Favorite Exercise Products

Before having kids, my favorite ways to exercise were running outside, cycling, soccer and yoga. Since my time is more limited, I’ve been lucky to find gyms with childcare options. We (the kids and I) go to 24 Hour Fitness every morning and I’ve enjoyed lifting weights, strength training and spin classes. Here are some of my favorite exercise products:

favorite exercise products

Fitness tracker – We’ve still been using our Alta Fitbits and I still enjoy tracking my progress. I feel like we do make more of an effort to move around and walk more. I read and enjoyed this article which rated 87 types of fitness trackers! Definitely valuable information for when we upgrade our current trackers.

favorite exercise products

Shoes – I’ve worn Asics running shoes since high school. I’ve tried a few different brands and always come back to Asics. They are great for my neutral foot position, arch and running stride. For running I prefer a little more sole support. For the gym, I like Nikes  since the sole is pretty basic and good for various types of exercises.

Yoga mat – I’ve had this Gaiam yoga mat for years. It’s been very solid and was affordable, I’ll probably have it for years to come.

Pants – I love Zella, Ahtleta and Lululemon 7/8 pants (or petite version). They have great stretch while keeping their form. They aren’t the most affordable but very high quality and worth the cost. I recently tried glyder apparel pants which are very soft and stretchy but don’t have as much form as other pants. For running shorts, I love Lululemon’s 4 way stretch shorts.

Tops – I love Lululemon tanks because they are lightweight and very soft.

Socks – I prefer ASICS socks, they don’t slide down or move around while exercising.

Hydro Flask – staying hydrated is so important to your overall health and I’m still loving my Hydro Flask because it doesn’t leak or collect condensation.

Nike backpack – I take a ‘sport’ backpack (similar to this one) to the gym to hold my water, towel, keys, and diapers.

Foam roller – Still one of my favorite products that is also very affordable! Foam rollers are easy to use and basically a free massage. I love using mine especially on sore hamstrings.

favorite exercise products

Foot roller– I found this foot roller at Homegoods for around $5. It’s a great, cheap massage for the arch and ball or your foot.  You just roll it under the sole of your foot (while sitting in a chair) and apparently you can use these cold or hot although I’ve only tried at regular room temperature. I love using it when my feet feel sore, especially after a long day of walking.

favorite exercise products

Blender Bottle  – This blender bottle is perfect for making protein drinks. I’ve still been using the strawberry protein powder I posted about here. This bottle does a great job breaking up and mixing the powder without any clumps. While I still don’t crave protein drinks because of their flavor, I’ve found that 1) it serves it’s purpose of filling you up with protein and 2) it tastes much better colder and when the foam has settled (from shaking it).

Peppermint oil – This combined with the foam roller are my favorite things for sore muscles to refresh them. I used to buy peppermint oil in a roller bottle at a drug store but recently found them for a better deal on Amazon.     favorite exercise products

How to prevent exercise injuries

After I was cleared to exercise after Tessa was born, I was super motivated to get back in shape and have my body return to its previous state. I got on a good schedule where I could exercise with the kids in a group with other women and then joined an awesome gym with great child care (Treehouse Athletic Club in Draper, Utah). I was feeling good, running well and getting my mile time down when…I hurt my knee. Then right when it was feeling better, I pulled my Achilles tendon pretty bad when we were in Texas. So I’m no stranger to injury and while the process is longer, I’m still motivated to become physically stronger. One of my biggest things I need to remember is to stretch well after and really dedicate the time to cool down. Here are some more solid tips to prevent injuries:

How to Prevent Injury as an Athlete

By: Maurine Anderson

Your risk of injury only increases the more physically active you are, so if you are an athlete, it’s vitally important to do what you can to prevent injury. Injuries can take months or even years to heal, after all, and some injuries will put athletes out of commission for good. An injury could even put you at risk for painkiller addiction. As this article points out, it’s a lot more common than you might think.

How, then, can you reduce your chances of injury in your everyday physical activity? Here are some vital tips on how you can prevent injury as an athlete.

Wear protective gear.

This goes without saying, but it’s worth the extra reminder. Whenever engaging in any sport that involves wearing protective gear such as a mouthguard, helmet, or shoulder pads, be sure you are wearing that protective gear properly. Risk of injury is especially high in contact sports, and your protective gear can be what makes the difference in how serious an injury is.

Take time off.

Rests days aren’t only for the injured—they are for anyone who engages in regular physical activity. Schedule your rest days and rest periods just like you would workout days and training days. Plan to take at least one rest day per week and at least one month off of training per year to help your body recover properly from physical exertion.

Warm up before every workout.

Many athletes do not warm up adequately before engaging in heavy physical activity. Your warm up should consist of light exercises that mimic what you will be doing in your workout. If you are preparing to go on a long run, for example, you should warm up by doing a very light jog. If you are preparing for a synergistic workout that involves a lot of jumping, you could warm up by doing jumping jacks. Gradually increase your intensity throughout your warm up until your heart rate is up and you feel mentally prepared for your workout. Be sure to incorporate some ballistic stretching as well towards the end of your warm up, once your muscles are looser. You should plan to warm up for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the intensity of your workout.

Don’t do static stretching before a workout.

On a related note, be sure that you do not do any static stretching before a workout. Doing this can will only increase your risk of injury but also harm your exercise routine and decrease strength. Be sure that any stretching you do before your workout is ballistic stretching and that it is done towards the end of your warm up when your muscles are warm.

Stretch after every workout.

It’s important after every workout to stretch and lengthen those muscles that you’ve been engaging. You should also gently stretch those muscles that feel tight after a workout, whether you engaged them or not. You could write an entire blog post alone on proper stretching technique, but in general, you should hold each stretch you do for 25 to 30 seconds, and stretch for a total of about ten minutes after your workout.

Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.

This is another tip you could write an entire blog post—even a book—about, but in general, be sure to eat a healthy and well balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. Be sure to consult a specialist in sports nutritionist as well about taking in enough calories and nutrients per day to fuel your workouts and training. The right nutrition will promote better muscle recovery and fuel your body with the nutrients it loses during heavy physical exertion.

Eat properly before and after your workout.

The foods you eat before and after your workouts also matter. Before a workout, eat a snack that contains carbohydrates, such as fruit or whole grain toast. Foods that are also rich in fiber are great because they help control carbohydrate release throughout the course of your workout. Bananas are also great because they contain potassium, which helps maintain muscle and nerve function. Following your workout, eat a snack that is rich in both carbs and protein in the 30 to 60 minute time frame after your workout.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Drinking plenty of water is also important for helping prevent injury, as it helps keep your muscles lubricated. Plus, it reduces your risk of incurring heat related illness. Aim to 16 to 20 ounces of water at least four hours before physical activity, and then 8 to 10 ounces about 10 minutes before exercise. For longer and more intense workouts, you should consider drinking a healthy sports drink is rich in electrolytes and carbohydrates to sustain energy levels.

 

My quest to find a good tasting protein powder

One of my top health and fitness tips is to fill up with protein after exercising. The calories your body burns during exercise need to be replenished. If you fill up with unhealthy food, your body will hold onto those calories. This is why it’s important to be careful what you put into your body. The less processed food is the best (hence the popularity of ‘whole foods’). Protein is essential to building muscle tissue and is essential for your body to function. You don’t have to be perfect with your diet, but doing small, important things like getting enough protein will definitely benefit your body and overall fitness. I have a few favorite post work out food items like protein bites, eggs, bananas, etc and also like protein powder drinks- but not all powders!

Protein Powder Basics

If you’ve ever walked into a supplement shop, you might be overwhelmed by all the choices, brands, types, etc. The protein powder I use is basic whey protein. I like that a protein powder drink has overall less calories and fat that a protein filled food meal. However, you cannot use protein powder or supplements as your sole method of caloric intake. For a large container, the price varies but is approximately $40-$50 dollars. This initially seems like a lot but I only use 2 scoops a day.

How Much Protein Should One Consume

You should aim for .36 grams per pound (of body weight). If you’re trying to bulk up, have an intense training/workout schedule, have a special diet, medical conditions, etc. this may be different for you. The amount of protein in 1 scoop of protein powder varies. Of the brands I’ve tried, they have 20-22 grams of protein.

How to Use It

You can add protein powder to things such as water, milk, oatmeal, juice, smoothies, etc. The only way I use it is with water to make a protein drink. I don’t drink milk because I don’t like the taste or smell. Many common protein powder flavors are sweet or dessert flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, etc. Unfortunately for me, all the dessert flavors taste gross! I’ve been on the search for flavors that have a decent taste and a powder that is easy to use in a BlenderBottle (ie it dissolves well and doesn’t clump).

So far, I’ve found 2 flavors that (to me) don’t resemble milk – strawberry and orange. I found the strawberry at GNC which has locations nationwide (or online) and the orange from BodyBuilding.com.

I add 2 scoops of protein powder to approximately 12-16 ounces of water. I add the metal whisk ball that comes with the blender bottle, close the top, shake the bottle about 30 seconds, let the foam settle, then drink. I actually really like the combination of both strawberry and orange so I’ll use one scoop of each. Lots of people like all flavors of protein powders and protein bars but it was important for me to find ones that don’t taste gross! These fruity flavors mixed with water taste like watered down juice or flavored water. There are tons of recipes for protein shake smoothies, I just always use water because it’s the fastest and easiest to make.

strawberry protein powder gnc

tire flips nike protein drink

6 ways to get more from your workout

I’m excited to share some tips that can help all of us achieve our fitness and wellness goals. They are all great reminders of how to get the most out of a workout. My favorite part and something I always can improve on is making sure to fully stretch after exercising. We are members at 24 Hour Fitness and use their Kids Club as childcare while we’re there. I sometimes find myself rushed after a workout or fitness class to get back to the kids, other commitments, errands, etc. Thanks, Maurine Anderson for guest posting!

Want to get more out of your daily workout? Finding the motivation to get that daily workout in is hard enough as it is, so it’s good to know that there are a variety of techniques out there that you can use to make the most of your workouts. Here are 6 simple ways to get more out of every workout.

Eat a pre-workout snack.

Even if you like to work out first thing in the morning, your body is going to need some fuel first before hitting it hard. Enter: the pre-workout snack. The ideal pre-workout snack contains simple carbohydrates, which are absorbed quickly and offer quick energy, along with complex carbohydrates, which will sustain you throughout the duration of your workout. (Many say that a good pre-workout snack also includes protein, and while some protein helps, protein is ultimately much more important as part of your post-workout meal.) You should plan on eating your pre-workout snack 30 minutes to an hour before working out, as this article states. Some ideas for pre-workout snacks:

  • Whole wheat toast topped with fruit
  • Oatmeal topped with dried fruit
  • Greek yogurt topped with fruit
  • Fruit smoothie that includes oats
  • Cold brown rice topped with fruit
  • Banana slices and peanut butter

Warm up first.

Many people confuse warming up with stretching. Warming up involves doing a lighter version of the exercise you are about to engage in, at the beginning of your workout. If you’re about to go on a run, for example, warming up should involve fast walking or slow jogging to get your heart rate up. If you’re about to engage in a synergistic workout, jumping jacks make for a great warm up. You should warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of your workout, gradually increasing intensity throughout the course of the warm up. Doing so will increase blood flow, loosen the joints, and prepare the muscles for high intensity work.

Cool down and stretch afterward.

Cooling down and stretching are essential for preventing injury and aiding in muscle recovery. They can also help improve flexibility and range of motion. A good cool down is a lot like a warm up, only it involves gradually decreasing intensity and incorporating some stretching. Start your cool down by gradually decreasing the intensity of the exercise you are engaging in, and finish by stretching the muscles you worked. A cool down should be about 5 to 10 minutes long.

Don’t forget your recovery meal.

If you work out regularly, your post-workout recovery meal is perhaps the most important meal of the day. Your recovery meal should be rich in both protein and carbohydrates, and you should plan to eat it within two hours after a workout. (It’s also best to consume some carbs within 15 minutes after your workout to replenish your muscle glycogen supply.) Your recovery meal may also include some fat and fiber as well, as you’ll have more time after you work out to digest those things. Aim for a recovery meal that’s between 200 and 400 calories. Here are some examples:

  • Grilled chicken and mixed vegetables
  • Whole wheat toast and a vegetable omelette
  • Chocolate milk and some raw almonds
  • Whey or soy protein shake
  • Energy bar and fresh fruit

Get a massage.

Here’s a tip that you won’t need me to tell you twice. Getting a quick massage after a particularly strenuous workout can actually improve and speed up your post-workout recovery. Studies have shown that getting a post-workout massage reduces muscle inflammation and increases the number of mitochondria in muscle cells (which generate the energy your muscles need for recovery).

Go for a soak.

Here’s another tip you’ll like hearing—soaking in a warm bath or hot tub after your workout can also help you get the most out of your workout. The heat of the water helps increase your circulation and relax your muscles. The key with this, however, is to time it right. It’s best to wait for your heart rate to go back down before immersing yourself in hot water. You can read more tips on incorporating hydrotherapy into your workout regimen here.

Maurine Anderson originally hails from Washington, DC, but is now enjoying life out west in Salt Lake City. She is a professional writer and blogger who in her free time loves to create new cake recipes, travel, and practice her hand at photography. She tends to geek out over linguistics, cats, and all things Scandinavia. Check out more of her writing at MaurineDashney.com and find her on Instagram @maurinedashney.

More motivation and fitness tips from guest bloggers here

Health tip (2)

This next installment of monthly health tips seems small and simple but can have great benefits: go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep and a few polls have shown that about 1/3 of American adults sleep less than the recommended amount. A good way to start getting more sleep is to start with an increment of 10-15 minutes of additional sleep. If you try and go to bed 2 hours earlier than you’re accustomed to, your body will probably not be tired enough to fall (and stay) asleep. gradually you can increase the number of hours you sleep every night.

health tip sleep more

A lack of sleep can have many negative effects for example, fatigue, lack of concentration, lack of motivation, decreased immunity, irritability and premature aging.

My Fitbit (Alta) has a sleep tracking system and I’ve found it really interesting to see my sleep patterns. Since having kids, I really enjoy routine for myself and the kids. I probably sleep more than the average adult as I (obviously!) enjoy sleeping ha, ha! One thing I’ve found is that it’s hard to ‘make up’ sleep. For example, if you are sleep deprived during the week, sleeping in extra on the weekend doesn’t necessarily have the same benefits as regular, consistent sleep. I’ve heard there are lots of good phone apps (like Sleep Cycle) that track sleep and help you find the best time for you to fall asleep and when your best wake up time is.

Here’s to feel more well rested and energized every morning!

Foam Roller: A free massage and my favorite way to relieve sore muscles

One of the most effective ways I love to relieve sore muscles is foam rolling! If I’m super sore I’ll apply peppermint oil and use a foam roller before I go to bed. The pressure from the roller relaxes the muscle fibers and muscle tightness. I love to use mine primarily on my hamstrings but also quadriceps, glutes, back, IT band and calves.  You gently roll the part of your body on the roller (slowly and not staying in one spot for more than 20 seconds). It’s basically a free massage for your muscles that you can do anytime!

I got mine years ago from Amazon and they also sell longer ones. Most gyms and studios will have foam rollers and they are so effective for sore, tired muscles and for warming up and cooling down. I use mine basically every week and especially during periods when I’m running, cycling and playing soccer.

foam rolling sore muscle relief

calf ^

foam rolling sore muscle relief

hamstring ^

foam rolling sore muscle relief

glutes/lower back

Peppermint Oil: quick relief for sore muscles, stomach ache, cramps

Peppermint oil is an awesome aid applied topically for tight or sore muscles, stomach aches, cramps, headaches, etc. It’s also super useful for clearing a congested or stuffy nose. Even just smelling a little peppermint can help clear your nasal passageways and feel invigorated and alert. I love that it’s energizing, refreshing, relaxing and makes sore muscles feel cool and a little tingly (think similar to Tiger Balm but less sticky to apply)

I buy mine from any drug store (CVS, Walgreens) in a roller form. This means the oil is already diluted and ready to apply to skin (not ingested!) I know there are many other forms to buy oil and ways to use it (like mixing it with other oils, a room diffuser, etc) but for me this is the easiest and least complicated way to use it. 99% of the time I only use it for sore muscles after exercising and I love that it’s soothing and invigorating. The one I usually buy is similar to this one from Amazon and the price is comparable.

peppermint oil sore muscle relief

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s an article I found that seems thorough and neutral 😉

Read the Top 10  benefits of peppermint tea

Note: I never use peppermint oil on the kids even though there are ways oils can be used on children.

 

Fitbit Review

Around Black Friday last fall, Dave and I both got the Fitbit Alta. There’s tons of fitness trackers out there today and we got them I guess mainly because of their popularity and they seem to function well. I love that it’s lightweight. I wasn’t sure how well I would like wearing it all the time but I wear it basically all the time except in the shower or doing dishes. It has a sleep tracker that shows you how well you slept, how many times you woke during the night, periods of restlessness, etc. We also like this model because it sends texts alerts.

I feel like overall it does help you to move and walk more. I haven’t been running much since my achilles injury last summer but I’ll usually hit my step goal during our nightly walk.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Long lasting battery – the battery lasts 3-4 days before it needs to be charged
  • Alerts – text alerts and it can be programmed to send hourly alerts to remind you to get up and walk.
  • Easy to use – with the smartphone app, it’s very easy to set up, check your progress, and sync your Fitbit to your device.
  • Fair price
  • Durable – it’s only been a few months but we haven’t had any technically issues with our Fitbits. Their website says you can actually wear it in the shower and when it’s raining.
  • Interchangeable bands – you can buy other color bands or if yours gets gross from sweat, etc

Cons:

  • The Alta model doesn’t rack heart rate. They have a model that does and if I were to do it again I would get the Fitbit Charge which does track heart rate. It’s more expensive than the Alta which is originally why we didn’t get it.
  • Doesn’t track activity like cycling. I do a spin class twice a week and it’s technically logged and 0 steps and 0 ‘active minutes’. You can go in on the app and manually log in active minutes (ie. exercises like cycling, yoga, etc).

Bottom Line:

I would recommend the Fitbit! Even though I exercise 6 days a week it’s always nice to move around more and have goals. Like I said, they do have like 5 different types from the most basic step counter to a fully functional heart rate monitor. I would suggest finding the model that fits your needs and then looking for a good price. We got ours at a Black Friday price but I know they periodically have sales on Amazon. We’ve used Camel Camel Camel in the past which is an Amazon price tracker for whatever product you’re looking for and it’ll send you emails when a low price hits.

fitbit alta

fitbit alta

fitbit alta