February is notorious for two things: Valentine’s Day and the breaking of New Year’s Resolutions. I am definitely not an expert in relationships or resolutions, but I do know a thing or two about fitness. My sister is a gym rat, my dad is an overall health nut, and I played college softball for a team that spent more time in the gym than on the field. We definitely don’t have an MD or a Nutrition Science degree, but we have all managed to find ways to keep ourselves healthy, active, and motivated. Fitness may not seem to play a large part in a fashion blog, but I think it’s a critical facet of maintaining your best possible appearance, and also something that holds a lot of real estate close to my heart.
I believe one of the reasons many resolutions fall through the cracks is because we try to take on too much at once. I have been going on runs around the neighborhood my entire life, but last year I decided I wanted to push myself and begin running long distances. When I decided to commit to this, I cut back on nearly every other aspect of fitness to give myself the focus and energy to increase my stamina. Knowing how hard it would be to push myself to run more miles than I ever had while also trying to get a six pack, I made running my core focus for two months. I only felt comfortable incorporating other activities back in after I was used to my new routine, and my body could adapt to the soreness of various muscle groups. If there’s one particular goal you want to accomplish, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself the flexibility to reach it without other distractions or excuses.
A lot of times, resolutions can be lofty and unrealistic expectations that will only set you up for failure. If you haven’t been going to the gym for years, going for two hours a day six days a week is probably an unrealistic expectation. Setting reasonable, achievable goals will set yourself up for easier success, and then make you more inclined to keep going. Although hearing that Taylor Swift does an hour of cardio every day was definitely motivating for me, it’s not doable for everyone (or every day). My parents have an ab carver in their TV room, and my dad is constantly using it while the TV is on. After all, it’s hard to sit on the couch staring at it knowing you could at least be doing something somewhat healthy in between rounds of nachos. It’s so easy to fit in a living room workout before or after dinner, especially when the tools you need are staring at you and making you feel guilty for the blanket fort you’ve hid yourself inside. Two of my favorite exercise apps are N+TC from Nike and Sweat with Kayla Itsines. Both of them are full of short (under 30 minutes) and achievable (no expensive equipment necessary) workouts that don’t take up too much of your time and can be done in the comfort of your home so you don’t even have a monthly gym membership as an excuse! Sweat with Kayla comes with a free one week trial, and then will cost $19.99 per month, but the N+TC app is free. World class fitness expertise at zero cost- this is a no brainer, people. N+TC (Nike+ Training Club) comes from perhaps the world’s leading authority on sports and fitness. With some sessions coming in under 15 minutes, and led by professional athletes such as Serena Williams, there is no reason anyone can’t find the time to get their body in shape with this little gem. I like to tag them at the end of a cardio session when I may be crunched for time but still want to optimize those precious 15-30 minutes. Sweat with Kayla is famous for its weekly photo journal and global fitness challenges, as well as walking you through nutrition and injury prevention; which brings me to my next tip.
Stretching is one of my favorite things ever. It’s also a highly underrated element of optimizing your physical fitness. When you’re running from the gym to work or home to make dinner or to one of your 182724 to do list items, stretching tends to get skipped even when exercise doesn’t, which is possibly the actual worst thing you can do for your muscles. Most people don’t consider improving their flexibility as an important element of fitness, but it’s just as important as strength and endurance- especially when you consider how much your muscles and flexibility impact your strength and endurance training. Stretching is critical to avoiding injury, recovering quickly, and improving your performance. The general stretching advice of the moment is to foam roll before your workout and static stretch afterwards, when your muscles are already warmed up. Foam rolling has been a total game changer in muscle relaxation, and any competitive athlete or human being alike can stand to benefit from purchasing one. Feeling tight and sore the day after a hard workout may compel you to skip a day- and once you skip a day it becomes so much easier to skip more days. Then all of a sudden it’s been months since you hit up the gym because one day your muscles weren’t used to feeling so tight. Stretching regularly helps to avoid injury induced set backs and keep us all on the straight and narrow. I personally like to try to plan for two yoga sessions a week on days when I don’t hit the gym (rest days), for a non-negotiable focus on balance and flexibility. It’s nice to know that even when I’m not pounding out the miles or cranking out some serious reps that I’m still doing something to aid my physical fitness, and the serenity and mindfulness is a nice break from the competitive gym atmosphere. A simple bi-weekly yoga routine was unbelievably helpful when I first committed seriously to running and I found my muscles cramping in ways I didn’t even know was possible.
No habit can be forged without time. It’s never easy to force yourself to do something that your mind and body aren’t yet used to. Sometimes it takes a reward system (new workout clothes, a trip to Starbucks after you finish your workout, a beach vacation worthy of your new bikini bod) to get you up and moving in the beginning. Once the habit and the routine kick in, it begins to become something you look forward to and something you need. Sometimes my morning gym and Starbucks trip are the highlights of my entire day. I love my morning gym community and the time I get to wake up my mind and plan out my day on a cardio machine. The routine gives me a sense of discipline, as someone who could all too easily wake up early and mosey around for hours before the rest of the world opens their eyes. I love the energy the endorphins give me for the rest of my day and the smile I will inevitably have heading to my desk after I crushed my workout and achieved something before 9AM.
That being said, there is something to be said about giving up when you know that what you have been doing is just not right for you. I am convinced there is some form of exercise that works for everyone, and with so many options available there’s no reason to continue doing something that makes you miserable. My best friend Jenn loves barre classes and has the rocking bod to prove their methods, my sister knows her way around a weight room better than most guys I know and no one can deny the results she’s had, and my dad thinks going on 100 mile bike rides is the greatest possible way to spend a morning, which has helped him look significantly younger than his age. It’s possible I’m the only girl on the planet who hates spin classes, but I can guarantee Soul Cycle will never make it into my fitness routine, because that’s the type of workout I would make excuses to get out of. I definitely advocate joining a gym that offers a variety of classes so you can experiment with pilates, bootcamps, yoga, and barre classes to find one that works best for you.
Now for the fun part, my favorite fitness products!
Wearable fitness tech is everywhere these days. I personally love my Fitbit Flex because it’s really all I need. I’m pretty healthy and have a low resting heart rate, so that wasn’t an overly important feature for me, and all I really wanted was a way to remind myself to get up and move every day and for that this trusty little rubber band has been an all star performer.
This is the greatest foam roller I’ve used yet, and I love the bright color options! I have found that this one is stronger and more effective than the all foam ones.
I’m obsessed with my Nike armband (as I am with all things Nike, let’s be real). It’s lightweight and non-irritating and doesn’t bother me at all to wear for a long run or an entire gym session.
This CamelBak bottle is my number one gym bottle of choice. I cringed every time I saw a blogger shilling a S’Well bottle for the gym rat’s Christmas gift guide in December. I love mine, but I can’t imagine wanting to bring it to the gym. You need something that can handle some drops from time to time, and definitely something with a squeeze top. I have this one in multiple colors, it doesn’t sweat at all and it’s super easy to twist the lock function without touching the part you drink out of (if you’re slightly phobic of gym germs like I am).
Jump roping is possibly the greatest five minute workout anyone has ever done. My college softball coach got me into it and I am totally hooked. Done right it can be great for your entire body, and I like to tack it on after a medicine ball workout or a long brisk and hilly walk around my neighborhood. Personally, I like the beaded ones because they are easy to adjust to your height. My dad and his equally fitness obsessed neighbor like the weighted ones to enhance the forearm workout. I also love this Nike Training Kit, because it comes with two types of resistance bands and a jump rope. This Fitness Gear Core Kit comes with a jump rope, an ab wheel, stability ball, AND medicine ball and it’s currently on sale for only $23.99. If you are in the market for any of these, this is an AMAZING deal!
I have been drooling over this duffle bag for, I’m not kidding, months. While there is technically nothing wrong with the black nylon duffle bag that I use for my current gym bag, it would be nice to have something with a bit more pizazz, especially something that gets used every day. It’s actually quite ridiculous that I continue to use the NCAA issued athletes bag every single day when I have spent hundreds of dollars since that on various handbags that I alternate on a regular basis. So this one is at the top of my ‘to buy’ list once I convince myself to pull the trigger. Yes, technically it is a tennis bag, but to-may-to, to-mah-to. (Tennis is top of my adult activities to master this summer after my golf-oriented summer last year!)
Gaiam makes my favorite yoga products ever. On top of the product quality and affordability, they’re available at Target and super accessible! For some reason, full-coverage mat bags (not just straps) can be somewhat hard to find, but I love this one to slide this pretty mat and towel into!
Thanks for reading this rather lengthy post! What are your go to exercise routines? Any equipment that I need to try/can’t live without? Sound off in the comments below! Have a wonderful and healthy weekend everyone!