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    10 Things to Do Before + After to Maximize a Workout

    Exercise: love it or hate it, we can all agree that if you’re going to spend the time to do it, you better get the most from it. We’re all busy, hustling, and exhausted, so when we designate time to work out (on the days we actually can), you best believe we’re going to want to get the most out of it. The 30-minute sculpt class or the time spent sweating it out on a run gets all the credit, but the steps you take before and after exercise matter just as much. The right pre- and post-workout rituals can help you recover, get stronger, and crush every workout. Ready to optimize your bicep curls and high-intensity intervals? Make these 10 steps an important part of your workout routine:

    1. Get enough sleep
    If you’ve ever had a sluggish workout (or general lack of energy) after a night of not-so-great sleep, you know why this one is key. When you get enough quality sleep (around 7-9 hours), you have better focus, energy levels, and stamina, meaning you can likely get better results from the same workout. Bonus: exercising can help you sleep better, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Prioritize sleep the night before to make the most of your workout the next day. Also, if you have to choose between getting seven hours of sleep and waking up for a morning workout? Either go to bed earlier or fit in exercise later in the day. 
    2. Plan it out
    While it may be tempting to show up at the gym and figure out what to do on the spot or to Google a yoga flow whenever you have time during the day, making a plan in advance ensures you’re making the most of your designated workout time. “Having a specified and well-thought plan can make a huge difference in your workout routine,” suggested Bianca Grover, an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and owner of Bianca Grover Fitness. “A planned workout can also help keep you accountable. You may be tired after your second set of squats, but that number will help you push yourself to complete your goals.” If you go to a gym, put together a routine ahead of time. If you’re more of a class girl, sign up for online workout classes in advance and write them in your calendar.

    3. Warm up
    It’s true for new relationships, and it’s true for exercise: when you go from 0-100 way too quickly, it can cause some damage. “Never skip your warmup, which helps reduce injury and improves recovery,” said Barbara Brosnan, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, CNC, and a personal trainer and owner of Project Fitness. “Your pre-workout warmup should consist of dynamic stretches (moving stretches rather than holding stretches) that target the muscles you will be focusing on during the workout.” The goal is to warm up the body to ensure your muscles have enough oxygen and increase flexibility to reduce injury. Fit in at least five minutes for a warmup. Try active stretching and low-heart rate cardio like walking on the treadmill. 

    4. Get in your liquids
    What can’t water do? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking two to three cups of water a few hours before you plan to work out, which can maximize hydration levels during exercise. Without proper hydration, your body can’t perform at its best. Curious about other types of pre-workout fuel? Good news for our Starbucks addiction: “Caffeine is an ergogenic aid; which means it can aid in performance by increasing energy, focus, and endurance,” explained Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N to Byrdie. No matter how you prefer to fuel your body before a workout, make sure it feels best for you. If coffee makes you feel jittery (or if you work out in the evenings), stick to water—and get lots of it. Bottom line: make sure you’re properly hydrated and fuel your body with whatever makes you feel your best.

    5. Listen to the right playlist
    Because what could be more motivating than the chorus of Run the World (Girls) or make you pick up the intensity quite like the first 45 seconds of Lose Yourself? Getting in the right mindset is just as important as getting in the right physical space, so while prepping your body for a spin class or yoga flow, don’t forget to prepare the mind, too. You shouldn’t feel dreadful, apprehensive, or irritated going into a workout. If you do, you haven’t found the workout that’s best for you. Try listening to your favorite pump-up playlist (I’m biased, but this one slaps) to boost energy and excitement, visualize how good you’ll feel moving your body, and pick a type of workout that will make you feel good for the rest of the day.

    1. Stretch
    Yes, stretching gets a point before and after a workout because it’s just that beneficial (and crucial). “Post-workout, focus on isolated stretches: stretch and hold for 20-30 seconds to target the muscle groups that you used during your workout,” Brosnan recommended. Stretching after your workout also has benefits of injury prevention and improved recovery, but the difference is that you should hold each stretch to go deeper. Make sure to target the muscles you worked on, as well as the areas we often forget about, like inner thighs or upper back. Oh, and if you dim the lights, play some relaxing music, and light a candle or two? You just might feel transported into a fancy yoga studio.

    2. Eat nourishing food
    There’s a reason spin class and brunch go together like PB&J: refueling post-workout is crucial for your health and achieving fitness goals (although I’m guessing bottomless mimosas don’t count toward that). After using up its available energy, the body needs to refuel (especially with carbs and protein) to get more energy and repair muscles. If your goal is more strength, endurance, or stamina (or just to be overall healthy), don’t ignore that stomach growl. Think about it: your body is like a car (a Rolls Royce, might I add), and food is gasoline. To keep going fast—and get even faster—you need to continually replenish the gas. A fruit smoothie with protein powder and chia seeds, eggs with avocado toast, or a grain bowl make for ideal post-workout meals since they combine protein, carbs, and fats.

    3. Try a foam roller
    Remember the importance of stretching? Similar benefits apply when getting a massage (as if we needed another reason) by releasing tension in the muscles and helping the body recover from workouts and strain. But since getting a massage is not always feasible (or good for our wallets), enter the foam roller. “Foam rolling seems to make muscles more receptive to stretching and moving. It’s the best thing I’ve found to make people feel better immediately,” explained Michael Bento, a personal trainer at Massachusetts General Hospital, to Harvard Medical School. If you’re new to foam rolling, try out these moves to help with muscle soreness and tension. 

    4. Take a rest day
    If you’ve had a particularly tough workout, taking a rest day might actually help you maximize the work you did the day before. “Your muscles need time to recover after an intense workout,” explained Ashlee Van Buskirk, a registered nurse, personal trainer, and founder of Whole Intent. “However, if you’re itching to get active and you want to maximize the impact of yesterday’s workout, consider some light exercise. Walking, swimming, or doing yoga are great ways to stay active while letting muscles recover.” The key to health is tuning in to your body to find out what it needs. If you’re feeling too sore or exhausted, take a rest day. Listening to your body will help you get stronger.

    5. Indulge in some self-care
    “Recovery is the missing piece of self-care, and designing a post-workout recovery ritual is key to repairing, rebuilding, and strengthening our bodies from the inside out,” said Dr. Sharif Tabbah, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist based in Miami. In other words, how much you care for yourself after a workout is just as important as how much you push yourself during a workout. Whether that means taking a warm bath to soothe sore muscles or a work break to destress, self-care deserves to be a part of your fitness routine. Going back to the car analogy: if food is gasoline, self-care is the “check engine” light. You have to care for the engine if you’re going to want the car to go faster. Self-care replenishes and nourishes the body so that you’ll be more motivated, ready, and energized for the next workout. 

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    What habits have improved your workouts? More

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    I’m a Nutrition Coach and These Are My 12 Favorite Recipes

    In 2020, I craved more comfort foods, needed extra nourishment for energy that I lacked more than ever, and got bored cooking every meal (I miss you, restaurants!). Being a nutrition coach doesn’t protect me from cravings (or needing a really big plate of pasta after a stressful day at work), and 2020 brought a variety of at-home cooking challenges, like the lack of motivation that comes with stress or the cravings that come with needing comfort. Since I don’t believe in depriving or restricting, my answer was to try out nourishing, hearty, and delicious recipes that also happened to sneak in some extra veggies to help my body feel its best.Of all the recipes I tried, some have particularly become personal favorites, regular staples, and absolute game-changers for me. BTW, I’m vegetarian and gluten-free, so most of these recipes don’t have meat or gluten. However, that doesn’t mean that the way I eat should be the way you eat. The purpose of these recipes—and every recipe—is to make them work for you. Add your favorite animal protein or leave out a vegetable if you don’t like it. Find some inspiration from these 12 meals that have become my go-tos, but don’t forget to make them your own.

    Source: Love and Lemons

    Source: Eating Bird Food

    Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

    Source: Cotter Crunch

    Source: Ambitious Kitchen

    Source: Jessica in the Kitchen


    Source: Pinch of Yum

    Source: Love & Lemons

    Source: Minimalist Baker

    Source: Sakara

    Source: Nutrition Happens

    Source: Love and Lemons

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    I Finally Hit My Monthly Fitness Goal—Here’s How I Tricked Myself Into Working Out Again

    Over the past few years, one of my greatest, most dreaded challenges has been getting myself to the gym. Here’s the thing: once I’m moving my body, I don’t hate it, and afterward I typically feel pretty darn good. But getting there—oof—that’s a different story.I’ve struggled with yo-yo working out for as long as I can remember. I would do this thing where, after a long hiatus from the gym, I would work up a plethora of guilt-fueled motivation, hit the extreme of working out past my limits for a few days, and poop out, only to fall off the boat and do nothing at all for a week or two or three. No matter how many fitness gurus I followed on IG that preached consistency over intensity, I just couldn’t seem to get myself out of the bad habit of binge-working out, which led to prolonged periods of doing nothing at all.
    One of my goals for 2021 was to change my relationship with working out. I knew that if I approached working out with a new mindset, I had the potential to fall back in love with fitness. And for the first time in my adult life, I can finally say it’s actually happening. Here are the seven ways that I tricked myself into loving working out again: 

    1. I merged fitness and friends
    Finding accountability partners in my fitness journey has been an absolute game-changer for me. At the start of 2021, my friends and I vowed that we’d have each other’s backs on the days where we were feeling less than motivated to get to the gym. We don’t work out together (differing schedules and, you know, pandemic and all) but we have a stream of communication that is uplifting and motivating AF.
    We celebrate small wins, hold each other accountable, and lean on each other on the days where we need a little push to get out of bed or motivation to forego the temptations of the couch. Having a supportive community to lift me up, remind me of how much of a badass I am, and assure me that I’m not alone has helped me more than I can put into words.

    2. I listened to my body (but didn’t use it as an excuse)
    I’ll admit, before 2021, “listening to my body” was my favorite excuse in the world for doing absolutely nothing. The number of times I’ve said, “I’m listening to my body,” whilst withering away on my couch on my 19th consecutive hour of Netflix is simply too high to count.
    In my 2021, listening to my body has taken on a new meaning. Rather than use it as an excuse to be horizontal, if I’m feeling sore or am feeling tired I do a leisurely incline walk, stretch, or light yoga flow to get my body warm and moving instead of skipping my daily movement altogether. Time and time again, I find that doing something instead of nothing makes me feel infinitely better.

    3. I made a plan—and stuck to it
    For me, working movement into my schedule ahead of time has helped me to prioritize my workouts during the week. If I don’t plan ahead of time, life happens, and working out tends to be the first thing I sacrifice. I find that when I manage my weekly schedule and label specific blocks of time to include movement, I’m much more likely to make it happen. 6:30 p.m., workout with me—I can’t cancel that again!

    4. I placed an emphasis on consistency
    As I previously mentioned, I used to be the worst when it came to consistency in my workouts. Part of my problem was that when I’d finally work up the guilt-fueled courage of hitting the gym for the first time in weeks, I’d go way too hard for two whole hours, then I’d be exhausted, sore, and down for the count for at least a few days.
    This year, I’ve adopted the mindset that consistency is more valuable than intensity, especially when it comes to gaining confidence and getting back into the workout game. The positive reinforcement of the endorphin rush that comes from even a short, light workout has made me actually associate enjoyment with working out, which has made me—dare I say it—excited for my next workout.

    5. I made a playlist that makes me want to have a one-woman dance party
    In my eyes, no workout is complete without a pre-workout dance party. Despite popular belief, the star of said dance party isn’t my lame dance moves. It’s the playlist that gets me in the mood to groove, move, and get my blood flowing. No matter what kind of funk I’m in, a spontaneous dance party to my favorite songs can almost always cure it, which puts me in a positive mindset before I even leave my apartment.

    6. I spend less time doing things I hate (i.e., distance running)
    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I hate running. I can name a million things I’d rather do than run and, tellingly, that list even includes walking barefoot on a runway of Legos just because. I’ve tried every trick in the book to get myself to like running but, despite multiple attempts, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just not for me. And that’s OK!
    So, instead of forcing myself to do an activity I despise with everything inside of me, I’ve been opting for 10-minute warmups and cardio sessions that—wait for it—don’t include distance running! And let me tell you, it has been glorious. Instead, I’ll do incline walks, sprints, or bodyweight HIIT workouts to get my heart rate up before my lift. I know it isn’t groundbreaking, but choosing a workout plan that I actually enjoy makes me so much more likely to hit the gym. 

    7. I focused on how I felt rather than what I looked like
    At the end of the day, one of the biggest factors in changing my relationship with the gym is focusing on how I feel during and after my workout as opposed to expecting physical results. I think it’s great to have functional and physique goals but, right now, I’m focusing on the short-term benefits of working out. My mood is improved after I work out. On days that I move, I tend to have more energy that carries me through the rest of my day. I sleep more soundly at night. I make commitments to myself and I keep them. As I get stronger and my endurance improves, I gain confidence and I prove to myself that I can do hard things. And, let me tell you, team—I’ve never felt better. More

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    6 Energizing Rituals I Tried to Upgrade My Morning Routine

    My morning routine has always been one of my favorite times of the day. An easy, breezy, care-free time to sip on a cup of joe, listen to St. Lucia, and primp for the day. Although, with lots of big changes in the past year, it made me think: what changes can I make to my morning routine that could bring more balance to my beauty goals? Essentially, I wanted to add a side of healing health habits that I could easily do at home.With radical self-care being the talk of the town, there are no shortage of articles to do my research. Whilst looking into healing habits that might fit my morning routine, I happened upon a little quote that pointed me in the right direction: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” said Audre Lorde, writer, civil rights activist, and inventor of self-care. The word “self-preservation” echoed in my head, and I again asked myself these questions. What am I doing other than my skincare routine and a K-beauty facial mask here and there to preserve not only my skin, but body, mind, and spirit?
    My new motto: this morning is the perfect morning to take on some habits that I am able to keep up with. Below are some habits that I chose for myself and tried for two weeks:

    1. Drinking hot lemon water
    This is a simple morning step that, if nothing else, aids in hydration. This was an extra step in my routine, so I definitely had to allot for it timewise, but it was worth it. This simple morning ritual set my mind in motion for a day of good habits, and I got to use my oh-so coveted Bodum Bistro Gooseneck Water Kettle. This new ritual was fresher than coffee, warmed me up, and felt like a less acidic base for my tummy than coffee. 


    2. Practicing intermittent fasting
    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day… or so I thought. I know you have heard of intermittent fasting. I wasn’t sure about it, but the more I looked into this, the more I was convinced that it would help me in my beauty goals, inside and out.
    Reading further into it, I learned that snacking all day long could be taxing my digestive system and not allowing me to absorb our food and its nutrients well. Fewer nutrients could mean essential vitamins not getting to our organs but also missing our hair, nails, and skin. Trying this for a few weeks was an adjustment to say the least, especially when Netflix and binge-eating came into play. I had to be super intentional about what and when I was eating. I substituted random late-night snacks with tea and water, which you are able to drink during the fasting period. Let’s just say you will be the most hydrated person you know, which will make your skin uber happy.

    Source: Rawpixel

    3. Drinking juice and smoothies
    This was top of the list for me in the new year, so much so that I asked for a Breville Cold Pressed Juicer for the holidays. I have always been an avid smoothie drinker and was looking for natural ways to boost my immunity daily. Let me just tell you: my energy levels were through the roof, my thinking was clearer, and might I say, my stress levels were a little lower. I was drinking 32 oz. of juice every day around 11 a.m. My go-to juice concoction included cucumber, celery, lemon, ginger, and apple.


    4. Taking cool showers
    This, by far, was the most difficult one to do, especially in chilly Chicago this time of year. The potential was very motivating though: decreased inflammation, increased circulation, strengthened immunity, increased energy, and more hydrated skin. I definitely felt more energized, and my skin was less inflamed in areas where I suffer from the most dryness. I felt as if I was breathing a little deeper too, which helped my body process the cooler water. I used The Nues Forest Lungs for aromatherapy in the shower. It is inspired by the art of forest bathing, and it offers aromatherapeutic benefits to promote calm. 


    5. Doing a gentle workout
    I have never felt energized or less stressed coming out of a rigorous workout. (I even read in my horoscope once that my spirit does not like lofty workouts!) I spent much of my life as a yogi, dabbling in pilates and meditation. Then, I found Melissa Wood Health. Her method is to provide a series of precise, low-impact movements that create long, lean lines. MWH focuses on building a stronger relationship with yourself through workout videos that are about 20 minutes long. She also provides a stretch series at the end of most of her videos. Many of her videos include meditation and the option for strength training via ankle and arm weights (I own the Bala one-pound weights) and resistance bands. Virtual workouts are not going anywhere, and I suggest that if you are like me and want low-intensity workouts that leave you feeling more connected to yourself and ready to take on the day, try MWH. 


    Source: Colorjoy Stock

    6. Writing down ideas
    To make it easy on myself, I limited this to 3-5 ideas a day that I jotted down in my yearly agenda. Some of my thoughts I wrote down ranged from creative ideas, small changes I would like to make, and even things I was grateful for. What I noticed in myself once I started writing these little tidbits down provided a little stress relief. It boosted my creativity and made me more aware of what is going on in my brain. Overall, this is a sweet little something that is easy to keep up with and put me at ease, knowing that the ideas were down on paper and not swirling around in my head.


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    The Ultimate Valentine’s Day Self-Love Routine

    Remember February 14th as a child? It was a joyous holiday where you got to express your creativity through crafting a cool box and picking out themed cards from your favorite television show or movie. This was a day where you celebrated love: love for your friends, love for your teachers, and love for your family. There was something about giving love (passing out your Valentines) and receiving love (dumping out your box and reading each one) that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside. You always looked forward to it (and all the candy that came along with it). At some point, the meaning of this date changed. It transitioned from pure platonic love and bliss to fragile romantic love. To be honest, as we’ve got older, we’ve made the concept of this day much more complicated than it needs to be. 
    Valentine’s Day is still the same beautiful holiday it was when you were a child, and its meaning is chosen by you. You can choose to have this holiday represent loneliness, or you can reclaim this as a day of gratitude for all the love you have in your life. Regardless of if you have a romantic love interest, you have people in your life that you can show love to: family, friends, coworkers, and yes, yourself. After all, there is no one in this world who will ever love you more than you love yourself. 
    What better way to spend Valentine’s Day in quarantine other than indulging in an easy, budget-friendly yet gratifying self-care routine?   

    Light a candle (or two)
    Candles bring a feeling of closeness and warmth into your home. Try floral notes like rose or jasmine, or go more sweet and sultry with notes of vanilla and amber. 

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    Diffuse some essential oils 
    Aromatherapy is essential to setting the right mood for any pamper day. Lavender, bergamot, and rose are associated with feelings of relaxation, balance, and harmony. If you’re in the mood for something more sensual, try a mix of sandalwood, patchouli, and ylang ylang. 

    Play some background noise 
    To make the day special, find a new playlist with sing-a-longs from your favorite era. If you’re not in the mood for songs, check out Spotify’s “Love Stories” section for podcasts filled with heartwarming stories about love and friendship. 

    Take a long bath or shower
    Show your body lots of love with a bath bomb infused luxurious bath or taking an extra-long steamy shower. Exfoliate with a dry brush before stepping in or use a body scrub once you’re in the water. After you’re done, lather up with a softly scented body oil for extreme softness. 

    Do an extensive skincare routine
    Use this day as an excuse to give your face all the tender love and care it deserves. After cleansing and exfoliating, apply your favorite nourishing serums followed by a hydrating mask. Start with a gel or cream mask and then use a sheet mask afterward. Need something to do while your masks work their magic? Why not take time to unplug by reading a book instead of mindlessly scrolling your phone. When you’re done, finish off with a beloved moisturizer and facial oil for a quick little facial massage.
    P.S. Don’t forget to give your lips some attention too.  

    Put on comfortable clothes or PJs
    Once you’re done pampering yourself, get dressed in a special comfy matching set or satin nightie. No outfit is complete without a spritz of perfume and a pair of fuzzy socks or slippers; these are essential for the occasion.   

    Order or cook something special
    Valentine’s Day is absolutely an excuse to step away from your regimented meal plan. Order in from your favorite restaurant (make sure you arrange this early as takeout demand will probably be high) or cook a really nice dinner. Brush up on your quarantine baking skills by making a fun Valentine’s Day dessert too. Don’t forget to crack open a nice bottle of wine. You have overcome a lot since last Valentine’s Day, and that is something worth celebrating!

    Paint your nails and watch a movie
    No self-care routine is complete without a mani-pedi in front of a movie. Fortunately, the romance genre is full of many different approaches, so you can always find a flick that’s right for every mood. If you’re craving passion and drama, try Netflix’s new Malcolm & Marie. Feel like crying? That’s OK too, A Walk to Remember and The Fault in Our Stars usually get the job done. For stories of love and friendship that will keep you laughing watch Sex and the City: The Movie. And if you’re just looking for a series that is both modern and relatable, try To All the Boys. 

    Get to bed early
    When you are ready to wind down, it’s time to choose the mindfulness practice of your choice. Whether that is meditation, journaling, or prayer, chose something that helps center your thoughts and inner emotions. Give gratitude for all your loved ones and think of little ways you can improve on showing love to others. Finally reflect on how you can continue to cultivate a loving, healthy, long-lasting relationship with yourself. Because no matter where life takes you, you’ll need it.  More