Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Healthy Living Habits

Hello! I hope y'all are having a most fabulous Tuesday. I'm just popping in for a long-overdue post. I was approached by Petro at ETB Fit with the request to write about some of my healthy living habits. While I am by no means an expert on anything that I am about to write, I simply know what works for me. I know there are so many people out there who know the science and the reasoning behind living a healthy and balanced lifestyle and I'm grateful for the articles that those people put out there for the public to read and learn from. But I have been interested in health and fitness for quite some time, and I've found what has and hasn't worked for me, and I would love to share it with you guys.

Fueling a Workout

If you're anything like me, you have woken up with achy legs that are begging you to do anything but get out of bed at this early hour and exercise. Or maybe you've been in the middle of a workout and started feeling light-headed and weak and there’s no way you can perform your best if you’re feeling like that. And hydration isn’t just important when you’re exercising. It affects the entirety of your day. Especially now that we’re in the dog days of summer, but I’m conscious of this every day, I keep a refillable water bottle on me at all times. I try to drink a bottle each hour, especially on the days when I know I am going to sweat a lot. That doesn't always happen, but the reusable bottle makes it so easy to get my recommended daily water intake. And hydration also comes from eating water-rich foods, such as watermelon, grapefruit, cucumbers, berries, and carrots, among other things.

I’m guilty of restricting carbs in the past, and I have many friends who do the same. Suddenly your pants start fitting a little tighter, so your knee-jerk reaction is to cut out any and all carbohydrates, thinking that’s the solution to all of your weight loss problems. And it’s really not your fault that you feel that way, because that’s what so many diets and articles tell us. But I find carbs to be such an important part of my healthy living regimen. No, I don't need to have a pasta party the night before every run, but carbs are a great source of energy. It's the glucose that gets converted into energy, fueling the brain and the body. Oats (cooked are my favorite!), whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, wild rice (for when you're feeling wild), and bananas are some of my recommendations, but whole grain pancakes, whole grain cereal, and peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread are some more good pre- and post-workout options.

Working Out on an Empty Stomach
DON'T DO IT! I say this, but I'll admit that I'm sometimes guilty of it. When you're waking up in the four o'clock hour to squeeze in a workout before school, food just doesn't sound that appealing. So only if I'm working out in the four and five o'clock hours do I skip the fuel. Otherwise, I try not to exercise without something in my system. Not that I want a heavy Mexican meal in my stomach, but there are a few things that I swear by. Just before a workout (maybe 20-30 minutes before) I'll often pop a couple of cuties into my mouth. They're easy to eat, easy to eat while driving to the gym, and they are a simple carb that operates as a quick energy source, and they are also chock-full of electrolytes. Or maybe I'm feeling banana slices and peanut butter, though I usually save this snack for race day. Luna minis are my recent favorite, as they don't weigh me down as much as an entire Luna bar would, yet they are a great source of iron, calcium, and protein. And it tastes like you're eating a candy bar. And of course, I often love to scarf down one or two of my banana-oatmeal-almond butter muffins. Full of good carbs, nuts, and just enough sugar. Just don't eat too many of them!

I've been told that it's best to eat within 30 minutes of working out. I'll admit that I'm not always the best about following that, as sometimes a shower and getting ready for the next item on my list takes precedence, but I do try and eat at least a little something to keep from feeling faint and light-headed later on. Yogurt and granola, or granola and almond milk is my most-recent post-workout favorite. But not the sugar-laden, store-bought granola. I prefer to make my own. I promise it's not hard, and I love that I'm in control of the ingredients going into it. A big, juicy apple with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter is another one of my post-workout go-to's, as pairing fruit with protein is always a good idea. A turkey sandwich on whole-grain or whole wheat bread is another tasty option, and you can add as many veggies as you want. Just be sure and skip the mayo. And while I can't actually drink it, chocolate milk is an excellent post-workout recovery drink. But I can drink smoothies. And I'm pretty fond of them, especially when a few greens have been snuck in.

Working Out

Mix Things Up
This one is tough for me. If I had it my way, I would just run and run and run. Nothing else. Except maybe the occasional, leisurely bike ride. But I learned firsthand what too much mileage does to you. And I'd rather not have to take that recovery procedure again. So I make a very conscious effort to mix up my workouts. A run one day, a swim the next, a strength class the next, and I'll also be sure and throw in some sprint and hill workouts, among a spin class or two. And you can't forget about rollerblading. And the beauty of all that I just listed is that it's not even close to all of the exercise options out there. Playing a sport, taking a TRX class, and even walking, are more great options. The point I'm trying to make is that it's important to mix things up. Not only do different workouts and exercises work different muscles, but they challenge us in a way that doing the exact same workout gets monotonous. It means we're getting stronger, but don't we want to continue to get stronger? Mixing things up will prevent you from hitting a plateau, and most of all, it will prevent boredom. One of the biggest reasons I see people not exercising is because "it's not fun." I promise you there's something out there that you will like. And I never tell a lie.

Paddleboarding is an excellent workout - arms and core, baby!
Strength Training
Can I take a minute and harp on the importance of strength training? I used to be a cardio queen, and I still am, to some degree. Melissa, my freshman year roommate, nicknamed me Krazy Kardio Kelli, because given the choice, I would always choose cardio over weights. I didn't feel like it was "doing anything," and that cardio was the best way to burn calories. Not true. Strength training aids in the muscle-toning process, helps you to get stronger, helps maintain weight loss, protects bone health and muscle mass, and calories are burned during and after. Ladies, it won't bulk you up, as I know that's a common concern, and I urge you not to be intimidated by those male muscle builders next to you. Strength and resistance training is an important part of any fitness routine - male or female - and I guarantee you will reap the benefits in more ways than one.

This one is even tougher for me than mixing things up. I feel like taking a day or two off from exercising will cause me to gain ten pounds. Irrational, but it's a true story. Except it's not true of our bodies at all. In fact, our bodies crave and need rest. It gives our muscles time to heal, rebuild, and recuperate. If you don't incorporate rest days into your workout regimen, you run a greater risk of injury, especially if the exercise you do is of the high-impact variety. Trust me, your body will thank you for giving it a little bit of time to rest. And taking a day off doesn't mean sitting on the couch all day, watching a Harry Potter marathon and binge-eating tortilla chips. Take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. Try paddleboarding out for size. Give yoga a shot. Just don't go all-out every single day. Take a day or two off so that you can give maximum effort the next day. Just give your body some love. I speak from my own experience, because I've certainly beat mine down before.

Or else you'll be sporting KT Tape (though it does come in fun colors)

This one is big for me. I have always, always, always been conscious of how much sleep I'm getting. I know first-hand what doing too much on too little sleep does to you, and while it may seem like you're surviving on sleep at the time, all it leads to is getting run-down and sick and more susceptible to injuries,and then you lose so much of the hard work that you have already put in. There are busy seasons in life. I get it. Trust me. I'm about to enter into mine. But also trust me when I say that your work will still be there in the morning. My papers aren't going anywhere. And in order to do a more effective job, sleep is essential. Seven to eight hours is what I aim for every night, and I also try (try being the operative word here) and go to bed at a reasonable hour each night. 

Taking after my girls
This one may seem less important than the other items on this list, but I promise it will make a huge difference in your workout. I honestly think a good workout playlist is the difference between a good workout and a great workout. There are just those songs that put a little bit of extra pep in your step. Right now I'm loving Cheerleader (it's okay, go ahead and judge me), Shut Up and Dance, Geronimo, Fight Song, Time of Our Lives, Ridin' Solo (talk about a throwback), and What's My Age Again (blink182 is always relevant), but I've got about 100 songs that I listen to while running, biking, and strength training. I prefer Spotify, but iTunes will give you Taylor Swift, many people choose Pandora, and I'm willing to bet there are plenty of budget-friendly music apps out there. And while I personally don't enjoy running with an armband, it's worth it to be hands-free.

I'm very grateful that Petro reached out to me, because I had a great time thinking about and examining my own healthy living habits. What do I eat pre- and post-workout, and what would improve the quality of not only my workouts, but what I do before and after? I invite you guys to check out EBT Fit's products, as they really pride themselves on offering some of the market's cleanest and best pre-workout fuel available. If you're a female looking to get toned or gain some pre-workout energy, there's something for you. If you're a male looking to muscle up or to rebuild some of those muscles, there's something for you, too. I encourage you to check out their website not only for their products, but for their healthy yet indulgent-tasting recipes as well. And before signing off, I want to reiterate that I am in not a personal trainer, a registered dietician, or even someone who knows all of the science behind exercise and healthy eating. But I know what has and hasn't worked for me, and that is what I want to share with you all.

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