health

Where Have We Been?

Hello friends! It seems like it's been a long time since I was last on this space, sharing our go-to stores for cute workout wear. How have you been? I hope June is treating you well. This post is going to be kind of a mish-mash of things. Part studio update, part life update, part cool things we think you should know about. So, here goes...

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Come walk with us! We're starting a weekly walking group and our first walk will be this Tuesday, June 26th at 9:15am at Wright Park, at the corner of 6th Ave and South G Street in Tacoma. If you're in the area, come join us! And bring your health and fitness-related questions. A personal trainer (or two) will be leading the walk and it's a great opportunity to get your burning exercise questions answered. It's completely FREE and You can find details on our Facebook page here

We're jumping in to YouTube! Nikki and I are a good working team in that very often the things I'm not good at, she is. And the tasks that she hates doing, I actually enjoy. But one way in which we are the same is that we both struggle with being on camera. Unfortunately, exercise kind of requires a visual. It's much more difficult to write out how to do a plank than it is to show someone how to do a plank, for example. So, we're ordering vlogging equipment and will be wading into the wild world of YouTube very soon. Wish us luck on that!

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Speaking of YouTube, I saw this video recently and loved it. There are so many great things about summer, aren't there? But it also brings with it renewed opportunities to be critical about our bodies and to compare ourselves to the curated images we see on social media. But let's not. Let's be kind to ourselves. Let's dress the way we want. Let's show ourselves the same grace we show others. Let's take full advantage of everything we love about this season. Let's be creative with solutions to the things that make us uncomfortable in summer, physically or emotionally. That's what this video is all about.

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Badminton is making a comeback at the studio. Nikki is always trying to think of ways to make workouts a little bit less like work and more like play, and badminton is just one of the new things we've got going on. I remember playing this game for hours in the backyard with my brother. It was so much fun! And I'm telling you, people play this game in the studio and they look like kids again. It's so much fun to watch. I'm tempted to buy a new set for myself...

Dry lips? You might need a lip sleeping mask, like this one from Laneige. It might sound ridiculous to buy a mask for your lips, but I struggle all year round with my lips drying out at night. It's especially bad when the weather is cold and dry outside. But it's also a problem when it's hot outside and I've got the air conditioning going inside, drying out the air. This stuff smells like bubble gum and a little goes a long way. So even though it's kind of pricey, it will last you a while. 

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Any of you as clueless as I am about applying eye makeup? No one ever really showed me how to do it, so I mostly just avoided it most of my life. But, I discovered Kate at The Small Things blog earlier this year and have been devouring her tutorials on everything makeup and hair. One of my faves is this one on the basics of applying eyeliner. But they're all great! She's got loads of videos on YouTube as well, so check her out for all the things you wish you'd had a big sister to teach you about being beautiful.

Game-changing sauces. I've been throwing this delicious sweet chili and garlic sauce on almost everything lately. I started with edamame, as the recipe suggests. But, really, it's good on vegetables, rice, you name it.  It would probably be good on meat too, if I ate meat. As simple as the recipe is, I've made it even simpler. I literally only use garlic and the sweet chili sauce. And I buy the already minced garlic, so it's just a matter of sautéing that for a minute, adding in a couple of tablespoons of the chili sauce and heating it up for a minute. Done.

As always, thanks for reading the blog even when we go AWOL for a month. Always feel free to post in the Comments below if there are topics you'd like us to tackle, exercise or otherwise. Take care and we'll see you again here soon!

Give Yourself Permission

I have the very best doctor. I found her through a Google search for, "best doctor in (my city)." Patients had given her amazing reviews online and so I called and got a spot as a patient. Even though I've now moved about an hour away, I still go to her. She's awesome in so many ways. She never makes you feel like she's got somewhere else to be, even though I know she's got a full schedule of patients. She has a sign above the scale in her office that says, "It's Just a Number." And she shares my first name :-) 

During one of the first appointments I had with her, I was lamenting my weight. How it had gotten out of control and how hard I was trying  to lose it without success. I was tired. And stressed. And basically just miserable. 

She asked me about my schedule. How much sleep did I get? What did I eat? What was going on at work? How many hours was I working between my two jobs? What was my commute like? What kind of social support did I have? I answered all of her questions and then prepared myself for the diet and exercise recommendations--the tough love--I was sure was on the way. 

But instead of a lecture. Instead of warnings. Instead of a prescription for Weight Watchers or the local gym, she said...

Sleep. She told me my only job right now was to make sure I got 7-9 hours of sleep every night and then figure out which quantity of hours made me feel my best. That’s it. I didn’t need to worry about changing my diet. Or getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise.

Just sleep. 

And when I had done that consistently for a few weeks, I could add in one other healthy activity. Just one.

She gave me a tremendous gift in that moment—the permission to be kind to myself. I am telling you, when she said “just sleep” I felt like crying, I was so happy. And relieved.

Sleep? Sleep I could do. Take everything else off the list for now and just focus on sleep? Yes. Yes, please.

I had to trust that if I did that one thing, that I would know when I was ready to add more.

And I did. One day I woke up and felt like trying to exercise again.

I had to reset a couple of times. I tried to do too much, too fast. But I caught myself each time and went back to the basics. Back to sleep. Then adding one thing at a time.

There are good reasons why my doctor had me focus on sleep first. There is not a single function of the body that does not rely, in large or small part, upon getting adequate sleep. Here are just a few:

  • Sleep helps to regulate your hormones, including the hormone that generates feelings of hunger (ghrelin) and the one that gives you the signal of being satiated (leptin). If you don’t get enough sleep, the former goes up and the latter goes down. So, you feel hungry more often and have trouble feeling full, both of which can lead you to eat more.
  • Your body repairs itself during sleep. Your muscles, blood vessels, heart and other major organs use the time when you are asleep to fix damage and (in the case of your muscles) increase mass. If you exercise, sleep is when that microscopic damage you did to your muscles during your workout gets repaired and additional muscle fibers are generated.
  • Your immune system relies on sleep to function at its optimal level. Inadequate rest leaves you vulnerable to infections like the common cold, but also to chronic disease. Studies have found a relationship between insufficient sleep and an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Your ability to complete basic and complex tasks at work, school or at home is compromised. Things can take longer, and you are more prone to making mistakes when sleep deficient. The National Institutes of Health reports that, “after several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.” Your memory, athletic performance, creative powers and the ability to learn new things are all improved with adequate sleep.

Okay, so how much sleep is enough and how do we make sure we are consistently getting enough sleep? For adults ages 18-64, the National Sleep Foundation (yes, sleep is so important there are research foundations dedicated to it!), recommends between 7-9 hours per night. For adults 65 and older, the recommended range is 7-8 hours. They have a sleep duration recommendations chart, which you can access here.

The foundation also has tips for ensuring a good night’s sleep, including: sticking to a sleep schedule (even on the weekends); exercising regularly; avoiding caffeine, alcohol and using electronics in the hours before bedtime; and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and not too warm or too cold.

Here's some homework for you, if you're up for it. If you aren't getting your 7-9 hours, commit to doing that and determining your magic number of hours. It's 9 for me. Come up with your own bedtime ritual to follow too. Maybe you light your favorite scented candle and read for an hour before sleep. Maybe you do some yoga (there are some great evening yoga dvds out there). Maybe you meditate, or journal or just sit and think about your day.

And let us know how it goes!

April Awesomeness

Every month we try to collect the things that are making our lives easier, better, funnier, healthier, etc., and share them with you in this space. Here's what we've come across this month. Hope you enjoy!

This Inhale-Exhale Tank from Not by Sight Co. Because sometimes we just need to wear a reminder to breathe. 

These colorful leggings from Zella. They come in several colors and a wide range of sizes. Love the green ones!

SNL Leggings Sketch. I do actually workout in leggings, but I also sometimes eat tortilla chips in them. It's about balance, people.

Chocolate Fudge Avocado Cake. Nikki made this cake recently and raved about it. She found it in the Costco magazine, I believe...

Jergen's Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. Okay, so I am really pale. Like translucent. And sometimes I want a little color on my legs, especially on days when I'm wearing cropped workout leggings. Which is pretty much every day, if I'm honest. This stuff isn't like tan-in-a-can though. It's subtler and more forgiving than that. After a few days of using it, I ended up with a really nice, natural looking, light bronzing to my skin. And it smells good too.

Aveeno's Positively Radiant 60-Second In-Shower Facial. I LOVE this stuff! My skin looks brighter on days when I use it, I swear. 

My favorite hairspray of all time. It holds well, but doesn't make your hair stiff and helmet-like. And it smells amazing. I never pay full price for it though. It goes on sale fairly often, so I stock-up then. 

I always forget about how good Neutrogena's lip products are. There's this color stick, which I have in Sweet Watermelon. It's a nice color and feels moisturizing. Kind of like a lip balm consistency with the color payoff of a lipstick. And then there's their Revitalizing Lip Balms. I have mine in Petal Glow. I've been using both of these a lot lately and wondering why I don't use them more.

The book, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. A great read for any entrepreneurs out there. 

Okay, that's what we're loving this month! Feel free to share any of your current recommendations in the comments below. Happy Monday, all!

How to Treat Dry Winter Skin

I've gotten really into skincare over the last year or so. Maybe it's getting older--I don't know. What I started to notice over the last couple of years is that the skin on my face gets really dry about this time each year. It's uncomfortable and it makes me feel self-conscious because it's kind of flaky and scaly. I feel like everyone I come into contact with notices it, even if they don't.

I used to be able to get away with just pure coconut oil as a moisturizer (oh, the advantages of youth) But that stopped working a couple of years ago. So, I've researched a ton and tried several different approaches to preventing that and keeping my skin soft and moisturized even when Mother Nature is trying her best to destroy it. Here's what I've found works best for me. Where I could, I included both drugstore and high-end options. This is not a sponsored post and none of the companies listed below have paid me to talk about them. It's just the stuff I've tried and liked.

 

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Cleanse and Exfoliate. I exfoliate with a gentle exfoliator two or three times a week. My favorite is Philosophy's The Microdelivery Exfoliating Face Wash. I try to grab it when it's on sale because it's kind of expensive. But it's really gentle and it lasts a long time. Some of the drugstore ones are made of really harsh granules and I feel like they're scratching little holes in my face. If you've found a drugstore one that's good, let me know. Exfoliating just gets rid of any dead skin hanging around on my face and makes my moisturizer sink in better. I also use a good hydrating cleanser morning and night. The more expensive one I like is Philosophy's Purity Cleanser. But I also like CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser and Neutrogena's Naturals Cleanser from the drugstore. Those are great too.

A Good Moisturizer. I put this on after I put on my serum in the morning and evening. The serum is really not for moisturizing, so I'm not going to talk about it here. But if you use a serum, that should go on before your moisturizer because the moisturizer is creating a barrier between your skin and anything that comes in contact with it. My favorite drugstore moisturizer is Garnier's Moisture Bomb. And then I love Ole Henriksen's Nurture Me Moisturizing Crème when my budget allows. A kind of middle of the road one, budget-wise, is First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream. I got it from Ulta last year, two for $20. And one tub lasted me 6 months. Worked really well too. 

 

 

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Facial Oil. I just recently started using facial oils, especially on the areas that get really dry. For me, that's my forehead and right next to my nose. I've tried only a few so far. The ones I like currently are: just pure Argan Oil (mine is from Moroccan Oil brand) and Ole Henriksen's Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil. (A warning about the latter--it does have an orange tint which doesn't dry translucent. So, I only use it at night for that reason.) Anyway, I got the Argan Oil as a gift. It's really expensive, so I don't know whether I'll buy it myself when this runs out. The good news is that this bottle will probably last a long time since I only use a drop or two at a time. I've heard that Trader Joe's has a facial oil and I've heard good things about Physician's Formula's facial oils as well as The Ordinary's line of products. All of those brands are WAY less expensive than the ones I'm using now. I haven't tried them yet though, so if you have, let me know. I'd love to find a cheaper option when the time comes for me to re-purchase.

Drink Water & Eat Good Food. I know that what I eat and drink has an effect on how my skin looks and feels. When I'm not getting enough water or when I'm eating lots of sugar and nutritionally deficient food, it shows. No matter what I slather on top of it, if I'm dehydrated then it's going to be an uphill battle to keep things looking good. I have also found that the more vegetables I'm getting into my system, the better everything looks and feels. So, I think it does really start from the inside out.

Anyone else struggle with dry skin? What works well for you? I'm always looking for recommendations, so feel free to leave them below.

That Time I Went All Weak in the Knees

There are things my body is really good at and things it's really bad at. For example, my body is really good at gaining weight. On the flip side, it's also really good at building muscle. My body gave me clear skin as a teenager, but also crooked teeth and frizzy hair. I'm a terrible dancer, but I can spell backwards. It's a mixed bag, being in my body. That's really what I'm trying to say. Knees 1

A little over a year ago now, I injured my right knee badly during a workout. It took a long time to recover, and landed me in physical therapy for 12 weeks. Working my way back from that injury was frustrating and painful and slow.

But what I didn't anticipate at the beginning of that journey was the fear I would experience after my knee was medically, officially healed and I was cleared to go back to my regular activities.

When I was laid up, all I wanted was to be able to move again. But when that permission came, I found that I was terrified of injuring it again. Really, really scared. Scared of the pain, for sure. But more than that; I was scared of not being in control of my body. Of not being able to move. Of not being able to do my job effectively anymore.

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I lost confidence in my ability to predict how my body would perform--of how it would react to the demands I placed upon it. I thought if I made one false move. If I lunged or squatted the wrong way, snap would go my ligament.

That fear was paralyzing. It made the prospect of working out again something that filled me with dread. But when I would think about not exercising, that would scare me too. Because I knew that if I stopped moving, the pain would come back, the muscles supporting my knees would weaken and I would be much more likely to injure it again.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. Not fun.

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Have any of you ever experienced this? Maybe you experienced an injury similar to mine. Or maybe you gained weight and then felt uncomfortable or insecure in your body. Or maybe you got the message early and often that you weren't sporty or coordinated, so you've never been confident with anything physical. Maybe you think that you don't know what you're doing and as a result you're either going to hurt yourself or embarrass yourself.

I think exercise is often as much about working through mental limitations as it is physical ones. It's as much about pushing past that voice in your head that's telling you all of the reasons why you shouldn't, or cataloging all of the things that could go wrong. as it is about getting your biceps to curl a heavy dumbbell up to your shoulder. Whether what's holding you back is the fear of physical pain and injury, or the fear of failing, or the fear of people judging you or laughing at you; it doesn't really matter.

So where to go from here? How do we move from that feeling of damned if we exercise, damned if we don't?

I can and will tell you what I did. But I don't want to make it sound like it was some miracle cure and now I'm fixed. I'm not. There are days when I'm still overly cautious with my body. There are still exercises I won't do; classes I'm reluctant to take. There are still moments when I feel a twinge in my knee and am scared it's going to give out. I still sometimes lack confidence in my ability to distinguish what's become a normal level of discomfort in my knees and what's a sign that something is wrong. There are still days when I'm so frustrated that I work so hard and yet my knees sometimes still feel so weak. It's a work in progress for sure.

Here's what helps me.

I got expert advice and I follow it. Because my injury was so bad, I had physical therapy. Those therapists gave me exercises to do every day and I still do them, nearly a year after my last PT appointment. They also told me the warning signs to watch for--things that were flashing red lights to stop what I was doing before I hurt myself. They gave me a list of exercises to avoid. And told me how much pain was okay to work through and how much was too much. I wrote it down and I stick to it.

I take time to take it easy. I never used to spend much time on stretching or mobilization exercises. Now, two of my workout days are active recovery days where I do stretching and "pre-hab" routines.

I learned which muscles needed to be stronger to support my knees. In my case, that's my hamstrings and the muscles of my quadriceps. I make sure I do safe exercises that strengthen those muscles several times each week.

I write down what my fears are, and I get specific. Sometimes naming a fear takes some of the fear out of it. Then I refute it, or I decide how I'm going to address it.

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Even if your fear isn't driven by an injury, some of these strategies can still work. Maybe working with a personal trainer would help your confidence because you'd get some expert advice on how to do exercises correctly and safely. Or maybe going to the gym or a class with a friend would take some of the anxiety out of the experience for you.

I don't know that I'm someone who necessarily thinks everything happens for a reason. But I do know that my injury humbled me in ways that were probably good for me as a trainer. I've said before on this blog that I struggled with my weight and with feeling uncomfortable in my body for many years in my teens and twenties. So, before this experience I don't think I would have said that I was unaware of what it was like to feel that way.

But I do think that sometimes I probably forgot just a little. I think that sometimes those feelings weren't as accessible to me as they might have been because I found myself so far on the other end of the fitness spectrum in my thirties.

This injury, while mostly healed, will have lingering effects. There will always be occasional pain. There will always be exercises I don't do. There will always be modifications I need to make and days when frustration and fear override confidence and ambition. And I've gotten to a place where I think that's okay.

Because it means I always have one foot in both worlds. I'm firmly planted in my personal trainer world--in a world where I love moving and challenging my body. But I'm also never far away from that other place. That place of physical pain; that place where your body isn't a predictable, known quantity; that place where moving is a loaded emotional and physical proposition.

If you find yourself there too, you are definitely not alone. And you should give yourself a pat on the back for feeling that way and working through it to do great things for your body and your health.

June-in-Review

When Change is Good

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A while ago I wrote a post about recovery days, aka active rest days and how important they are. And they are. And then...I promptly ignored my own advice.

I did it because I loved my workouts and didn't want to miss an opportunity to move.

Part of the fun of being a personal trainer is that I can play around with my workouts and see what my body can do. But I also know how to keep myself safe and the signs to watch for that indicate that a particular exercise or program isn't working for me.

Which leads me to the subject of this post.

Good Morning Sunshine

Several weeks ago I started to notice that I didn't feel right. I had trouble sleeping and was tired all the time. My muscles were sore constantly. I was irritable. I had been sick a couple of times in quick succession. My knee, which I had injured last year and recovered from, was starting to hurt badly again. My appetite was often nonexistent.

And I was starting to dread my workouts. Workouts that I normally loved. Exercises that used to be challenging but doable, now often seemed impossible. I wasn't feeling stronger. I wasn't having fun.

I suspected that I was overdoing things. Big time. So, I decided I needed to scale back. A prospect that in some ways I didn't relish, but in other ways was desperate to do.

Relax

I'm two weeks in to an 8-week scaled down, moderate-intensity program at this point and I gotta say...I'm feeling really good. My energy level is up, I'm sleeping well, and I'm enjoying moving through my workouts again. I'm following a program designed by another personal trainer that I really like, so I also freed myself from the responsibility of putting together my own workouts. I'm tracking things like my energy level, sleep, appetite, mood and how my body feels, which has been really helpful.

When the 8 weeks are over, I'll see how I feel and may bump up the duration or intensity of my workouts a bit. Maybe. Or maybe I'll change them up in some other way. I'm not quite sure yet. There are some classes I'm thinking about taking and they're a bit longer than my current sessions. If I take them, then I might decrease the intensity on other days. I'm just going to play around with different things until I find something that challenges me enough, while not draining me.

Keep Exploring

I encourage you to check-in with your body on a regular basis too. How are you sleeping? What's your energy-level like? How about your appetite? Your mood? Are you in pain?

How are your workouts working for you? Are you giving your body a chance to recover from activity? If you generally like exercise, do you find yourself looking forward to it each day or dreading it? Are you doing the same kind of workout, but not with the same amount of enjoyment? Have the gains you were making in strength, endurance, flexibility or balance slowed or plateaued? Are you bored? Are you feeling overwhelmed or too challenged?

We often stick to routines out of habit, or out of the fear that if we change things up whatever the new thing is won't be as effective as the old thing and we'll lose whatever gains we've made. And we very often don't pay attention to the signals our bodies are sending us that it's time to scale down, scale up or just change our activity.

When you've done your own self-assessment, feel free to change anything that isn't working for you. There are tons of great personal trainers who can help you figure out a great plan, and I'm always happy to share the name of the program I'm doing now with anyone who's interested, with the caveat that every body is different and what works well for me might not work for you and vice versa.

There are so many ways to move your body, that finding something that works for you is a matter of trial and error. And, in case I haven't said it here before, you can always break up your exercise time into manageable chunks. If your goal is 30 minutes a day, you can do three 10-minute sessions instead of one 30 minute block. Do what works for you, both in terms of content and time.

Take care all. Until next time...