Monday Musings: How/Should You Track Your Progress?

During my own fitness journey and through my work with other women, one thing I repeatedly encounter is an emphasis on tracking/measuring progress in some way. I feel conflicted about this. Of course many embark upon a fitness regimen because they want to lose weight, “tone up”/lean out, build muscle, get abs, etc. So to ignore this entirely is disingenuous. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to change the way you look aesthetically. You can love your body and have aesthetic goals. However, for a lot of women tracking weight loss, just like counting calories, can be incredibly triggering. Many women, myself included, easily make this into a compulsive behavior–stepping on the scale; measuring your waist, hips, and thighs; or trying on that “goal” pair of pants at least once a day, if not multiple times, and punishing yourself emotionally and physically if you don’t get your desired result.

So here are my thoughts on ways to track your progress in a fitness program:

(1) If fat loss and body composition changes are your goal and you are not triggered by unhealthy behaviors, use photos and measurements to track the changes to your body. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use the scale. The scale fluctuates constantly due to hormonal changes, water retention, etc. It is far too easy to become obsessed with weighing yourself multiple  times a day and then berating yourself over these fluctuations. Furthermore, muscle weighs more than fat, so you could be losing fat and building muscle, but the scale won’t tell you that! At least not scales that most people can afford (there are body composition scales, but who owns one?). Photos and measurements give you a much better understanding of how your body is changing. Take pictures of your front, side, and back, preferably at the same time of day, in the same clothes, in the same lighting. Use an app like Framatic to make side-by-sides. Don’t take photos too often–once every two-four weeks is completely sufficient. Measurements should be approached the same way–measure bust, bicep, waist, hips, and thighs every two-four weeks and note the changes. Furthermore, when you are tracking your progress, practice compassion with yourself. Note the changes or lack thereof, but don’t beat yourself up. This is a journey that takes time. Sometimes things happen quickly, sometimes they take a while.

(2) Use fitness benchmarks to measure your progress. Set goals for yourself and see how you do. What’s something you’d like to? Barbell back squat a certain weight? Do an unassisted pull up or five? Set some concrete SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-driven) goals and work toward those. Example: I can comfortable squat 115 pounds for 8 reps now. I would like to be able to squat 125 pounds for 8 reps in six-eight weeks). Either on your own or with a trainer, develop a plan to help achieve that goal. And if you don’t? Again, don’t beat yourself up. This is a journey.

(3) Don’t track anything! Just workout because you love to move your body and it makes you feel good. Move in ways that you enjoy. Have fun with it. Maybe you’ll notice that you’re picking up heavier dumbbells or that you’ve shaved a couple minutes off your 5K time. Maybe not. Just celebrate your body’s ability to move and revel in what you can accomplish. Enjoy the post-workout endorphins and smile.

Regardless of what method of tracking (or not) that you choose, remember to treat your body like it is your best friend. It’s the only body you’ve got, and you should love it no matter what shape it’s in or how much weight it can lift.

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Pacific Northwest Vacation

I just got back from a great week in the Pacific Northwest. Doug had to be in Vancouver for a conference on our wedding anniversary, so I flew out to join him on Saturday. From there we ventured down to Seattle and Portland. It was an amazing trip that went by way too fast. I consciously made the decision not to plan too much and just enjoy things as they happened. This was a struggle for me, type-A super-planner, but it allowed me to really be present in the moment….even so, that means we didn’t do as much as I would normally like to on a vacation. That just means we’ll have to go back!

Here’s an overview of where we stayed and what we did in each place!

Vancouver
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I got in to Vancouver while Doug was still at his conference. After taking the train into the city and dropping my bags at our hotel, I walked around Gastown by myself until Doug arrived. My favorite shop was The Paper Hound, a used bookstore just down the block from where we were staying. It had this lovely little collection of odds-and-ends found in used books that I thought was just delightful. Doug and I have our own collection of funny notes we have found on our fridge at home.

Once Doug was in from UBC we walked around some more, stopping at the Inuit Gallery in Gastown for a while. We ate a late lunch at Meat and Bread, a regional chain that specializes in high quality and creative meat-based sandwiches. The menu changes daily/weekly. It was delicious!

Our hotel, The Victorian, was great. The room was small but well-appointed and clean. The location and price cannot be beat! It was so affordable because you have to share bathrooms with other guests. Not a big deal, really, and the bathrooms were really nice! However, some guests are neater than others….so just keep that in mind. I didn’t run into any issues using the female bathroom, but someone kept leaving dirty towels all over the floor in the men’s room.

Saturday night we met up with Doug’s friend and colleague Kevin and his wife at Steamworks Brewery. It was just okay, but the company was great.

 

Sunday was our full day in Vancouver. We rented bikes and rode over 15 miles! We rode all along the sea wall, stopping to take pictures of the totem poles in Stanley Park and a few other cool sites. We biked over to the Granville Island Market, where we ate lunch and window shopped. I definitely recommend checking it out. After biking back home, we rested up and explored a little more. We ate dinner at The Flying Pig, which was again, just okay.

Seattle
On Monday we took a Quikbus down to Seattle. This trip was definitely not quick, but a one-way rental car from Canada is way too expensive! After checking into our AirBnB, we headed down to the Fremont neighborhood to walk around and grab pizza at BPC Frelard. I really liked the vibe of the restaurant and the pizza was super tasty. We drove out to Discovery Park and walked around a bit. That place is huge! I would have loved to go for a real hike, but time didn’t permit it!

The next morning we ate breakfast at our AirBnB before heading into the city. I can’t say enough nice things about our hosts–they provided us with coffee, bagels, eggs, and fruit, which we used every day we were there! They even loaned Doug a guitar when he mentioned that he is a musician. After breakfast, we headed downtown to check out Pike’s for the real tourist experience. While there we munched on a few cherries and tried some apple cider. I’m glad we went, but it was not really our scene!

 

In the afternoon, we drove over to the Ballard neighborhood to visit Bop Street Records. That place is incredible! Doug had a great time chatting with the owner, Dave. We walked around and window shopped afterwards before stopping at Bitterroot BBQ for a late lunch.

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After that, we headed to Golden Gardens State Park in west Seattle. It was absolutely gorgeous! We loved walking along the beach and looking out on the Pacific Ocean. There were quite a few people out and about, but it seemed like more of a locals place.

 

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On our drive toward home, we spotted Gas Works Park–so we stopped and hung out there for a bit before heading back to the AirBnB and getting cleaned up for dinner. Dinner was HORRIBLE, so I’ll skip that. We then went back to Gas Works to watch the sun set. It was absolutely gorgeous. Definitely one of the best places to watch the sunset in Seattle, in my opinion. We checked out Kerry Park the next night, but weren’t as impressed.

 

We finished out the night with decadent desserts at Hot Cakes in Ballard. We had walked by earlier in the day and knew we should come back! We got strawberry shortcake and the “Dark Decadence” molten chocolate cake, which had dark chocolate, caramel, and toffee bits on the vanilla ice cream. YUM!

 

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Wednesday we drove about 45 minutes out to Wallace Falls State Park for an awesome hike! There are three waterfall levels to see, so the hike is easily adaptable for all levels. We went all the way to the top! It was great to get out in the woods and sweat a little. The park was busy, but manageable. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. Dinner was nothing special, but we were wiped after our active day.

Portland
On Thursday we hit the road to Portland! We stopped in Olympia so I could be a Sleater-Kinney fan girl and to grab lunch. We also stopped at the local record store (record store #5 of the trip, I believe). Olympia is a great town and I would love to go back! After checking into our AirBnB, we headed out to see Ryan Adams. The concert was at Edgefield, which is a super cool place. It used to be a poor farm and is now a winery, distillery, brewery, hotel, and concert venue. Again, another place we would love to spend more time! The concert was great. I had never seen Ryan Adams live before, and he put a great show. His on-stage banter is pretty interesting as well…We finished the night with the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts, which we both think are overrated.

 

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Friday was my favorite day of the whole trip!! We grabbed breakfast at Bread + Honey and then drove out to the Oregon coast. First we hit Cannon Beach to see the famous haystack rocks. Despite being freezing because of the marine layer fog, we had an absolutely blast running around with all the other tourists. From there we headed to Oswald West State Park + Beach. Oswald West has an old growth forest that is simply jaw dropping. We walked through it on the way to the Short Sands beach, where we saw a bunch of surfers and dogs. From there we headed  back to Cannon Beach to grab lunch and ice cream–salted caramel for me. Delicious!

After getting cleaned up, we headed out to explore Powell’s, which really is everything that people say and more. We spent about two hours in there and could have stayed longer, but we had to go grab dinner at Por Que No? Taqueria near our AirBnB in the Mississippi neighborhood. This was hands down the best meal of the trip!

 

Saturday we drove out to Multanomah Falls. The falls are definitely gorgeous, but I would not recommend going the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend like we did. It was way too busy to be fully enjoyable. We did manage to get to the very top and then climb out to a more secluded area, which was nice. I’m glad we went, but compared to our experiences at Wallace Falls and the Oregon coast, it just wasn’t as nice.

The rest of Saturday was spent exploring the Mississippi neighborhood and then heading over to the Hollywood District where Doug got a tattoo at Ritual Arts. Then we headed uptown to NW 23rd, thinking we might grab dinner there. We walked around the area but didn’t see anything that popped out at us, so we headed to SE 12th and Hawthorne, where we ate at Cartopia, a food truck hub with fun outdoor seating. I had a Korean lettuce wrap (ssam) that I need to recreate at home ASAP. Doug got more tacos (because tacos). We both got crepes–mine had nutella and banana. YUM!

On Sunday we packed up our AirBnB and headed back down Mississippi. Our AirBnB really was in awesome location–we loved the neighborhood and could have easily spent way more time there. We grabbed brunch at the extremely popular Gravy, which was well-worth the hour long wait. I had an egg sandwich with grilled peppers and onions and Doug got biscuits and gravy. From there, we hung out at a coffee shop and brainstormed teaching ideas for the fall before Doug dropped me off at the airport and headed down to San Francisco for research.

We had SO much fun and a wish we had more time. We will definitely be back!

 

 

 

Friday Favorites #2

Happy Friday! I am looking forward to this weekend even more than usual because tomorrow morning I am flying to Vancouver! Doug is already out there for a conference, so I will be joining him and then we’ll be exploring our way down the coast to Seattle and Portland. We’ll be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary, which was actually yesterday.

Anyhow, here are some things I’m super into lately, in no particularly order!

shutterstock_143881924Peonies! They were one of our wedding flowers and I absolutely adore them. I already have one on my shoulder ouroboros tattoo, and I’m planning on getting some more on my forearm while we’re out in the Pacific NW this next week.

 

CaptureGrilled Pizza. We have been grilling everything lately, but grilled pizza is definitely one of my favorites. We’ve been using Trader Joe’s dough, simply because I have been too lazy to make my own, and following this method. The photo above is from our first attempt. Looks a little burnt, but it was delicious!

 

Reverse Lunge 10 R%2FLBent Over Rows 10 R%2FLSL RDL 10 R%2FL.pngBarbell Circuits. I have been loving barbell circuits on my metabolic conditioning days. I go a little lighter on the weight, using just the standard 45-lb barbell or maybe up to 55-60 pounds if I’m feeling it. Using a little lighter weight I can keep the workout fast-paced and metabolic. I did the above one in just over 20 minutes using a barbell and a kettlebell, but you could complete it with a set of dumbbells instead. I also loved doing this one.

 

Dearly Bethany. I adore her minimalist, clean style and her commitment to more ethical, slow fashion. Super inspirational and she has tons of stuff I would love in my closet. I’m not sure I could pull off the super high-waisted and fitted look as well as she does, but I’d like to try. Her color palette is to die for too….and she has great book recommendations!

 

nothing-left-unsaid-anderson-cooper-and-gloria-vanderbilt-1024Documentaries. Who am I kidding?! I always love documentaries. I have watched three fantastic ones recently that I just have to share. I adored Nothing Left Unsaid, the HBO documentary about Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper. I have always been fascinated by the Vanderbilt family, going back to when my mum took my brothers and I to Newport, Rhode Island, where we toured the family’s summer “cottages” the Breakers and Marble House. I thought this film was really well done. Gloria Vanderbilt has had an incredible life that spans so many significant moments in American history.

In preparation for teaching my Intro to American Studies class in the fall, I also rewatched Reel Injun and I Am Not Your Negro, two excellent documentaries that get to the heart of some of the most painful parts of our past, present, and future. In light of the heartbreaking Philando Castile ruling and the Supreme Court’s position on the use of racial/ethnic slurs for bands, mascots, etc (which is a very complex issue), these two films feel even more relevant.

That’s it for today! What are you loving lately?

Today I Believe

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Today I believe

…that hating your body is often a way to mask deeper, underlying problems and insecurities (see this post).

…that coffee is a food group.

…that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure (if it brings you pleasure, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Shout out to Neghar Foonooni for this idea).

…that it’s perfectly acceptable to listen to the same song ten million times in a row. Lately it’s been this one or this one, depending upon my mood.

…that tacos are the perfect food.

…that being outside in nature can (almost) always solve a bad mood.

…that consent is not just critical, but what makes intimacy fun (shout out to Nasty Women Radio).

….that workouts don’t have to be long and arduous (they can be fun and quick–check out my 20 under 20 program).

…in kindness.

Friday Favorites

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Happy Friday! I am definitely looking forward to the weekend! No specific plans, but we’ve had a busy few weeks so I am looking forward to spending some time with my husband and our dog! Maybe we’ll pick up some mulch fix the front garden beds, but otherwise I’m planning on just taking it easy.

Inspired by the hundreds (thousands?!) of others who make these lists, I thought I’d share a few things I am really loving lately.

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(1) Body Positivity Movement. This has been kicking around for years now, thankfully. However, I have noticed (and others have pointed out) that the body positive movement still tends to favor certain types of bodies–typically white and, even more frequently, hourglass shaped. The message seems clear–it’s okay to be bigger….as long as you still have the coveted hourglass shape. BUT this Self article, along with some other social media I’ve seen recently, is introducing some different voices/images into the narrative. There is no one standard of beauty, and I love seeing all these perspectives finally getting some attention.

 

18953520_722735939946_8376756427248433319_o.jpg(2) Blackberries! It is blackberry season in Oklahoma. My favorite time of year….except for fall. Doug and I went blackberry picking at N40 Berries last night. So much fun!! I ran into one of my former students, which was fantastic. We also got about 5 pounds of blackberries. I plan on eating a lot of them with Greek yogurt and granola, but I’m also looking for some good recipes. Any suggestions?

 

031_gran_9780385534246_art_r1_wide-838b95210d2f06a2bcd7442e5e4bf1fe6007444a.jpg(3) Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. This book, about the dozens of murders on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma during the early 20th century, is seriously gripping stuff. It’s an excellent pop history read, particularly if you are a fan of Devil in The White City and David Grann’s other book,  The Lost City of Z. Apparently it’s been optioned off to make a movie. I hope Scorsese does snap it up.

 

riverdale-e1484849967880-969x545.png(4) Riverdale. I have been binge-watching this show!! I used to read the Archie comics when I was little. I remember my mom taking us to Kenyon’s convenience store to get milk and I would stand in the corner at the comic books area and try and read as much of the Archie books as fast as possible. (Remember, mum?) Admittedly, the series is not really like the comics at all. It’s a teen-based murder mystery that has  *little* bit of a Twin Peaks feel. I am loving it….especially Jughead.

 

Capture2(5) Cire Alexandria jewelry. I saw Julie from Orchid Grey wearing these Moon and Sun Statement Earrings on Instagram and I am absolutely obsessed. I also love these earrings and this necklace.

I think that’s it for today. What are your plans for the weekend? What are you loving lately? xoxo

Thick Thighs Save Lives Lower Body Workout (Best You Sneak Peek)

This post in part inspired by new anthem of the summer, Miss Eaves’ Thunder Thighs.

As a teenager and in my early twenties, I was extremely self-conscious about having quite a bit of junk in my trunk. I was always focused on ways to minimize my thighs and butt, and constantly pinching and prodding myself. Fortunately, a combination of practice self-love/body positivity and the growing sociocultural acceptance–and even praise(!)–of the booty helped me get over that. Once I learned to love strength training and started squatting?!?! It was all over.

Now, glutes are one of my FAVORITE areas to train. Since I started working a desk job and sitting all day (as many of us do ), this has become even more important! Your glutes are the largest muscle group in your body (there are actually three glute muscles in your bum, just FYI). The glutes help hold you upright with nice posture, make it easier to lift heavy shit (#functional), and might make you feel like you’re hot stuff. Just saying.

One way that I love to work my lower body is through giant sets. Giant sets are great metabolic strength training routines where you perform 3-5 exercises in a row with little rest in between. Because rest is minimal, the workout is more metabolic in nature (read: burns more calories and feels more like cardio). This means that giant sets are great for fat loss AND for building muscle, since you’ll get a metabolic burn and a significant volume of reps in a relatively short amount of time.

This giant set workout is a fun one! It has an optional EMOM (every minute on the minute) finisher for a little extra burn if you’re up for it. It’s also very similar to the lower body workout in the first phase of my new and improved Best You Bootcamp–get the full details here!

Here’s the graphic breakdown. Keep scrolling for video demonstrations and detailed explanations of the moves.

Your time

Here’s how it goes down: 

GOBLET SQUAT:  Hold 1 heavy dumbbell (or kettlebell) at chest height. Make sure to keep shoulders back and down and try to avoid rounding forward too much. You can see in the video that I still struggle with this sometimes! Spread feet a little wider than hip width apart, toes turned out slightly.  (NOTE: everyone is unique and you might need to play around with the width of your stance a bit to find what feels most comfortable for you) Keeping chest proud and upright, lower down as low as you can into a squat (again, this is different for everyone. DON’T try to go below parallel if you don’t feel comfortable). Elbows should be on the inside of the knees, ever so slightly pressing them out. Drive through heels to stand.

SINGLE LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT: Stand with weight in heel with a slight bend in the knee, glutes squeezed, pelvis slightly tucked, shoulders back and down. Balance on your right leg with a weight in your right hand. Hinge at hip, bracing core to bring back parallel to the ground (or as close as possible–STOP when you feel tension in your hamstrings – you might NOT get your back completely to parallel, depending upon your range of motion).  Keep core tight and squeeze glutes as you come back to stand. To regress: place a hand on the wall for greater stability (as in video) OR place the weight in the opposite hand of the leg on which you are balancing.

HIP THRUSTS:  Sit on your bum,  just in front of a bench/box, with feet hip width apart and knees bent. Lean back against the bench so that your shoulder blades rest just on top of the bench. Drive through heels and engage glutes to bring your body into table top position, with knees bent at 90 degrees. Lower and repeat. If you feel strong enough, you can add a weight as shown in the video. For an even more advanced modification, add a barbell. Check out the master of the hip thrust, Bret Contreras, for more info on this. 

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT: Place one foot on box or step and move the other leg in front of you so that when you perform the lunge/squat, your front knee comes to 90 degrees. You might need to readjust a few times. Shoulders back and down, pelvis slightly tucked. Perform a lunge, bending both legs, aiming for 90 degrees on the front leg. Repeat. Weight is optional here. You can hold a weight goblet style or hold two dumbbells at your side.

If you’d like to do the finisher, here are videos for thrusters and jump squats.

Let me know if you try it!!

Sign up for the Best You Early Bird Waitlist!  Signing up will not force you to buy, but you will get the option to buy the program a day early for a 25% discount!!

Quick Resistance Band Workout for the Glutes

Many of my current beta boot camp testers are busy career women and/or moms who often workout from home whenever they can find the time. While they have been rockstars in accomplishing 30-45 minute full body workouts, I also try to give them workouts that they can fit in pretty much anywhere at anytime. I came up with this workout for them over Memorial Day weekend. I typically workout at the gym because I love the environment and the variety of equipment. However,  on Monday I was itching to workout but the gym was closed and all I had was a resistance band. Thus, this workout was born! Scroll down for the video demo!

You can do this workout on its on or in addition to another workout as a finisher. If you’re doing this as your main workout, shoot for 3-5 rounds. As a finisher, aim for 1-2 rounds depending on how you feel! I warmed up with 2 sets of 10 of the following: squat jumps, mountain climbers, and tuck jumps. Then I busted out 5 rounds. My glutes were definitely on fire by the end!

Wednesday Workout