Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Recap (...and a #VegaBar review)

We've had a few rain showers lately, which is continuing to green up our yard. That's what this time of year is all about, and with the onset of May tomorrow, I don't expect that to change. I have to say, I do like me some Spring. Even with the rain. It's as if every day is the promise of something new and bright outside, even if it's just for an hour.

Anyway, it's time to recap my April goals.

1) Get the girl into her big-girl bed.
All of the components for said big-girl bed are here, except for the bed, which is set to arrive next Friday. We've been talking it up big time, and she's been asking for it, so we'll see.

2) Continue cardio and strength workouts, despite (and to fight) the fatigue. 
I'm still working out! Usually four, sometimes five times a week. Two days of total-body strength, two days of cardio...with an extra day of cardio thrown in if at all possible. I'm officially off the bike until I return post-baby. Totally ran out of room on the bike!

3) Plan out freezer meals, to be prepped the first weekend of May.

I'm so on top of this one! I plan to shop no later than Friday, and then prep all the meals on Sunday. I've already begun freezing fruit for individual ready-to-blend smoothies, and I'm making a batch of cookie dough today as well. Priorities, clearly. More on this to come.

4) Add prenatal yoga to my weekly routine. 
5) Create an account on LinkedIn.
Whomp, whomp. Let's not talk about it.

How about we talk about Vega Bars instead?
I mean, food is more fun than missed goals anyway, right?

Through my partnership with Fit Approach/SweatPink, I was given the opportunity to test out the newest line of Vega Bars. I've always been a fan of this brand (and healthy bars), so I jumped at the chance. Here's what they sent me:

 You guys, so good.

I really wanted to dive right into each bar, but opted to open one of each for taste-testing purposes.

From left to right:
1) Vega Sport Protein Bar (Chocolate Coconut)
2) Vega One Bar (Chocolate Cherry Almond)
3) Vega Sport Energy Bar (Apple Cherry)
4) Vega Snack Bar (Cranberry Almond)

First and foremost, the flavors in all four where ridiculously good—and made even better by the fact that the ingredients are crazy clean compared to a lot of similar bars on the shelves. (I'm not just saying that because they were given to me for free, it's the honest truth.) Also, if you eat gluten-free, these fit the bill. Not a concern for me, but worth noting just the same.

Surprisingly enough, this one was my favorite:

I'm really not one to go for coconut flavors, but it was love at first bite. The coconut added an element of sweetness to the protein bar that, for me at least, was perfect. And no, there wasn't a coconut texture that can be so off-putting for so many (including me). I really, seriously, felt like I was eating a candy bar. Without all the junk.

I like keeping bars like this in the pantry because I don't always have the time to prep a fresh, healthy and delicious snack. And I know that'll only get worse with another kid to take care of, so I'll be saving the rest of my Vega Bar stash for post-baby consumption. I assure you, this will be hard to do.

Question: What is your all-time favorite snack, protein, or granola bar?

Monday, April 28, 2014

6 Writing Tips for Bloggers

Confession #1: I was that dork in school who liked to write papers. (Seriously.) I actually enjoyed the act of sitting down at a computer and crafting a document of words. Because to me, they weren't really class assignments. They were puzzles. Word puzzles, and I had to make them whole in a way that provided a perfectly logical explanation for whatever question had been posed to me by my teachers and professors.

Confession #2: If I could go back and do it all again, I'd take more writing classes. Because, really...I think I only took three during the four years I spent at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, IN. Writing for Advertising and Public Relations, Journalism, and Feature Writing. Favorite? Feature Writing, as evidenced by published work in a textbook my professor put together:

Why I couldn't recognize how much I loved these classes, I'll never know. But here I sit right now, writing a blog. And sometimes a freelancer. Before that, I worked as an advertising copywriter. So essentially, I picked up my diploma and started writing. And I haven't stopped.

The fact that I look back and recognize how much I would have loved more writing classes, well...I'll raise my nerd flag, sure. Because I guess I made myself a little writing career without them.

"Tara, this is great," you say to me, "but why are you telling me this?"

Because, dear friends, I want you to know that I speak from both the heart and experience when I offer up the following writing tips for bloggers.

1) Write with structure, but don't be afraid to let loose.
Blogs are somewhat conversational, more so than your average newspaper article. As such, they present an opportunity for the blog writer to be a bit free with their writing style. So let loose and really take the time to show your readers a bit of personality. But don't lose sight of structure, because that's when your readers get lost. It's true that conversations flow, but you'll notice the best conversations often revolve around a single subject. So make sure that every post you create has a purpose, and structure your writing accordingly—you want your readers to follow you from the first sentence to the last. Even if you're just providing a rundown of your day.

2) Be careful with creative methods of spelling and the overuse of slang words.
Sounds counter intuitive to the above, I know, but hear me out. Remember the whole "-izzle" trend? Kind of annoying, for shizzle. Amiright? And what about the use of words like "woot" to enhance excitement? Go back a sentence...see what I did with "am I right?" There is a place and time for creative misuse. But when bloggers do this too much, visions of road blocks dance through my head. It's just too hard to read.

3) Proofread every single post. EVERY SINGLE POST!
We are human, which means we are not perfect. Mistakes happen. But if they happen too frequently, then it really undermines your credibility. It really doesn't matter what platform you're using, there should be a "spellcheck" option. And all you have to do is click it to find the mistakes worth fixing. But it's not just about spelling. Look for missing words. Unfinished sentences, and even links that aren't working. Don't just write and post. Write, proofread and post.

4) Use commas and apostrophes correctly.
I think one of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of punctuation. Particularly when it comes to commas and apostrophes. Even when you're being conversational, you still need to use these things correctly. Especially commas. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is one of my favorite books (again with the nerd flag). From the back cover:

So, when you proofread the heck out of your post, check out all the dots and hash marks, too. Do planks, not plank's. And break up long sentences with commas because if you don't they get really long and your readers get lost in what you are trying to say so they just end up walking away because their head is spinning into a really bad headache and you don't want to be the blogger that dishes out headaches because that would be bad. (See what I did there?)

5) Break up big paragraphs.
Take a look at my first tip. Almost too long, but the use of a header saves me because it gives you (the reader) the option to read or move on to the next tip. But you've seen longer paragraphs in print, right? The printed piece is a much easier, totally different medium to read. But reading on a computer screen, well...that can be harder, so help your readers out. Use headers and bullets, or just break up those paragraphs that seem long and chunky.

6) Pick strong key words and phrases for search engines, but don't make it obvious.
If building a following or getting page hits is a huge goal, then you'll want to make use of key words and phrases that search engines will find. This will shoot you up in the list of results. And typically, these words/phrases should be near the top of your post. In the title, too. But your job as the writer is to mask these key words with creative writing. Because this just doesn't work:

"High intensity interval workouts are so much fun. You should totally try high intensity interval training if you want to get your heart rate up, because interval workouts make you work hard. Today, I have a high intensity interval workout for you. But check with your doctor if you've never done high intensity interval training because a high heart rate workout might not be right for you."

Say what?

"High intensity interval training is so much fun! To illustrate this point, I've put together a HIIT workout for you. But you'll want to check with your doctor first because a high heart rate workout might not be right for you."

Or something like that.
Much better, and still full of key words.

Now, I could go on and on about writing and writing tips (nerd flag, one last time). But I'll leave you with these six for right now. If you have specific questions about YOUR writing style, or anything grammar/writing/punctuation related, or even if you want me to write something for you, I am always available: tara (at) adailydoseoffit (dot) com.

Question: As a reader, what writing/editing mistakes bug you the most? As a writer and/or blogger, what tips can you offer up?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

6 Things I'm Loving Right Now, Vol. 4

Read for another recap of all things I've been loving this month? Sometimes, I'm just not sure how I narrow it down to six. But, here goes:

1) Baked Cod

I've never really been a fish person. I think it's because I used to fish off a pier with my Grandfather, to be honest. I've had fish look me in the eye, and I feel less than inclined to much on gills and bones. Weird, I know. But lately, I've been loving me some baked cod. It's so...buttery and delicious! And not at all fishy. With a bit of olive oil and some cracked pepper, it's truly perfection. Unless you ask my husband, who thinks it makes our house smell disgusting.

2) Baby Kicks
Seriously, it's crazy insane how much this kid is moving around. Hannah was the same way, really. And at this point in my pregnancy (34 weeks), I imagine space is at a premium. Of course, he/she doesn't really start kicking until I stop moving, which means it usually happens whenever I relax. Luckily, it's not keeping me up too much at night. Still sleeping well, hooray. Still no back pain, knock on wood. (Is it June yet?)

3) Ocean Potion After Sun Aloe Lotion

This stuff is a staple on my nightstand right now, and probably will be until it's either A) gone, or B) Winter again. It smells like your best vacation. But it can be hard to find. I've had some luck at WalMart, but got this bottle down in Florida at Ron John in Cocoa Beach. Ocean Potion sunscreen, on the other hand, is a little more readily available and smells equally awesome. I recommend both, completely.

4) Lids and Straws for Ball Jars

Is the whole Mason jar trend still a thing? Eh, who cares. I'm still loving mine, especially now that I have lids and straws...which also fit on some old pasta/peanut butter jars, too. I picked them up (the lids and straws) at Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day for a measly $5. So worth it. So summery.

5) POPSUGAR App for iPhone
You might have noticed a new badge in my sidebar. I'm excited to have been chosen as a POPSUGAR Select blogger, specifically for the fitness category. I find myself among some excellent people, and I've been having fun getting to know the ins and outs of this community. So naturally, one thing I did was download the POPSUGAR app for iPhone—It's actually pretty fun! It's essentially a news/information roll, with customizable categories that range from "celebrity" to "fashion," "fitness," "home" and a few more in between.

6) Post-Baby Fitness Inspiration

Over the past month or two, I've collected a few things that have become items of post-baby fitness inspiration. They're all tucked away in my Skyscape box, waiting for the day my doctor gives me the OK to return to normal activity. I imagine, with two kiddos to take care of,  there will be a certain element of "no time for exercise," but let's be honest—You know I'll find a way and the contents of this box will make it fun. Items include two pairs of pants, two tech shirts, a tank and Sarah's book. And I've been watching a few items in the stores, just waiting for them to go on sale. So will see how full the box gets.

Question: Tell me about one thing you're really loving right now.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Feedly Finds, Vol. 3

Read anything awesome on the Internet lately? I feel like my Feedly has been blowing up with good things to ingest, so as per the usual, I've been bookmarking them as I go to reshare with you.

1) To all of my blogging friends: According to this infographic, there are 11 essential ingredients that every blog post needs. Are you getting all of them in yours?

2) As a fitness director, I get a lot of questions about what it's like to be a certified fitness professional. It's a topic I absolutely love discussing because it's such a fun job. If you're thinking about getting certified, specifically as a personal trainer, one thing you need to know is that it's more than just putting together workouts. So much more: "8 Signs You Would Be an Awesome Personal Trainer."

3) How many reps are you currently doing in your workouts? Are you aiming to build muscles or build your strength—because there is a difference, and reps make or break your abilities.

4) My running game recently came to a halt. I will be 34 weeks along this weekend, and I'm feeling too much pressure to continue. So I've taken to power walking and the lateral elliptical to get my heart rate up. I ended up stopping sooner with Hannah, so I'm grateful to have lasted this long in this pregnancy. Because really, if you're a runner, there are so many great reasons to continue running during pregnancy (as long as your pregnancy allows it).

5) My husband would drink Frank's hot sauce by the gallon if I let him. I swear, he puts it on everything. So naturally, I've taken to liking it, too. When Jennifer posted a recipe for Grilled Cheesy Buffalo Chicken, I knew that I needed to take note. Because OMG, her pictures.

That's all for now, folks. More to come next month. Be sure to follow me on Twitter because I like to share links there, too. And if you need to catch up:

Feedly Finds, Vol. 1
Feedly Finds, Vol, 2

Question: Can you link me to something awesome you recently read on the Internet?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Intention versus habit. (#pinspirationthursday)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intention is "a determination to act in a certain way" while habit is "a usual way of behaving." The two words are very obviously different, made especially evident when it comes to health and fitness. We all have goals, right? We all have reasons for exercising. But it's so easy to get caught up in the "because I have to" mentality, which eliminates the part where you choose to accept your need for physical fitness. Otherwise known as the part where you choose to admit why you have to exercise.

And also, the part where you choose to actually engage in your exercise of choice.

Pin / Source
This engagement, that's where intention comes into play. Because if you aren't exercising with intent, then you're most likely going through the motions and not really, truly marching yourself toward your goals.

Next time you go to the gym, don't just turn on the treadmill and clock miles. Or bust out a few biceps curls. Really, truly lock into what your body is doing and why. Because going through the motions, the actual habit of working out, while it's good that you've developed this repeat pattern of physical activity—it's really only part of your health and fitness journey.

I'll say it again: Engage in your exercise of choice. Truly respond to it. Exercise from a place of intention, not from habit. Get in there and earn that burn.

And when you're done, apply that same feeling to the rest of your life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Walking Bodyweight Workout

This is happening all over the place:

And my coats aren't coming out of the closet as frequently, so it's officially time to play outside because the temps are climbing up, up, up and away. In addition to the flowers, I'm also seeing more runners on the streets. This, of course, makes me green with envy right now. I don't dare (for safety reasons) walk/run on the streets right now—because you never know, and I've got this bun in the oven to protect. (And I don't have sidewalks right outside my door, just a short cul-de-sac street that leads to busy roads.) But I'm very much looking forward to the day that I can shed the track at the gym for a bit and go for a walk with my kiddos in their new double stroller. Or take Hannah out for a run in the BOB. Either way, I'll be saving this workout for that time:

It's hard to hit the gym in the summer (even when you work there). You really just want to be outside, amiright? So as the weather gets warmer and your desire to spend time inside starts to waver, the above might prove to be a good solution for you. It combines the cardiovascular training of a quick-paced walk with some proven bodyweight exercises that you can (seriously) do anywhere. Even if you're pushing a stroller, which adds convenience for all the moms and dads with parental duties. Because the kids like to be outside, too.

Notes on the above:

1) Always check in with your physician before starting a new exercise regime. Make sure what you're doing is right for you. My workouts are backed by my experience as an ACE-certified personal trainer, but I have to trust that you're using your best judgement when it comes to doing any of the workouts I post. Ask if you have questions, and I'll be sure to answer them as best I can.

2) When I ask for 24 repetitions, each lunge (for example) counts as one repetitions. You're going for total repetitions, not 24 repetitions per leg.

3) A recovery pace can be anything you need it to be. Perhaps it starts slow so you can catch your breath. Perhaps you don't skip a beat and keep trekkin' at a moderate pace. Again, use your best judgement. And if your muscles fatigue with the bodyweight workout before you can complete five circuits, just proceed to recovery pace and walk through the rest of your workout.

In other news, I got my monthly shipment of NatureBox goodies today.

Totally drooling over each and every snack.

Again, let me know if you have any questions about the workout. I'm here to help.

Question: Do your workouts change with the seasons? Tell me how, I'm curious.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Let's Get Personal: 11 Questions and Answers

So I've been nominated a few times for this thing called a "Liebster Award," which is essentially a high-five passed between bloggers. An "I like your blog" thing, if you will. I don't get a trophy or anything, not even a medal. It's really just one of those things that makes you smile. And I think that's entirely the purpose. Actually, I can't say that for sure as I have no idea who started the whole "Liebster" thing. But it's fun and it sheds some light on the blogger who gets it.

The basic gist: Whoever nominates me essentially passes along a series of questions, after which I'm supposed to nominate more bloggers and pass along new questions. Because time is of the essence right now and I couldn't possibly pick from all the blogs I read, I'm going to break that chain (I know, I suck…) and just answer all the questions that have been given to me (because that sounds like fun). So...thank you, Precious, for nominating me. High five to The Coily Bombshell!

And now, the questions (and my answers):

1) What is your favorite movie and why? 
Would it be totally obvious and boring if I said The Sound of Music? Because I seriously can't get enough. But I mean, everyone loves those hills. So I will also share this, my second favorite:

It's also my favorite book. (And I'm named after the plantation on which Scarlett O'Hara lived.)

2) Name something on your bucket list.
I would really love to run Disney. Specifically, the Disney Princess Half Marathon. But a girl from Michigan cannot so easily justify the expenses, so we shall see. I mean, we'll need to take the kids to Disney at some point, right?

3) How did you come up with your blog name? 

Flashback to an old blog header! My first, actually. I remember starting this blog and thinking that if I could inspire one person to make fitness a priority in some way every day, then I'd have created a successful blog. The pageviews certainly indicate that I'm reaching more than one person these days, and I can only hope all of those hits mean people are making fitness a priority with or without my help. A Daily Dose of Fit was hard to come up with. All the options! But the more I said it, looked at it, played with it...the more it felt right. And still, to this day, I love it.

4) Describe yourself in three words? 
Crazy. Sexy. Cool. Oh, wait. That's an old TLC album. "Don't go chasin' waterfalls..." You know it, right? So let's go with short, pregnant and happy. Or maybe...gosh, I don't know. This is a hard one.

5) What is your favorite way to stay fit? 

Running. The race recaps these days are killin' me because clearly my running game is not where it could be, but I'm looking forward to the day when I can lace up again knowing there's a race ahead of me. For now, I'll stay focused on this bun in the oven. And I'll do what I can to keep strength training, which is my other favorite way to stay fit.

6) If you could go back and visit any time period, what would it be and why? 
I'd go back to the latest season of Downton Abbey, because the fashion statements are just the coolest. A little bit old, a little bit on-the-verge. Society, too. Which would be fun to experience.

7) What is one thing you really like about yourself? 
I'm totally not afraid to NOT act my age. I'm 33, but get me around my sister and our cousins and we're usually the instigators that drop down to, like, age 10. But that's why I love my family, because the adults are just so cool like that. And it's not about being immature, but knowing how to let loose. And I love letting loose.

8) When I dance I look like… 
My college friends say I have this signature hip roll thing. I'm no Elaine from "Seinfeld," but I'm no Shakira, either. Ok, fine. I can move. I like to dance. Dance off? I'm in, but not if you're Shakira because you'd win. (Can I add "learn to belly dance" to #2 above?)

9) Where do you see yourself in five years? 
Well, I'll have two kids in school at that point. So hopefully, I'll be balancing life as a fitness professional with life as a mom who likes to help out in her kids' classrooms. (Wait, two kids? I need to get used to saying "the kids" because I still can't believe this is happening, and happening so soon now!)

10) Tea or coffee? 
Coffee. I'm not much of a hot tea person, but I do occasionally enjoy a nice, crisp glass of iced tea. But, Proven by the fact that I just hit Gold-card status at Starbucks. I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

11) What's your favorite type of blog post to write and why?
I like to write posts like this. Posts that aren't necessarily about health or fitness. Sounds counter intuitive when I'm trying to build a place on the Internet that's totally devoted to health and fitness, but posts like that (like this) really shed light on the person behind the page, which I think is fun. It's a break from the norm, if you will.

Now, it's your turn...

Question: Answer one of the questions above!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What do you want? (#pinspirationthursday)

Today is Pinspiration Thursday. But really, it's this:

Pin / Source
Because if you want something, you really just have to find a way to get it. To make it happen. Or whatever. And there's no better time to begin your search than the present. But what if it doesn't work out? Well, so be it! At least you can say that you tried. And that's better than saying you never made the effort. Right?

Go on, be a go-getter.

Question: What do you want?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Workout Wednesday: 20-Minute Bodyweight Workout

Okay, so first and foremost, I haven't actually done this workout yet. Obviously I'm toning things down a bit in the home stretch to labor and delivery—I didn't want any of y'all thinking I was going crazy over here with the high intensity bodyweight work. Much to my dismay (because it's my favorite), I can't do these types of workouts right now. But I can still piece them together for you and for my clients (insert evil laugh here).

So, let's get to it: A total-body, no-equipment-necessary workout that should (theoretically) last you 20 minutes. My guess, however, is that you'll come in a few minutes over because you'll want to factor in rest/water breaks. Still, this is a do-anywhere, quick-and-dirty type of workout.

The rules: Five exercises, one minute each, repeated four times through. Reps don't matter, get yourself through the minute at a pace that works for you and while doing each exercise with proper form. Breathe deeply through each exercise, and hydrate. AND (obviously) warm up and cool down.

Ready? Top row first, left to right, then bottom row. Left to right.

Some clarifications:

1) Wall Kicks: Stand facing a wall, hands on the wall. Tap the wall with your feet, alternating (of course). Kind of like toe-taps on a BOSU, if you know what that is.

2) Pushups with Slow Froggers: Perform your pushup, and when you hit plank position at the top, bring your right knee up to your right elbow. Return to plank, repeat with your left knee, then do another pushup and repeat.

3) Around the Clock Lunges: Start forward with your right foot, lunge to 12:00. Back to start, then out to 3:00. Hit 6:00, then hit it again with the left food and make your way back up to 12:00.

4) Dead Man Burpees w/Jump: This is a regular burpee, except you fall flat to the floor after you pop out to plank position. Pick yourself up to plank, pop in to squat, jump up and repeat.

5) Sprinter Crunches: Think knee to elbow, upper body halfway up to a full sit-up position.

If you need further descriptions for any of the above exercises, please let me know. I'd be happy to expand in the comments below if necessary. As always, exercise at your own risk. What's shown above may or may not be appropriate for your personal fitness levels. Use sound judgement whenever you try a new exercise and, if necessary, consult your physician for further advice.

Question: What is your favorite bodyweight exercise?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spinning During Pregnancy: How to Ride Safely when You are Expecting

So many people are making the assumption that I'm about to pop. But really, I've got eight weeks left. Does this mean I look huge? Don't answer that. I'm rolling with the fact that I'm short and carrying everything right in front, thus appearing physically overwhelmed by all that is baby. I mean, just looking at the numbers, I'm in a very healthy range for weight gain. And I'm still teaching, moving and feeling well.

Except on the bike. Things are getting a little tricky on the Spinning bike these days. I teach one 45-minute class every Tuesday. And honestly, I'm still making my way through it safely and effectively...but the bump, it's really starting to get in the way! I currently have my handlebars set up to the highest point, which is not normal for me but totally rideable. And I noticed today that standing climbs are somewhat uncomfortable. Too much compression in the mid-section...I'm basically kneeing this kid with every turn of the pedal. Thankfully, though, I can run upright with resistance to get a similar effect. Yay for modifications!

Needless to say, I'm turning over my class at the end of the month, which means I've got two more rides in me. It's for the best, really, even though I'll be sad to store the Spinning shoes for a bit. Which brings me to my next point:

In case you're wondering, it can be completely fine to take Spinning classes during pregnancy.

As with any activity related to pregnancy, I advise you to speak with your OB or midwife. They will place any appropriate restrictions on you, which you can then apply to your fitness activities. And obviously, this is not the time for new adventures or lofty goals, so keep that in mind, too. But if you've spent time in the saddle before you were pregnant, then you should be able to continue riding as long as your pregnancy allows it. 

1) Drink plenty of water before, during and after your class.
And yes, I know this sounds like a nightmare when you're pregnant, but good hydration is absolutely essential. Even if you aren't pregnant! I yell (nicely) at anyone that comes to my class without a water bottle. And take this one step further for me: Don't show up on an empty stomach. Your body is already working overtime to bake the bun, so give it the right kind of fuel to continue.

2) Make sure your bike is set up properly, and adjust as needed.
As your belly gets bigger, you'll start to feel cramped when you're holding on to the handlebars. Raising them up a notch or two can help. If you do this, have the instructor double-check the rest of your adjustments. The slightest tweak can (sometimes) affect the rest of your settings.

3) Be careful when riding out of the saddle.
Remember, your center of gravity is off right now, which makes balance a true test at times. If you cannot hold proper form, or if you feel less than steady, ride in the saddle. Turn standing climbs into seated climbs, etc.

4) Turn sprints into manageable cadence/speed increases. 
If you've ever done a sprint in a Spinning class, you know that it shoots your heart rate through the roof. While the "keep your heart rate below 140" rule is somewhat null and void at this point, you'll still want to be careful with extended periods of high heart rate work. And by "high heart rate," I certainly mean at max, which is where sprints can take you. Play it safe and stay effective by simply increasing your speed without going "balls to the wall," if that makes sense.

5) Stay cool.
Overheating, even when you aren't pregnant, is never a good thing. Choose a bike that situates you near a fan or some other type of airflow. It doesn't have to be directly on you, which can be annoying, but having it flow around you in some way will make a huge difference in your comfort.

6) Don't let your knees fall into misalignment. 
When it comes to riding, proper knee placement is everything. You've probably seen someone riding a bike, essentially pedaling with the outside of their foot, which kicks the knees out to the side at an odd angle, right? That's bad. And that's what your legs will want to do when the knees start hitting the belly. Again, raising the handlebar can help. But if you have to compromise form because the belly is too big, well...maybe, just maybe it's time to choose another form of cardio.

7) Don't skip out on your warm-up or cool-down.
Remember, it's your ride and any good Spinning instructor should respect your need to warm up just a little bit longer or cool down just a little bit sooner. You will not, obviously, be cheating yourself of any benefits. On the contrary, you'll be keeping yourself safe. In addition, modify your intensity throughout the ride if need be. You're pregnant—It's totally okay if you can't keep up! (See #4)

8) If your lower back starts to hurt, sit up straight. 
Gravity is pulling that belly down, down and down and this (of course) does a number on your lower back. If you start to feel it while riding, sit up straight in the saddle for a bit and realign your spine. But, if this is how you have to ride for the duration of the class, again, it might be time to pick another form of cardio. Or to adjust the handlebars. (See #2)

Again, despite the above, we preggos need to really listen to our bodies. They are experts on all things us, especially when we've got buns in the oven. This is not a time for super high intensity weight loss goals galore. It's a time to maintain our fitness, health and overall happiness as we take that road to labor and delivery.

I promise, take care of yourself now and it'll most likely pay off post-pregnancy!

Question: Moms and moms-to-be, did you take/are you taking Spinning classes during your pregnancy? Spinning instructors, have you had any pregnant ladies in your classes? How did they fare?

Monday, April 14, 2014

8 Tips for Group Fitness Instructors

So here's the thing: I teach group fitness, but I don't have a group fitness certification. The way I see it, it's much easier to teach group fitness with a personal trainer certification than it is to train individuals with a group fitness certification. Those of you that have your group fitness certification might disagree, but this approach is working for me right now and I'm rolling with it.

I started training individuals in the Spring of 2010, and I took on my first group fitness class shortly after that. For about a year now, I've been managing the group fitness program at my club. And before I even joined this industry, I attended group fitness classes. So I've got some perspective that might be of use if you're looking for tips for group fitness instructors.

Behold, the following.

1) Don't just show up.
People take group fitness classes for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is often the fact that they simply don't know how to build their own workouts. This means you play a big role in the advancement of their health and fitness goals. Sure, you have those days where standing in front of a class and leading a workout is the very last thing you feel like doing, but you have to do it. It's your job. And people are paying for your expertise. So you have to invest. Every single time. And whatever you do, don't give your students the slightest hint that you're not ready and able to lead them.

2) Keep your lesson plans.
This is a good idea for a number of different reasons. If someone gets hurt and it comes back to haunt you, you'll know exactly what you did that day. If you're not feeling it, or if you don't have time to plan, you can look back and pick a class plan that you know has worked in the past and then all you have to do is show up and teach your heart out. And, finally, if you keep track from class to class, you can advance those that come regularly.

3) Plan your music.
Nothing kills the mood in a fitness class quite like bad music and down time. If you have to stop in the middle of your class to pick a new playlist, then you're not coming to class prepared. Your students don't need to see you fiddle with the sound system when they're ready for their next set of squats. They are there to move, so keep them moving! Furthermore, make sure whatever you're relying on for music is ad-free. Because no one needs to hear an ad for another fitness club when they're in your club. It's not worth the risk.

4) Learn how to balance your personal and professional workouts.
Remember, you are getting paid to lead a class. And while you're not leading the class for your own will benefit from the physical activity done in the class. This can impact your personal workouts, and your personal workouts can impact your professional workouts. If you're not balancing the two, you're not showing up to work in top-notch form. Prioritize your schedule. Take care of yourself so you can help take care of others.

5) Be prepared to offer modifications.
When you lead a class, you are responsible for the people that take it. Depending on your numbers, it can be hard to watch everyone at once, but you absolutely have to try—not everyone that walks through your studio door is on the same fitness level. And you, as the instructor, need to be able to instruct all fitness levels. So as you plan your class, think ahead to potential modifications, just in case you spot the need. And if you don't know what modifications can be offered for a particular exercise, ask your coworkers or simply choose another exercise.

6) If your numbers are low, look within.
There are a variety of reasons that class attendance is low. A lot of which you, as the instructor, cannot control. Like the weather. Or holidays. Maybe even other classes. But you can't point fingers. While it's the easiest solution, the first thing you have to do is look within. Find out what YOU can do better. Ask a coworker or friend to attend one of your classes and welcome their feedback. And then, if things still don't change, talk to your supervisor and come up with a solution.

7) Take other classes.
Find out what your peers are doing. It's called research and, quite simply, it works. Plus, you never know when you'll be called upon to sub. And subbing is most likely part of your job description.

8) Be current.
There is a reason we fitness professionals have to rack up continuing education credits: This industry is always changing! If you've been teaching in the same time slot under the same class name for years, that doesn't mean you don't have room to grow the format. Nowhere is change more important than within the fitness industry, because we all know that plateaus and ruts are a real (often hard to overcome) thing. And we fitness professionals are the go-to sources for overcoming them.

Question: Are you a group fitness instructor? What do you teach, and what tips can you add to the above?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

10 Healthy Foods I Always Buy

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to certain things in my life. One such thing in particular: My grocery list. Whenever I sit down to compile our weekly needs, there are always a few automatics that I write down, even before I check the 'fridge or pantry. I just know we'll need them at some point in the week ahead because, well, I personally cannot go without them. Take a look:

1) Avocados

Whether we're eating Mexican food or not, avocados are a must-have for healthy fats. If I'm not turning them into Kale Guacamole, I add them to salads and sandwiches. Or I chop them up for my girl as part of her meal. I mean, what's not to love about an avocado? Except for their price. They can be expensive, at least up here in Michigan.

2) Whole Wheat Bread
3) Peanut Butter
4) Yogurt
5) Fresh Fruit

Whole Wheat Bread: While I'm not loyal to one brand, I pick a loaf based on price and ingredients. From toast to French Toast, to burger buns and sandwich tops/bottoms, we go through whole wheat bread like it's our job. I seriously need to try making it in my bread maker...honestly not sure why I haven't yet.

Peanut Butter: Or any other kind of nut butter, really. But mostly peanut butter. Don't even try to keep me away from it. I consume peanut butter on the regular, and while I prefer to make my own, I've been known to pick up a fun jar from the store, especially if I've never had the particular brand before.

Yogurt: Lately, I've been buying whatever is on sale. Usually going with Greek-style, typically gravitating toward Chobani, Oikos and Stonyfield. But whenever I'm at my local Whole Foods, I pick up a jar or two from Traderspoint Creamery, shown above. Words cannot even begin to describe how delicious this stuff is.

Fresh Fruit: I start with bananas and berries, then I gravitate toward the apples. Then the citrus fruits and go from there. I gotta, gotta have fresh fruit in the house for smoothies, cereal and snacking. Lucky for me, I live in an area where fresh fruit is bountiful in the summer months. Can't wait to start buying my "candy" from the Farmer's Market!

6) Hummus

Like peanut butter, I almost always make my own. Especially now that I've discovered affordable tahini at Whole Foods. But if I'm out of tahini and can't get down to Whole Foods, then I'll buy some from the store. Crackers or veggies? Still can't come to a verdict on which is a better dipper. I eat the stuff on sandwiches, too. Also a delicious option.

7) Chicken
8) Fresh Salad

Chicken: Chicken on the grill. Chicken salad. Chicken on a salad. Chicken in my pasta. Chicken, chicken all the time. And it goes on sale all the time at my local big box, which makes it easy to stock my freezer. Don't get me wrong, I don't shy away from pork and beef. It's just that nine times out of ten, if there's meat on my plate, it's probably chicken.

Fresh Salad: My local big box makes the best, most delicious fresh salads—and they aren't that expensive, which is awesome. I buy one for around $4 and eat off it all week long, adding things to it as I go. (I've even been known to use the greens on my sandwiches.)

9) Oatmeal

I buy a big 'ol container of old-fashioned oats, and for those mornings when I don't have time to make a bowl from scratch, I have instant oats on hand to get the job done. I'm a huge fan of Better Oats, shown above. Such great varieties, not many ingredients. Generally speaking, this is one item I can scratch off the list before I even hit the grocery store...sometimes my stock is up from week to week, depending on my breakfast adventures. But if it isn't, you betcha it's on the list and eventually in my cart.

10) Eggs

OK, so we're egg freaks over here. Eggs for dinner? Not at all uncommon. Plus, I bake with them. So we're almost always in need. But here's the thing, I prefer my eggs without the feather:

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen this picture. But, seriously...why is there a feather in a brand-new egg carton? Gross. Creepy. Odd. Unless, of course, it means whomever finds it wins a prize. I snapped a pic, put the carton back and grabbed another. I just, I couldn't. You've seen Food, Inc. Right?

Question: What items are always, always on your grocery list?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sponsored Post: @Reebok #Skyscape Shoe Review (with outfit suggestions)

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential, LLC on behalf of Reebok. As always, all thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own and in no way influenced by payment or free product.

Last week, an adorable shoe box showed up on my doorstep:

At first sight, it had two things going for it: The silk ribbon tied ever so precisely into a bow, and the box itself. Because obviously, you know that pink is my favorite color. When I opened the box, I discovered a creative presentation of the new Reebok Skyscape shoe. (You know me, sucker for a good marketing campaign because of her former life in advertising.)

I was thrilled to be chosen for this campaign because I've been looking for the perfect runaround sneaker. Something I could wear with jeans or shorts that wouldn't be too gym-ish, if that makes sense. I was hoping they'd send me the pink pair (see previous comment about the color pink). And they did:

Clocking in at just five ounces, these shoes are incredibly lightweight. I mean, the upper portion of the shoe is essentially made out of foam. Soft and flexible? Yes. And they don't, in any way whatsoever, dig into my ankles because they're cut low enough. Translation: They don't give me blisters. Always a good thing. As is the fact that my feet have yet to sweat in them, so I feel totally comfortable going sans sock. Which is not something I do very often in runaround sneakers.

Speaking of running around, they're sneakers, sure. But they're not so much meant for working out. Think casual. Think stylish. Think comfort, too. Perhaps a bit low in the arch support department, so if that is a priority for you, you might have issues. Or not. Generally speaking, I think your feet will fall in love with Skyscapes. I swear. Big picture: They're more comfortable than most runaround sneakers I've tried on.

And—they're totally machine washable. I haven't tried this out yet as I've been getting by on spot cleaning, but from what I hear, it actually works. So that's good.

Suffice it to say, I've worn these shoes a few times now and I'm absolutely thrilled with them.

(Can we stop for a minute and just make note that the sun is obviously out, casting a shadow my way? I see you, Spring. And it's about damn time.)

So comfortable. So cute. So adorable with a wide variety of outfits. To illustrate this point, I pieced together two examples for you. I'd model these outfits, but the's far too big these days for most of what I've got in my closet. Literally, I'm down to just a handful of things that fit comfortably.

Anyway, you can be sure I'll sport these combos at some point post-baby:

Lightweight, loose top paired with denim shorts and a fun necklace. Plus, a cross-body bag. Perfect for running errands or lunch with a friend, don't you think?

Funky printed ankle pants paired with a long-sleeved denim shirt and scarf, plus jewelry and a clutch. Perfect for a lower-temp night out with friends on the patio of a wine bar, maybe?

To further prove that style never stops, even in sneakers, check out the Skyscape Styling page. You'll find a few more ideas using all the different Skyscape colors. I'm totally drooling over the flat grey color. And the fact that you can customize your own pair. Hello, animal print! Nothing like walking around in shoes that you completely about unique!

Anyway, if you're looking for stylish runaround sneakers and want to give the Skyscapes a try, start at a Reebok FitHub or Outlet store location near you.

Question: What would you wear with the Reebok Skyscape shoe? Would you go pink, or would you pick another color? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Start a conversation. (#pinspirationthursday)

Today, I challenge you to speak up. Whether you're struggling with a policy at work, want to approach a friend with much-needed advice, or maybe there's something you've been hesitant to bring up at the doctor's office...whatever it may be, be brave and start a conversation. Because you never know what kind of an effect that conversation will have on you, someone else, the day or even the world. You just never know.

Pin / Original Source Unknown
Be brave, friends. Because no matter what, you can at least say, "well...I tried," which is way better than, "I should have when I had the chance."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Workout Wednesday: 5 Prenatal Stretches

To all my pregnant ladies: This one's for you! Please keep in mind that every pregnancy is different. The following advice is meant to be a thought-starter, and theoretically could be easily implemented by those of you with issue-free pregnancies. But I advise you to check in with your OB or midwife before proceeding, just in case. (Oh, and...congrats on your bundle of joy!)

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, but it can wreak havoc on your physical comfort. The baby essentially takes over your abdomen, pushing and pulling things (like organs) out of the way as it grows. The result? An off-balance center of gravity that can affect the way you sit, stand, sleep and move. Add to it a surge of hormones and an increase in blood flow, both of which can also change the way a pregnant body responds to activity, and you're bound to experience aches and pains not otherwise felt by your pre-baby body. Physical activity can help, of course. As do massages. But so can stretching.

Stretching during pregnancy is a very healthy, very good idea. (Unless, of course, you have restrictions placed upon you by your OB or midwife.) Not only will it keep your muscles loose and limber, it can alleviate some of the aforementioned aches and pains, which generally take form in the back, chest, abdomen and hips, specifically. Today, I'll walk you through five stretches that can (theoretically) relieve some of the tension in these areas.

One thing to remember: Relaxin. Otherwise known as the hormone produced during pregnancy that essentially relaxes your body in preparation for labor/deliver. Because something's gotta give so your baby fits through your pelvic bone, eh? Relaxin is a good thing, but it can provide a false sense of flexibility. Just because you're suddenly capable of doing the splits (or whatever), doesn't necessarily mean you should.

Lesson: Proceed with the following slowly and steadily, and stretch only to the point of mild discomfort so as not to pull or tear anything. You've got enough going on, right? You don't need any pulls or tears adding to your pregnancy aches and pains.

Let's get started:

1) Standing Hamstring Stretch

Low back pain can be the result of tight hamstrings whether or not you're pregnant. So keeping them loose and limber promotes less tightness in the glutes and low back. Doing a standing hamstring stretch will give you more room to bend over that belly, but if you're comfortable on the floor, by all means! Just be sure to keep your back as straight as possible throughout the entire thing. There really is no need to actually touch your toes as long as you're feeling the stretch.

2) Seated Hip/Glute Stretch

Theoretically, you can do this one standing up or sitting down on the floor, but I find that sitting in a chair or on a bench works just as well...and keeps the belly comfortable. Cross your leg like a dude, then gently push your knee down toward the floor to release tension in your hip/glute. This is a particularly good stretch if you're experiencing any sciatic pain.

3) Chest Stretch

As the, ahem...girls grow, you might find yourself hunching forward in response to the added weight. And when we hunch forward, our shoulders turn in ever so slightly. The longer this goes on, the tighter our chest muscles get as they respond to their new normal. So grab those hands behind you and open up your chest to relieve some of that tightness.

4) Standing Cat Stretch

As in, cat-cow without the cow (because we have to be gentle on the abdominals...they're getting stretched enough by the minute). If getting on all-fours is still comfortable and easy for you, by all means, but know that a standing version is a great alternative. Simply press down into whatever you're leaning against and arch the back/press the shoulders up toward the ceiling to open them up a bit. You can also bend and shift a little in the knees and hips to find further relief in your low back area.

5) Side Stretch

As your baby grows, the round ligaments that support your abdomen will make themselves known as they stretch. In addition, because the rectus and transverse abdominals are weakened, the internal and external obliques can begin to overcompensate. If you feel tightness in this area not otherwise associated with Braxton Hicks and/or regular contractions, gentle side-stretching might provide relief. Sit or stand, it's up to you.

There are, of course, a number of other stretches well-suited to a pregnant body. If you exercise regularly, you'll want to stretch all of your muscle groups, not just those affected by pregnancy specific growth and change. Again, keep in touch with your OB/midwife if any of those pains get unbearable and/or questionable.

With that I leave you:

Nine weeks to go!

Brief bumpdate: I'm on the twice-a-week plan with the OB now, which is making this journey all too real! Still feeling well, with minimal pregnancy pains myself. I ran a mile this morning, and walked another. Boy, that mile felt slow...but it was steady and I was grateful for it. And this baby, hot dang it's a mover just like it's sister! Another girl? We'll see!

Question: Pregnant or not, male or female, what is your all-time favorite stretch?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sponsored Post: Need a new #gymbag? Consider @Aperabags!

The following post is sponsored by Apera Bags. I was not compensated for my review, but they did send me my bag of choice on which to base the following opinions. Which are, of course, my own and in no way influenced by the free product (because that would just be wrong).

I'm a bag lady, meaning, I love me an awesome bag. Maybe that just means I'm a true woman. Us women and our purses, right? But guys, you dig awesome bags, too. Admit it! This is a no-judgement zone. So when Apera Bags contacted me with an offer to send over my gym bag of choice, you know I jumped on it because 1) I love bags (obvi), and 2) I'm all about checking out new fitness gear. It's my industry, yo. And I've been reading A LOT about Apera bags in the fitblogosphere lately.

Curiosity was killing this cat, that's for sure.
This was my current gym bag:

A trusty, spacious Lululemon that satisfied my every gym bag need. Really, I loved it. And still do. But if I'm to be completely honest, there's one quirk about it that always seemed to bug me just ever so slightly: The way it hung across my shoulder. It never really hung flat against my body and I think it's because the strap anchors sit a bit lower on the purse body.

Needless to say, I looked past it because in the grand scheme of things it really wasn't that big of a deal, considering how well the rest of the bag was working out. I would probably still be using it if Apera hadn't reached out. Because, look:

It's pink. And I mean, I don't like pink or anything. (<—That's a lie.)

I picked out the Sling Tote because it offered up space without being too big. And it would, ahem..."sling" across my shoulder which is how I prefer to carry such bags. Plus, pockets galore.

You're probably wondering: Okay, but so what. Puh-lenty of bags out there are cross-body and full of pockets. So what makes this one different? Well, for starters, Apera donates bags to Special Olympics athletes. For every three bags sold, one goes to a well-deserving, completely inspiring athlete. What's not to love about that?

And then there's this:

The gym is funky dirty, y'all. And when you're compiling gym gear in one bag, it's bound to make a funky dirty gym bag, too. So Apera built antimicrobial product protection into the bag, which "helps resist the formation of bacterial odor on the inside and outside of the entire bag.

They go on to say: "our bags’ ventilated compartments, wipeable linings and washable inserts, ensure your bag stays clean, odor-free and most importantly, healthy."

If that sounds fake or unreal, believe you me this stuff exists. Antimicrobial product protection can also be a feature on things like dishwashers and refrigerators, maybe even your washer or dryer. (Trust me, I spent a good five years writing about that in my old advertising life.)

Anyway, anything that makes my gym bag less of a germhole is worth believing in.

Now, the big test: Would all of my stuff fit into this bag from Apera?
Here's what I need when I teach:

And I usually have my wallet, phone, calendar and notebook, too.

Here's how it fits:

One of two shoe pockets, situated on the side of the bag. And there's still plenty of room for more.

Consider me sold (and not the least bit pregnant):

If you're looking for a gym bag, I highly recommend you consider an Apera Bag. They have a wide variety of styles, and I bet you'll find at least one to fit your needs. I mean, active moms, are you thinking diaper bag, too? Because it could totally be one. If I needed one, I'd be using this Sling Tote for that purpose. But I'm all set there, so I'll keep Pinkie filled with gym gear.

(Did I really just name my gym bag?)

If you're interested in purchasing an Apera gym bag, head on over to their store and browse the collection. If the color blue is your thing, then you should know that any style bag in blue is currently 40% off. As are all of the Duffel Packs (in any color). They're also running a contest throughout the entire month of April, and if you win, you'll obviously get the bag of your choice.

I think they want to see your worn-out, funky dirty gym bags. Sounds like they'll pick the worst and replace it. Gosh, can you imagine the pictures they'll get?

Follow Apera on Facebook and Twitter to keep up.

Question: What is the current state of your gym bag? Funky dirty? Totally organized? Is it strictly for gym use or do you use it elsewhere, too?


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