Planks Planks Planks

Y’all, planks are the shit. They’re so so so great for your core. They require no equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. To top it off, you don’t ever have to get bored with them because there are a million variations.

Despite being a simple exercise, most people actually do not plank correctly. Improper form is a problem because, at best, you are not toning the muscles you desire, and at worst, you could get hurt.

Common Mistakes:

  • The Arch: Many people arch their shoulders and upper back as this helps distribute weight to your arms. With this improper form, you’re not getting the workout you desire. Instead you’re allowing your shoulders and neck to hold the majority of your weight as opposed to your core.
  • The Dip: Don’t let those hips sag! Tighten things up by squeezing your abs, glutes and hamstrings. This mishap could seriously injure your lower back.
  • The Vanity Strain: You’d be surprised how many people I see at the gym holding plank while looking up at themselves in a mirror. If you need to check your form, steal a glance, but then put that head back down. Keep your gaze down at the ground, keep your neck and spine in a straight line. Correct neck alignment will prevent injury to your neck and shoulders.
  • Hips in the Air like You Just Don’t Care: Just as you don’t want your hips to sag, it’s easy to get lazy and stick that booty up in the air. This, my friends, is not accomplishing anything except a weird hybrid of plank and down dog. No bueno.

Proper Form Checklist::

  • Keep your whole body tight. Flex everything.
  • Focus on pulling your shoulder blades together to prevent arching in your back.
  • Tuck your booty, but don’t sag your hips.
  • Suck in your stomach while you’re flexing.
  • Play around with the distance between your feet. You may find positions that are more difficult than others.
  • If you start shaking, you’re probably doing it right. Keep going. You rock!

loveB

 

 

 

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Biz Trip Health Tips

Hi. I’ve missed you all! Work took me on an awesome, but exhausting trip to the Super Bowl. My business trips are usually jam-packed, high-stress and complete with a lot of fun, late nights. In order to keep up (both mentally and physically), I’ve learned a few routines that I stick to diligently. Check /em out, and let me know what you do to stay sane on business travel.

Pace Yourself: I’m lucky that many of my work trips are complete with cool parties and late-night events. But if I am going on a four-day trip, I know that I can’t stay up until 2 a.m. every night. I’m not 23 anymore. Pick and choose when to stay up late. Maybe go to the evening event, but skip the lobby party later.

Hydrate!: Hydration is always important and I am the WORST at it. But I drink water on the plane, and if there is not a big bottle of water in my hotel room, I’ll make sure to buy one first thing. Drink water throughout the day, the evening and then a TON before bed. When you change timezones, temperatures, schedules, etc. it is easy to get sick. Water is like a miracle drug, acting to both prevent and cure.

Keep Your Routine: Packing is easier when you don’t have to consider workout clothes. But if daily workouts are part of your regular routine, DO NOT STOP when you’re on the road. Making time for myself is the best way to handle stress. I wake up by 6 a.m. each day and by the time I’m done with my workout and coffee, everyone else is just rising. Here are some of my favorite parts about working out on the road:

  • Exploration: Running around a new city is a great way to learn your way, scope out restaurants, or have yourself a fun adventure. Be careful though. If you don’t know the city at all, ask the concierge. I typically look at Google Maps to locate a nearby park or river running trail. Some of my favorite cities to run in are places I went for work, like Austin, TX and Columbus, OH.
  • Creativity: Some hotels have incredible gyms. Others offer a very limited selection of machines and weights. But get creative in there. No matter what they have, you can figure out a kick-ass workout that will leave you feeling energized for the day.
  • Resourcefulness: If your hotel doesn’t have a gym and you aren’t into running, no problem. Find a nearby park with open space and maybe some benches and do a quick bodyweight workout (see below for a list of things you can do with no equipment). No time to leave the room? Move some furniture aside and do something to get the blood flowing and your heart rate up.

No gym, limited space, no problem! Here are some of my favorite activities that require no equipment:

Legs:

  • Squats
  • Lunges (many variations)
  • Single-leg deadlift
  • Hip lifts
  • Leg lifts

Arms:

  • Push-ups (a few variations)
  • Bear crawl (a few variations)
  • Tricep dips
  • Inchworm (also stretches your hammies!)
  • Plank jacks

Core:

  • Crunches
  • Plank (many variations)
  • Side plank
  • Russian twists
  • Toe touches
  • Bicycles
  • Dead bug
  • Crazy Ivans

I hope you get a little more out of your next business trip, and feel healthier when it’s all over. Thanks for reading. Love you all!

loveB

 

 

 

15-Minute Workout: Glutes

Sometimes I sleep through my alarm (don’t lie, you do it too!). And missing a workout can set a bad tone for my day. So, I have mastered the quick and easy, 15-minute workout. I change up the muscle groups, but it’s typically something I can do at my house or outside, without any equipment.

So here’s a simple workout, focusing on your glutes, to try when you’re short on time! TGIF!

Warm-Up:

Getting your muscles warmed-up is really important. Never jump into a workout cold turkey. For my warm-up I do a brisk walk with my dog followed by a very thorough foam roll session. But you could do any number of things to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Then give it a bit of a stretch out prior to starting the 15-minute plan.

Let’s Go!

  • Squats: 1 minute – With your feet about shoulder width apart, squat down, slowly and controlled. Be sure your knees do not cave inward as you squat, and stay back with the weight in your heels. Go down as far as you can, comfortably, aiming to get to about 90 degrees. Keep your shoulders up and push your butt out. As you slowly rise back up, squeeze those glutes! Bonus: If you have dumbbells, or an Ugi ball or any other item you wish to hold, feel free to add weight.
  • Side Lunges: 1 minute – Stand with your feet together and step one foot out to the side, lunging down, laterally, to about a 90 degree bend in your knee. Like the squats, keep your shoulders up and push your butt out. Return to starting position and then do the same on the opposite side. Keep all of your movements slow and controlled. Focus on form.
  • Hip Lifts: 1 minute – Lie on your back with your knees bent, heels just a couple of inches from your butt. Lift your hips up off the ground by squeezing your glutes and hold for 1 second. Return slowly and repeat. These sound easy, but if you’ve never done them, get ready for some sore muscles! This is one of those exercises that I love to hate.
  • Side Leg-Lifts: :30 per side – Lie on your side, bend your arm to hold your head up. Tighten your core, flex your foot and squeeze your glutes then raise your leg to about 45 degrees. Again, go slowly to maintain control, form and balance. If you need balance help, bend the bottom leg a bit. Switch sides. A couple of variations exist to make this a little more advanced. You can do the workout in a half side plank, or completely in side plank position or on a bench, if you’re at the gym. But keep everything tight and controlled!
  • Lateral Bounds: 30 seconds – Stand with your feet slightly apart. Hop out to the side, landing carefully on one foot with your knee bent, and allowing the other leg to cross behind your planted one. Then leap the opposite direction. Go slow, pausing as you land to maintain form and control. This is not specifically a butt workout, but is an all-body, stabilizer muscle activity that is just great all around. I do this every single day, no matter what workout I am doing.
  • Back Hypers: 30 seconds – Lie on your stomach with your hands behind your head. Lift your shoulders and legs off the ground, without bending your knees, by squeezing your glutes, quads and back muscles. Be careful not to pull too hard on your back. Return slowly, then repeat.

Try it, enjoy it, work hard at it and have a blast. Cheers, y’all!
loveB

Why I March

I have never been political on this blog, for fear of being impolite. But this week, I’ve been constantly reminded of just how lucky we’ve all been the past eight years, and I find myself saying “Rebecca (I call myself by my full name), YES YOU CAN.”

It’s a fitness blog, yes. But my end goal is to empower those reading along while staying true to my voice, my opinions and my character.

I am proud to be joining upwards of 200,000 people, on January 21, to descend upon D.C. with a singular voice and one key demand of our new President: EQUALITY. The Women’s March on Washington has a focus on the rights of women, but the broader message is one of human rights. If you live in the area, I encourage you to join us. If you do not, look for the Women’s March in your city here.

I will not stand on this soap box and pretend the discrimination I’ve felt, as a woman, is greater than what you’ve been through. Who can say, and does it matter? I march because sitting quietly will get me nowhere and I have two important messages that I want everybody to consider:

  • Pride and Self-Worth – I could never say it as eloquently as the most inspiring and gracious First Lady in history, so in the words of Michelle Obama, “I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid—you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.”
  • Talk it Out – Don’t be afraid to start conversations with friends, family, those you agree with and even more importantly, those you disagree with. Do not use the arguments around equality as a platform to be hateful or angry toward others. Find out where their opinions come from. Share with them stories of who you are, and introduce them to things that matter to you. Perhaps the only thing more terrifying than inequality is realizing that hate stems from a lack of education and a fear of the unknown. One cannot make a friend if they do not open up, but prejudice is a tricky vine that grows without boundaries and must constantly be cut back.

These two asks are no small thing. They both involve a leap of faith, and likely a great amount of introspection that may uncover some nasty truths. But please, I beg that you try to love yourself and to love your neighbor. Remember that their struggle is as real as yours, whatever it may be.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a little bit of public love back to the people who have shaped me. I feel blessed to have a family who sees beyond skin color, sexual orientation, or religion. Thank you all for teaching love in place of hate…

Mom, You’re the definition of kindness. From your lengthy conversations with total strangers to the way you have always welcomed friends and family into our home, you have been a constant reminder that there’s no limit to love. I love you to the end of the numbers.

Dad, I am so proud of your journey. You’ve taught me to feel important without feeling entitled. You’ve shown me that leadership is about loyalty, and that you cannot get ahead by climbing on the backs of others. Your generosity is without bounds, and I hope you know I do not take for granted the life that you’ve allowed me. I love you.

Ashley, There just aren’t words. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, so much from you. You’re beautiful and forgiving, you’re selfless and strong. I hope to be every bit as amazing of a mom as you are, and I’ll be coming to you for advice at every step along the way. You’re my best friend and a true confidant. I love you.

Peace and love, y’all!

loveB

 

 

 

A Love Story

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all lovey dovey and sentimental on you guys. This love story isn’t about two people. It’s the simple tale of a girl (me, #duh) and her running shoes (Newton Running).

In the Beginning – High school was all about New Balance and Asics. In college, Nike staged an invasion, first with the LunarGlide, then with the Nike Free. I have no complaints about any of my past shoes, in fact, I still prefer the dynamic movement of the Free for the gym.

The Great Awakening – A friend (we’ll call him Princess) took me to Newton Running in Boulder, CO and I was fit to a shoe based on my gait. I struggled a bit because the shoe was light and airy and felt so natural. But it was… ummmmm…. freakin’ ugly, to put it nicely. But I gave it a try (luckily, Newton has put a little more effort into the aesthetic of their newer shoes).

You Complete Me – Six years, 1,817 miles, and eight shoes later and I am as in love today as I ever have been. My preferred shoe is the Distance Elite, which is minimalist and best for me because I pronate and run very high on the balls of my feet.

QUIZ: Find your Newton Running Shoe

Lug Life: The Science Behind the World’s Most Responsive Running Shoe – The true secret behind Newtons are the four to five lugs under the balls of your feet. These lugs do two things:

  • Action/Reaction™ Technology – Creates a responsive cushioning for quicker bounce-back. With a standard running shoe, your power is absorbed by the foam-core sole, but with Newtons you are boosted with each step.
  • % Grade – Many popular running shoes have a heel-to-toe drop of  12mm, which is an 8% grade (for reference, 8% is the grade at which truckers are given a warning about steep roads ahead). That’s crazy talk! This slope changes your running gait and puts added pressure on unnecessary parts of your leg and foot. Newton lugs help to level you out, creating a more natural gait with anywhere from a 1.3% to 3.3% grade. Much better! See below for reference of popular “flat” or minimalist running shoes that are anything but.

Happily Ever After – Wether you’re a heel-to-toe runner, or naturally stay on the balls of your feet, Newton Running shoes will help improve and power your stride. No more calf tightness, no more achilles pain, just a boost of energy with every step and a whole new view on running. Woo hoo!

READ: Taking my Newtons on the Road

How Do Others Stack Up, Literally – Here is the heel-to-toe drop and grade of some top runners in the market (I specifically looked at women’s, but typically men’s are the same or similar).

  • Newton Distance Elite – 2mm/1.3%
  • Hoka One One Clayton – 4mm/2.6%
  • Topo Athletic Ultrafly – 5mm/3.3%
  • New Balance Vazee Pace v2 – 6mm/4%
  • Asics FuzeX Lyte – 8mm/5.3%
  • Nike Lunarglide 8 – 9.5mm/6.3%
  • Brooks Ghost 9 – 12mm/8%

loveB

Cold Day Layers

We got our first snow of the year in D.C., today, and I could not be more excited! I was born during a blizzard, and that’s my best guess as to why I love the snow so much. It’s always been my favorite weather.

Anyway, I digress. I decided to hit the streets for a long(er) snowy run and realized that layering can be tough. So here are a few layering tips for you outdoor enthusiasts:

Up Top: They used to say you lost half your body heat through your head. That’s silly, and totally base-less. HOWEVER, any exposed part of your body is a place for heat to escape, so it doesn’t hurt to wear a hat. Plus cold ears are the WORST!

Face It: Wind burn blows (ha! I’m lame). I recently got into wearing a Buff, thanks to my friend Tricia. I use my Buff as a neck gaitor, but they can also be used as a headband, ponytail holder, scarf and much much more. I like to keep my nose warm!

That Core: Here’s where things get interesting. I tend to be cold, but HATE feeling suffocated or too warm on a run, so I have a rule of 3 (not counting a sports bra). For instance, in the 23/feels like 11 temps today, I opted for:

  1. A tight t-shirt that I could tuck into my tights to avoid any cold air getting through at my waist.
  2. A fleece-lined running sweatshirt. It’s thick and wooly inside but the zipper allows me to control the temp a bit.
  3. Finally, a vest. They keep your core and chest warm, while allowing your arms to be free. If your chest stays warm, your arms are not going to be cold.

Gloves vs. Mittens vs. Nada: I just can’t get down with mittens. But I know they’re warm and if you don’t mind them, I’d suggest mittens all day long. Recently, however, I’ve decided that gloves do not keep my hands warm. Instead, they separate all of my fingers, leaving them on tiny cold islands of despair. So today was the first truly cold day in which I tested my new theory, and it worked! I simply pull my sleeves around my hands and I’d venture to say my hands almost get too HOT!

Stems: I hate bunching, and I’m pretty neurotic about it. So I don’t wear multiple layers on my legs. I simply shop for the right tights for the season. I have a pair of fleece-lined tights that I wear when it’s below 20 degrees out. And I also have an INCREDIBLE pair of tights that feature a wind/waterproof layer that surrounds your quad, which is genius for those blistering days. But anything above 20 and I am usually good with regular tights. If I stop, my legs start to freeze, so it’s just motivation to keep my ass moving!

The Double-Sock Myth: No matter what anybody tells you, it is not, I repeat NOT smart to wear multiple layers of socks. Foot warmth is all based on circulation. Your heart has to pump blood down to your feet, and if you have multiple layers of socks, you’re constricting the flow. Instead, buy socks for all weather. I wear thicker and higher socks in the winter, tucking my tights into the bottom. Wool socks are definitely the warmest. But make sure your shoes aren’t too tight with thick socks on, otherwise you’re back to the circulation issue. If you feel your feet start to get cold, use the downhills to open up your stride and wiggle your toes with each step. PS The same rule applies for skiing. Don’t double up!

And now, you have no excuse not to #optoutside, and kick some cold-weather butt! Have any other tips for layering? I’d love to hear them, share in the comments below!

loveB

I’m Just Waiting on a Wild Sun

Actually, that’s a lyric from one of my favorite bands, but I am just waiting on any ol’ sun. For anybody who is not lucky enough to live in a place as wonderful as Colorado (I’m obsessed, can you tell), you know the woes of those dreary wintry months. You know what it’s like to leave for work in the dark, return home from work in the dark, and have nothing but overcast weekends.

READ: 2017 Goals

We’re getting into those dark and gloomy winter months here in DC, and each year I dread it more than the last. Since moving back from Colorado, where they have 300 days of sunshine a year + ample vitamin D, I’ve developed seasonal depression. It kinda snuck up on me, at first!

My Warning Signs: (First, as always, let me preface this by saying that I am not a licensed medical professional. But seasonal depression can typically be self-diagnosed)

  • Sleepin’ In – The first thing I noticed was extreme difficulty getting up in the morning, even with ample hours of sleep. As somebody who is typically a morning person, this was very strange.
  • Fatigue – I also found that by 7 p.m., when I got home from work, I felt ready for bed. I had no appetite. But the fatigue wasn’t just evening sleepiness, I felt weak at the gym and had to dig deeper for the motivation to drag myself out on a run.
  • Netflix + Isolate – In those dark months, the introvert in me took the reigns. Making plans felt both exhausting and overwhelming. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see friends or be social, but I wasn’t up for making any effort.
  • The Bear – An ex boyfriend once pointed out to me that (and writing it here makes it sound so much worse than how he meant it) I’m like a bear in the winter. I put on just a bit of weight and I am much more anxious and moody.

I’d say the bear comes out as a result of all of the other factors. My schedule is uprooted, I don’t feel good, I feel isolated, I’m tired and life seems to be just about work and sleep. Boring! So it is no surprise that I realized I was suffering from seasonal depression. For others, some of the warning signs may be different, even more severe in some cases. But there is hope!

What Worked For Me:

  • Work Hard, Feel Good – It may be harder to motivate, and you may need to decrease mileage and weight, but keep pushing yourself to get out there and workout. Or perhaps give yoga a try. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. It will also help you keep a routine.
  • Now Talk it Out – Even if you feel the need to isolate, don’t push people away. It has helped me so much to be able to talk to friends and know that most of them suffer from seasonal depression as well. Sometimes my girlfriends and I will turn to the same channel, drink wine from the comfort of our own home and text back and forth. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, you may also want to participate in some kind of talk therapy. This can help steer your negative thoughts back toward the light.
  • Soak Up The Sun – When the sun does peek through, try to meet it halfway. Take a five-minute break during the workday to go outside and soak up some vitamin D. Sun in the weekend forecast? Plan an outdoor activity like hiking or running, even if it’s cold.
  • Back to the Basics – As is the case with basically every ailment in life, healthy eating habits and plenty of water will never do anything but make you feel better. Many people experience a decreased appetite and feel less thirsty during the colder months, but keep doing what you do all year.

Good news, folks! Less than three months until spring. Until then, feed and exercise that bear!
loveB