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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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    10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationship by the End of the Day

    Grand romantic gestures often get all the credit, but it’s usually the minor, daily ways in which we express love and connect with each other that set the tone for a healthy and happy relationship. Even the best relationships can still find new ways to connect. All relationships take work, but to quote the movie One Day (you know you love it), “Affection is when you see someone’s strengths; love is when you accept someone’s flaws.” Here are 10 things you can do to improve your relationship, today. 
    1. Make them a cup of coffee.
    Small acts of kindness can mean all the difference in a relationship where people, especially in long term relationships, can feel unappreciated or unattended to. Small acts that show you going out of your way to do something nice for your partner will make them feel cared for and thought of. Try making them a cup of coffee in the morning before they get out of bed. It will set the tone for the rest of the day of being thoughtful to one another.

    Source: The Creative Exchange | Unsplash

    2. Say “thank you”
    Especially in relationships that have gone on for years and fall into routines, we get so comfortable in our relationships that we expect our partner to meet all of our needs, whether it’s in how they treat us or the daily chores they do. Saying a simple “thank you” for cleaning the dishes after dinner or giving you a compliment enforces their good behavior and makes them feel appreciated, as well as making you remember why you love them. It’s also important to express appreciation and gratitude for them being in your life and how much they mean to your life, not just what they do for you.

    3. Work out together
    I know, I know: your hot yoga flow or spin class is typically your escape from all of the people in your life. But try heading over to your partner’s gym with them or bringing them along to your barre class. Activities that get your heart rate up release endorphins, which are like feel-good chemicals in your brain, making you both feel happy, energized, and excited. It’s also a new way to bond!

    Source: The Creative Exchange | Unsplash

    4. Give them a hug
    It may seem like the most basic and simplest of acts, but physical touch goes a long way in keeping romance and connection alive in long term relationships. Try to avoid physical touch routines, meaning the only physical touch in your daily life is a kiss goodbye or a hug hello (though these are also important gestures). In addition to your hellos and goodbyes, hug them unexpectedly, hold their hand in the car or while watching TV, or even just pat them on the arm to feel close. Physical closeness can translate to emotional closeness.

    5. Send them an unexpected text message
    If you are apart from morning until dinnertime, sending a text in the middle of the day that feels a little out of the blue will surprise your partner and make them feel some of the excitement that comes from a new relationship. Try sending them a message to tell them something you love about them, something you’re thankful for, or a romantic/funny memory you share.

    6. …But put away your phone!
    Try to have at least some quality time together every day where you put away your phones — trust me, Instagrams and emails can wait for you to be done with dinner. While this may feel like a hard goal in our busy lives, it is an extremely important aspect of a happy relationship. Many studies have found a direct correlation with heavy-phone-usage and relationship wellness. And if you’re angry, try to limit texting. It might be easier for you to resort to texting when you’re angry about something, but try to always talk through issues in person, or at least over a phone call. Texting fights only create distance.

    Source: Mathilde Langevin | Unsplash

    7. Go to bed at the same time
    While this may seem like an impossible feat for the couples whose schedules or preferences require different sleeping time, bedtime is a crucial time for a relationship. It’s a way of reconnecting from a busy day, a moment of quietness, and alone time before the busyness of the next day. For many couples, it’s the only moment of alone time all day. Even if you’re a night owl and your partner gets to bed by 8pm, at least try to stay in bed until they fall asleep. It’s an important and easy way to reconnect and feel close.

    8. Schedule a check-in
    Scheduling might not seem very sexy and spontaneous, but making sure you’re regularly checking in with each other will keep your relationship strong. It can be easy to let annoyance after annoyance build up until it gets to a full-blown fight, so checking in means fewer fights, more communication, and better connection. After all, a relationship is just two people trying to get their needs met. Use a check-in to discuss any recent triggers, problems, and even all the good things (which deserve recognition too!). Try monthly, weekly, or even daily (like at the end of the day), and put it on your calendars so you don’t forget or skip.

    Source: Tallie Robinson | Unsplash

    9. Laugh together
    Relationships are just friendships with exclusivity; while loving each other is crucial, liking each other is important too. While the life-partner stuff (like dividing chores) or the romantic stuff (like holding hands) might be top priorities to improve your relationship, remember that the friendship stuff is just as important. Laugh together at least once every day, whether it’s sharing a funny story that happened to you at the grocery store, bringing up an inside joke, or watching the show that makes you both LOL. Laughing not only bonds us, but helps us remember that the point of being in a relationship is to enjoy the person we love. 

    10. Make time for yourself
    While me-time might sound counterintuitive when the goal is we-time, how you feel about yourself is how you’ll act in a relationship. If you depend on your partner for fulfillment, you’ll expect too much from the relationship, and if you don’t love yourself, you’re probably worried your partner doesn’t truly love you either. Spending time alone not only ensures you’re living the most fulfilling life possible, whether that means indulging in self-care or pursuing your own interests, but it also means you’ll be able to show up as your best, truest self when you spend time together. And just as an added bonus, there’s nothing more attractive than confidence.

    What daily things do you do for your partner or relationship? Which of these ways would you try today? More

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    What to Do If You’re Not Happy With Your Sex Life in a Relationship

    Whether it’s the honeymoon phase or you’ve been together for five years, people expect us to all have our sex lives on lock. We’re all having sex every other night, and our partner always satisfies us. No problems, no questions — everything is peachy keen.Wrong.
    Being unhappy with your sex life is an issue many of us face, regardless of where you are in your relationship. It’s hard enough to talk about sex in general, but how do we deal with it when we’re not happy? Sex is such a personal part of our lives, but it can help us bond and better understand our partners. (Not to mention, it’s a real blast, huh?) When sex isn’t the booming, exciting part of our relationship everyone says it’s supposed to be, what do we do? We’re here to help with that! We’re going over everything you can try to make sexy time better than ever, from what to try in the bedroom to how you can talk to your partner about it.

    Talk to each other
    They’re not making stuff up when they say communication is key! You and your partner might be having issues not talking to each other in your day-to-day (when was the last time you really asked each other how your day was?), or you might not be discussing what exactly you need from them sexually.
    If the relationship itself is struggling beyond your sex life, this might call for a little different conversation. Understand your own needs and what is working for you and what isn’t before talking with them about what is going on.

    Ask for what you want
    Simply put, they won’t know that something is wrong if you don’t tell them. If you want more foreplay, more dirty talk, more touching (or less of something!), let your partner know. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for what you want. Sex is a two-way street, so always remember your pleasure is 50 percent of the fun too.

    Keep finances and family out of the bedroom
    When there’s something weighing on our minds (money and family or friend issues especially), it can be difficult to get in the mood, let alone to have sex and not worry about those other things. Do your best to leave those thoughts out of the bedroom. This can be done by not doing work in your bed or using your phone in bed. You can also try to talk to your partner about these issues, so they’re not taking up so much space in your head.

    Don’t focus on the length of time
    You can have great sex in as little as 10 minutes, but sometimes, worrying about going too quickly isn’t helping you get anywhere. Take things slowly or let them come as they go (no pun intended!). It’s okay to take your time.

    Stop focusing so much on routine
    When sex gets routine (having sex on the same day every month/week, only doing the same positions, focusing on the end goal too much, etc.), it’s hard to get excited for the same thing over and over. Instead of trying to keep up with what you normally do, change things up a little bit. Have sex in a different location of your house (or go full nostalgia and get freaky in your car!), change up the time (in the morning, perhaps?!), or try a new position you’ve never done before.

    Try sex toys
    I’ll say it when I’m in my grave: sex toys aren’t just meant for alone time! Bringing a sex toy in the bedroom might be able to help you explain to your partner more easily what it is you like or help you learn what that is. It can also be an easy way to spice things up from your norm. Whether it’s a vibe, handcuffs, or something with a remote, there are so many options.

    Keep flirting
    Couples sometimes think that once they’re together, the flirtation doesn’t need to continue. Flirt with your partner just like you did on your first date or even kick it up a notch from the norm. Of course, you’re still attracted to your partner, but pretending you’re not totally dating bumps up the attraction just a little bit. More