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    The Holy Grail Treatment That Has Made My Sore Muscles Disappear

    While I’ve had quite the run of working out from home (thanks to Obé Fitness and a well-stocked cabinet of workout gear), since I got back in the gym, my workouts have been a complete step above. I’m lifting heavier, going longer, needing fewer breaks—to say I’m thriving would be an understatement. But what comes with harder, more intense workouts? Feeling sore AF. I won’t complain that my body feels sore from my workouts because we all know that bittersweet feeling that we actually accomplished something when we wake up with shaky legs after a day of heavy squats or a long run. But when you get really sore, it can make even the simplest of tasks (like sitting on the toilet) feel like the most laborious chore.
    If you’re looking for a quick fix, massaging your body with a gua sha tool is probably the highest on the list, and it’s the only method I’ve found useful for both relieving and preventing soreness. 
    Gua sha is the act of scraping at the skin to promote circulation. “Gua means ‘scrape’ and Sha means ‘petechiae’ (tiny, flat red or purple spots) in Chinese,” said Dr. Ervina Wu, PhD, LAc, co-founder of YINA. “It’s commonly used in Chinese medicine to scrape the skin (mostly on the upper back) to invigorate blood flow, release heat-toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage, activate various points of the body, and stimulate an immune response bringing helpful cells to the area.” If you haven’t tried it yourself (likely with a jade or rose quartz stone on your face), you’ve probably seen it on TikTok labeled as a natural way to sculpt and massage your face. It’s been used in ancient Chinese civilizations for centuries to bring out redness and treat ailments all over the body, using sharper objects like coins or scrapers. In Western culture, we’ve seen jade and rose quartz-shaped stones to lightly massage the face, moving around lymphatic drainage and sculpting the face.
    However, most of us are forgetting that one of the best ways to utilize our gua sha tools is on the body. I’ve added body gua sha to my nightly routine for the last two months. Here’s how I use it, what I use, and the Equilibria CBD products that have totally changed my gua sha routine.

    In this article

    Meet the expert
    Dr. Ervina Wu, PhD, LAc
    DOCTOR OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE, FOUNDER OF YINA
    Dr. Ervina Wu is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and registered TCM Dermatologist and the founder of YINA, a beauty and wellness brand by two AAPI founders and doctors.

    Using Gua Sha With CBD
    When I want to really help my sore muscles, I pair a gua sha body massage with Equilibria’s CBD products, specifically the Relief Balm and Daily Treatment Oil. To get the gua sha moving around the skin, you always have to apply some kind of slippery product so you’re not tugging at your skin, and opting for CBD doubles the sore muscle-fighting powers. The Relief Cream is already my favorite product from Equilibria for relieving menstrual cramp pain and treating migraines, but it quite possibly works its best when used for sore muscles. It massages very deeply into your skin, and you can almost immediately feel it making a difference. When I use it with a gua sha stone, it glides beautifully. The stone itself is great for massaging the skin and relieving some of that soreness, but the Relief Balm actually feels like it’s taking away the soreness rather than just treating it.
    When I don’t use the Relief Cream, I’ll use the Daily Treatment Oil. Since my soreness is pretty prevalent right now, I’m trying to use my gua sha every other night before bed in my nighttime routine, and for the sheer sake of saving every last drop of my Relief Balm, I turn to this oil for everyday treatment. It’s a lot lighter obviously, so it goes a long way. A tiny bit of this covers practically my entire body. It’s definitely not as strong as the Relief Balm, but for an everyday massage, it still makes a bigger difference than using a regular body oil. The added benefit of this oil is that it makes my skin feel so soft and supple after I use it. I haven’t even been using my usual body lotions since I added this to my routine.

    Source: Equilibria

    Shop My Favorite Gua Sha Tools

    Bian Stone Body Gua Sha Tool
    This is the body gua sha I’ve been using, and it’s a game-changer. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to invest in a bigger gua sha to use on your body if you already have a stone you love for your face. But I love the rippled edge on this and also love that it’s a little bit bigger than a gua sha stone you’d use on your face so you can cover a lot more surface area in one swipe. Plus, it was developed by doctors of Chinese medicine and the brand’s founders are AAPI, and when buying a product that is so focused on a practice in Chinese culture, it’s important to support them.

    Gua Sha Body Scraping Tool
    For a less expensive alternative that you can use to really get into your muscles (especially your legs and calves for runners), this stainless steel tool will be your best friend.

    Benefits of Body Gua Sha
    I’ve seen so many benefits since I added this practice to my nighttime routine. “Gua Sha is especially effective at relieving muscular tension and breaking down fascia adhesions, [making it] perfect for those with tight muscles, sluggish circulation, and tech necks,” Dr. Wu said. Here’s what I’ve experienced so far:

    Better Sleep

    Because I do my body gua sha at night, I feel so relaxed that I fall asleep easier. But what I really love is how much deeper, longer, and more comfortably I sleep after using gua sha. Because I’ve relieved some of the tension in my muscles, I’m not tossing and turning all night trying to find a comfortable way to sleep.

    Softer Skin

    Thanks to my nighttime oil from Equilibria, my skin feels softer and smoother. It’s a reminder to use a moisturizing oil before bed, when I otherwise would scroll on my phone and avoid spending some extra time on myself, and my skin is thanking me for it. 

    Less Soreness Over Time

    Using gua sha on my sore muscles has actually made me get less sore over time. Because the gua sha increases circulation to those areas, they heal faster and are more prepared to recover on their own after a workout.

    Releases Tightness

    The gua sha massage breaks up tension because you’re massaging out those muscles and moving that lymphatic drainage around your body. When I use it on sore muscles, I notice an immediate difference: Those muscles feel energized and recovered. Dr. Wu also suggested trying gua sha on your legs and ankles for long flights to reduce swelling or keeping it at your desk to relieve shoulder tension, text thumbs, and achy keyboard hands. 

    More Relaxed Nighttime Routine

    Rather than feeling the scaries or anxiety before starting my night routine, I feel relaxed and excited to get into my gua sha massage.

    If you’re pregnant or menstruating, you should avoid using gua sha on your abdomen. If you tend to bruise or are on blood thinners, Dr. Wu recommended using lighter pressure. Also, you should avoid broken skin, wounds, scrapes, and any sensitive areas. 

    Source: Stocksy

    How Often Should You Gua Sha?
    You can gua sha anywhere from daily to once or twice a week. When I first started, I was only doing it as needed when my muscles felt a little sore, but I’ve started doing it just about every night before bed and have noticed the most results that way.

    How to Gua Sha on Your Body
    You can gua sha your entire body or just the areas you’re feeling sore and tight. Here’s my routine:
    Apply Relief Cream or Treatment Oil to my skin. I do this section by section so the oils don’t absorb into the skin before I can make it to that area. I don’t rub this in too much—just enough to get it spread out.
    Start at the top of your body and go down the rest from there. You can even gua sha your scalp like you’re combing your hair to feel extra relaxed. Follow this by doing your neck, chest, arms, abdomen, legs, and feet. Don’t forget the soles of your feet, ankles, and palms of the hands. According to Dr. Wu, you should move to another area once it starts to turn pink or warm. 
    Start with minimal pressure, and tailor your experience using all sides of the gua sha. When I want something more intense, I’ll use one of the sharp edges. When I want a larger surface area, I use the longest edge. My gua sha has a rippled edge as well, which I like to use on bigger muscle areas, like the tops of my arms, the shins, hamstrings, and top of the back.
    Do anywhere from 10-20 swipes for each section. This is pretty intuitive, so I focus on where I need the massage most and what feels most effective for me.
    Finish the massage by running your hands over each area, rubbing in any excess oil or balm.
    If you experience any redness from your gua sha, that’s normal! Especially if you use a firmer pressure, gua sha can bring up lots of redness and inflammation in the body, but it should go away in a few hours.

    This post is sponsored by Equilibria, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More

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    Is a Pre-Workout Supplement Actually Necessary? We Asked the Experts

    So the last thing you want to do after a long day is work out. The supplement industry knows that. Pre-workout supplements are no longer reserved for bodybuilders or professional athletes; just a quick scroll through “What I Eat in a Day” videos on TikTok or the #fitspo hashtag on Instagram might be enough to make you feel like you’re missing out on a workout staple. But what’s really in all those powders and drinks, and do they really make a difference? Honestly, I have no clue, so I did what any good wellness editor would and went to the experts. If you’ve ever been confused about the endless world of supplements or asked yourself if a lack of a pre-workout drink is the reason you’re not seeing results, this one’s for you. Read on for my deep dive into pre-workout supplements and find out what the experts have to say.

    In this article

    What is a pre-workout supplement?
    While there are hundreds of brands and types of products intended to be consumed before a workout, it turns out most of them share the same basic ingredients intended to benefit energy, endurance, or results. “Pre-workout supplements often contain ingredients like amino acids, vitamin B, caffeine, and creatine,” explained Dr. Eva Gamallo RMT, MD, a medical consultant for Sensible Digs. In summary, the purpose is to maximize the time you spend at the gym by increasing benefits and results. “Pre-workouts are a combination of biochemically active products designed to improve energy, focus, blood flow, and energy to muscles and enhance recovery potential,” explained Dr. Shaffer Mok MD, a gastroenterologist and medical adviser to Sovereign Laboratories. Many people take them purely for energy (especially early-morning gym-goers), while weight-lifters and marathon-trainers take them to speed progress. So can a powder or liquid shot really help us reach our fitness goals?

    Does taking a supplement before a workout really make a difference?
    The short answer: maybe, maybe not. While there are many studies that conclude that individual ingredients commonly used in pre-workout supplements might increase performance (for example, caffeine has been shown to potentially increase speed and power output), there’s not enough research on the supplements themselves, so athletes, trainers, and doctors are left to their own personal experience and research. “There is still limited data on how these common ingredients may benefit athletic performance, so there’s an ongoing debate among experts (about) whether or not they actually make a difference. Some advocates swear they improve energy and have fitness benefits, while others believe in dangerous effects of taking these supplements,” Dr. Gamallo explained.

    What are the potential harms?
    If I haven’t already stated this enough, here’s a quick reminder: With any vitamin or supplement, it’s important to do your own research and talk to your doctor before trying for yourself. Here’s the reason why: Many experts I spoke to believe many of these products could have potentially harmful ingredients. “These dietary supplements are not always closely regulated, and many contain artificial sweeteners,” Dr. Gamallo said. Dr. Mok agreed, pointing out that even if a product doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, an unnatural or excessive dose of common “good” ingredients can have a negative effect. “Be wary of high doses of caffeine in unnatural sources, as it can significantly alter your sleep (at any time of day), which is the most critical part of any exercise regimen.” 
    Plus, pre-workout supplements were intended for major athletes or serious marathon runners. Not to undermine your workouts (trust me, a hot yoga class or HIIT session is tough as hell), but if you’re not routinely pushing your body to the point of exhaustion or working out for a couple of hours every day, you probably don’t need a pre-workout supplement and may not even notice a difference, since a healthy body should give you all the endurance and energy it needs for a standard workout sesh. “If you’re a recreational exerciser and are just working out to stay in shape, you probably don’t need a pre-workout,” said Ashlee Van Buskirk BSN, a personal trainer, health coach, and founder of Whole Intent. 

    The verdict
    Some experts I talked to add a scoop of powder (like Vital Proteins) to their water before a workout and feel a difference in energy levels, endurance, or speed, but most declared pre-workout supplements are unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. To determine what’s right for you, talk to your doctor and experiment to find what’s best for you. “A lot of training is psychological,” said Jake Harcoff MS, CSCS, TSAC-f, CISSN, head coach, and owner of AIM Athletic. “If pre-workout use helps you get in the gym more consistently, feels good for you, and is something you’ve discussed with your doctor, it might be worth sticking with.”
    The point that I believe is most important is that a healthy body shouldn’t really need a pre-workout supplement. If you’re lacking energy or feel like you can’t challenge yourself during workouts, a supplement is not the answer. “The key is understanding your body,” said Serena Poon, a celebrity nutritionist and wellness entrepreneur. “A lack of energy during workouts could be caused by an array of factors and may not be something that can be fixed with supplements.” In other words, if your workouts are lacking, look into your overall diet, sleep quality, vitamin levels, gut health, recovery days, and stress levels before opting for a pre-workout supplement.
    Still swear by your pre-workout mix or dying to try the new supplement your favorite fitness influencer posted about? You know what to do: Talk to your doctor. Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy, a primary care doctor at Doctor Spring, explained that he doesn’t personally recommend pre-workout supplements to patients, but if a patient wants to try a product, they’ll take a look at the ingredients together to decide if its right. “I explain each ingredient and the possible implications, and then let them decide on their own if they want to continue using it (with precaution, of course).”

    More options to boost your workout beforehand
    While experts disagree on pre-workout supplements and not enough research has been done to either fully support or discourage them, there is something every expert can agree on: the benefits of real, whole foods. “In my opinion, the best way to attain the benefits of pre-workout supplements is by eating a nutritious and balanced diet with the same active ingredients found in supplements.” Dr. Gamallo said. Try pregaming workouts with whole foods that contain the same ingredients supplements offer, like coffee and tea, which contain caffeine to increase energy and alertness during exercise, or watermelon, which contains L-citrulline, an amino acid commonly used in pre-workout supplements that increases blood flow in tissues for better muscle performance.
    Likewise, Dr. Tripathy recommended water (duh!) because staying hydrated will help with recovery, and natural drinks like coconut water can help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Poon also said to never underestimate the power that good ol’ fashion carbohydrates can bring to your workout. “Carbohydrates store in your body as glycogen, which is your main power source for exercise,” she explained. “Eating a small meal that contains carbohydrates, such as a piece of whole-grain peanut butter toast or a banana can help boost your energy for your workout.” Bottom line: Sure, pre-workout can be super beneficial in getting the most out of that gym time, but it doesn’t have to be from a supplement. 

    How to Actually Get the Most out of Your Workout, According to a Fitness Trainer

    10 Things to Do Before + After to Maximize a Workout More

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    The 4-Minute Workout That Could Completely Transform Your Health

    Bored of your regular fitness routine or sick of hearing yourself explain that you don’t have time for a workout? Good news: You can transform your fitness levels and achieve your health goals, and all you need is four minutes. At least, that’s the idea behind Tabata, the fitness method that has taken the health world by storm. But is a short period of intensity worth the hype, and how do you know that you’re doing it right? Don’t worry: I asked experts all the questions so you don’t have to spend your gym time on Google. Read on for a beginner’s guide to Tabata and find out if you should try it yourself. Spoiler alert: It just might be the secret to achieving your fitness goals—#fitspo!

    What is Tabata?
    Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports started Tabata in the early ’90s after researching short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by shorter rests, compared to continuous moderate-intensity. That’s right: This fitness practice didn’t come from a TikTok trend or wellness influencer claiming they found the secret to weight loss. It was a result of a study that found the test subjects benefitted more from shorter, high-intensity workouts, both aerobically and anaerobically. In other words, it was more beneficial for both cardiovascular health and building muscle. 
    While it may sound intimidating, Tabata is just a more specific type of the popular Instagram-favorite HIIT training. “Tabata is a short form of exercise with high bursts of work or energy usage,” explained Justin Meissner, a NASM-certified trainer and sports performance coach. Just like the HIIT circuits you know and love, Tabata uses intervals to maximize movement. The only difference is that the practice is defined by a specific amount of time, both in the length of the workout and in rest vs. intensity time. “Tabata workouts are short bursts of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off, repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.”
    So what’s the point of getting specific AF about a few minutes of movement? “Because of the work-to-rest ratio of 2:1, your heart rate rises in a short amount of time,” explained Emma Caird, a certified personal trainer and TRX Functional Training instructor. “The idea is to push yourself to your limit for a short period, rather than to spend half an hour or more on moderate exercise.” Four-minute workouts sound too good to be true, so do they really work?

    What are the benefits?
    We don’t have to look much further than Dr. Tabata’s original study to find that just four minutes of high-intensity intervals can have some serious fitness benefits, but many trainers and fitness experts alike swear by the method for a range of reasons. “Tabata can improve your VO2 max, AKA the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during a workout,” explained Kelly Cosentino NCSF-CPT, corrective exercise specialist and Daily Burn‘s director of fitness. “Increasing this maximum amount means your body can move more efficiently; it’s an indicator of cardiovascular health and aerobic endurance.” Nadia Charif, a registered dietician and Tabata practitioner, swears by the results she has seen for herself. “Tabata has done wonders for my focus and efficiency, improved endurance, and is great for burning fat,” she said. 
    Besides the benefits the body reaps, there’s one serious benefit we can’t ignore: It only takes four minutes. “Tabata is time-efficient and convenient,” Caird said. “You can do Tabata anywhere, with or without equipment.” Cosentino agreed. “You don’t need equipment or a lot of space to get your heart rate pumping and to start burning calories quickly.” In other words, you have no excuse to skip a good-for-you workout on days where you’re pressed for time. While we often believe we need 30-60 minutes of exercise for it to “count,” Tabata proves that when it comes to fitness, effort is more important than time.

    Are there any cons?
    Before you cancel your gym membership or throw out your at-home exercise equipment, know that Tabata isn’t meant for everyone or for all the time. “A Tabata workout can be efficient when you don’t have time, but it still does not equal a long workout. For the best benefits, mix it with longer workout days,” Meissner said. Just because four minutes of Tabata is a major multitasker (both aerobic and anaerobic benefits are impressive) doesn’t mean you’ll get everything your body needs. A 60-minute yoga class might benefit your mental health or weight training sessions can be important for bone health and reducing injury risk.
    Overall, the goal of fitness should be to live less sedentary, so an efficient workout is good on days where you wouldn’t otherwise fit it in, but you should still be conscious of moving the body more often. Also, if your body is not prepared for high intensity, you might be setting it up for some serious damage. “The fast-paced nature of Tabata workouts could make you focus on more reps and forget to focus on proper form,” Cosentino explained. “If your form is not correct, it can lead to injury, muscle soreness, or activation of the wrong muscles.” Bottom line: Prepare your body before diving into the practice and mix it in with a variety of other workouts.

    Interested in trying Tabata for yourself? Here’s how:
    If you’re a newbie to interval training or have not built up endurance and overall cardiovascular health, start slowly. Try a couple of interval rounds at a lower intensity and work up to the full four minutes at your highest intensity. Also, consult with your doctor or trainer before trying Tabata, especially if you have chronic pain, heart issues, or asthma. When you’re ready to start experimenting, consider buying a stopwatch or downloading an app for interval training like Tabata Timer. If you’re interested in trying cardio exercises, you can use your favorite form, whether it’s biking, running, or going on the elliptical. Think: sprinting for 20 seconds and walking for 10 seconds. Meissner recommended following cardio Tabata with strength training for optimal benefits.
    If you’ve never been much of a runner and don’t own a bike, you can still apply the principles of Tabata to your favorite workouts. “Almost any exercise can be done in Tabata,” Cosentino explained. “Try alternating between strength and cardio moves in each four-minute round: pair jumping jacks with squats, high knees with burpees, and mountain climbers with uppercut punches. You can also try finishing off your workout with Tabata by just adding four more minutes to boost that VO2 max and assist in cardio burn.” No matter what workout you prefer, think of working at full intensity for 20 seconds and then low-intensity for 10 seconds for four minutes.

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    We Need to Talk About Joining a Gym When You’re Plus-Size

    It’s a constant joke that I was athletically challenged most of my life. I skipped school on the day of every single Pacer test, and when my parents told me I had to play a sport to get into college (my parents both didn’t attend college and genuinely thought you had to play a sport to get in—how pure), I attended one tennis practice and couldn’t show my face to the team ever again. But that doesn’t mean I’m inactive, and after a year of working out consistently at home followed by a short stint in my (better than average) apartment fitness center, I was ready to finally join a gym again.
    I never attended a gym until I was in college, but I quickly learned that weight training was my favorite way to work out. So, when I was home on summer break one year, I joined a gym. They asked all the typical questions: what is your favorite way to work out? How often do you plan to come? What are your fitness goals? But then they ask the worst question of all:
    “What’s your height and weight?”
    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals? It made me feel uncomfortable every time I saw that gym attendant, knowing that he knew really personal details about me and possibly made up his own judgments about me and my health, all because I told him a few numbers.

    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals?

    I put off joining a gym for a long time after that because it felt so daunting to put myself out there. I’m a mid-size cis-woman with a little bit of experience at the gym, and I worried about the judgments that might ensue walking into a weight room full of jacked bros and their protein shakes. Everyone talks about gym intimidation and how awkward being in the gym for the first time is, but no one talks about how uncomfortable and overbearing it can be to just join. After months of working out in my apartment gym, I was starting to feel a little stagnant with the level of equipment available to me, so I decided to join a nearby gym. And it was… in a word… horrible.

    My Experience
    I have never felt so uncomfortable as I did when I tried to join this gym. When I arrived, I met with the owner of the gym at a tiny kiosk in the middle of everything. Seriously, a man was like doing squats right next to my face. Not only was I prompted with the dreaded “What’s your height and weight?” (in the literal middle of the gym in front of everyone), but I was pestered and berated about my physical health (by a person who isn’t my doctor!) and questioned over and over about my fitness goals. When I said my goal was to just be healthy, I was, again, berated because I didn’t have any fitness goals. Eventually, I told the owner of the gym I have an eating disorder, and at one point (while tearing into me about my BMI and how I’m at risk to get cancer and have a stroke—again, not a doctor!), he said he wanted to be “gentle with my eating issue.” Then, he proceeded to tell me that if I have no fitness goals, there’s no point in joining the gym. Working out is fun for me and a way to de-stress—is that a crime?
    I stood in the middle of this gym while this stranger wrote down some of my most personal health information and threw it all back at me… and then dared to be upset when I wasn’t really feeling it and didn’t want to join his gym. Like sir, you just laid into me about how “unhealthy” I was and how joining a gym was pointless if I wasn’t trying to do a 180 on my body… what makes you think I’d ever want to come back here?
    I was so taken aback when I left that I called my mom and told all of my friends how horrible this experience was, and a lot of people echoed my thoughts on how agonizing the experience of joining a gym is. But until then, I’d never heard anyone talk about it. When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are. And the pressure is even worse when you’re above the threshold of what is an “acceptable” size as a woman.

    When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are.

    Aside from a horrible experience with management, I knew pretty early on this gym wouldn’t be for me. When I walked in, I saw guys who resembled Hulk or at the very least men whose dream was to look like the Hulk, and all the women were fit beyond belief. I didn’t see a single person in the gym who looked anything like me, and it was 7 pm on a weeknight, their busiest time. I knew I’d feel self-conscious going to a gym where I was the only one who didn’t train for marathons or body-building competitions.
    I ultimately left the gym and never looked back. It was so frustrating because they had a great facility, but I knew I’d never feel comfortable. Why do these gym owners think intimidating me and making me feel like an unhealthy sack of sh*t is the way to get me to join? I’d rather never step foot in your facility than ever feel that way again. Even if I was unhealthy, it’s truly none of your business why I’m at your gym.

    What I’m Going to Do Next
    As an avid exerciser, I simply can’t swear away the gym forever, even though the thought of walking inside one and signing up sounds like my personal hell after what I went through. Instead, I joined a nearby gym (we stan Planet Fitness in this house) that allowed me to easily sign up online with ZERO weird questions, pestering, or upselling at all. I’m able to go into my gym now without a care in the world and feel completely normal. Plus, the gym is filled with people just like me: just normal people who like to work out, some who look really fit, and some who look like your average Joe, and I love it. I also plan to start going to a few classes once a week or so to change it up and get my fix of working closely with a fitness professional without all the judgment. Plus, classes are so social and fun to do with friends, and I’ve missed it so much in the pandemic. 
    As far as how I’m coping with this negative experience, I’m choosing to focus on how happy I feel after a workout and remembering why I was so excited to move up in my fitness journey rather than keep up with my same routine. That’s progress, even if some rude, muscular guy at the gym doesn’t agree. Even taking the step of wanting to join a gym is progress! If you have a similar experience, pay attention to all the progress you’re making and get excited about what you’ll make in the future. And I highly recommend writing it out. This article was deeply cathartic. 

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    The Unexpected Workout That I Actually Enjoy (and You Might Too)

    I’m ready to sing it from the rooftops: I finally found a form of exercise that I’ve stuck with and that I truly enjoy. It’s not too strenuous—but it burns enough calories for me, makes me feel good, and is easy to fit into my routine. So, what is it? Walking. Yes, that’s it: just going for a nice long walk. I have long heard about the benefits of walking (and obviously have gone for walks here and there in the past), but I hadn’t really gotten into a regular routine until recently.
    I’ve always been someone who reaaaaally struggles to find the motivation to workout, and I’ve also struggled with finding a type of workout that I truly enjoy. I’ve had little bursts of getting into a routine and doing one specific workout multiple times a week, but I always end up becoming bored of it and then losing motivation to work out altogether. 
    Then, a few months ago, I was inspired by the “Hot Girl Walk” trend on TikTok (if you haven’t seen it, it’s basically just putting on music that makes you feel confident, using the time to manifest for yourself, and walking a few miles) to invest in a good pair of walking shoes and a fanny pack and really commit. Now, every time I go for a walk, I come back to my apartment feeling so much better and like I did something great not only for my physical health but for my mental health as well. 

    So, what are the benefits of walking?
    According to Mayo Clinic, daily walking may help your general physical health because it can improve cardiovascular fitness, assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and strengthen your bones, muscles, and endurance.
    Regular walking has numerous mental health benefits as well: It can increase your energy levels, improve coordination, strengthen your immune system, and reduce stress. It can also improve your mood, cognition, memory, and sleep. I mean seriously, what’s not to love?
    Experts at the Mayo Clinic also say you should walk at least 30 minutes per day to truly enjoy all of the benefits of walking. You could also take it up a notch by adding weights or using the interval or incline features on a treadmill.

    Here’s how I do it:

    What’s in my headphones?
    When I first decided that I was really going to commit to getting the most out of my walks, I settled on either following the rules of the Hot Girl Walk and listening to music that helped boost my confidence or listening to a podcast. A podcast works really well because it motivates me to listen to at least one whole episode, ensuring that I walk for well over the 30-minute daily goal. 
    I haven’t tried a guided walking workout yet, but I’m very intrigued by them and definitely want to try it out. A lot of your favorite fitness apps offer them, and Apple Fitness+ even offers walking workouts narrated by celebrities (including Dolly Parton, Nick Jonas, Misty Copeland, and many more). 
    My favorite playlists and podcasts:

    Time and distance
    I don’t focus strictly on numbers; instead, I try to walk for as long as what makes me feel the best. I would say that I normally walk at least two or three miles, mostly because I genuinely enjoy it. If I’m listening to a podcast, my walks tend to be at least 45 minutes to an hour.
    At first, I just didn’t think I had enough time in the day to walk for very long, but the more I did it, the longer my walks became. I began to love walking new routes, finding new playlists, and catching up on my favorite podcasts while I walked. 

    How I fit it into my routine
    Incorporating regular exercise works best for me when I don’t force myself to stick to a particular schedule. I know that having a set routine works really well for some people, but I personally need the flexibility of just fitting it in whenever I can depending on the day. I often find that if I do try to stick to something specific (for example, getting up before work every day and working out), I tire myself out and feel defeated and less motivated when I miss a day. 
    Instead, I do whatever my day allows. Sometimes I do get up early and fit in a walk before work, sometimes I take a break from working from home and go for a walk during the day, and sometimes I don’t walk until dusk (I think sunset walks are underrated). I listen to my body, and because walking really does reduce my stress and anxiety levels, I take a walk when I feel like it’ll benefit me most. 
    It’s also important to note that I started walking regularly in early spring and live in Chicago, so the weather was unpredictable. If it’s raining or too cold, walking indoors on a treadmill is great too! I use those times to challenge myself with different incline levels and interval workouts.

    Why it works for me
    Although walking as a workout might give off old-lady-in-a-walking-club vibes, I genuinely think it has benefitted me more than any other exercise I’ve tried. Taking a long walk makes me feel less stressed, it boosts my energy and mood, clears my mind, and it actually burns a fair number of calories.
    I sometimes find it hard to actually get out the door (as I do with any workout), but once I return to my apartment, I feel 10 times better than when I left. I also enjoy the time to myself to think through big decisions or stress points in my life, practice gratitude, manifest positive changes for myself, and disconnect for a bit. Oh, and the people-and-dog-watching is always enjoyable. 
    I try to supplement my walks with other workouts as well when I can—such as strength training, pilates, or yoga—but as I mentioned, I don’t force myself to do anything in particular. I think the flexibility in this routine and my commitment to truly listen to my body has helped me actually enjoy exercising.
    So if you’re like me and have been struggling to find a workout that you enjoy, I challenge you to lace up those sneakers, put your headphones in, strap on a fanny pack, and start walking for at least 30 minutes per day. The benefits go far beyond just physical, so you might just find your new favorite activity. 

    Here are all of the products that have elevated my walking routine:

    Everywhere Belt Bag 1L
    This belt bag is so popular and for good reason. It fits everything you would need for a long walk, but it isn’t too bulky—plus it adds a little element of chic-ness to your walking outfit.
    14 colors available

    Dagne Dover
    Mara Phone Sling
    I love this bag for when I really don’t need to take much on my walk. It’s designed to fit your cell phone, and then it has card slots so you can carry just the essentials. It even has a chapstick loop, which I really appreciate.
    4 colors available

    Hoka One One
    Bondi 7 Sneaker
    After much deliberation, I decided to purchase these shoes a few months ago. They were an investment for me, but it has definitely paid off. Hoka One One sneakers are designed for running and walking, and this particular pair is ultra-cushioned and so comfortable. Is it crazy to say these literally motivate me to workout?
    10 colors available

    Myriad Walking Shoe
    If you need a more budget-friendly pair of walking sneakers, these are a great option. I’ve owned Ryka shoes in the past, and they treated me well. Plus, how cute is this colorway?

    New Balance
    Athletic Cushion Comfort Quarter Socks
    This might seem weird, but trust me on this: You need the right pair of socks for a long walk. I love these because they’re cushioned but don’t make my feet sweat, and the quarter-length prevents any rubbing from the back of a shoe.
    7 styles available

    Obé x Bala Bangles
    Ankle/Wrist Weighted Bangles
    If you really want to get the most out of a walking workout, ankle weights add that little extra something that takes it to the next level. Plus, I seriously can’t get over how cute these Obé x Bala Bangles are!

    Quay Australia
    PSA Square Sunglasses
    I bought these sunglasses at the beginning of the summer, and they’re seriously the only ones I’ve been wearing. They’re perfect for walks for two reasons: 1) They don’t get stuck in you hair when you put them on your head and 2) Nobody can see your eyes through them (meaning they’re perfect for people-watching).

    Silicone AirPods Case with Rosegold Keychain
    Not only is this AirPods case cute, I’ve found it extremely functional (and it helps you not mix up your AirPods with your roommate or partner’s). I previously owned a case without a keychain, but I found that I was wanting to be able to hook it to things. This is perfect for hooking to my belt bag.
    30+ colors available More

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    How to Actually Get the Most out of Your Workout, According to a Fitness Trainer

    There are a lot (like, a lot) of fitness myths and exercise tips out there, but perhaps the one that tricks most people is the idea that the more time we spend working out, the more fit we’ll be. While it’s easy to think that gym rats have the advantage, the most strong, fit, and athletic people I know spend the least time at the gym. How? They’re intentional about how they spend their time, mindful about what to focus on, and they maximize the time they do spend exercising. If you want to get into the best shape of your life without spending an unnecessary chunk of time at the gym, here are six easy tips to get the most out of your workout. 

    1. Be specific with your goals and plan
    While fitness can be a great hobby and a fabulous social scene, getting in shape isn’t something that happens by accident. If you’re interested in accomplishing a goal or making lasting changes, it’s time to get intentional. Instead of taking random classes, aimlessly wandering the gym, or going for an open-ended jog, evaluate your goals and make a plan. For example, if you want to build muscle, commit to strength training three times a week and do cardio twice a week (And be specific about those workouts: dedicate one day to upper body, one day to lower body, and one day to core). If you want to run a marathon, do less boxing classes and start training. If you’ve always wanted to do pull-ups, dedicate strength training days to your upper body and get familiar with the pull-up assist at the gym. Specificity is key, and the more focused you are on what you want, the quicker you’ll achieve it.

    2. Focus on form
    You might be itching to grab those heavy weights to show the trainer/instructor/hot person in the squat rack how strong you are, but if the weight has you sacrificing your form, scale back. While the goal of strength training is to get stronger (duh!), good form should always be prioritized over heavy weights. If something doesn’t feel right, that means it’s probably not, so drop down in weights to ensure that you’re staying safe. My golden rule? If you’re increasing weights, don’t increase more than five pounds on dumbbells or 10 percent weight on barbells.

    3. Write it down
    Recording the exercises you did, the weights you used, and the way you felt might seem tedious, but keeping tabs on your performance is the best way to improve. If you’ve been using 15-pound dumbbells for the past year, try going up to 20-pound dumbbells and see how it feels. Write down what exercises you did, how many reps you completed, and how challenging it was. Then, the next time you do that same exercise, refer back to your notes and choose a weight or exercise that will both make sense and challenge you. Knowing what you’re doing (and when it’s time increase or adjust) is key to understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Recording your workouts is also beneficial for seeing progress and knowing when it’s time to celebrate new personal records (because celebrating is important too!). 

    4. Prioritize recovery
    No athlete gets by without recovering just as hard as they work, so make sure you schedule days to rest, stretch, and give your body a break. Whether you take the same day(s) off each week, choose rest days based on your schedule, or wait for your body to tell you when it needs a break, make sure you don’t work out more than six days a week (at most). While going hard every day might seem like the right way to achieve your goals faster, putting too much stress on the body without any time for recovery can cause injuries, overtraining syndrome, and deep fatigue that will derail your training. Listen to your body, chill out, and take breaks for optimal results.

    5. Be consistent
    Consistency is key. Rest days are certainly a valuable part of getting in shape, but working out occasionally or whenever you’re “in the mood” will not be enough to help you accomplish goals. Doing something, even on days when you’re tired, grumpy, or simply don’t feel like it, is better than doing nothing, and it will help you keep your routine. Staying consistent turns exercise into a habit, and an ingrained habit makes the difference between long-term success and failure. My best advice: Schedule your workouts like you schedule meetings, appointments, and hot dates. If you really don’t want to work out or don’t have time for a full 60-minute class, take a walk or do a yoga flow.

    6. Implement a fitness test
    Nothing is more motivating than seeing your hard work pay off, so schedule a fitness test every four weeks to keep track of where you’re improving and what you want to continue working on. A fitness test can be as simple as counting how many burpees you can do in a minute, how fast you can run a mile, or anything that allows you to see changes from month to month. Don’t think of these fitness tests as a final exam but rather as a road map for how far you’ve come and where you want to go (“Wow! I decreased my mile time by 10 seconds!” or “Looks like my mile time stayed the same, so I should schedule more speed work into my training next month.”). Knowing what has improved and what you still want to improve on will help you stay on track with your training and keep you aware of what you should focus on in order to reach your goals. More

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    The Affordable Amazon Bike Shorts Our Fashion Editor Swears By

    When a new season rolls around and new trends start to pop up, I’m usually excited to try around 80 percent of them. But the other 20 percent? I avoid them like the plague and curse the day they dared started showing up on anyone’s radar—and at the tippity top of that list used to have “bike shorts” written with red underline.
    Two years ago, bike shorts were synonymous with the rise of the “Insta baddie” and felt like the least wearable concept in the world to me. Even last summer after investing in a couple of pairs, I found myself never reaching for them because they just didn’t feel right—no matter what I did or what I paired them with, they just didn’t look flattering. Lo and behold, all it took was a glorious pair of Amazon bike shorts to completely change my mind.
    After seeing an endless stream of bike short inspiration pictures on my Instagram feed, I realized what my problem might be: all of the bike shorts I was wearing were just too long. The seven-inch, standard inseam hugged my short thighs in all the wrong ways, and I needed a version that was a couple of inches shorter if I stood a chance at pulling off the summer version of leggings so many swear by. The problem? All of the pairs that the people I followed swear by cost upward of $60, something I simply wasn’t willing to shell out on a piece that was still such a gamble.
    In a stroke of genius, a thought hit me: maybe the Amazon company that made my all-time favorite leggings also sold bike shorts in the same buttery-soft material. And to my luck, they did, and in the six-inch inseam I had been hoping for—and at less than $20, it was an immediate purchase.
    Fresh out of the package, I knew I was in for a treat because the shorts were in fact the same material as my beloved Lululemon dupe leggings. They’re just the right thickness and the softness of pairs that usually cost four times the price. When I put them on, I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for: they hit me at a part of my leg that felt infinitely more flattering, and the material wasn’t too compressing. 

    I styled them in the most comfortable and basic of ways, with oversized tees and sweatshirts, and it’s become my everyday, work-from-home uniform. I feel cool and laid-back and slightly more put-together than I do in my go-to running shorts, and I’ve completely fallen in love with them. I ended up ordering—and this is not an exaggeration—four more pairs so I had more options throughout the week. 
    I try to designate certain clothes for working out versus lounging, so I dedicated two pairs specifically to my workouts, and they performed great for that too. They didn’t slip or slide whatsoever and kept up with both running and HIIT workouts. 

    Of all of the pieces I’ve found on Amazon this year, these are the ones I’d rank as #1.
    I’ve never felt the need to buy anything in so many colors in my life, but I still find that every time I go to do my laundry, I’ve gone through every pair. If I’m not at the office, I’m wearing these, and I know I’m going to be grateful for them all summer long. Trust me: you can skip the cult-favorite investments and go for these instead.

    6 Versatile Ways to Wear Your Bike Shorts More

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    Start Today: Everything You Need to Know About Weight Training

    Wellness comes in many iterations with endless interpretations, and that makes the possibility of discovering a fitness regimen that works specifically for you and your lifestyle all the more possible! In the interest of examining every possible option to improve physical health, I would like to make the case for weight training as the perfect exercise for all of you busy, powerful women out there that are interested in factoring a new workout into your lives.
    Full disclosure: I don’t mean bodyweight strength training. I mean building up to use a barbell, free weights, and kettlebells. That’s right, I’m talking about dominating that section of the gym where all the dudes stand in front of mirrors acting like they know what they’re doing, busting out biceps curls. Strength training is one of the most rewarding skills one can master with just a few simple and extremely functional movements. If you would like to get started with weightlifting or have already started working on some movements, keep these tips in mind throughout every stage of your journey:

    You Won’t Bulk Up (Unless You Want To)
    One of the great things about strength training is its choose-your-own-adventure methodology. It’s a very common belief that you’ll start bulking up the minute you so much as look at a set of dumbbells. But here’s the thing: that’s simply not true. It requires a massive amount of time, effort, and intention to bulk up. If you don’t want to take my word for it, we polled a handful of experts and the common thread between all of their replies was this: most women don’t have anywhere near enough testosterone to bulk up the way men do.
    The benefits of strength training are so much more than this myth. Shelley Armstrong, Ph.D., MAT, MCHES, laid it all out for us: “Lifting weights two to three times per week is extremely beneficial for women to reduce their risk of osteoporosis by promoting bone health. Between the ages of 30 and 70, muscle mass and strength decrease by an average of 30%, mostly due to inactivity. Weight training can prevent or even reverse this process and, in turn, provides the following benefits: improved performance of physical activities, prevention and management of chronic diseases, improved joint health, prevention and treatment of low-back pain, injury prevention, relief of aches and pains from stress or after prolonged sitting, improved posture, and improved quality of sleep.”

    Repetition is Key
    If you have never tried any basic strength training movements, odds are your first attempt at even the most basic movement will not be perfect — and that’s OK! In fact, it’s wonderful because your muscle memory will only build relative to the frequency of your training. The more you pick up a weight, the more familiar with the movement your muscles will become. Think about your favorite beauty tool. When you first bought it, there was a period of time in which you probably weren’t using it as seamlessly as you did after you conducted a little bit of research and practiced with it each morning. Before you knew it, that practice turned that tool into an integral part of your beauty regimen.
    Practicing weightlifting movements is very similar. At first, it will feel foreign and strange. But after a few weeks of repeating movements consistently, the muscle memory will develop. Trying using a PVC pipe or a training barbell to begin and practice in the mirror until the movement feels like second nature and a seasoned eye confirms that the movements look correct. Practicing with a PVC pipe or a light barbell will simulate the real thing for your muscles and teach you the correct way to grip and move around the bar. All it takes is 5 or 10 minutes of repetitive, concentrated work and before you know it, those movements that felt so foreign to you will start to make sense and you’ll see significant jumps in your strength when the time comes to load up the bar.

    Source: @pure_barre

    Go for the Real Thing
    Don’t be afraid to skip weight machines with cables and tracks. While a lot of these machines are very useful for isolated exercises, it can be difficult to get a full-body workout and genuinely build strength. Not to mention, working with free weights or the barbell will allow you to apply your strength training directly to your everyday life, almost immediately, and teach you to lift heavy objects without running a risk of injuring yourself.
    Free weights, like dumbbells or a barbell, work more than one muscle at a time. For example, using a Smith Machine for bench press will not activate your core and lats like dumbbells or a barbell will due to the fact that the barbell in a Smith Machine is on a guided track. You can work up to a heavy press with a Smith Machine, of course, but the barbell is so isolated that you lose the benefits of having to stabilize the weight on your own with additional muscles. So when in doubt, reach for free weights. If you concentrate and are conscious about the muscles you’re working on, you’ll be sore in places you didn’t even know were there!

    It Requires a Full Effort
    Approaching weight training with an open mindset and conviction is key to achieving strength training greatness. Weight lifting is a skill that requires genuine time and patience to build correctly. It also requires you to pay attention to what your body is telling you, like when to back off and when to push yourself. In weeks when you need to take it slow (or even add more rest days), lower your weights and focus on technique. When your energy levels are up, don’t be afraid to push yourself and break personal records.
    Full effort not only pertains to the approach—but also applies to consistency. The American Heart Association recommends incorporating strength training into a workout regimen at least twice a week, and this is great as a starting point. If strength training is something you want to work on, keep a consistent schedule and get into the gym (or pick up your at-home weights) a couple of times a week. This will work wonders for gaining knowledge, developing the skill, and seeing results.

    You’ll Feel the Benefits Beyond the Gym
    At a certain point, when you’ve been training consistently and mindfully, the benefits of weightlifting will start to become apparent to you beyond what you’re able to accomplish in the gym. You’ll find you’re less winded after climbing a flight of never-ending stairs and heavy luggage will be no match for your strong back and shoulders. Not to mention, an arduous task like moving into a new place will not seem as strenuous once you’re able to apply your functional movement knowledge to that dreaded of all dreaded tasks: lifting boxes. It’s also extremely important to note that strength training is great for cardiovascular health and strengthening muscles to help prevent injury, and can also improve your mental health!

    Source: @hannahbronfman

    Start With These 3 Basic Movements
    There are three simple movements anyone can start with to build an understanding of weightlifting and strength training: deadlift, squat, and push press. These three movements cover the core, functional movements of strength training and will be a great way to establish a foundation to eventually introduce more complex movements into your repertoire.

    Deadlift

    A deadlift is a very simple, functional movement in which the barbell is lifted from the ground at the lifter’s shins, up to hip height, and then returned to the ground. This movement is great for building strength and athleticism and introduces the lifter to the essential motion of hinging at the hip. Deadlift will strengthen your core, hamstrings, and back and can be mastered with either the barbell or dumbbells. It’s a very simple movement without many complex components and will give any beginning lifter a great introduction to strength training.

    Squat

    The squat is fantastic for building core and leg strength. With feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and turned slightly outward, place the bar at the top of your back and narrow your grip to sit slightly outside of your shoulders to engage your back. Once you’ve adjusted the placement of the bar, engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and lower slowly and controlled until your quads are parallel with the floor. Then raise up in a controlled way, squeezing your glutes at the top.

    Push Press

    The push press is another great movement for beginners to learn because like the deadlift, it incorporates another fundamental motion to weightlifting: explosive hips. With feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell or dumbells at your chest with your elbows pointing forward, bend your knees slightly and drop into a quarter squat. As you press into your heels and drive up through your legs, push the bar over your head and lock your elbows. This movement will introduce you to the explosive hip movement that is key to mastering more complex lifts and will build your shoulder and core strength.

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