellas as possible. Just kidding – no umbrellas, this event is rain or shine ☔️☀️
  • Be as inclusive as possible: build an experience that will keep everyone involved throughout the entirety of the event, instead of just having a bunch of workouts back to back like we did last year
  • Represent Fit University as a brand: one that promotes complete fitness + overall wellbeing, not just working out

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t that excited when we started planning for this year. We had a few ideas about how to accomplish the above but nothing made me say YES! THIS IS IT! I felt like we were forcing it and overall, felt kind of meh about the whole event. But then, I started to have some ideas…and more ideas…and more ideas. And then I started reading about the rise of wellness festivals and so I thought…

Why not create a fitness festival exclusive to college students? 

I love the concept of fitness festivals – a full day (sometimes multiple days) of fitness, yoga, people to meet, things to learn etc etc. But while fitness festivals are fun and great and all, they’re geared towards a demographic older than college students. Plus, what college student can afford a fitness festival? There’s one happening the same day of the Blowout and tickets are over $150 😮😮. I can’t even afford that.

So we’re doing it. We’re creating a fitness festival for college students.

Keep scrolling!

back to school blowout

I started Fit University to help college students understand that it’s not that that hard to stay fit in college and more importantly, that fitness looks and feels differently for everyone. At Fit U, we’re helping students find the fun in fitness by creating sustainable habits to continue after graduation and surrounding themselves with the community to help them do that. That’s what this event is about.

For many, the Back to School Blowout will be an intro to Fit University and who we are as a community and organization. More importantly, this event may be an intro to the many ways students can fit fitness and wellbeing into their lives in a way that works for them. As my counter-part and head of operations, Nina, said it,

“Student lifestyles are different and it’s time we started building a health and fitness community that caters to them; that’s what Fit University is doing and that’s why I’m excited about this event and proud to be on the team behind that effort.”

One day, the Back to School Blowout will be popping up at multiple campuses across the nation: exposing students to the health + wellness resources offered on their individual campus while building a greater community of health + wellness on that campus. If students are introduced to the ways they can live healthy early on in their college career, they can then create those sustainable habits I talked about above; ultimately leading to a healthier life after college.

Alright alright, enough of that. Here’s what can you expect at the Blowout.

tl;dr: find the full event schedule here.

The event runs from 10AM to 2:30PM with a whole lot in between. Students will have the opportunity to try out multiple workouts: taking a spin class with Cyc Fitness (taught by me!), training like a pro (athlete, that is) with Xplosive Performance Academy, or getting to know their new city with a run around Boston. From there, we’ll move into a group yoga class in the beautiful Copley Square, which will then transition into one BIG. ASS. DANCE. PARTY. Seriously. It’s going to be huge. Expect to get down, get sweaty, and have a whole lot of fun. Don’t tell me you don’t dance – we’ll have Eliza Shirazi, my good friend and founder of Kick It By Eliza, helping you out along the way and showing you some moves. Plus, college dancers and musicians keeping everyone entertained and moving. Oh yes, you better believe it.

back to school blowout

By this point, we’ll have moved, grooved, flowed, and danced. We’ll all likely be hungry and ready to rest our legs. We’ll definitely be ready for a massage at the LUNA Recovery Zone. Don’t worry, both sweetgreen and Revere, a new plant-based nutrition company, will be on site making sure you’re refueled post-activity.

We’ll end the day with some workshops…putting the “University” in Fit University with a bit of inspiration and education. Start combatting semester stress early with Meditation 1o1, learn to fly with Acro Yoga, or figure out what it means to live healthy + happy with Startup Island, a program run by our friends that’s designed to connect entrepreneurial minded students and young professionals through shared travel experiences.

The Back to School Blowout is open and accessible to all college students. This is an event where all college students can come to feel welcome, happy, healthy and to leave feeling like they’ve got a new community that has their back (because we do!). I think Marisa, our Head of Business Development, said it best,

“I can’t think of a better way to welcome college students back to Boston than to kickstart their semester at the Back to School Blowout. At it’s core, Fit University has always strived to show students that living a healthy lifestyle in college does not need to be daunting, and we’ve built a community around showing them how easy and fun it can be. Fit University is changing the game in college fitness by making it a game everyone can play, and being a part of that is something really special.”

On behalf of the entire #fitufam, I invite you to come to see what we’re all about – the Back to School Blowout and Fit University as a whole. 

Yes, the event is technically for college students but hey, even I’m not in college anymore 😉. Molly, our newest addition to HQ agrees,

“The Back to School Blowout is the perfect way for like minded students as well as post graduates to meet and share their love of all things health and fitness.”

So stop by, sweat a little, smile a lot. I promise it’ll be a great day.

Stay fit,

Sarah
Founder + Chief Community Officer

back to school blowout

Gym Things You Definitely Should Not Be Embarrassed About

Gyms can feel judgmental, but you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your workout.

The gym is supposed to be your mental sanctuary, the place where you can smash your fitness goals. However, the often-aesthetic focus of fitness creates an all-eyes-on-you feeling that can cause anxiety and stress.

I have heard plenty of people complain of common gym behaviors that cause them to feel embarrassed. But, they’re all normal things that shouldn’t cause any such embarrassment. Let’s break down these taboos, one by one.

Also: I’ve put some of these headings in quotes as to show that terms like “heavy lifting,” for example, are subjective rather than objective.

Sweating “Too Much”

People are often embarrassed to “sweat too much” at the gym. For some unknown reason, people think their sweat symbolizes that they’re out of shape or “gross”. First, being sweaty is a trademark of a hard workout (though not necessary for one); it can show you’ve put in maximum effort. Second, it’s good for you! Sweating is your body’s way of regulating its temperature, ridding itself of toxins, and even boosting your immunity. So, get your sweat on and embrace it. The visual embodiment of your work ethic and natural cleanse should be nothing to stress about.

Fumbling with Machines

Sometimes, you approach a weight training machine (ex: leg extension, lat pull down, etc.) and it’s not perfectly adjusted to suit your height or preferences. Or, maybe its your first time using the machine and you need a moment to get your bearings. You might feel embarrassed to fumble with the settings, or slyly try to decode the machine’s workings via its infographics. However, it is far better to adjust a machine or take a pause to understand exactly what you’re doing than to blindly use it. Improper usage or settings can lead to injury or at least ineffective sets. You should never be embarrassed to take some extra time to understand and adjust your machine – it simply shows you’re a more conscious athlete.

Using “Light” Weights

Just a few things to say here:

  1. You have to start somewhere.
  2. Everyone was a beginner at some point or another.
  3. Some exercises and muscle groups require smaller weights than others.
  4. It’s none of anyone’s business how much or how not-much someone is or is not lifting.
  5. Listen to your body and lift accordingly.

Refusing to Treadmill Race

Just like in lifting, running on a stationary cardio machine can be a nerve-racking experience. You gaze around at all the gazelles sprinting at a 500 incline at speed 1.2 million and feel sluggish and ungraceful. You may be tempted to skip your cardio all together, or jack up your speed to one outside of your ability. Instead, you should block out your surroundings and go at your own pace.

People use the treadmill for all different purposes: intervals, long distance, power walking, shake-outs and warm-ups. There’s no point in comparing yourself to anyone else, because you have no idea how long they’ve been running or what their goals are. And even if you knew these things, someone else’s cardio routine is neither better or worse than yours. Focus on yourself and you will reap the rewards of mental and physical fortitude.

Using Fellow Gym-Goers as Resources

Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery. Using others’ workouts as inspiration is nothing to feel embarrassed about. Additionally, asking a veteran gym attendee for advice on lifts, form, or programming isn’t something to fear. People are typically happy to help, and expanding your scope of
knowledge can lead to better informed exercise decisions.

Final Thoughts

So, next time your in the gym, don’t sweat the small stuff. Do your workout, clear your head, and carry on with confidence in your stride and pride in your accomplishments.

Check out these articles too:

Your Health Matters, and Fitness Can Help

back to school blowout

If you hang out with other fitness-minded people, you’re probably used to a frequent exchange of killer workouts and green juice recipes. If you get into that health bubble enough, it can even be hard to remember that not everyone lives that lifestyle. In fact, if I listen around campus, I hear people joke all the time about their unhealthy lifestyles.

“I’m 22. I know I should be in the best shape of my life, but I can’t stop smoking, drinking, and eating Easy Mac.”

“Same, honestly.”

No judgment from me. Really. Processed foods are designed to taste good, and for many, smoking and drinking are social activities. Friends are important to your health, too, and I’m not suggesting you ditch them exclusively for people who go spinning at 5am and eat bowl after bowl of roasted veggies. But maybe take your Easy Mac and add some carrots on the side.

fitness fit in Maybe you go for a drink with your friends after you take a yoga class together. Maybe you go for a walk instead of taking the subway every time. It’s not about overhauling every area of your life. No, it’s about finding little ways to make the life you love healthier.

And you’re never in too ‘bad’ of a place to start.

“Wow. I just got winded taking a shower because it was more activity than I’ve done in weeks.”

“Do you want to go to the gym with me?”

“Nah, I’m too out of shape.”

It can be hard to change your routine. And if you think everyone else knows what they’re doing, you’re dead wrong. Going to the gym can be scary.

You also don’t have to go. If you feel too out of place there, go for a walk. Go rock climbing if that sounds more fun. Or, ask some fit friends to help you out. Even if they aren’t experts, they have a little experience and will probably be happy to help you on your health journey.

You don’t want to go it alone; health can be intimidating. If you aren’t the person who hits the gym regularly and meal preps religiously, you might feel put off because it seems like a lot of work. I get it. Even though I am that person, sometimes it still gets to be overwhelming. That’s what happens when you try to do it all.

But here’s the thing: You do not have to do it all. You don’t even have to do a lot. Well, really, you don’t have to do anything. Still, I hope you do. Not for me, but for you – and your future self.

Confused?

We don’t always do a good job of emphasizing why fitness actually matters. A lot of the time it seems like we are blindly chasing #bodygoals or the next PR. We want to run faster, lift heavier, and get leaner. 

health matters battle ropesWhat if you could forget all that? I want you to try. Not because being fast or crazy strong are bad goals; sometimes they’re great.

Rather because at the most basic level, fitness is about health. It’s about making your quality of life better – and speed, super strength, or a low body fat percentage can’t really accomplish that.

But the extra steps you take to live a healthier life might. Strength training a few times a week might make moving out of your apartment that much easier. Eating fresher food might make your skin clearer or boost your energy. Going for a walk might just make it more enjoyable to run around with your dog.

health run with dog

Your health is not a joke and it matters way more than your physique – and you don’t have to make huge changes to improve it. A little fitness goes a long way.

Check out these articles too:

I Ran My First Tough Mudder, Here’s What I Thought

tough mudder 5
DISCLAMER: this post is sponsored by Skedaddle. All opinions are my own.

The #fitufam is not new to obstacle racing.

Cam, an OG Fit University Ambassador from Northeastern, first introduced OCR to us back in June 2015 with a Tough Mudder.

tough mudder

I was supposed to go that Mudder but I unfortunately was out of town for it. Since then though, I’ve done a few Spartan Races and absolutely LOVE them. So when I got the opportunity to head to the Mt. Snow Tough Mudder a few weeks ago, I said yes immediately (without even considering that I’d barely  I hadn’t trained at all. Christina, AKA @foodietunes, AKA another OG Fit University Ambassador from BU, agreed to take the 10 mile trek with me.

Quick reminder that fitness is better with your #fitufam.

You may know Tough Mudder as the mud race with electric shocks and ice baths, but here’s the official description:

Tough Mudder is an endurance event series in which participants attempt 10–12 mile-long obstacle courses that tests mental as well as physical strength.

Anyway, the day rolled around and it was time to head to Vermont. We got picked up in Boston by Skedaddle, a social platform to book and organize bus trips. It’s actually really cool! You can start or join rides on (really nice) professionally driven vehicles to any destination through the app or website. So let’s say you and your friends wanted to take a weekend trip but nobody had a car, you could use Skedaddle to get there – and get there in style 🚘.

tough mudder 2

Side note: I ran the Spartan Beast in New Jersey about a year ago and drove home that night… it was one of the worst mistakes I ever made. After 15 miles of hiking, running and obstacles, driving 4 hours to get back to Boston was brutal – I had to pull off to the side of the road so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel. So having Skedaddle to drive me to and from Tough Mudder  was 👌👌👌.

Like I said, though this was not my first OCR, it was my first Tough Mudder. Here are some of my main takeaways:

Community is key

Community is, IMO, one of the most important aspects of living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That’s why Fit University and our Ambassador Network exists! What I loved about Tough Mudder was the community aspect of it. Unlike other races I’ve run, a handful of Tough Mudder obstacles actually required you to work together with the people around you. It was a nice reminder that when you surround yourself with people who support you, you can get anything done.

Your mind is the strongest muscle in your body

Real talk, the first mile of the race was tough (ha!) for me…so much uphill hiking for my short little legs to handle. Christina and Ana kept looking back at me being like “yo, are you ok??” I knew that it was only beginning and I was going to need to unlock some mental strength to last all 10 miles. I focused on one foot in front of the next, paid attention to my breath, and reminded myself that a year ago, I did 15 miles of this hiking. I got this. 

tough mudder 3The body is an amazing thing

Despite my short leg struggles in mile 1, mile 7 came around and I had this realization of “Woah! Look at how much my body is doing right now?!” It was like I reached enlightenment. It was extremely cool to see that despite my lack of training, my body was handling it with such ease so deep into the race. I attribute this to the fact that fitness is a part of my everyday life, it truly is a lifestyle! Also, I’m a fitness instructor. So that probably helped 😜

Everybody has different strengths

While Ana and Christina cruised through the hiking and running portion of the race, the obstacles were my jam. I climbed up the walls and bars like a little monkey and felt like a boss. BECAUSE I AM ONE. Too much? I get excited easily. But seriously, I love seeing how different people thrive in different fitness situations. It’s a nice reminder that we all thrive in different settings and one form of strength is not better than the other

tough mudder 5

Fitness should be fun

I say this time and time again. The only way to find consistency in anything – not just fitness – is to make sure you’re enjoying it. I personally love obstacle course races and have a blast doing them, so I do them. Yes, they are challenging as hell. Yes, you cannot believe you’re only at mile 3 when you see the mile 3 marker. Yes, you’re not sure how you’re going to make it through. But you’re with your friends, and you’re making it through together, and at the end of the day, it’s a great day and you have sore legs to remember it the next. 

You may try an OCR and love it too! Or you might try it and hate it. But you’ll never know until you at least give it a shot. I encourage you to do it 🔥🔥🔥

Check out these articles too:

26.2 Reflections on 26.2 Miles
Students Share The Toughest Part About Training For The Boston Marathon
Bucket List (Fitness Edition): 10 Rad Places To Sweat It Out
Three Life Lessons I Learned From Running

How to take a Productive Rest Day

How to have a Productive Rest Day

Here at FitU, we’ve gone over the importance of taking rest days. Oftentimes, people think working out every day is the best way to see results, whether those desired results are improving your lifts, losing weight, or just living a healthy lifestyle. While consistency is definitely important for achieving your goals, learning to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs is just as valuable.

Not only do rest days help prevent injury and encourage muscle recovery, but studies show that over-training can lead to excess levels of cortisol in your body. This can thus make you feel fatigued and depressed. In the end, taking a day or two off will help your body in the long run, and make your workouts more effective.

Just because you take a day off from your usual fitness routine does not mean you have to sit at home all day instead. Here are some ideas on how to keep moving, even on an off day. 

1. Deep clean your room or apartment.

Get moving and feel refreshed by vacuuming under your furniture and all those hard to reach spaces, deep cleaning your bathroom, cleaning out your fridge and changing your sheets. Not only will your health benefit from a cleaner space but there is a clear link between mental wellness and an organized, clean home. Blast some music and get moving like Mr. Clean.

2. Do an “active” activity.

Most cities and suburbs have tons of different events and attractions like rock climbing gyms, trampoline parks, or ice skating rinks. Be a kid again and grab some friends to tag along. Most of these options are cheap, and you’ll make memories and spend time with others in addition to keeping active. 

3. Stretch.

So many of us neglect this aspect of our fitness routine, despite the clear benefits it has to our bodies. It can be done just about anywhere at any time. Use a foam roller or do some yoga if you’re feeling fancy. 

4. Go for a walk outside.

This walk can range from a loop around your neighborhood with your family to a day-hike. Walks are free and benefit your health via a dose of Vitamin D and clean air. Being outside also improves your sleep and psychological health

A day off won’t kill your progress. As seen above, there are a variety of options in which you can make a rest day valuable and useful without traditional exercise. 

Check out these articles too: 

Three Tips To End Workout Comparison

end workout comparison

We’ve all been there. You’re running on the treadmill and the person next to you is going at a speed of 7.0 but you’re only going at 6.0, so you speed up to be at the same pace. Or you look over at what the person next to you is squatting and add an extra plate. You do one more rep because the person who’s always at the gym is watching you and you want them to see that you’re doing just as much as he is (reality check: nobody is actually watching you in the gym! – everyone is there for themselves). 

Workout comparison gets pretty ugly. Just like any sort of comparison does. It brings you down and robs you of your joy. 

So how do you stop comparing what you do in the gym to what everyone else does? 

Appreciate your differences.

Remember your body is unique. What feels best for you during a workout may not feel as great for someone else. Honor that. Do what feels good for you, don’t do something because someone else is doing it.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Don’t beat yourself up because you may not be able to run as fast as the person next to you. They may not be able to do something as well as you. Remembering that we all excel at some things more so than others is crucial.

Remember your why.

Don’t lose sight of why you go to the gym. Everyone has different fitness goals but overall, you shouldn’t be working out to be better than someone else. Unless you’re training for a race or powerlifting meet, your goal shouldn’t be to out-lift someone or out-run someone. You should be exercising because moving is beneficial to your health, because it helps to relieve stress, and because working out is fun. You should love what you’re doing and embrace the fact that whatever workout you are doing feels good for your body. 

Refocus your attention.

Comparison steals your joy. When you find yourself comparing what you’re doing to someone else, take a step back and refocus your mind by thinking back to your why. Work on being better than yesterday, not better than the person next to you in the gym. When we comparison within ourselves, we allow for growth. When we have it with others, we set ourselves up for feeling insecure and disappointed. 

Stay focused on your own journey with fitness and you’ll stop caring about others’.

Check out these articles too:

I Worked Out at Midnight for 30 Days. Here’s What I Learned.

midnight workout

While you were watching “just one more episode…” of Netflix, I was in the weight room.

Why? No, I didn’t do it for the Instagram (or the blog post). That summer, I had to fast for thirty straight days for religious reasons. The custom is to refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset, eating only while the sun is down.

Through this time, I was determined to stay active. I had goals for at the gym that meant a lot to me; and since religion meant a lot to me, too, I decided to attempt to keep up with both. I knew that I couldn’t workout without eating. That made my daytime workouts not an option. So I managed to fit my workouts in after sunset and before sunrise.

A lot of people are sleeping at midnight. A lot of people are eating, watching, showering, and texting, on Instagram and Facebook. But not me– I was at the gym. For the summer of 2016, I challenged myself in a whole new way. 

Here’s what I learned in the process.

1. There are some pros.

I’m sure those who have been to the gym during peak hours understand how crazy it can get. Now imagine how many people are actually in the gym at midnight. I mean, for someone searching for an open squat rack, the view was absolutely breathtaking. All of them were free.

I walked in like:

Really, the perks were unbelievable. Empty gym. Empty saunas. Not a single person within a 10 foot radius of me. I could grunt, sing out loud, dance, flex in the mirror, and admire myself… or anything else I so desired, with no one near me.

2. There are some cons.

Actually getting there at midnight wasn’t as easy as you’d expect. Or, it was about as difficult as you would expect. At 11:45 pm, sometimes the last thing I felt like doing was walking into a workout.

But it’s all about the motivation–getting yourself to walk through those doors so you can walk out an hour later knowing you put in 110%, ever rep and every set.

And let me tell you, at 11:45 pm, my mind could get pretty creative with excuses to skip it. You can’t even imagine the extent of excuses I came up with. 

3. Sometimes, the hardest part isn’t just getting there.

One I arrived, I figured this workout would be easy, right? Wrong.

There were times when I went in and just wanted to get my workout over with. For me, this was unusual; I’m all about enjoying my workouts and keeping it interesting. But with my body not used to giving that much energy so late in the day, I was struggling. I cheated on sets by doing three instead of four. I cheated on reps by either using less weights or performing less reps.

My body just wasn’t used to this time. This was the time of the day when my body was ready to fall asleep and my mind was tired form the day’s work. 

Here are some of the ways I kept the energy up through those late night workouts:

1. I used pre-workout.

Pre-workout supplements worked really well for me, but don’t feel like you have to use them. They aren’t for everyone. In my case, one serving shocked my brain back to life and back into gear. My awareness, energy, and alertness were sky high.

For those of you who aren’t into pre-workout, you could try another source of caffeine. My workout partner, for instance, would always have a cup of coffee before our gym sessions.

Though taking pre-workout or caffeine could make it hard to sleep if you’re taking it so late at night – don’t forget how important sleep is to a healthy lifestyle.

2. I had a workout partner.

Speaking of my workout partner… A workout partner is so important, whether you’re a newbie to the weight room or have been going to the gym for years. Whoever you are, big or small, you can benefit from going with a friend.

There are some things in life that can’t be measured, and one of those is having a partner by your side. Nobody else can motivate you, keep your workouts challenged, help you finish sets, and make the workout experience more worthwhile and fun.

I always say: Before you leave your house for the gym, check for your keys, your phone, and the ETA (estimated time of arrival) of your gym buddy. Then, you’ve got all you need.

3. I pumped up the music.

Make sure you have music with you at all times. Music is what pumps you up, gets you hyped, and resonates throughout your body.

Like a natural pre-workout, it makes you feel jumpy and excited to get to the iron paradise and to start putting your body to the test. Personally, I can never get through a workout without a little Evanescence and Jonas Brothers by my side.

The takeaway?

Every hour is a good hour as long as you can make it work for you! If your schedule allows for late workout and in turn, late starts to your morning, then by all means try it out. I wouldn’t suggest working out at midnight if you have a 8am class. You don’t want to end up like this baby….

worked out at midnight

All in all, those midnight workouts taught me a lot about myself and fitness. They taught me that there is never a time when being active, however you want to, isn’t an option. You should never feel like you can’t put in your hour of fitness a day just because it’s late in the day or the gym is closed. 

And if your gym does close before midnight, there will always be great workouts to do at home or even in your small dorm room. 

Check out some of these articles too:

I Took A Week Off From Working Out: Here’s What Happened

Nothing.

That’s exactly what happened: nothing. At the end of one week without working out, I looked in the mirror and nothing had changed. If anything, I felt more liberated. My body felt a lot better rested.

Let me back up a few weeks. 

Have you ever reached the point where you’re fed up with the gym? Where your body and mind just don’t feel like working out? Your alarm goes off and you can’t imagine getting up and dragging yourself to the gym. Or the late afternoon rolls around and your body is just begging for a nap.

A few weeks ago, I reached this point. I absolutely resented going to the gym. It was then that I asked myself: why am I forcing myself to workout if my body doesn’t want to?

So I decided to take a whole week off from the gym, and what happened was both surprising and empowering: nothing. I actually felt better rested, my mind felt clearer, and I didn’t gain or lose a single pound.

I had more time to study, do work, and hang out with my friends. My diet was a lot more balanced and I felt relieved that I didn’t have to force myself to get up and go do something I was dreading. It was in one word, freeing. 

After my week of relaxation was over, I felt rejuvenated and ready to continue with my workouts. 

I Took A Week Off From Working Out Here's What Happened

I realized that taking time off from working out isn’t the end of the world.

In fact, it can be a whole new beginning for a fresh spurt of motivation. Taking breaks from the gym not only gives your body time to rest and recover from the constant stress it’s under, but it also strengthens your mental resolve. Before that week, I would have been afraid to take more than a few days off from the gym. But realizing that it really has little effect on performance, I feel like I can practice mindfulness and balance even more.  

The Bottom Line:

If you are tired, worn down, and sick of the gym, take a break. Listen to your body. Respect your body. It is smarter and more capable than you think. 

Check out these articles too:

You Don’t Need to be Dripping in Sweat to Have a Good Workout

For a long time, I thought that the amount of sweat correlated to how good my workout was. I loved the feeling, and I still do love the feeling of a great sweat session. It makes my body feel refreshed and it helps to boost my energy levels. Not to mention, a killer, sweaty workout also makes me feel like a champ. 

But the thing is, sometimes the only way I’ll sweat during a workout is doing tons of cardio. And I know that isn’t fun for me, and doesn’t make my body feel too great. When I decided to cut out how much cardio I was doing and incorporate more lifting workouts, I noticed that I didn’t sweat as much. And at first it bothered me. 

I thought that I wasn’t working hard enough. I felt a bit guilty at first for not breaking a sweat and getting my heart rate up. I had it in my head that in order for the workout to count, I needed to leave sweating. I was so wrong. 

Some days, my body temperature would be a little different. I would go in warmer and find myself sweating a bit more those days. And some days I would barely break a sweat. Some workouts where I lifted my body felt incredible. I felt so strong and empowered even though I didn’t leave dripping with sweat and rosy red cheeks. I knew that I had fun in there and enjoyed my workout, which is ultimately the most important thing.

The amount you sweat does not determine whether you worked hard or not. How your body feels is what counts. If you feel strong and leave that gym feeling like you killed it but didn’t really sweat that much, that is 100% fine. If you leave that yoga class feeling relaxed and flexible but don’t feel that tired or sweaty after, you still got something out of it and benefited your body in so many ways. 

So, don’t stress if you don’t leaving the gym dripping in sweat. That doesn’t determine if you worked out or not. Go in there, have fun, and continue to do whatever makes your body feel the best.

Check out these articles too:

Increase Your Motivation as Summer Heats Up

As you sit inside, cooled either by a fan or in-house AC, watching the temperature outside rise, it can be really hard to motivate to get out and moving. Doesn’t sitting in a cool room burn calories too? Won’t I get heat exhaustion or sun burn if I workout for too long outside? 

While the answers to these are both yes (with easy remedies of shortening your workout or stopping when you begin feeling faint, and wearing sunscreen), there is still reason to go for a quick bike ride or run out among the sizzlingly concrete and scorching sun. 

Working out in hot temperatures can increase your core temperature, and this has been shown to suppress appetites.

Not only does working in hot temperatures suppress your appetite initial post-workout hunger, it also leads to an increase in performance at colder level temperatures — so if you are doing a half marathon in October and do a lot of distance in July and August, you will be that much faster!

But it is just so hard to motivate! 

If you don’t want to run or walk, because we all know how incredibly painful and horrible sweating off every single electrolyte EVER off our bodies, try biking or swimming. Both are cooler ways to workout. Biking helps motivate you to create your own wind by pedaling faster and swimming immerses your body with much cooler temperatures than you would be dealing with on land (unless it’s a hot tub and then all I can say is that’s something you brought on yourself). 

 

Check out these articles too! 

Your Deodorant Could Be Making You Sweat More

How To Make The Most of Summer Break

A DIY Cycling Class for When You Can’t Make it to the Studio

Three Life Lessons I Learned From Running

 

Three Reasons to Love Easy Workouts

You’re dripping in sweat, breathing heavily, and the endorphin high just kicked in. Yeah, you just crushed a super tough workout and you feel on top of the world. So, you should totally do this every day, right? Not so fast. Intense workouts are great for reaching fitness and aesthetic goals, but easy workouts have their merits, too. Here’s why:

You’ll avoid overtraining.

Along with rest days, easy workouts give your body time to recover. Pounding your joints and fatiguing your muscles days after day, even with adequate fuel, isn’t good for anyone. Your muscles rebuild when you rest, and if you never rest, you’ll feel it. You might overtrain, leading you to have a hard time focusing, sleeping, or motivating yourself to work out or eat healthily.

easy workouts so tired

By taking a few days a week to enjoy some gentle yoga, a nice walk, or even a low-intensity session on the elliptical, you’ll keep your muscles moving, but eliminate some of the stress.

You’ll keep your hormones happy.

We all know exercise releases endorphins.

Easy Workouts + Endorphins

But it also triggers cortisol, a stress hormone. Yes, exercise is stressful to the body. And if you’re perpetually stressed already, whether it’s about school, work, social life, or the future, exercise can just add to it. Too much cortisol can lead to everything from digestive issues to weight gain to insomnia. Not cool.

Regular exercise is great and tends to decrease cortisol, but too much of intense exercise elevates it. So back off a little bit.

You’ll give your mind a break.

You may be the biggest overachiever and lover of hard workouts in the world, but at some point, you’re probably going to struggle to motivate yourself to get to the gym. Obviously, rest days give you a bit of a mental break, but easy workouts help you get in some movement while also relaxing.

take it easy workouts

You’re busy, and maybe you don’t give yourself time to catch up on your favorite show, read a magazine, or scroll through Instagram. You can do that when you’re not pushing yourself to your limit at the gym! It takes some serious mental strength to power through HIIT sprints and heavy lifting routines. If you give yourself a few days of easier workouts, you’ll have the energy and motivation to crush your tougher ones, too. 

Check out these articles too:

Three Life Lessons I Learned From Running

I had such an awesome run Morgan Freeman should’ve narrated it.

Running is likely one of the world’s most basic (but challenging) forms of exercise. It requires a slew of highly developed emotional and physical qualities to really pursue the sport.

Though running can be exceptionally painful, it is worth all the challenge that comes with it. Running has the power to teach us endlessly important lessons. Through my eight years of running, the three most important lessons I have learned are:

1. Emotional Resilience 

Running can be frustrating. You see marathon runners, Olympic track stars, and crazy ultra 100-mile racers all over the media. They seem to flow through their races with ease and grace as their legs effortlessly work beneath them.

Meanwhile, for us regular folk, sometimes an easy 3-miler or a few intervals seems like an impossible challenge.

It’s easy for us to give up and get down on ourselves. However, we must remember that hard work breeds better results, and though we may never be that Olympic champion, we can become the most determined, fastest, and best versions of our runner selves. Through running, we realize that our hard work will take us places and allow us to achieve our dreams.

2. What Goes Up Must Come Down

This one is pretty literal. It applies to hills, yes, but also the highs and lows of existence.

There will always be good times, and there will always be bad times. Both are inescapable, but both provide valuable lessons. Without the good, the bad would be unbearable. And without the bad, the good would be less sweet. So next time you’re dreading that hill, just remember: keep going, keep striding, and soon you’ll be coasting toward victory.

3. Hold Your Judgement

Let’s say you see someone out on a run. They’re jogging slowly, with labored breath. Your first thought may be to say, “Run, Forrest, Run!” or maybe make a comment on how sluggish they are. I ask you, from now on, to refrain from judging this runner.

You don’t know if this is their first mile ever, or their 18th mile out of 20. You don’t know if they’re recovering from an injury, or just trying to get back on the workout wagon. Maybe that mile is their newest personal record– and even if it’s not quite up to par with your PR, or another runner’s, it’s a wonderful accomplishment nonetheless.

In all situations, it’s not your place or your right to judge this individual. A person on a run is just like any other individual you will encounter in life. Instead of judging their situation: root for them, support them, think kindly of them. This positive mindset and compassion toward others will take you far in life.

Running has proven to be challenging and heartbreaking, but also beautiful and awe-inspiring. I am proud to be a runner, for running has taught me how to be a better friend, leader, and citizen of the world, and without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Check out these articles too:

Why You Need to Stop Fighting Your Body, and Start Loving Yourself

Stop Fighting Your Body, Start Loving Yourself

Love yourself first.” It’s easy to say, but incredibly difficult to do.

I’m here to tell you my story– to show you that even under the strongest doubts, it is possible to practice self love and forgiveness. With nearly four years of self-improvement under my belt, I can say I’ve made immense progress in my journey to self love. But I’ll never be perfect. Even now, I sometimes struggle to love myself all the time. But that is okay. That’s part of it.

I still look in the mirror with a critical eye sometimes. I still occasionally feel guilty when I eat one too many cookies. But the difference is that now I can step back, realize what’s really going on, and forgive myself.

In the past, I would labor over that cookie or that unflattering photo and create a storm of self-hate and disrespect.

Self-love is something to be cultivated, not perfected, and it’s possible for everyone.

My story began when I was in elementary school: a happy-go-lucky, carefree kid who loved cake and pushed the limits of Abercrombie’s sizes. Soon enough, though, the beauty standards of society became a reality surrounding me, and I was forced to face the fact that I was… different. My friends were all smaller than me, I couldn’t share clothes with anyone, and I compared myself with every other girl in the room.

Fast forward to high school, when fasting and cardio became my identity. I hated my body, I hated myself, and for some reason I thought that if I was skinny, that everything wrong in my life would suddenly turn right. I was so wrong in this assumption. I found “clean eating” but took it to an extreme; my orthorexic tendencies caused me to miss out on birthday parties, get togethers, and, to be honest, life. 

After months, or really years, I got there. I was skinny.

But nothing else in my life changed. I still hated how I looked, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to other girls, and I was still incredibly unhappy. Sure, it was nice to hear the compliments, but that external validation only fed into my fears. I was so blind to the idea that there could be something other than this, that body positivity could be a reality or even attainable.

I guess I got tired. I guess I got fed up with counting every single calorie I ate and ensuring that everything I fed myself was “low-cal” or “clean”. I felt something inside of me that wanted more, that knew there was a different path for me– and that if I continued down my current one, I would just keep on searching for something that didn’t even exist.

Your body does nothing but work to keep you alive each and every day. It exists for you and cares for you in ways that nothing else can.

Each cell inside of you is there to serve a purpose, affirmed by you: either you can help your body grow and flourish, or you can hinder it. Sure, it’s easy to work against yourself, but there is absolutely no sense in fighting against the one thing that is all for you… So please don’t do it. 

We all have stretch marks, we all have rolls when we sit down, and we certainly all have that little fat pocket between our arms. But you know what? That makes us human. It means we are alive and here, and that should be enough. Nobody’s judging you as hard as yourself but, on the flip side, nobody can love you as much as yourself.

How you treat yourself is extremely telling in how much you will tolerate from others. I used to punish myself and put myself down; I had the idea that I was undeserving of any kind of love or happiness. In return, I interpreted negativity from situations that aligned with my thinking.

Body image is woven into all other aspects of life– whether it be relationships, work, school, or well being. What you put out, you will get right back.

There’s no easy way to get past a negative self-image. I’m not saying there is any one path, but it’s important to recognize that there is a path. Start listening to your body and remember that balance is the key to sanity. While you should be nurturing your health nine times out of ten, it won’t be the end of the world if you slip up. That makes you human and serves as a reminder that you are trying, and I promise, even that is enough!

Once you free yourself from negative self-talk and restriction, the world opens up to you. You’ll be amazed at the situations and opportunities that begin to arise when you stop saying no and begin to say perhaps. Really, the world is yours to take and anything you could imagine is within reach. It just starts with self-acceptance. Before others can love and accept you, you must be able to sit alone with yourself and feel comfortable. It takes work and by no means is it a quick fix, but it is accessible for each and every one of us.

So, please, stop fighting your body. Put the weapons down and trade them in for love, gratitude, and self-care. Listen to your body and make sure that your head and your heart are in balance. Release the idea that you have to restrict yourself or look a certain way to be happy, because otherwise you will be chasing an ideal that cannot be reached. Love yo self, treat yo self, cherish yo self. Life opens up when you do, so make the step towards reaching your potential today by deciding to work with your body rather than against it. 

Check out these articles too:

Try This HIIT Workout When You Need A Study Break

Because you know you need one.

Whether it’s midterms, finals, or somewhere in between, there’s always some sort of studying to be done. And if it’s not studying, it’s writing a paper. And if it’s not writing a paper, it’s meeting up with your group to prepare for your presentation. Does it ever stop?!

All of these projects, papers, presentations, and exams can get stressful. Good news is, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and up your chances of doing well on your upcoming test.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take it to science…

A study conducted at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh (*takes gulp of air*) looked at the connection between exercise and the brain.

Here’s what happened…        

72 adult men and women were given a 40 minute visual test. They were asked to remember the locations of different pictures on the screen. (Does this bring back memories of map quizzes from geography in high school?? No? Just me? K.)

Then, they watched a nature documentary. The study didn’t say which one so let’s pretend is was about baby pandas 

hiit workout

⅔ of the crew worked out after it was over, while the other ⅓ just chilled: half of the group that exercised did a 35 minute interval workout immediately after the documentary (more on interval workouts later), the other half did the same workout four hours after the doc.

Two days later, everyone came back to the lab and took the same test they did when they started. It’s like you having to come back and retake your calc exam. Could be a good thing, I guess….

Here’s what they found…

The group that worked out 4h post-doc did best on the test and displayed brain activity that reflected such. Though tbh, they’re still not exactly sure why that happened.

So what does all this mean for you?

It means you should do your studying, wait a few hours, then get in a short workout. And I know, it seems like when you’re studying there is absolutely no time for a workout. But I have a solution for you. It’s called “HIIT”. HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training is a great tool for improving your cardio as well as your muscular #gainz at the same time, and is the perfect workout for when you’re in a time crunch since it’s done quickly…but intensely. You can literally get it done in 20 minutes. Give this one a shot.

The workout (18 minutes 30 seconds):

Directions: Complete exercise 1 for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Complete exercise 1 for 30s, exercise 2 for 30s, rest for 30s. Complete exercise 1 for 30s, exercise 2 for 30s, exercise 3 for 30s…you get the idea.

  1. Alternating lunges
  2. Jump squats (modification: air squats)
  3. Reverse lunges
  4. Plank
  5. Push ups
  6. Burpees
  7. High knees

Stretch and hydrate after, then get back to [school] work. You may find you can focus a bit better now. Happy finals!

Check out these articles too:

Namastay in the library: how yoga helps me survive finals week
Why your workout is the best way to manage stress
How to finish the semester like a boss
Hop into spring with this 30 minute workout

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.

A DIY Cycling Class For When You Can’t Make It To The Studio

spin workout

All the perks of a studio cycling class. On your schedule. For free.

If you’ve ever tried an indoor cycling class, you know it’s a great workout. And if you’re a busy college student, you know it’s tough to find time to get to a studio and take one. As long as your gym has a bike, though, you can get the same awesome workout on your own schedule.

Bring a friend to do this workout next to you for some extra motivation! 

Before we get to the workout though, check out this video so you know how to set up your bike properly and then watch this video for proper form. Proper form = no injuries. 

spinning

Time:  30-40 minutes 

Type of Workout: Indoor Cycling

Sh*t You Need: Bike and a towel (you’ll sweat like crazy!)

Intensity: High

Body target: Lower body, cardio

Perks: A studio-style workout, anytime you want

The Workout:

Repeat 3-4x:
5 min seated flat (RPM 90-100)
*1 min seated climb (RPM 75-85)
*30 sec standing climb push 
1.5 min seated climb (RPM 65-80)
*30 sec standing climb push 
2 min seated climb (RPM 60-70)
*30 sec standing climb push 

Notes:
- The asterisk (*) next to an interval indicates you should add resistance.
- RPM zones are just suggestions, but feel free to go at whatever speed feels good to you!

Check out these articles too: 

Hop Into Spring With This 30-Minute Workout

It’s finally springtime.

The weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining brighter, and people are all around feeling happier. What a wonderful time of year. 

When the beginning of this year started, I made a list of goals for 2017. One of them was to go outside as much as I possibly can. I want to just enjoy my surroundings, whether I do this by taking a walk, studying outside, adventuring around, or whatever else – just getting outside can have a huge impact. Life is too short to be stuck inside

With this spirit in mind, I am determined to get outside when I break a sweat. So I’ve created a fun little workout to jumpstart your warm-weathered season!

Warm Up (5 mins)

A warm up should consist of dynamic movements. Dynamic movements are movements that get the muscles warm. You should be moving while performing these stretches, but not pushing yourself too hard. It’s just help you break a little sweat and prepares you for your workout 😉 

  1. Lunge twists
  2. Straight leg swing
  3. Karaoke 
  4. High knees
  5. Circle the arms

The Workout (25 mins)

This is meant to make you sweat. It’s high intensity, but get yourself out there and know you can do it!

1. Squat jump up, squat jump down, burpee (2 sets, 12 reps)

Assume a squat position. 

Use your legs to push through your heels and jump as high as you can. Land with a slight bend on the knees and go back down to a squat. 

From the squat, put your arms down and extend your legs back so you assume a plank position. Step or jump your feet back up to get back into the squat position. Repeat! 

2. Switch lunges (2 sets, 12 reps – 6 each leg)

Lunge on one side, then jump or step to switch feet to lunge with the other side. Make sure your knee does not go over your front toes! 🙂 

 

3. Sprint up the stairs, high knees down (2 sets, 2 minutes each time)

 

4. Quick feet (2 sets, 2 minutes each time)

This involves one foot just tapping the higher step, then coming back down and replacing the standing foot. Then the previous standing foot taps the higher step and repeats. 

5. Clap push-ups (2 sets, 8 reps)

This is a normal push-up, but when you come up you release your hands and clap. 

 

You will end up with your arms in the extended position again and repeat! 

Reminder: Modify the movement if needed! It is okay to not be able to do these movements or not be able to do them for the full amount of times/repetitions. Do what you can, and set some goals for next time! 

Cool Down (5 mins)

Stretch it out. You know where your body feels tight. Focus on stretching the legs after this workout, especially the hamstrings.

Make sure you spend at least 5 minutes stretching, and focus on static stretching. Static stretches are meant to help with flexibility rather than warming the muscles. So holding a stretch would be much more beneficial.

I hope your enjoy the wonderful weather and breaking a sweat with it.

Check out these articles too:

Why I Switched To Morning Workouts

morning workouts

Picture this: 5:30 AM on a monday morning, your alarm blaring, the sun not yet risen, your bed sheets warm and soft. And yet, you’re about to get out of bed to walk half a mile in the 20 degree weather to your University’s gym

Yeah, that’s me – Every. Single. Day.

All of my friends look at me in shock when I say I’ll be hitting the gym at 6 AM – let’s just say my 10:30 PM bedtime doesn’t really fit the “college lifestyle” norm. Yet everyday I make the bleary eyed trek to the gym to get in my workout. 

So why do I do it? 

I used to be a night workout person. 9 PM was my go-to gym time. Finishing my day on a workout left me exhilarated and energized. But of course, my schedule changed, I joined new clubs and organizations, and this semester I found myself so busy that between the hours of 9 AM and 10 PM I simply don’t have time for a workout. I thought my workouts were done for – until one day I decided to try the gym at 6 AM – and so my morning workouts were born. 

Here are my top reasons (besides scheduling) for getting a morning workout in. 

The feeling lasts throughout the day. 

It’s true – when the first part of the day is my workout, it centers my day and makes me feel less sluggish as the day progresses. When I workout in the morning, I feel like I go through the day with a clearer mind and a more open heart. And knowing you got your workout over with first thing in the morning is a pretty nice feeling too.

Hardly anyone else is awake. 

Anyone that works out in their college gym knows the struggle of peak gym hours – don’t even try to go between the hours of 4-7 PM or  9-12. Or any time honestly, because when is it ever empty? I’ll tell you  – 6 in the morning, that’s when. There are maybe 8 people in the weight section max, which can help your workout immensely, especially if you suffer from the dreaded gym anxiety. I find my workouts being much more effective in the morning when I’m not surrounded by other gym goers and just focusing on myself.

The atmosphere of the gym.

At peak gym hours, the atmosphere can be summed up as stressful, aggressive, competitive, and just overall unpleasant (for me, at least). No one wants to be surrounded by people they think are silently judging them. But the morning gym goers? I see the same people every morning and they are pleasant and focused on themselves and not on silently competing with the people around them. This type of atmosphere has worked wonders for my workouts. 

It’s something to be proud of.

Getting up and getting to the gym in the morning before most of your friends even roll out of bed is an accomplishment. It’s easy to get sucked into the cycle of staying up way too late and ruining your sleep schedule, but getting up to workout at such an early time shows discipline, perseverance and keeps you motivated. Trust me, the last thing I wanna do when I hear my alarm go off so early in the morning is go to the gym. But I get up and I go anyway, and I never regret it. 

Check out these articles too: 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

Check out these articles too:

 

 

Is Alcohol Hindering Your Fitness Goals?

I consider myself pretty active. I enjoy the outdoors and I typically workout 4-5 times a week. When I entered college, even though I remained active and fit, I struggled with weight gain. My weight fluctuated throughout college, and it wasn’t until this past year that I finally dropped all of the weight that I had been hanging on to since my freshman summer semester.

But since my eating patterns hadn’t shifted much, and my fitness routine was actually suffering due to a really intense work and school schedule, I was baffled that the weight kept falling off.

What had changed since freshman year? Not my eating. Not my exercise.

The biggest change in my lifestyle was my decrease in alcohol intake. I went from drinking at least one night during the week and both weekend nights to going out for a drink with friends maybe twice a month.

And don’t get me wrong: I’m not leading into a “stop drinking alcohol” bit. But I did want to emphasize the negative impacts I experienced from drinking alcohol so often, both on my eating habits and on reaching my goals.

So let me break down some of my habits from previous semesters for you.

In college, the weekend usually started on Thursday.

A typical night goes something like:

It’s some girl’s 21st birthday celebration (Waltz/sign night) in which you drink 2-3 drinks at the pre-game, plus 1 or 2 shots.

1-2 drinks at the bar. Maybe another shot. A slice of pizza (or 2) when you get home

The next morning… AKA, Friday:

You stumble to your class, exhausted from poor sleep. You manage to grab a cup of coffee on your way out the door.

After class, you head straight to “Fried Fridays” at your sorority house and make a “salad” topped with fried chicken fingers and add a side of curly fries. You skip dinner (yikes) to get to happy hour early before the crowds.

2 tall boys or split a pitcher of a mixed drink with you and your friends. A shot of tequila for your other friend’s 21st (someone is always turning 21 in college, aren’t they?!). Free hotdog from the church on your way home. Delivery from Jimmy John’s because now you’re starving.

Let’s be real. You might even head out to another bar for more drinks if your roommate is up for it.

And it’s only…Saturday?

If it’s football season. You know this means tailgating.

A mimosa while you get ready, 3 beers at the tailgate, another grilled hotdog because it’s free, maybe a few shots if you’re feeling frisky.

After the game you’re feeling a bit drained from the last 2 nights but you push on because #yolo. 3 vodka waters, 2 tequila shots, and throw in a slice of pizza on your way home too.

Sunday:

You wake up at noon, miss breakfast, and are super dehydrated from the night before. You go for a big greasy brunch full of eggs, bacon, maybe pancakes, and add a mimosa. There’s no chance you’re hitting the gym today, so better to start planning to hit the gym tomorrow. 

So why does all that matter? 

Here’s the thing: college is supposed to be a time for fun, but it’s also learning about responsibility and self control.

Drinking not only adds calories, but also dehydrates you, causes any number of hangover symptoms, and crushes any hope of hitting the gym (or class!) the next day.

I was waking up with not only the migraines that come with a hangover, but also with a horrible sour stomach. Sometimes it would even lead to nausea and dry heaving. I would be taken out completely the next day, and sometimes couldn’t even hold water down to re-hydrate. Every time was the same “Why did I drink so much?” speech to myself. But it was the only social life that I knew how to live among my college friends.

I was losing motivation to be in the gym and felt myself resigned to going through the motions instead of enjoying my workouts— something I thought I truly loved.

But once I started to get serious in my school and work schedule, I knew I simply didn’t have the time to waste being hungover. Getting to bed at a decent hour, avoiding late night snacking, and waking up early to seize the day were leading to higher energy levels and an increase in my productivity. I had more energy to go all day in school, and waking up early (even on the weekends!) allowed me to have more time to dedicate to the gym.

Overall, I have felt so much happier, healthier, and fit because of it. 

If you’re trying to balance your social life with your fitness goals, know that it is going to be a challenge. But that’s the key: balance. I was letting alcohol and drinking completely overshadow my health.

How can you work towards changing your habits? 

That doesn’t mean you have to let your health overshadow going out with friends. Just be mindful. How can you do that? Simple; it’s not all or nothing.

  • If you are going to drink, make sure to eat a full and balanced meal beforehand.
  • Pick clear spirits mixed with soda water and lime over sugary mixed drinks.
  • Hydrate with glasses of water between drinks.
  • Avoid late night snacking!

But if you really want to reach your goals, know that skipping the drinks every once in awhile and volunteering to be the DD for the night, could finally help you get there. 

Check out these articles too:

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.

Check out these articles too:

Fitness, College, And Finding My Inner Self

Healthy Habits that are Never too Late to Start

From high school athlete, to collegiate fitness extraordinaire…

Being 6’0” in middle school was an interesting experience. My days consisted of dodging questions from strangers inquiring about whether I played basketball, attempting to squeeze into the tiny school bus seats, and trying not to hit my head as I dismounted the bus.

Inevitably, I played a variety of sports, and due to my height and my “athletic” look, I was always expected to be the best on the team.  This was entirely bittersweet.

At times, the pressure to be good at a sport and not let my teammates down overwhelmed my ability to actually enjoy my time on the field or court and find my niche. Because of this, I decided not to be a collegiate athlete when the time came. I enjoyed every aspect of being part of a team; however, I wanted to take advantage of the new space to learn more about myself and what I enjoyed. I wanted to identify myself beyond the court.

My definition of “fitness” during my first year of college was extremely narrow. In my mind, being fit meant that I had to go to the gym everyday. It meant that my workouts had to include 30 minutes of cardio. And, it meant that if I did not leave the gym sweating, then my workout was not “intense” enough.

Fitness, or my health for that matter, was just another thing on the laundry list of tasks that I had to complete. Exercising had transitioned from something I loved to something tedious. Fitness was no longer fun, and trying to find the motivation to get active became increasingly difficult.

At this point, I knew I needed to reassess my lifestyle.

FitnessCollegeandFindingMyInnerSelf

Like any other college freshman, I underestimated the difficulty of university life and being away from home. At times, I was too preoccupied with work that I often skipped dinner and instead would spend nights in my room eating copious amounts of snacks. Balance became difficult, and I was merely eating foods for caloric value without paying attention to which foods made me feel energetic and which foods made me feel sluggish.

I ignored the bloating and discomfort that I experienced when I ate certain foods and assumed everyone else experienced similar symptoms. I thought that it was “normal” to feel this way.

Eliminating the foods that made me feel this way, I decided to adopt a predominantly plant-based/vegetarian diet, which was beneficial to my physical well-being, and my physical appearance. The sleepless nights became fewer and I felt much stronger.

During this transition phase in my life, YouTube became my best friend. I was curious about other vegetarian/vegan college students living in dorms and how they managed to navigate school and their health. Instead of merely eating foods to ensure I consumed adequate calories, I paid more attention to eating foods that made me feel energized, and not ill.

Living in a dorm room didn’t have to restrict what I could and could not eat. Realizing that I could still enjoy wholesome meals — rather than living off snacks — even though I was away from home, was extremely liberating. Overnight oats, smoothie bowls, and loaded/stuffed sweet potatoes were just a select few of the gourmet meals I enjoyed.  

In addition to altering my nutrition, I knew I needed a boost in my workout routine if I wanted to remain active. I slowly transitioned away from the cardio machines, away from the monotonous routine I had gotten used to, and starting incorporating weights, and speed and agility workouts that I learned when I was on the track team in high school. At the beginning of every week, I included a daily fitness plan in my journal, but made sure that my plan did not solely include a workout schedule. I wanted to break out and try new things, while also learning to listen to my body and take rest days when I needed them.

My college experience plays a significant role in my fitness journey. Stepping away from team sports was bittersweet. However, it was an important decision that I made to help me find my niche in the world. Fitness transitioned from something taxing and stressful, to something that I thoroughly enjoyed. It became a way for me to meet new people, while also learning about myself.

I also discovered my passion for nutrition. By playing around with foods that made my own body feel good, I declared a nutrition major after my freshman year so I could help others do the same.

Nothing excites me more than discussing health tips with my friends, convincing my friends to try new workouts with me at the gym, or surfing social media in search of new recipes. I am excited by where I am in my fitness journey: I am happy, having fun, and I am doing what I love. What more can I ask for?  

Fitness Journey

Check out these articles too: 

4 Ways to Keep Your Senioritis In Check

Post-spring break is usually the time when our gym routines start to tapper off, the weather starts to tempt us into laying by the pool instead of going to class, and that little taste of summer vacay has us thinking about anything BUT school or getting back into a routine.

For some of us this probably started way before spring break, but either way we can’t just throw all that hard work out the window!

As a 5th year (because of my double major) and all of my applications turned in for grad school, I was struggling hard to stay on track even before spring break. I injured my lower back and had zero exams until after spring break. I started to really lack motivation to do anything but to binge watch 4 seasons of Vanderpump Rules.

                        

But, I know this cycle can’t last forever. The more I slacked off, the worse I actually started to feel. So I started to wake up early, stretch and ice my back, make lots of coffee, and get back to work. Here’s some inspiration to make that final push through the rest of the semester:

1. Don’t skip your workouts

Remember those goals you made at the beginning of January? Yes, I like to keep bringing them up because I, too, fall off the wagon.

Ace Fitness explains getting your sweat on early in the morning is shown to help you burn more calories throughout the day through the EPOC effect, and improve your mood and concentration for the rest of your day (you can read more about that via the American Psychological Association here). Even if you’re injured! (Or out of shape from slacking.) Set aside 20 minutes in the morning to get moving. Your mind and body will thank you.

                           

2. Actually use your planner.

Or calendar. Or old school sticky notes. Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s working.

Make a list in the morning of all of the things you want to accomplish in the day. Be proud if you only get half of them done. Half is better than none!

                              

3. Be a Weekend Warrior.

Don’t let yourself slack off during the week! Get all your work done, get enough sleep, and stay on track as best you can before your weekend starts. By getting work done for the next week early (write those Sunday night blog posts, prep for a Tuesday exam), you can fully enjoy the weekend.

Then cut loose: let yourself enjoy and soak up these last few weekends of college. You deserve it! It’s all about balance baby.

                             

4. Remember why you started.

These last four (or five) years have been some of the best of your life. But you’ve also spent countless hours studying, cramming, and in the library for a reason– to get that degree! Jot down all of the goals you have for after graduation and reflect back on how far you’ve come. Don’t bomb your last finals just because you can. Finish strong and be proud of this huge accomplishment.

                                     

Check out these articles too:

Five-Time Marathoner Jonathan Levitt Runs on Tacos

jonathan levitt

T-4 days until the Boston Marathon.

This month is all about the Boston Marathon for us here at Fit University. This week, being the final week before the big day, we’ve been featuring 13 students running the Boston Marathon, including the toughest parts about training and their go-to breakfasts. But today, we’re taking a break from the students and featuring someone with a bit more experience. We invited Jonathan Levitt, Boston Marathon alum, taco aficionado, and human behind @restydaybrags, to share his experience training, eating, and living the marathoner lifestyle.

jonathan levitt

Before we jump in, a quick note from the interviewer, me! I’m Emily Marr and I’m a Fit University® ambassador from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I’ll be working with the team at Fit U HQ to share inspiring, insightful, and all-around enjoyable stories from people in the fitness and health industry. This is my first, I hope you enjoy it!

Ok, let’s get to it.

Emily Marr: Why and when did you decide to start running?

Jonathan Levitt: I started seriously running shortly after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. After watching all these people of different shapes and sizes running this crazy distance, I thought, well, if they can do it, then I can too. So, I decided to train for a marathon with the thought of, I’ll do one and be done…. well, I’m a few days out from my fifth! There is this atmosphere around the Boston Marathon, which even increased after the bombing with people rallying around running and being in Boston; it is just so motivating.

Before this realization, I was only running about once per week. Around the same time of the Boston Marathon bombing, I also started reading a book called “Born to Run” (by Christopher McDougall), which says that humans are meant to run and to run long distances. So I started and fell into the running community through groups in Boston and have grown more serious about it ever since.

EM: Were you into fitness and health while in college? What did your lifestyle look like then compared to now?

JL: Not exactly, I had the typical state school experience; work hard play harder. I went to the gym three to four times per week just for fitness reasons and played intramural hockey and baseball, but had no real fitness focus. Then, one of my friends junior year got into the Paleo diet, and I decided to as well. I realized that I started feeling better and continued eating this way for about a year (while also drinking tons of beer…balance I guess 😉). This caused me to start being more mindful on how I was eating, and what made me truly feel better. I did have a pretty bad dairy intolerance, so that was a necessary cut for sure. I’m now really mindful of what I am eating and why as a result of that restriction. I no longer eat Paleo, I just eat mindfully!

I’m also big supporter of personalizing nutrition and fitness, as seen by my job at InsideTracker.

Fit U note: Want to see just how cool InsideTracker is? Check out the vegan experiment…that time Sarah, the founder of Fit U, went vegan for 2 months.

EM: What are some tips you have for people who want to start running? If they are new to exercise in general or just want to incorporate more running.

JL: Pick a tangible goal and put it on your calendar! Something like signing up for a race. It’s the consistency and goal orientation that gets people out of bed in the morning.

I’m also a part of and recommend joining The November Project. It’s a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston and now in multiple cities around the world, which is a super cool way to hold yourself accountable, like the buddy system. They call it a “Verbal,” and if you Verbal you better show up. It helps people avoid the snooze button and get their exercise in. The community atmosphere is great because there’s always someone training for something, so it can be aspirational, but there is also always someone your speed. So whether it be through The November Project or something else the community aspect is huge for beginners and those continuing to advance.

jonathan levitt

Fun fact: the founders of November Project went to Northeastern…where Fit U was founded!

EM: I heard you love tacos… Build your perfect taco for me and tell me what your favorite taco place is?

JL: Hummm, my favorite taco would probably start with a soft corn tortilla, then add in some pulled pork and grilled pineapple; or any fish with salsa, and always add a generous serving of guacamole!

My favorite taco place would have to be Dorado. It’s a quarter mile from where I live, which makes it a danger to me. I also like this place called Felipe’s, they have a roof deck too! And of course, I am a big fan of Chipotle but who isn’t? 

Fit U note: Check out these healthy Chipotle hacks for fit, broke college students (aka you). 

EM: What is your go-to pre- and post-run fuel?

JL: The night before I usually have some type of fish, my favorite is salmon, with sweet potato, and a veggie. I skip the veggie on nights before a big run like a marathon. A few hours before a run I usually have oatmeal with peanut or almond butter, and then will have a GU Energy chocolate waffle right before I go out. After a run, if I go home and cook, I’ll make myself a breakfast sandwich with eggs, or I’ll head over to Chipotle. (I’m sensing a trend here!)

EM: How do you feel about rest days? How often do you take them and what do you do?

JL: People don’t rest enough. They think that by training harder and more they’ll get better results but that can cause injuries by not allowing the muscles and body to recover enough. My buddies would give me slack for this, but I only rest one full day every other week. I run 5 or 6 days a week with 1-2 days of easy recovery swims built in around the harder run days, which have replaced an extra run or two that I was doing previously. On those rest days though I literally do nothing, it’s like a competition on how few steps I can take; I also won’t let myself bike or run to work on rest days like I usually would.

Fun fact: Jonathan is one of the faces behind @restdaybrags on Twitter and Instagram, which he started with an Olympian and a pro runner to “de-stigmatize the rest part of training”. All three of them have endured major injuries from not resting so they decided to start this account together.

EM: What about stretching? What’s your regimen?

JL: I never stretch before a workout, I do more of a dynamic warm-up. There’s a lot of research on stretching not having a positive impact pre-run, but instead post run; and no I don’t do that enough either.

EM: Outside of running, what are some of your other passions?

JL: Umm.. (he laughs), I do a lot of running. I always struggle with this question. I like spending time with friends and family. Oh and cooking or making food…sometimes. My favorite thing to cook is fish, it’s getting into copper river salmon time! No I don’t go out and fish myself but I’ve got a good relationship with Paul the fish guy, I get the fresh cut.

EM: How and why do you use social media and what is your opinion of it?

JL: I use it all the time, it’s a necessary evil but more good than evil. I work for a company that has grown through influencers, through people saying good things about the company such as bloggers, writers, people who have a lot of followers, and people listen to them because they respect them. I spend a lot of my time talking to these people through social media. I mean people are even meeting their significant others through social media these days. I use it with an aspirational intent. Like, here is what hard work looks like, anything is possible, keep doing your thing, compare yourself to yourself. It’s not “look at me I’m awesome”, its “look at you, you can be awesome too”. It seems to be working!

Fit U Note: We couldn’t agree more! Especially in the fitness world, it’s easy to compare yourself to others on social media. But then you get Fit University ambassadors like Izzy who get real with their fitness journey on Instagram – and that’s pretty damn cool.

EM: You’re getting ready for your 2nd Boston Marathon. What does your training schedule and regimen look like?

JL: Less miles. I’m now in the taper, running 25-50% less in the last 2 weeks. More focus on sleep, getting to bed earlier, sleeping in a little more. Using the time I would have been running an extra 30 minutes, to sleep a bit longer instead. I also don’t eat raw veggies within five days of a marathon. And then obviously, the whole carbo-loading which is fun. Just eating more. But the thing is, you don’t necessarily have to eat more if your training less, but it can’t hurt if you do it right.

EM: Where do you see yourself in the future as it pertains to running and fitness?

JL: I want to run a sub 3 marathon (running a marathon under 3 hours). I want to do that this year. Beyond that, I want to run farther distances and see what I’m capable of. I think beyond the marathon it becomes way more mental than physical, and I kind of want to see where my limit it and then push it. It just fascinates me what the human body is capable of…. Faster and longer!

 

Jumping on into the best week of the year. #Mood

A post shared by Jonathan Levitt (@jwlevitt) on

Click that video ^^^

Best of luck to Jonathan and the rest of the Boston Marathoners! Need a place to cheer them on on Marathon Monday? Join us at the CLIF Cheer Zone at Heartbreak Hill! And don’t forget to come pre-game with us too! We’ll be at the new Reebok Boston Showroom on Saturday for the Marathon Monday Pre-Game

Check out these articles too:

This is where you should be spending Marathon Monday
What does a marathoner eat for breakfast?
What do knitting patterns and marathon training have in common?
What nobody tells you about training for a marathon

Interview with Jonathan Levitt, Marathoner

jonathan levitt

This month is all about the Boston Marathon for all of us at Fit University HQ and beyond! In honor of the incredible people making the trip to run all 26.2 miles, we invited Jonathan Levitt, Boston Marathon alum, taco aficionado, and human behind @restydaybrags, to share his experience training, eating, and living the marathoner lifestyle.

Before we jump in, a quick note from the interviewer, me! I’m Emily Marr and I’m a Fit University® ambassador from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I’ll be working with the team at Fit Universty® HQ to share inspiring, insightful, and all-around enjoyable stories from people in the fitness and health industry. This is my first, I hope you enjoy it!

Ok, let’s get to it.

Emily Marr: Why and when did you decide to start running?

Jonathan Levitt: I started seriously running shortly after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. After watching all these people of different shapes and sizes running this crazy distance, I thought, well, if they can do it, then I can too. So, I decided to train for a marathon with the thought of, I’ll do one and be done…. well, I’m a few days out from my fifth! There is this atmosphere around the Boston Marathon, which even increased after the bombing with people rallying around running and being in Boston; it is just so motivating.

Before this realization, I was only running about once per week. Around the same time of the Boston Marathon bombing, I also started reading a book called “Born to Run” (by Christopher McDougall), which says that humans are meant to run and to run long distances. So I started and fell into the running community through groups in Boston and have grown more serious about it ever since.

EM: Were you into fitness and health while in college? What did your lifestyle look like then compared to now?

JL: Not exactly, I had the typical state school experience; work hard play harder. I went to the gym three to four times per week just for fitness reasons and played intramural hockey and baseball, but had no real fitness focus. Then, one of my friends junior year got into the Paleo diet, and I decided to as well. I realized that I started feeling better and continued eating this way for about a year (while also drinking tons of beer…balance I guess 😉). This caused me to start being more mindful on how I was eating, and what made me truly feel better. I did have a pretty bad dairy intolerance, so that was a necessary cut for sure. I’m now really mindful of what I am eating and why as a result of that restriction. I no longer eat Paleo, I just eat mindfully!

I’m also big supporter of personalizing nutrition and fitness, as seen by my job at InsideTracker.

EM: What are some tips you have for people who want to start running? If they are new to exercise in general or just want to incorporate more running.

JM: Pick a tangible goal and put it on your calendar! Something like signing up for a race. It’s the consistency and goal orientation that gets people out of bed in the morning.

I’m also a part of and recommend joining The November Project. It’s a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston and now in multiple cities around the world, which is a super cool way to hold yourself accountable, like the buddy system. They call it a “Verbal,” and if you Verbal you better show up. It helps people avoid the snooze button and get their exercise in. The community atmosphere is great because there’s always someone training for something, so it can be aspirational, but there is also always someone your speed. So whether it be through The November Project or something else the community aspect is huge for beginners and those continuing to advance.

EM: I heard you love tacos… Build your perfect taco for me and tell me what your favorite taco place is?

JM: Hummm, my favorite taco would probably start with a soft corn tortilla, then add in some pulled pork and grilled pineapple; or any fish with salsa, and always add a generous serving of guacamole!

My favorite taco place would have to be Dorado. It’s a quarter mile from where I live, which makes it a danger to me. I also like this place called Felipe’s, they have a roof deck too! And of course, I am a big fan of chipotle but who isn’t?

EM: What is your go-to pre- and post-run fuel?

JL: The night before I usually have some type of fish, my favorite is salmon, with sweet potato, and a veggie. I skip the veggie on nights before a big run like a marathon. A few hours before a run I usually have oatmeal with peanut or almond butter, and then will have a GU Energy  chocolate waffle right before I go out. After a run, if I go home and cook, I’ll make myself a breakfast sandwich with eggs, or I’ll head over to Chipotle. (I’m sensing a trend here!)

EM: How do you feel about rest days? How often do you take them and what do you do?

JL: People don’t rest enough. They think that by training harder and more they’ll get better results but that can cause injuries by not allowing the muscles and body to recover enough. My buddies would give me slack for this, but I only rests one full day every other week. I run 5 or 6 days a week with 1-2 days of easy recovery swims built in around the harder run days, which have replaced an extra run or two that I was doing previously. On those rest days though I literally do nothing, it’s like a competition on how few steps I can take; I also won’t let myself bike or run to work on rest days like I usually would.

Fun fact: Jonathan is one of the faces behind @restdaybrags on Twitter, which he started with an Olympian and a pro runner to “de-stigmatize the rest part of training”. All three of them have endured major injuries from not resting so they decided to start this account together.

EM: What about stretching? What’s your regimen?

JL: I never stretch before a workout, I do more of a dynamic warm-up. There’s a lot of research on stretching not having a positive impact pre-run, but instead post run; and no I don’t do that enough either.

EM: Outside of running, what are some of your other passions?

JL: Umm.. (he laughs), I do a lot of running. I always struggle with this question. I like spending time with friends and family. Oh and cooking or making food…sometimes. My favorite thing to cook is fish, it’s getting into copper river salmon time! No I don’t go out and fish myself but I’ve got a good relationship with Paul the fish guy, I get the fresh cut.

EM: How and why do you use social media and what is your opinion of it?

JL: I use it all the time, it’s a necessary evil but more good than evil. I work for a company that has grown through influencers, through people saying good things about the company such as bloggers, writers, people who have a lot of followers, and people listen to them because they respect them. I spend a lot of my time talking to these people through social media. I mean people are even meeting their significant others through social media these days. I use it with an aspirational intent. Like, here is what hard work looks like, anything is possible, keep doing your thing, compare yourself to yourself. It’s not “look at me I’m awesome”, its “look at you, you can be awesome too”. It seems to be working!

EM: You’re getting ready for your 2nd Boston Marathon. What does your training schedule and regimen look like?

JL: Less miles. I’m now in the taper, running 25-50% less in the last 2 weeks. More focus on sleep, getting to bed earlier, sleeping in a little more. Using the time I would have been running an extra 30 minutes, to sleep a bit longer instead. I also don’t eat raw veggies within five days of a marathon. And then obviously, the whole carbo-loading which is fun. Just eating more. But the thing is, you don’t necessarily have to eat more if your training less, but it can’t hurt if you do it right.

EM: Where do you see yourself in the future as it pertains to running and fitness?

JM: I what to run a sub 3 marathon (running a marathon under 3 hours). I want to do that this year. Beyond that, I want to run farther distances and see what I’m capable of. I think beyond the marathon it becomes way more mental than physical, and I kind of want to see where my limit it and then push it. It just fascinates me what the human body is capable of…. Faster and longer!

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.

Check out these articles too:

How to Incorporate Movement into Your Work (or School) Day

Time to break that Netflix binge, get up, and move!

While I’m a college student, I currently work a full-time job through my school’s experiential education program. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, in part because it’s led me to realize how passionate I am about workplace wellness. 

My work in the marketing department involves a lot of screen-time, where I sit. On my butt. At my desk. For 8 hours. I take lunch breaks, where I also sit. On my behind. In the cafe. Finally, I am cooped up in traffic for two hours each day (hello, California freeways!!). Does this sound similar to something you experience, too? 

It can be so easy to get in the cycle of: wake up, walk to class, sit in classes, walk to the library, sit in the library, walk to the gym, workout, go home, sit at the table for dinner, sit in bed and watch Netflix, go to sleep, repeat. I totally get it. I’ve been there. 

Even if we do workout for an hour each day, a key component to staying healthy and energized is to move as much as possible throughout the day. The New York Times reported a study which found that taking frequent, brief walking breaks throughout the day are “more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work”. 

In addition, people “who sit for more than eight or nine hours daily, which for many of us describes a typical workday, also are at heightened risk for diabetes, depression and obesity compared with people who move more often”. 

Photo via Visualhunt.com

Recently, there was one week where I got so fed up with all of this sitting I was doing that I started incorporating more walking, moving, and shaking into my week days.

I’ll be honest here — that week has completely transformed my entire workplace experience. It was this week that I began to feel tremendously more productive creative, rejuvenated, and happier at work. My efficiency increased, I began to think of more creative ideas within the projects I was working on, and my general contentment while at the office (speaking with colleagues, in meetings, handling fire-drills) skyrocketed. I even have started to trade my old snack-mindlessly-on-dried-apricots-even-though-not-hungry habit into a let’s-go-on-a-short-walk habit. This has been a win-win situation all around for me, and I know it will be for you, too. 

Because of this, I’ve become all-too passionate about integrating a bit of movement each day while at work, and I’m pumped to share what I have learned with you.** Let’s get MOVING, friend!! It’s so worth it. 

1.) Take a drink of water every 10-15 minutes.

Not only will you stay hydrated and maintain energy, but you’ll have to use the restroom more. This is one of the easiest ways to integrate more movement into your workday because, I mean, when you’ve gotta go, there’s no holding it for too long. 

2.) On that note, use a restroom that is far(ish) away from you.

For example, I work on third floor of a pretty large building, and I always opt for the bathroom that’s on the first floor. This enables me to get some stair-climbing in every hour or so. 

3.) Take walking meetings. 

If you can have a meeting with your team while getting some steps and fresh air, you’re set. Walking meetings and breaks enable you to stretch, get you to not look at a computer screen for a little while, and they are intellectually stimulating.

Side note: I know that some people like to take notes during meetings, which is why it’s helpful to be sitting at a desk for them. If you are open to a new format of note-taking, and really do want to have the meeting outside as opposed to in a boardroom, try audio recording the conversation, or writing notes on your phone. 

Photo via Visualhunt.com

4.) Walk somewhere for lunch as opposed to just eating at your desk.

If you don’t buy lunch at work, you can always walk with a colleague to an outdoor area or lunch space and eat there. If you can take an hour for lunch, I recommend eating for 30 minutes, and then going for a 30 minute walk! 

5.) Schedule walking breaks into your calendar. 

Every day at 2:30PM, a calendar notification goes off from my work email, reminding me to go for a 15-20 minute walking break. I look forward to this break so much — it’s short enough that I can still complete all my work in the afternoon, but it’s long enough that, when I arrive back at my desk, I feel refreshed, happy AF, and ready to tackle projects. 

**And no, I’m not talking about “movement” here as in ultra high-intensity strength training workouts…where you and I will sweat our literal faces off and need to take a shower. I’m all about HIIT, but I’m equally as adamant about not working out with makeup on. Eww. Save that for after work/school. Simply get up and get the blood flowing. It makes all the difference.

Check out these articles, too: 

 

Students Share The Toughest Part About Training for The Boston Marathon

hardest part about training for boston marathon

The Boston Marathon is six days away.

And everyday this week we’re getting to know 13 students who are running on Marathon Monday.

If you follow anyone who’s been training on Instagram, you’ll likely see their post-run meals, maybe a sappy post or two about pushing through a challenging run, and of course, the infamous snapshot of a watch with distance and timing displays.

But what people aren’t (often) talking about on social media are the tough days and the hardest part about training. Let’s talk about it! We asked, “what is the hardest part about training while in school?”

Balancing schoolwork + training 

You barely have time for all your schoolwork plus time for yourself  already. Now try add hours of training on top of that. “The hardest part was making time for training.

“Not only did I have to fit in my miles, but I added in lifting, cross training, and stretching and recovery sessions. I learned that getting up and getting my run in in the morning was the best way to fit in my miles without impacting school, work, volunteering and studying. That is until my long runs started getting longer. Not only did these take up time from homework, but I had to be better about balancing running and spending time with friends and other commitments. After throwing my training schedule off on a few occasions, I made a point to not stay out too late before a long run, or not go out at all. But I felt like I was missing out on some of stuff that I had looked forward to about senior year.” – Meghan Jastrzembski (Northeastern ’17)

Join us at the Marathon Monday Pre-Game!

Marathon Monday Header

Keeping disciplined

With different events and activities going on literally every single day, it’s easy to let training fall by the wayside, but those 26.2 miles aren’t going to run themselves.

“Especially as a senior, it’s tempting to write off marathon preparations to go out with friends instead. Marathon training requires both physical and mental dedication. You have to make time to put in the miles, to recover properly and to nourish your body. Training has truly required a lifestyle change for me and staying dedicated to that has been the most difficult.” – Madeline Perlewitz (Boston College ’17)

Staying home on Friday nights

Of the thirteen students we talked to, over half mentioned having to compromise their social lives in some way…particularly, having to go to bed early on Friday to wake up for early Saturday runs.

“The hardest part for me are the sacrifices that need to be made in other areas of my life in order to make the training runs successful. Luckily I have awesome friends that still love me even if I go to bed at 8pm on Friday nights and leave events early.” – Bailey Fritzinger (Northeastern ’18)

Raising money

Twelve out of the thirteen students we spoke to are raising money for a charity (no biggie that Erin Techinor from BU qualified to run). And while it’s amazing that all of these students are running for incredible causes, it is a lot of pressure to raise A LOT of money.

“The most daunting and difficult part of this training has actually been fundraising for my charity. It’s an added component that a lot of people face when running the Boston Marathon. The theme of this semester: forgot the research papers and philosophy reading, I have $5000 to raise by April 17th! #priorities” – Sarah Woods (Boston College ’17)

Want to cheer these students on on Marathon Monday? Join us at the CLIF Cheer Zone at Heartbreak Hill! And don’t forget to come pre-game with us too! We’ll be at the new Reebok Boston Showroom on Saturday for the Marathon Monday Pre-Game. Expect bagels, coffee, foam rollers, poster board making stations, and more.

CLIF Cheer Zone hosted by Fit University Eventbrite Header

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!

Check out these articles too:

10 Yoga Poses Every Runner Should Try

yoga for runners

When runner meets yogi.

I’ve often heard that yoga is great for runners, and that running is terrible for yogis. Sure, that’s an exaggeration, but I think most of us can agree that running isn’t ideal for your flexibility. Yoga is a GREAT counter activity for running, getting to stretch out sore muscles AND build strength.

You can usually feel where you need a good stretch, it’s typically a given. As a runner, you’ve likely experienced difficulty walking – like muscles are so sore it’s hard to walk to the fridge – ? it’s those muscles: quads, hips, and glutes that usually need the most love.

Here are my favorite ways to stretch it out. Make sure you hit both sides!

Lizard

Step your left foot forward on the outside of your left hand. Drop your right knee down (if your knees are sensitive, double your mat up under your knee). Reach your heart forward to lengthen your spine (try not to round down), and melt down into your hips. Maybe your elbows will reach to a block or the mat. Keep your left knee and left toes pointing in the same direction; if your knee splays out, turn your toes out too.

yoga for runners1

IT band variation: Turn your left toes out at 45 degrees. Bring your left hand to your left thigh and firmly nudge. The arch of the foot will lift.

yoga for runners2

Quad stretch: Bend your back knee and reach for your right foot with your left hand.

yoga for runners 3

Pigeon

From downward facing dog, bring your left shin forward to the front of the mat, your left knee to your left wrist and your left foot to your right wrist. Make sure you open from your hip, not the knee. The more open your hips, the closer to parallel to the front of the mat your left shin will be. If you feel anything in your knee, back off immediately. Start upright, feeling an opening in the front of your right hip. Make sure weight is evenly distributed between your hips. To fold over your left shin, keep all the length in the spine and even hips as you reach your heart in front of your shin. If your left hip is raised, you can always put a block under your left glute.

Figure four variation: Plant your right foot on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right knee. Hug your left shin in towards your chest, keeping the knee in line with your ankle. You can always take this figure four on your back.

yoga for runners 4

Double pigeon variation: From seated, bring your right shin forward and plant it parallel to the front of the mat. Place your left shin on top of your right, stacking knees and ankles. Keep the feet flexed. To enhance sensation, lean forward over your shins.  

yoga for runners 5

Crescent lunge

From downward facing dog, step your left foot forward between your hands. Lift your torso up over your hips with your arms extended up overhead. Keep the right knee lifted for some more active variations:

Psoas stretch: Grab your right wrist with your left hand and reach your torso over to the left, stretching your right side body, right hip flexor, and psoas. Feel free to bend into the right knee a little (or a lot) or bring it to the mat and tuck the tailbone.

yoga for runners 6

Cactus arms: Similar to above, but potentially with different sensation. From crescent lunge, bend your elbows at 90 degrees out to the sides and extend your heart to the sky in a backbend. Bend your right knee a little or a lot towards the mat. Reach your tailbone towards the mat and your heart towards the sky, finding a lot of space in the spine to arch evenly into your backbend. Really hug the shoulder blades together to open the heart.

Drop back knee into King Arthur: After stepping your left foot forward, drop your right knee to the mat (if you have sensitive knees, double your mat up under your knee). Option to keep the hands under your shoulders and dip into the hips. Option to bring both hands to the front knee or overhead. Option to bend your right knee and reach back for your right foot with one or both hands.

yoga for runners 7

As you make your way through these stretches and postures, make sure you toe the line of your edge. Meaning, you should definitely feel quite a bit of sensation while holding each of the postures, but you should never tip over into pain.

We all love to run, but a lot of us forget to stretch afterwards, myself included. The more we recover after exertion, the quicker and more successfully we can get back to doing the things we love most.

Are you a runner or a yogi interested interested in putting these tips to the test? We’re teaming up with Titanium Racing to host the EMPOWER Race Series, a run, yoga, and festival experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. Join us August 5-6 to sweat, stretch, fly, and push our limits as part of the first-ever women’s racing and yoga festival.

Here’s to fun, and happy stretching!

This article was 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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10 ways yoga has improved my life
An easy way to add acro yoga into your life
Why yoga is great for a healthy mind
I used to run a 13 minute mile

I Broke My Gym Routine and It Was Fine

If you know me, you know I like routine. I like having a plan. I love making schedules. I thrive off consistency. 

And if you also know me, you know I love to move my body. Whether that’s lifting weights, doing cardio, doing yoga, going for a walk or hike; I value movement of the body and appreciate it so much. Working out is like therapy to me. It’s fun. There really is nothing like a good sweat to make you feel on top of the world. 

But the thing is, life happens. Our plans don’t always come to fruition. Sometimes, sh*t really does happen. Whether that means tons of exams, sickness, or a lack of sleep, plans get broken. And so do our routines. But the thing is, that is okay! Life is full of twists and turns. There is a beauty in going with the flow and being spontaneous. In those moments we learn so much about ourselves. 

5mMjy

I broke my gym routine. A few years ago, that sentence would have left me in tears. I haven’t had a normal gym schedule in three weeks. Exams left me with zero time, then I got a horrible cold, and then I went on a service trip. All of that put the gym at the bottom of my priority list. 

I’ve learned that the gym will always be there. Some amazing opportunities that may require you to take some time from working out won’t. What if you said no to going on a vacation with your friends because you didn’t want to lose your precious workout time? What if you said no to an amazing internship or job because it cut into your gym schedule?

Life is about so much more than working out. The gym shouldn’t be your top priority. Sure, it’s important to stay healthy, but that means you need to stay mentally healthy, too. Vacation is a mental break. A new job is an excellent mental challenge. You won’t lose your fitness in a few weeks, your body needs a break, and the gym will be there waiting when you’re ready to come back.

Don’t be afraid to take some time off your routine. Our bodies really need it sometimes. Go out and adventure. Don’t say no to opportunities or fun plans because you are afraid of missing a workout. Life doesn’t revolve around the gym. It isn’t the center of everything, it is not the end-all be all. 

Don’t forget to check out these articles too: 

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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Get Outside with This Spring Bench Workout

Get out of the gym, and get moving outside with this killer bench workout. 

I’ll be the first to admit: I am a gym rat. I eat, sleep, and dream in my university’s gym.  While there’s nothing wrong with being gym obsessed, taking your workout outside can be a wonderful change of pace.

During the springtime, the weather is pure perfection!  Choose to take your workout outside, absorb some vitamin D, and enjoy the fresh air.  

This bench workout makes you look like such a boss to all the park-goers around you, too.  So, grab a friend and try it together!  All you need is your favorite outdoor location and a bench. Since this is a dumbbell-free workout, too, you can do it virtually anywhere — a park, bridge, or your college campus.

So, let’s get grinding!

To warm-up, run a distance you are comfortable with.  If you’re not a runner (AKA me), try to run as far as you can without stopping.  If you are a runner, try to push yourself to run at a faster pace for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes.

giphy (2)

Start by jogging, then proceed to do side shuffles for 30 second intervals on each side for 5 minutes. 

Now, it’s bench time.

You can do your bench work as intervals during your run or at the end of your run — your choice!

What to Do: Perform each exercise for 15 reps or until failure, 4 times.  The harder you push yourself, the more you’ll get out of this sweat sesh.

  • Single Leg Bench Squat
    • While balancing on one leg, lower your bottom down to touch the bench (Beginner: sit down fully, Advanced: lightly tap the bench with your bottom). On that same leg, stand back up to complete one rep. 
  • Air squats to failure
  • Bulgarian split squats
    • Place one leg behind you on the bench. On your standing leg, squat to a 90 degree angle. Be sure that your knee is in line with your foot at all times to avoid injury. Think of this as an elevated lunge.
  • Jump squats to failure
  • Tricep dips
    • Sit on the ground with your back to the bench.  With your hands gripping the edge of the bench, starting in a 90 degree angle, straighten your elbows to push yourself upward, and come back down to a 90 degree angle to complete one rep.
  • Push-ups on bench 
    • These can be done with either your palms on the bench (beginner), or your toes on the bench (advanced).
  • Plank on bench
    • This can be done with either your palms on the bench (beginner), entirely on the ground (intermediate), or your toes on the bench (advanced).

Finish off with a light jog or walk to cool down.

As the birds begin to sing and the cool spring air makes it hard to resist spending time outside, soak up the sun and switch up your workout.  You are now officially equipped with a high-intensity workout that makes Springtime that much more enjoyable!

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One College Student Gets Real About Her Fitness Journey

one college student gets real about her fitness journey

A fitness journey you might relate to.

Meet Izzy Shishko. She’s a Junior at Clark University in Worcester, MA and a Leadership Ambassador at our Fit University chapter there.

Last week in a 3-part series, Izzy shared one photo on her Instagram per day, opening up about a different part of her fitness journey in each of the posts. Izzy’s goal behind the posts? To share her story in an effort to help others that may have gone through (or are currently going through) a similar situation. 

Day 1: Childhood

Izzy gets real about the comparison game she played with other girls in elementary school. Anybody else relate? *Raises hand*

She talks about how even though she was an athlete and good at sports, she “still felt odd being a heavy girl good at something athletic.” Then, at 9 years old, the combination of her parents divorce and a diagnosis of hypothyroidism hit her hard, causing a weight gain of 20 pounds.

 

For the next three days, I’m going to post my story. This is kind of a personal post but I feel like it’s important to share who I am and why I have this Instagram to share my journey, so maybe more people can relate or understand what this lifestyle is about. It’s more about the physical side of who I am rather than my eating habits/lifestyle like usual. So stick around to read it and hopefully it will have a positive effect on at least one person 😊 🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹 Part 1: I have always been a little heavier since I could remember, probably a lot having to do with genetics, my family is not stick thin. But I remember in about 4th grade, there was a point where I could feel that I was a pariah in terms of looks compared to the other kids. Now I’m all about not comparing myself to other people, but try preaching and instilling that thought process in a 4th grader who just wants to run around and play with the other kids without the risk of being teased (because kids are mean, also note to self: change how kids talk to each other). However, I have always played sports, about every sport you could imagine since like day 1 of my life. And I was good at them too. But I still felt odd being a heavy girl good at something athletic. Then, at the age of 9, my parents got divorced. Being that age, I was just old enough to understand what was happening but not understand why, and I took it incredibly hard. That same year, I got diagnosed with a chronic illness called hypothyroidism. Essentially this means that my thyroid underproduces the hormones that help my body metabolize and grow. This meant I could exercise all I wanted, eat well, but I couldn’t metabolize any of that and it would result in weight gain. So at the age of 9, I gained a little over 20 pounds that year. I tended to use this as an excuse as to why I kept gaining weight, and while some part of it is true, when I got on medication that regulated it, the excuse became invalid and it was just me that was causing my unhappiness… to be continued. P. S. I was around 15 in this photo. #fitbitchwithafitbit

A post shared by Izzy S (@quinoahandleit) on

Day 2: Middle + high school 

Ah the good ol’ days. Remember this time? As Izzy describes it, “the dreaded years that no one is really comfortable in their skin.” She opens up about being teased in middle school.

“People would call me fat, boys would rate me compared to my friends, they’d call me ugly, and one time was even compared to a picture of a pig on someone’s shirt. They said as they pointed to the pig: “Hey look, it’s Izzy!”

She gets real about the effect this had on her and how depression and anxiety entered her life.

 

This is part 2/3 in my insta series about myself/my life. If you want to catch up, go to my profile and check the post before 😊#fitbitchwithafitbit 🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹 Part 2: Then came middle school and high school. The dreaded years that no one is really comfortable in their skin. I don’t really talk about it often but I was teased a lot. People would call me fat, boys would rate me compared to my friends, they’d call me ugly, and one time was even compared to a picture of a pig on someone’s shirt. They said as they pointed to the pig: “hey look, it’s izzy!” I wasn’t even around to hear this, my friends told me later. I don’t care who you are or how thick your skin is, these are not comments that are easy to hear on a regular basis, especially from people you thought were your peers. But the problem was, I let it takeover me. I would eat to excess, eating crap and large amounts of it. The first thing I would do everyday when I got home from school was eat. And then an hour or so later I’d have dinner. And then I’d eat more. I gained easily 60 more pounds throughout those years but my mental health took more of a toll. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand with your physical appearance. The way you feel about yourself determines your mental status. And when you get influence from outsiders, it’s even harder to believe in yourself… To Be Continued. P. S. This picture was taken within the last month or so and is pretty accurate as to how I look untouched/unfiltered/makeupless/not flexed

A post shared by Izzy S (@quinoahandleit) on

Day 3: College (AKA, now)

Izzy went to college, and dropped out after a week. But when she did, she started taking her physical and mental health seriously, going to a therapist (yes, a therapist!) and exercising regularly. And then, she drops this truth bomb.

“When I found my love for fitness, it changed my life. I found a way to exert my anxiety through something other than panic attacks, and I found a way to feel good about myself other than “being skinny”. All I’ve wanted in life is to be thin and then all my problems will go away. False. I will NEVER be “thin”. It’s not my body type. Physical appearance does not determine your worth and fix your problems. What I actually am? Strong. Sexy. Fit as fuck. Comfortable in my own skin. Has cellulite. Has stretch marks. Has a big butt, big hips and a thick build. But I can proudly say I’m in the best shape of my life (so far) and don’t need to be a size 2 to do that.”

 

This is the last part in my series about myself. If you enjoyed learnin about me and found it at all useful comment below, I love to hear what you guys have to say! #fitbitchwithafitbit 🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹 Part 3: When college came around, I was not at my best. I started at a school right after high school, and within one week of attending, I had dropped out. I was lost, anxious, depressed. Idk what changed, maybe I was just ready or maybe I saw that time off as an opportunity for me, but I finally started to take myself seriously. I started working out regularly, taking care of myself, eating better, and when I started at a different school that winter, I already felt better about myself. (Please note I also did extensive therapy, and friggin loved it, and recommend always, but I know it’s not for everyone). BUT I didn’t start truly enjoying enjoying working out until I went full ham on it within the last two years. When I found my love for fitness, it changed my life. I found a way to exert my anxiety through something other than panic attacks, and I found a way to feel good about myself other than “being skinny”. All I’ve wanted in life is to be thin and then all my problems will go away. False. I will NEVER be “thin”. It’s not my body type. Physical appearance does not determine your worth and fix your problems. What I actually am? Strong. Sexy. Fit as fuck. Comfortable in my own skin. Has cellulite. Has stretch marks. Has a big butt, big hips and a thick build. But I can proudly say I’m in the best shape of my life (so far) and don’t need to be a size 2 to do that. Do I ever doubt myself and feel bad? Of course!!!!! I’m human. But I don’t let it phase me anymore, because life can’t possibly just be about how we look (shoutout to the media for that one) so I let it happen and then move on with my day and try to tell myself all the positive things I love. So for anyone out there trying to change yourself/your lifestyle, just know how possible it is. U can do anything you set your mind to and put in the hard work for. It will be tough and hella rewarding and people are here for you. I am here if you want to share P. S. Photo was a week ago, peep cellulite😜

A post shared by Izzy S (@quinoahandleit) on

Izzy, from all of us here at Fit University, we want to say thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable, thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for being part of the #fitufam. Stories like these and individuals like you are the reason society is starting to shift its perception of health and fitness. Fitness is not one look or one size, and we’re honored to have you as a Fit University ambassador spreading that message.

Give Izzy a follow at @quinoahandleit!

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I run a health & fitness company, and I’m a fraud
What an honest fitstagram looks like
There was a time when the healthy living community was bad for me
I’m not perfect, and I’m proud of that

 

This Leg Workout Will Leave You Sore For Days

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner3

Being sore is one of those things everyone in the fitness community complains about but secretly loves. Being sore just proves to you that your body is breaking down and rebuilding itself to become even better. While it does suck to be moaning and groaning every time you sit down and stand up, you know you love that feeling. The reason this workout burns so bad is because during some of the exercises you’ll be pausing and holding – which makes your muscles have to work a little extra. So next time you’re craving a workout that will make you have that oddly satisfying sore feeling, give this one a go.

Leg Workout For Extra Sore Legs  

Time: 45 minutes

Type of Workout: Bodybuilding/strength & conditioning 

Sh*t You Need: Dumbbells, 25 lb plate, a gym, a mat (optional)

Intensity: Medium

Body Target: Lower body

The Workout:

Warmup: Stretch & mobility 

Part 1 
3x10 Leg Press (5 wide stance, 5 narrow stance) 
3x25 Leg Extensions (10 normal weight, 5 difficult weight & hold at the top for 5 seconds, 10 easy)
3x25 Hamstring Curls (10 normal weight, 5 difficult weight & hold at the top for 5 seconds, 10 easy)
3x10 glute/ham raise 

Part 2
3x10 walking lunges with dumbbells
3x10 walking lunges without dumbbells 
3x10 goblet squats with dumbbell

Part 3 
3x24 step ups with dumbbells 
3x20 Calf raises with dumbbells

Finish with 10 minutes incline walking on treadmill or Stairmaster (optional)

Now, go crush it.

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Ab Attack Workout

abs

Time: ~25 minutes 
Type of workout: Strength and cardio
Sh*t you need: None (optional: medicine ball or dumbbell, ankle weights)
Intensity: Intermediate
Perks: A super strong core and a quick way to get your heart rate up!
The Workout:

The exercise focuses on lower body and core. Make sure you keep your core engaged. For exercises done on your back, make sure your back is flat on the ground. 

Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises: 
1. 50 Russian Twists (Add a medicine ball or dumbbell for added fire).
2. 1 minute plank
3. 40 mountain climbers (Use those ankle weights )
4. 1 minute plank
5. 30 leg raises (Feel free to lift your hips off the ground for an added lower ab challenge)
6. 1 minute plank
7. 20 side plank hip dips (each side)
8. 1 minute plank
9. 10 burpees (Wanting another challenge? Add a tuck jump in between!)
Rest for 1 minute between rounds

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7 Things You’ll Learn from Your First Half Marathon

I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon last month. I fully intended to chronicle my training here, but only managed one blog post.

Why? Well, the short story is that the nagging hip pain I mentioned in that post was an injury. And then, just as I started feeling confident in my hip recovery, I fractured my ankle. And then, as soon as I recovered from that, I did the not-so-smart thing and ramped up my mileage really quickly so I’d be prepared to run in Florida. As a wellness junkie, I know this wasn’t a good idea (so I certainly wasn’t going to detail how I did it on a fitness site). Still, as a determined 20-year old who paid to run a Disney race, I was not going to miss the race if I could help it. 

Well, I did it. And amidst all the ups and downs, I sure learned a lot.

Some people will think you’re crazy.

Non-runners just don’t get the appeal of getting up on Saturday morning and running, but you know it’s a great way to start the weekend.

You need to eat a lot.

Your body will let you know this. After your runs, you need to refuel. And when you’re resting, you still need to fuel. Running requires a lot of energy, and so does everything else you do.

Time really doesn’t matter.

I went into my training with some time goals. Then, I got injured. When I started to recover, I really just wanted to be able to run the race, whatever my time. As I trained more, I started putting more time pressure on myself. By the end of my training, I was starting to feel the effects of building up my mileage so quickly and once again, just wanted to finish the race. My point? Be grateful for whatever your body can do. You put in some hard work to get to the finish line, no matter how long it takes you to get there. 

You might overtrain.

I didn’t mean to, but I totally did. By the week before I ran the race, I was exhausted, my whole body ached, I was starving all the time, and my sleep quality was terrible. I was overtraining. I rested a lot the week before the race and it turned out okay, but make sure you rest enough throughout your training cycle. 

People will think you’re running a marathon.

They will be impressed. Again, if you don’t run much, a long distance is a long distance. For a while, I would correct people who called it a marathon: “Oh, no. It’s just a half.” Then I decided that 13.1 miles is long enough and stopped saying “just“. A half marathon is great. Also, if you’re worried about your time (even though I told you not to be), most people will think it’s crazy impressive that you ran that far, regardless of the time.

Sometimes you won’t love it.

There will be times when you want to skip your runs or neglect stretching. You might get really tired of refueling and rehydrating properly. Sometimes, you’ll be sore and tired and achy. That might be a sign you need a rest day. That’s okay.

Mostly, you will.

You might run new, beautiful routes. Maybe you’ll run farther or faster than ever before. You will probably share endorphin-fueled smiles with your fellow runners. You’ll eat all the things, complain about foam rolling, and say, “Sorry, I have to get some sleep. My long run is tomorrow.” And mostly, you’ll love it.

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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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HIIT: Fall In Love With Your Warm-up

Pump up the jam and get ready to HIIT it!

For some people, running a mile or two on an elliptical or treadmill is their idea of a killer warm-up.

But for me, it’s HIIT.

As I began to really listen to my body and figure out what I truly loved to do in the gym, I found a love for High-Intensity Interval Training, aka, HIIT or tabata

High-Intensity Interval Training gives your body the best of both worlds. It burns fat, increases your heart rate, and builds muscle.

Running may seem like the ideal way to warm-up before a workout, but running may be rough on those with weaker joints or knee injures. Simply by incorporating HIIT into your warm-up, you can modify exercises to work with your abilities, and you’ll start your workout sweating.

By fatiguing your muscles early, you are on the way to building more muscle and getting the most out of your workout. #gains 

So what warm-ups actually get you the benefits of HIIT training?

I know most people have a love/hate relationship with this exercise, but bear with me — burpees are a perfect example.

This compact movement gets your heart rate up quickly while fatiguing your muscles in the best way possible. Ever since incorporating them into my warm-up, I have seen an improvement in my stamina and my muscle mass. And who doesn’t love leaving the gym drenched in sweat?

 

Here are some of my favorite HIIT warm-ups:

(tag us in your Instagram if you give them a try!)

Leg Day HIIT Warm-Up:

These exercises target your leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves) and are the perfect way to start a killer leg day. These can be done with weight, resistance bands, or just your body weight.

  • 3 sets of squat jumps
  • 3 sets of full range squats as active rest
  • 3 sets of jumping lunges
  • 3 sets of walking lunges

Squat jumps are my absolute favorite because they’re super fun. Blast your favorite gym tunes and feel like a bad a**.

StairMaster HIIT:

  • 30 seconds of side steps each side
  • 1 minute of a stair sprint
  • Repeat 3 times

The HIIT possibilities are honestly endless. Pick any of the exercises from the list below, throw on your timer for 10 minutes, and go for it. And if you aren’t sure how to do a certain exercise, check out Bodybuilding.com.

  • Butt kicks
  • Jumping lunges
  • High knees 
  • Kettlebell squat
  • Kettlebell snatches
  • Jump rope
  • Mountain climbers
  • Box jumps

By simply incorporating these high intensity workouts into your warm-up, you will begin to see your body get evolve before your eyes. Tabata comes in all different styles, so find the one that you love, and you will begin to fall in love with your warm-up. While I love going for a run still, HIIT training has revolutionized my gym days.

Push through and your body will thank you later.

 

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I Tried the Tone It Up 6-Week Challenge and Here’s What Happened

tone it up

I’ve followed Karena and Katrina from Tone It Up for almost a year now. I regularly accessed their free workouts from their website and YouTube channel, but it wasn’t until this January that I decided to fully commit to their 6 week “Look For Love Challenge”. While I admit the title felt a little bit corny, I decided to accept the corniness in all its ways and fully commit to “Look For Love” for the first 6 weeks of 2017.

In no way is this article meant to convince you all to join this particular plan or even the Tone It Up community as a whole; but instead I wanted to tell you the honest truth behind what it’s like from a college girl’s perspective.

I didn’t set out to lose any amount of weight but instead I was striving to get back into a good fitness routine. I also wanted to make it my new year’s resolution to meal prep more often to help save time (and money) during the week.

So here’s a sneak peek into the ups and downs of the 6-week challenge.

6 week challenge

Week 1

Starting the program on January 1st would have been too hard as a college student. I was still on winter break and out of my normal routine. So January 2nd, which was also a Monday, would mark the beginning of embarking on this 6 week challenge. I vowed I wanted to follow their vegetarian meal plan. I had dabbled with being vegetarian before and loved how my body felt (I have digestive issues, so I feel best when I eat meatless).

It was a rocky start. I prepped a big batch of roasted veggies and quinoa to make my meals throughout the week. I even cooked up a batch of protein muffins and prepped some overnight oats to eat for breakfast. It was still a little tough to follow through with the challenge at my mom’s house, so I figured I would get into a good routine back in my own apartment at school.

Week 2

Back in Tallahassee. I went grocery shopping on Sunday to prep for the week. I quickly realized I hadn’t prepped enough food to last the week, and would need to do more next weekend. The weather was super cold, so it was getting harder to wake up in the morning to workout. I’d been setting my alarm clock earlier so by the 2nd snooze I’d get up and have enough time to make coffee, hit the gym, shower and eat breakfast before my classes started.

By Wednesday, I felt like I was in a better routine. Friday I took “happy hour” at a yin yoga class and it was awesome! Lots of great stretching to get the kinks out from all my hard work this week. First week back in Tally also meant enjoying myself a little more than anticipated on Saturday night, so I spent Sunday recovering and meal prepping. Couldn’t let the hangover affect my whole week!

                  IMG_1784                 6 week challenge

Meal prepping from Sunday included egg muffins to heat up for a quick breakfast, and a big batch of roasted veggies to toss in salads or use as a side for the week.

Week 3

Meal prep Sunday: check!

I felt so accomplished at the beginning of this week. Took my favorite yoga class. Started to feel like I was in a good routine.

I was almost at the 21 day mark; that’s how many days it apparently takes to form a habit, so hopefully my daily moves will become an instinct. Kinda like checking my insta feed.

School started to pick up mid week and I was getting very tired. Decided I needed to work on not snoozing my alarm every morning.

6 week challenge

As the challenge went on, it got harder to sit down and collect my thoughts about the week. My journaling turned into more of a quick jotting down of bullet points of the highlights.

I also started to incorporate more meat into my meals because I was getting a bit bored with my food.

Week 4

It was getting easier to wake up at 6:30/7am. I’d been meal prepping like a boss on Sunday and it made it WAY easier to get going in the morning. I didn’t waste any time making food and I always got a great breakfast

I woke up every morning to workout this week, I was on a new high!

The weekend was hard because of traveling. It was hard to feel off schedule while I was out of town, but I tried to enjoy my time meeting my friend for the weekend. I vowed I would get back on my new schedule when I returned home.

However, I stocked up on travel snacks in the airport; the cashier called me a “hungry girl”. I responded, “Hell yeah, I got goals!” to which he said “I can respect that”. The whole interaction made me chuckle.

Week 5

School is picking up and its harder to wake up to workout. I don’t know how people live in the cold and get to the gym at 6 am in the snow. Anyways, I worked hard this week to try and accept that it is ok not to make it to my workout every single day

Meal prep didn’t happen because of traveling and getting home late Sunday night. I woke up early to get to the grocery store on Monday, but man I wish I meal prepped.

Overall, I had pretty good energy this week. I wasn’t super hungry. The following week would be exam week, so I planned to do my best to use the weekend to set myself up for success. 

I’d been following Tone It Up on social media, and loved seeing inspirational posts from Katrina and Karena on Instagram. I also really appreciated the flood of inspirational emails they send out – it definitely helped me feel motivated to keep pushing myself through to the end.

Here’s a glimpse at my inbox from them over the past week:

challenge

They really do a great job of making me feel like were gal pals and they’re just giving me a nudge of encouragement in the morning; I’ve really been looking forward to them!  

Week 6

Week 6. Last week of the challenge! Got my meal prep done. My energy levels were super high. 

Good thing, too, because I had two exams on Thursday. But they were NBD. I also was going out of town that weekend but with all the healthy habits and confidence I built up through the challenge, that didn’t feel like a big deal either!

It was early Valentines weekend, and I felt confident rocking my bikini on the sunny beach of California (even after eating all the sushi in the land)! I felt confident and proud that I stuck it out for the 6 weeks.

So What Did I Learn?

That I need to be flexible!

With my workout schedule, my meals, and my daily routines. It really is so much easier said than done. I usually get into such a negative head space when I can’t get myself to wakeup in time to workout or can’t find anything in my fridge for dinner. But by pushing myself to really commit to making the time for these things most days of the week, I didn’t feel poorly for taking a day off to rest or get homework done.

Here’s how Tone It Up helped. They:

  • Put together daily workouts
  • Sent out daily reminders
  • Sent weekly motivation
  • Sent emails halfway through the challenge to remind me that it’s ok if life gets in the way and it’s ok if I haven’t been sticking to the plan 100%. They reminded me not to focus on the setback but instead to jump back in and remember why I started.

I really love that they keep in constant contact with their community. I now appreciate my body even more for doing all that it does, especially in the weeks that I push it super hard. Now, I forgive myself for not eating a perfect diet or missing my workout some days; I know I’m simply trying my best.

The Tone It Up community is full of inspirational women of all body types trying to lead a more active lifestyle. I have honestly been inspired by the love and encouragement found in their community.

So if there’s a new workout class you’ve been dying to try, a fitness guide or challenge from a real live gym or online community, go for it! If you’re laying down some heavy dough for it, do your research as much as you can and really plan out the time in your schedule to commit to workouts and meal planning so you know you’re really getting your money’s worth.

Header image taken from toneitup.com.

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Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training for Women

After a year of working on my own fitness, I made a breakthrough. Rather than spending hours on the treadmill or stairmaster (hating my life), I could spend thirty minutes to an hour in the weight room and get better results while, you know, not hating my life.

Crazy, I know. But let me elaborate.

It’s an extremely common belief that lifting weights (as a girl) will make you bulky. I’d like to challenge every bit of this belief and support you in your own journey towards weightlifting.

I know from my own experience and a lot of research that just doing cardio is not the answer, and success lies in a combination of cardio, preferably high-intensity, and strength training. 

While cardiorespiratory endurance exercise such as running five miles or laboring on the elliptical for an hour burns muscle and fat, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat. Sorry ladies, that “fat-burning” zone is kind of a scam.

Plus, with more muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate increases, causing your body to burn more calories throughout the day than you would normally. That means you’ll be burning calories just by checking Instagram! On a serious note, though, it will boost your metabolism in a way that detox teas or a magic fix will never be able to. 

Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training in Women

To address the idea that lifting makes girls bulky, I’ll just say this: you have to try really, really hard to become bodybuilder muscular. It’s not going to happen by accident.

Believe me, I’ve been trying for three years, and I still haven’t reached that status. A goal many girls have is to “tone up,” but just cardio will never give you those muscle-building results. Building a baseline of muscular strength and building it up will give you the “toned” look, in conjunction with some cardio (which helps to shed off that extra fat).

In summary, it’s a combination of the two that will boost your results, depending on what works for your body.

Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training in Women

If I can do it, so can you!

Beyond sculpting a super hot bod, weightlifting has incredible effects on the mind. Once you begin to see results, it becomes an addiction and you strive to better yourself each and every time you step into that gym. You learn discipline and begin to find motivation within yourself rather than from an external source.

Confidence and self-esteem inevitably get boosted and all aspects of your life seem to fall into place.  When you learn to love your body, somehow you learn to love and appreciate all other corners of yourself and your life. If you’re skeptical about this, try it for yourself and let me know. 

If and when you do begin lifting weights, don’t expect results to come overnight. Like the 50 day squat challenges and what not, success just doesn’t happen in such a short time frame. You have to want it, be consistent, and love yourself along the way. Nothing good in life comes easy, and this applies to your own self. So get in the gym, get your head and heart in it, and lift all the things.

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The Difference Between Training and Exercising

There is a debate in the fitness community about the difference between training vs. exercising:

What are you training for?
Do you have a certain direction you are trying to go?
Are you just going into the gym just because?

To many professionals in the fitness community, the difference is whether or not you are working towards a specific goal.

With this said, it is important to know the difference between the two terms:

Exercise: physical activity performed for the effect it produces TODAY.

Training: physical activity performed for the purpose of satisfying a LONG TERM performance goal.

Both of these are supposed to be fun activities. But sometimes, it’s just really hard. It’s hard to make it to the gym, to go that extra mile, to finish that last rep. That’s where the defining moment is.

Think about your favorite professional athlete. When they train, they seem to have that “little something extra”. They might seem like super humans just crushing their goals all the time, but they are just as vulnerable as we are. Just like us, they know there is always a chance that they might not succeed.

This is Katrin Davidsdottir, the back to back Fittest Woman on Earth Crossfit Champion. When I think of someone who trains and not just exercises I think of her. Her drive, mental toughness and determination is something that I hope well all can aspire to be.

Nobody is telling you you have to go hardcore 24/7. But it is important to stay motivated and ask yourself what are you doing: exercising or training. Regardless of which you’re drawn to doing, make goals for yourself, and make goals that work for you. 

Nothing happens overnight; progress takes time. You have to overcome feelings of weakness and understand that people are going to see sometimes that you’re struggling, but they are likely in the same boat as you.

So, it’s your choice: do you exercise, or do you train?

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14 Annoying Things People Do at the Gym, as Told by a Personal Trainer

14 Annoying Things People Do at the Gym, as Told by a Personal Trainer

The gym is a jungle. Between the cardio queens and the jacked Hulks, the diversity is real. With this comes a wide range of annoying behaviors at the gym. Being a personal trainer, I get the pleasure of being in this jungle for a good portion of my day. Here are some of the top annoying gym behaviors:

1. Putting weights where they don’t belong

I’m the one who puts them back. And when I turn around for a hot second, someone manages to screw it up all over again.

2. Not dressing in proper workout attire

I’m look at those of you who wear jeans, scrubs, or polo shirts to the gym. 

3. Not wearing enough workout attire

Did you forget something? Like a shirt or pants with dignity?

4. Grunting

Ugh.

5. Not trying at all

“But I was at the gym, so that counts, right?”

6. Coming to the gym to talk and occasionally work out

Go chat somewhere that’s not 2 inches from my face, like a restaurant or bar, far, far away from here.

7. Flexing in the mirror

We get it. You have muscles. But do you really need to lift up your shirt and flex?

8. Curling in the squat rack

“Bruh”

9. Gloves 

Enough said. 

10. PDA

#1 cause of baby vomit at the gym.

11. Obnoxiously taking supplements

We have a problem when your shaker bottle is more like a chemistry lab.

12. Slamming the weights

If you can pick it up, you can put it down.

13. Flirting

“So, wanna watch me squat?”

14. Being scared to try something new

As a trainer, I encourage people to try different types of workouts. Whether you’re a cardio queen who walks over to the free weight section or a meathead who tries to reach for your toes to stretch, keeping an open mind with fitness is key to an overall healthier, fitter you.

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10 Ways Yoga Has Improved My Life 

When I first started practicing yoga, I went into it thinking it was going to be some weird hippy-dippy practice that I would get bored doing. Oh, how was I so wrong? (Well, maybe not about the hippy-dippy part – it can be – but definitely about the boring part!) It has benefited my life in so many ways, and I am so thankful for that day I first decided to step onto my mat. I’m not going to write a novel here about how cool yoga is, but here are just 10 of the ways yoga has improved my life.

me

Yoga helps me…

1. Take a step back. I sometimes try to go full-force with every little thing I do. Yoga has taught me I can just take a chill pill and calm the heck down. 

2. Reduce anxiety. When I’m stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, I go to my mat. It is my safe place – my place just for me. 

3. Increase my flexibility. We all know it’s important to keep those muscles loose. What better way than to stretch out than to ease your body into cool yoga poses, am I right?

yoga pose

4. Ease my depression. Yoga has helped my depression tremendously. The good vibes in my yoga studio and my favorite instructor always have the ability to bring a smile to my face. 

5. Strengthen my mind-body connection. If I’m tired, I don’t make myself bend into a certain pose. I can stop. I can breathe. It is my practice, my practice for me – not anyone else! 

6. Become more mindful. When I step onto my mat, I don’t think about everything that happened right before that moment. I don’t think about what will happen after I step off my mat. I think about the here and the now. 

7. Breathe more deeply. I use yogic breathing techniques outside of my practice, too. It helps to calm me down when I’m super stressed or anxious. 

8. Challenge myself. Working my way into new poses and learning to quiet my mind has challenged me and helped me in ways I never thought I could. 

9. Work from within. Not every workout has to leave you drenched in sweat. Sometimes we get so caught up in that mindset that we forget how working out should really be working within our minds. Sure, yoga is great for your body. But it also helps you grow far more than just some toned arms, ya feel me? 

10. Love myself more. Yeah I know, cheesy. But yoga has taught me to love and appreciate my body a whole lot more than I ever thought I would be able to. 

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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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