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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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    The One Habit I’m Adding to My Routine in 2021

    If anything, 2021 is the year of the anti-resolution. Gone are the days of writing down lists of everything you want to accomplish in the next 12 months—this year, most are just trying to survive. But this newfound start-of-the-year mentality doesn’t mean we can’t use the momentum of the start of the year to make some small, meaningful changes to our habits. No, “run a marathon” isn’t on the top of our to-do lists, but finding small things to add into our routines to better ourselves day to day is a resolution in itself, and in the long-run, can benefit us just as much as the big things. And something that falls into that category? Taking a multivitamin.
    Even if we consistently eat healthy, balanced meals chock-full of greens and colorful veggies, we may not be getting enough of some key nutrients the body needs—and that’s where a multivitamin can come in handy. But not all multivitamins are created equal; some are made with sugars, synthetic fillers, or artificial colors.
    Our favorite multivitamin? Ritual. Not only is their vegan-friendly formula formulated without shady ingredients, but it’s formulated with key nutrients to help fill gaps in the diet, like vitamin D3 and Omega 3 DHA.*

    My biggest problem when it came to taking multivitamins was always consistency. I’d get in the habit of taking one, but once I ran out, would forget to pick a new bottle up, and then would inadvertently take a month-long break from taking them until I remembered again. With Ritual, that problem is one of the past: your multivitamins are delivered to your door each month (with free shipping!) so you never have the “I forgot to add them to my shopping list” dilemma again.
    Taking vitamins can be a chalky-tasting, mediocre experience, but one that I thought simply came with the territory—but Ritual has shown me that that isn’t the case. Their capsules are minty-tasting in the most refreshing way, and even though it sounds small, has added in me wanting to take them every morning. It also doesn’t hurt that their delayed-release capsules are designed to dissolve later, in less sensitive areas of the stomach, so they can be taken with or without food. (Which means I don’t have to fear the vitamin-related upset stomach that used to hit me on my morning commute if I took my vitamins without eating enough—you know what I’m talking about!).

    This year, one of my resolutions is to be easier on myself—which for me, means no long lists of goals, and instead, finding pressure-free ways to support myself both physically and mentally. Not only does taking a daily multivitamin make me feel like I’m doing something good (since I know that even on the days that I didn’t eat anything green and “balanced” meant pizza for lunch and dinner, I’m doing something to help support my nutrient needs), but it helps my body get key nutrients. Health goals don’t need to be life-altering accomplishments or all-consuming goals; sometimes, all it takes to support your health is to prioritize the little things that matter most.*

    *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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

    What are your go-to healthy meals? More

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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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    Want to Try Intuitive Eating? Here’s How to Tune in to What Your Body Really Needs

    It’s Thursday night after a busy day (nay, week), and you’re exhausted, stressed, and craving comfort. You open up the UberEats app (it is not the night to cook that complicated recipe you had planned) and narrow it down to two options: you know you should order the kale quinoa bowl, but you want to order a Domino’s pizza, breadsticks, and an extra order of lava cakes (just in case). Of course, there are a couple of different outcomes to this scenario. Maybe you order the Domino’s and feel guilty after eating until you’re way too stuffed, or you get the kale bowl and feel unsatisfied, so you eat the entire carton of ice cream in the freezer. Sound familiar?But there is another possibility that has nothing to do with what you should or shouldn’t eat (and it doesn’t result in dissatisfaction or guilt). Intuitive eating is basically the anti-diet, but it can yield similar results of healthier choices and improved health. I’ve written a lot of wellness articles in my day, but the topic of intuitive eating is my bread and butter. In my humble opinion, there is nothing as freeing, effective, and universal as eating intuitively. So what is it, and how do you achieve it? Forget calorie counting, restrictive eating, and yo-yo dieting–here’s your comprehensive guide to tune in to what your body really needs. 

    What is “Intuitive Eating?”
    Following your body’s hunger cues and listening to cravings should not be revolutionary, but alas, it’s pretty counterintuitive to what diet culture has taught us for decades. While human beings have been unintentionally eating this way for centuries, the phrase was originally coined by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, in the ’90s. Intuitive eating offers a framework that makes nutrition behavior-focused and personalized, instead of restrictive or rule-focused. Just a reminder: we are born intuitive eaters. As infants, we cry to signal we’re hungry, eat as much as we need, and then stop eating when we’ve had enough. Intuitive eating is less of a diet and more about unlearning the food rules that have made us lose our intuition (instead of weight). How do we unlearn? Follow these core principles of healthy eating:

     
    1. Identify engrained food rules
    The honest truth is that you are not the problem; your lack of willpower, intense cravings, or past failures are not the problem. The problem is diet culture and the engrained food rules that come with it. To start the process of listening to your body, notice where food rules show up for you. Do you still think some foods are good and some foods are bad? Do you believe carbs are unhealthy, or fats make you fat? Do you think the serving size on a box knows what’s better for you than your hunger cues? And do you think there are only certain times that you can eat (like three meals a day)? Get curious about what toxic food rules you’ve believed to be fact, and start challenging them. 

    2. Realize hunger is a good thing
    How many articles or “health tips” have you seen like “Foods That Suppress Your Appetite” or “How to Reduce Hunger so You Can Finally Lose Weight?” Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “I’m still hungry, but I already ate a full meal,” or “I’m hungry, but I shouldn’t eat this late at night.” You might have even depended on a serving size to tell you how much to eat and felt mad at yourself when you were still hungry, or relied on trendy fasting rules over your own hunger cues. It’s no surprise we’ve lost our ability to be intuitive; we’re taught to believe that the language in which our body communicates is not to be trusted. Bottom line: physical hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs nourishment. If you’re feeling hungry, allow yourself to eat. Hunger is one of the key tools we can use to keep our bodies healthy.

    3. Give yourself permission to eat what you want
    In a healthy diet, there is room for all foods. That’s right: I said “all.” Give yourself unconditional permission to eat anything you want: whether you worked out or ate healthy previously does not affect what you can and cannot eat. When you categorize foods as “good” or “bad,” restrict certain foods, or feel guilty about what you’re eating, you’re sending the signal to your mind that you won’t be eating this food again. Your mind then  translates that restriction as a need to get that food now, since you won’t get it in the future. Think about it: an increased appetite and cravings for the restricted foods would save your life in a famine, so it makes sense biologically. Therefore, any deprivation can lead to uncontrollable cravings and overeating. Trust me: when food is no longer off-limits, it’s immediately less enticing.

    4. Learn the difference between “full” and “satisfied”
    PSA: “full” and “satisfied” are two different things. It’s possible for you to feel full, but not satisfied. You might feel “stuffed” and still keep picking on the food in front of you, or go to the kitchen for dessert because you’re not yet satisfied. Fullness is the physical feeling of eating enough, and satisfaction is the mental or emotional feeling of eating enough. The way you get your physical fullness and mental satisfaction to line up is to eat food that both tastes good and makes your body feel good. Your meals should be delicious, nutrient-dense, and based on what you’re craving. If you’re still finding yourself snacking when you’re not hungry, your body is likely craving nourishment in other ways, whether it’s in the form of comfort or to fix boredom or stress. Identify that emotion to satisfy the craving in ways that will actually fix it long-term.

    5. Feel when you’re full
    One tidbit that diet culture has gotten right is that we often overeat. But what it did not get right is the way to fix it. Overeating does not stop with under-eating, restriction, or serving sizes (that’s what causes it in the first place). Every body needs different serving sizes and nutrients, so listen to what you need. To start, feel OK if you’re not in the clean plate club. Limit food waste by saving leftovers for later (even if it’s just a little bit), and make every meal or snack an opportunity to get to know your body better. Pause partway through every meal to check in with how you feel. How is the food making you feel? What’s going on in the body? How does the food taste? Chew thoroughly and eat mindfully to give your stomach a chance to signal that it’s had enough, and stop when you’re no longer hungry, but before you start feeling too full or “stuffed.” 

    6. Respect your body
    Eating intuitively means you listen to your body and trust that your body knows what’s best. But it’s kind of hard to trust or listen to your body if you don’t love it, right? Even if you don’t love everything about your body or feel as body-confident as Lizzo, you can still acknowledge your worthiness and understand that your body is not the enemy. Besides, loving your body doesn’t have to start with loving the way it looks. Instead, self-love and body acceptance starts when you realize its wisdom and your inherent worth as a human being.
    That means treating yourself with kindness, first and foremost. Approach cravings, feelings, and symptoms from a place of curiosity and compassion, instead of judgment and resentment. It’s OK (and normal!) to struggle with this part of intuitive eating, but focus on turning attention away from comparison or how your body is “wrong” and instead, focus on all it does right. Know that your body is not trying to sabotage you; everything from cravings to low energy to symptoms is how your body communicates its needs so you can be as healthy as possible.

    7. Practice intuitive movement too
    While exercise does not typically correlate with nutrition, intuitive eating is a lifestyle, not a diet. That means changing every area that might not be serving your body. Working out is another manifestation of diet culture; we know what we need to be healthy (moving our bodies and eating fruits and vegetables), but rules and restrictions make it hard. Just like healthy eating, exercise has become something we dread, avoid, or force ourselves to do.
    To heal your body holistically, apply intuitive eating principles to exercise. Forget about calorie burn or what trends say is the best workout for weight loss. Instead, focus on how you feel during workouts. Are you having fun? Do you feel less stressed? Do you feel more energized? Exercise can be challenging, but it should always be enjoyable. Listen to your body to decide what kind of exercise feels best for you, and you’ll start craving movement instead of resisting it.

    8. Think of food as self-care
    Nutrition should not be all-or-nothing, and being “perfect” does not mean healthy. Instead of seeing food as an enemy or a reward, think of food as self-care. Most of the time, caring for yourself will mean giving the body foods that you know make you feel energized, nourished, and happy. Sometimes, caring for yourself will also mean eating a delicious dessert or enjoying a glass of wine. And that’s OK: there’s not only room for both definitions of self-care, but it wouldn’t be self-care without the balance between the two. When you listen to what your body wants and get rid of restrictions, you’ll realize you’re no longer craving chicken nuggets or ice cream sundaes all the time. Instead, you’ll crave leafy greens, a variety of whole foods (no, really), and yes, the occasional rich meal or delicious dessert that you deserve to enjoy, guilt-free.

    Have you ever tried intuitive eating? More